Project Description

Photography courtesy of Gail Des Jardine

Alpine Presbyterian   Org 1835

Alpine Presbyterian had its beginnings in Pleasant Grove in 1835 in a church that was called Enon. From this church, formed with fifteen members, the other Presbyterian churches in Chattooga County were later formed. Those Presbyterians in the neighborhood of Alpine worshiped in the upper room of a schoolhouse and met there once a month. Over time, the church prospered and the members resolved to build a new church and cemetery on land donated by Robert Boyles and Samuel Knox. A petition was then sent to the Presbytery of the Cherokee in March of 1853 asking for permission to form a church to be known as Alpine. The sanctuary was erected by John Henderson and Tom Allen with material donated by Samuel Knox in 1853 and few structural changes have been made since.

This peaceful place in the foothills of Georgia has seen much turmoil from the very beginning. The cemetery holds the remains of Hugh Montgomery, who was appointed by President Monroe in 1825 to be the Indian Agent to the Cherokee nation. This part of Georgia was right in the middle of the Cherokee struggle to retain what was left of their lands, and they were under tremendous pressure to sell this north west corner of Georgia. Gold had been discovered in north Georgia in 1828 and the Cherokee agent had to deal with a great many delicate situations on both sides. He served faithfully until the Indians were forcibly moved West in 1838 as a result of the Indian Removal Act under the direction of Andrew Jackson. This removal resulted in the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’.

The Trail of Tears is a name given to the ethnic cleansing and forced relocation of Native American nations from southeastern parts of the United States following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, passed by Congress at the urging of President Andrew Jackson. In 1831 the Choctaw were the first to be removed, and they became the model for all other removals. After the Choctaw, the Seminole were removed in 1832, the Creek in 1834, then the Chickasaw in 1837, and finally the Cherokee in 1838. By 1837, 46,000 Native Americans from these southeastern states had been removed from their homelands thereby opening 25 million acres for predominantly white settlement. It should be noted that upon retirement, Mr. Montgomery was given a tract of 3,000 acres of land in Chattooga county for his services, where he lived until his death in 1852.

Less than 25 years later, the Civil War brought many traumatic changes to the Alpine church and the surrounding area. Many of her sons answered the call and late in the war, during Sherman’s Georgia campaign, the sanctuary served as a Union field hospital. Earlier in the war, in September of 1863, Alpine was a prominent position for the Federal right wing just prior to the Battle of Chickamauga which was fought nearby. This from the official records – On the 8th of September, Brigadier-General George Crook, commander of the second division in Stanleys Federal cavalry Corps, reported, my command being in advance of General Stanelys expedition into Broomtown Valley, met the enemy at Alpine where a skirmish ensued; the enemy retreated toward Rome; my loss was 3 killed and 11 wounded; could not tell what damage was done to the enemy. And this later entry – General Alexander McCook opted to take his entire force back over Lookout Mountain to go up Lookout Valley and cross at Johnsons Crook in order to reach the 14th Army Corps in McLemores Cove. Before leaving, however, the Federals cleaned out the Knox plantation and neighboring farms of food, burning all they could not carry with them. The Alpine Presbyterian Church provided consolation to the people of the area during the difficult years of the war and trying time of Reconstruction that followed. Their descendants still worship in the church today.

Thus the church served its traditional role of stability and spiritual comfort during these sweeping epics of societal change. In 1982 the church was reorganized under its present leadership and is now known as Alpine Community Church. Come visit if you get the chance.

The view inside Alpine today is like stepping back in time over 160 years. The image above does contain a few modern elements, but the visual experience remains the same as when the building was erected in 1853 by John Henderson and Tom Allen. The daylight still floods into the sanctuary through high, nine over nine, clear glass windows that allow the natural light to illuminate the altar and the pulpit. The windows also provide everyone in the sanctuary a sweeping view of the cemetery nestled in the foothills of this beautiful part of northwest Georgia.

Looking to the rear of the church from the pulpit, one has to be amazed at the light, airy and wonderfully spiritual ambiance of this simple country church. The horizontal wall boards, ceiling, heart pine floors and plain pews reflect the desire of the congregation to avoid ostentation. The modest but intimate rear gallery is evidence of the church’s wish, from the beginning, to provide a welcome worship experience for the slaves in the community.

Looking at this modest pulpit and scene, we can’t help but recall some words from the church history……in 1853, the truthful voice of John Knox was the only instrument and this always struck in unison with the heartstrings of every person present, both white and black.

All windows provide the parishioners a rich and peaceful view of the Georgia foothills and the brothers and sisters resting in the cemetery. And what a view it is. Churches like Alpine remain viable because of the love, dedication and devotion of many generations of congregants. The rural churches were almost always made from locally available building materials, The heart pine floors above remain remain intact, effective and lovely. The window frames, glass, trim and cemetery, as well, are all still in place because of decades of devoted care and maintenance by the congregation. What a wonderful monument Alpine is to these people and their history that we all can share and enjoy for decades to come.

Alpine Presbyterian Church in Menlo, Georgia.  Built in 1837, the physical characteristics of the church remain much as they were in the 19th century. The church was constructed with two front doors, and the men and women would enter separately and sit on opposite sides. A loft was built just above the entrance way for the slaves who attended service.

This old piano has surely served and accompanied many thousands of Sunday services, weddings (Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee), baptisms, funerals (A Mighty Fortress is Our God), home comings and other events over the past century and a half. And, isn’t the setting above inviting, intimate and pleasant? Imagine how much you might enjoy attending a service here. The fact that sites like these remain available for all to know and experience is the gift that we need to pass on to our children for generations to come.

This view from the gallery shows just how close and intimate it was for the slaves who originally occupied it as well as for ‘overflow’ attendees on special occasions today. The lighting in the sanctuary is amazing and accentuated due to the fact that the church is situated on the crown of a gentle slope and surrounded by the cemetery on all sides.

There are 28 interments here from the Agnew family, one of the earliest of the pioneer families who settled in Chattooga county. George Agnew was the patriarch and the story was typical in that they prospered with many heartaches along the way. The oldest grave in the cemetery is their infant daughter who died at childbirth in 1857. His oldest son, William, was killed in the siege of Petersburg in 1863 and another son, Mack, died of typhoid fever in 1890. The most recent Agnew interment was in 2004, a span of 157 years for this family with deep roots in Chatooga county.

Alpine Presbyterian Church in Menlo, Georgia.  Built in 1837, the physical characteristics of the church remain much as they were in the 19th century. The church was constructed with two front doors, and the men and women would enter separately and sit on opposite sides. A loft was built just above the entrance way for the slaves who attended service.

This sweet angel with her finger pointed toward a heavenly journey presides over the McWhorter family. There are 21 McWhorters buried here with the oldest being Margaret, the matriarch, who died in 1879.

There are 757 interments in the cemetery, click here for a total documentation. The most well known grave in the cemetery is that of Hugh Lawson Montgomery, who died in 1852. He was the last Cherokee Indian Agent, having been appointed by President Madison to serve in that capacity in 1825 and continuing until the Cherokees were forced out in 1838. For his services he was granted 3,000 acres of prime Chattooga county land.