Project Description

Photography courtesy of Gail Des Jardin

Cove Methodist   Org 1872

Cove Methodist is a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary located only a few miles from where some of the most bitter Civil War fighting on Southern soil took place…….Chickamauga.  In September of 1863, the Battle of Chickamauga produced the second highest number of casualties in the war, following only the Battle of Gettysburg.  It was the first major battle of the war that was fought in Georgia.  The Cove Methodist history simply says… ‘In the period just after the Civil War, when times were hard and bitter, the founders of this church wanted to create a just and fitting place in which to worship God in spirit and truth.  In a time when their world was struggling to rebuild itself, and the stirring events of war were still fresh in the minds of some, this history begins.

In March of 1872, the Trustees of Cove Methodist Episcopal Church were deeded one acre of land to be used for a community burial ground and one acre for a church.  A Methodist church was established and a frame building was erected at the present site.  In 1894, the old house was torn down and the present church was erected.  The location for the church was only a few miles from the battlefield and was situated at the foot of Lookout Mountain in a place known as McLemore’s Cove.  And so it seemed fitting and proper for the trustees of the church to name it simply….Cove Methodist.

From the 1975 church history…..‘The designer of the building is unknown, but is believed to be from or schooled in the Northern part of the country, for the structure is of New England Colonial frame architecture, with its simple principles of line and proportions.  The building stands erect and solid with the bell tower sheltered in the branches of the huge oak and hickory trees, over which it has stood guard since they were only saplings.  The twin entrance steps, as well the foundation, were probably made from the rocks from the very site as they were plentiful there.  The many paned glass windows, which almost reached the ceiling, provided the light for daytime services.  For night,services light was provided from kerosene lanterns hung about the walls.  The open windows and high ceilings helped in the cooling of the building in the summer.  In the early days, a large pot-bellied stove in front of the circular altar provided heat in the winter.  It is at this site that for more than a century Methodist congregations have met and worshiped together ; and still today the ancient building stands in silent witness to the faith of its fathers’.

Cove Methodist is another example of the crucial role that the rural churches played in the spiritual and physical healing of our forefathers during such terrible times of suffering and loss.  As the good book says, ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me’.  Thank you for your service and your stewardship over this historical treasure for over 125 years.

Cove Methodist is a stunning church both outside and inside  It represents a trend developing toward the end of the 19th century toward more ornate, complex architecture whereby churches began to feature center or corner and occasionally triple steeple design… sometimes even turret-like towers.  They reflected the growing sophistication and relative wealth of Georgians after Reconstruction, even those living in rural areas.  Though we see very little ornamentation and decorative details in the image above, the grandness projected by its soaring walls rising to a high ceiling and nine over nine windows allowing a flood of light to pour into the sanctuary cannot be denied.  The earlier attribution to the design as “…from or schooled in the Northern part of the country” rings true when we look at both the inside and outside of Cove Methodist.  This is a church which looks as if it were built for and by the newly emerging middle class in our state.

This view of the inviting but spare altar and pulpit at the front of this church reminds us of the puritan influence reflected in many rural Georgia churches we visit.  There is no ostentation or excessive decoration in sight, and the minister and others are provided with straight backed, Shaker-style chairs.  Religion and the church were serious matters throughout Georgia during these times.

We like this picture because it displays how effective the high windows and high, clear glass transoms are in bringing light within the sanctuary.  At the same time it shows the scale of the modest-sized church’s interior and demonstrates the intimacy of the congregation and the preachers.  Left and right aisle pews are placed several rows ahead of the longer center pews drawing them into the semi-circle closer to the Word.  It is interesting to note the set-back of the center row of pews.  In olden times, there would have been a large pot bellied stove in the now-open area between the middle/front pew and altar.  The pews nearest the stove were prized seats during services held on the many cold winter days in 19th and early 20th century Walker County.

This is a close up shot of the left-front corner and window that overlooks the cemetery outside.  Aside from being a lovely, nostalgia-inducing photograph, it gives us a chance to view the finely crafted and fitted, nine over nine window frames as well as the handsome vertical wood wainscoting you will find throughout Cove Methodist.  Built in 1894, this was a well-done and relatively expensive process compared to earlier churches in that area, again reflective of the sense of prosperity and hope for the future that was rising during those post-War years before the turn of the century.

Cove Methodist Church

Cove Methodist Church

This view of the pulpit along with plain, straight backed chairs, small sconces and simple wooden cross makes quite a statement regarding the character, demeanor and personality of the Cove Methodist congregation.

What a lovely place to contemplate eternity.  It is hard to believe all the blood that was shed just a few miles away in these beautiful Georgia foothills.  According to church records, there are a number of graves in the cemetery which pre-date the title transfer of 1870 by 20 years or more, which means that this had been a traditional burial ground for a long time.  In 1972. the Trustees made the decision to accept no more interments due to the uncertainty of the locations of the earliest ones.

For a complete document of recorded interments click here.

This is an example of what was becoming a popular grave marker style in the late 19th century and on into the  20th, the “Father-Mother” stones in granite or marble.  Sometimes two stones joined by an arch or similar configuration, they blossomed as families began to live together longer, very large families were the norm and some prosperity began to break out.  This was also an era when large commercial monument suppliers came into being…think Sears-Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. They jumped into the mail-order gravestone business with a vengeance, creating throughout the United States, availability of stylish stones at modest prices unheard of decades earlier.  No longer were grave markers only locally made.  We can’t tell for sure, but this stone was probably ordered from a supplier like Sears and shipped to the site pre-engraved and ready for installation.  Who would not want to honor their Father and Mother with such a grand memorial?

Here lies Eliza Glenn Cumpton, known to history as the ‘Widow Glenn’.  Eliza, and her first husband John Glenn, had a comfortable farm just up the road on what is now the Chickmauga battlefield.  John was killed in the service of the Confederacy in 1962 and thus Eliza became the Widow Glenn.  During the battle of Chickamauga, General William Rosecrans used the Glenn farmhouse as his field headquarters and it was subsequently destroyed in the action.  Thus the Glenn farm location lives in history as ‘The Widow Glenn’s Hill’.  Eliza lies beside her second husband, Willlis Cumpton, who was a Captain in the 6th Ga. Cavalry and survived the war.

What a wonderful example of late 19th century rural architecture.  Cove Methodist is a story of love, grace and stewardship.  How can anyone see these grand old treasures and not be moved?  How comforting to know that despite the sweeping societal changes of the Cherokee removal and the blood shed at Chickamauga, this sanctuary rises like the Phoenix from the ashes.