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Lexington Presbyterian Church

Upper Georgia's Oldest Presbyterian Church

Photo by Kenneth England

One of Georgia's most historic land-marks is the old Presbyterian Church at Lexington, in the sacred precincts of which repose two illustrious Georgians:  George R. Gilmer and Stephen Upson.  It was organized in 1785, two years after the Revolution, by a noted pioneer evangelist, the Reverend John Newton; and, unless an exception be made of the Independeny Presbyterian church, of Savannah -- never in organic connection with other religious bodies of this faith -- it is probably the oldest Presbyterian church in the Synod of Georgia.  At Darien there was a church prior to this time; but it suffered complete extinction during the Spanish wars.  At Midway there was a center of Presbyterianism, but the church at this place was organized upon Congregational lines.
Mr. Newton, who was the first Presbyterian minister to preach the gospel on the frontier belt of Georgia, served the church as pastor for twelve years.  When he died, in 1797, he was buried in the old church-yard; but, one hundred years later, in 1897, his body was taken up and re-interred in the Presbyterian cemetery, at Lexington.  Mr. George C. Smith, the present clerk of the session, assisted Mr. Newton's grandson in accomplishing this removal.  The original agreement between pastor and people, executer in 1785 when Mr. Newton first took charge, is still in the possession of the church.  The munificient salary which the pastor was to receive, according to the terms of this contract, was fixed at fifty pounds and twenty shillings per annumn. Mr. Smith is the custodian of a precious keep-sake in the nature of a little book, containing the texts from which this pioneer divine preached while pastor of Beth-salem church, from 1785 to 1787; and he also treasures a record of baptisms, to which great value attaches.  Both of these genuine relics of the early days of Presbyterianism in Upper Georgia were sent, through Mrs. C. A. Rowland, of Athens, to the Jamestown Centennial Exposition, where they attracted much attention.

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wpe33.jpg (55830 bytes) It was at Lexington, in 1828, that the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, now located at Columbia, S. C., was first established, and the house in which this famous school of the prophets was organized was still standing in 1912 -- after the lapse of eighty-four years.  There will be found elsewhere in this work a statement to the effect that the first Presbyterian minister ordained in Georgia was the Reverend John Springer, whose ordination occurred in Wilkes, under the famous poplar.  The apparent contradiction may be easily explained.  Mr. Newton preceded the latter into Georgia by at least six years; but he was already an ordained minister when he entered the State, while Mr. Springer was not until the dramatic scene in which he figured in 1791 occurred.

From Georgia's Landmarks, Memorials and Legends, Vol. I, by Lucian Lamar Knight, The Byrd Printing Company, Atlanta, Georgia, 1913


Some Grave Markers at the Lexington Presbyterian Churchyard

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Rev. John Newton
Born - 1759
Died - 1797

A prince of pioneer

SAR 1775


Pure in life, Christian in character,
Faithful in affections, beloved of all.
By J. W. McC.

Sacred to the Memory of
Mrs. Francina D. McCalla
Born Dec. 19, 1850
Died Sept. 2, 1872

Yea, though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for
Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff
they comfort me.


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to the memory of
Sarah Caroline Briant
the wife of
Braxton Edward Briant
who departed this life
March the 8th, 1817, aged 19 years,
7 months & 1 day

'Tis religion that must give
solid pleasures while we live:
"Tis religion that must supply
solid comfort when we die.


Judson Vines
son of
W. J. & Jane M. Cooper
Born Dec. 24, 1898
Sept. 20, 1899

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In Memory of
James D. Mathews

Aug. 27, 1827
Aug. 23, 1878

Honest and truthful in all things,
faithful to every trust,
and devoted to the religion of his master,
he was honored by all,
and beloved by those who best
knew his many virtues.


In Memory of
Lee Shackelford
Born Jan. 10, 1864
Died Sept. 15, 1888

A model young man
and fervent Christian
has fallen asleep in Jesus.

Loyal to truth
And faithful to duty here,
he shall rise triumphantly
and reign gloriously there.

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Governor George Rockingham Gilmer

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to the Memory of
Mary B. Gilmer
Wife of
Peachy R. Gilmer
Who died on the 7th Jan

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George R. Gilmer
April the 11th
A.D. 1790
November 16th
A.D. 1859


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William H. Deadwyler and Jimmie E. Deadwyler were children of James S. Deadwyler
and Barbara Elizabeth Glenn.

William married Alice P. Smith on 15 Jan 1889.
Jimmie married William J. Knox on 27 June 1895.

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In Memory of
Jimmie Deadwyler
Wife of
W. J. Knox
Born Dec. 17, 1864
Married June 27, 1895
"Fell Asleep in Jesus"
Jan. 16, 1896

William H.
Son of
James & Barbara E.
Born May 4, 1860
Died Nov. 16, 1908
Rest at last


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