Clear Ridge U.M. Church Celebrates 150 Years
Throughout the 1800s it was estimated that half the residents of Fulton County belonged to the Methodist Church. In fact, research shows at the time of Fulton County’s establishment, chief exports were Methodist preachers and hoop poles utilized to hold together wooden barrels.
So it’s certainly no surprise to existing members of the Clear Ridge United Methodist Church that in 1858 Nathan Baker and Mary Baker and fellow community members took it upon themselves to take the initial steps to create a Methodist Episcopal Church in Clear Ridge. The deed work for the church was recorded at the county courthouse in 1860 even though the 40 perches involved were surveyed years earlier.
Fast forward to 2010, these facts and other historical details of the church and surrounding area have been publicly released through a booklet entitled “150 Years of the Clear Ridge United Methodist Church: Stepping Back.” The booklet, which was prepared by local author Michael T. Henry and fellow members of the Clear Ridge UMC congregation, will be distributed this weekend amid a festive celebration that marks the 150th anniversary of the church.
“Everyone has poured their hearts into making the celebration a very special event,” Henry told the “News.” “All are welcome to attend.”
Head of research in the project, Henry stated his journey took him through numerous deed books, microfiche of Fulton County News articles and books from the Fulton County Historical Society.
“The whole church collected saved newspaper clippings, pictures, old booklets and some good stories,” said Henry. “Many people contributed from all over the area, and we are grateful for so much help. It took some searching, but quite an interesting story was found.”
“Documentation exists that Nathan Baker was the superintendent of the Clear Ridge Sunday School in 1844. The oldest documented stone in Clear Ridge Cemetery is that of Joannah Wible, who died in 1838. Stepping back 22 years before the date we celebrate, we can only imagine the lives that were being guided toward our celebration. Busy and hard lives they must have been,” Henry writes in the booklet.
“Today’s comfort is easily maintained compared to building faith out of the wilderness. Only your imagination will reveal the scene. Can you see it? Pioneers driven by their hearts, possessed by an energy that feeds off their own minds. An energy with no beginning, and no end. Human hands were only tools that built a place of worship. The church was already there,” Henry documented.
Henry goes on to outline the temporary halting of the church’s construction due to men being called away to fight in the Civil War; free bean soup offered due to an abundance of beans; a band that played for local entertainment during the late 1800s and early 1900s; its first vacation Bible school; and most notably the Clear Ridge fire that raged on November 8, 1930.
“When the wrath was over, the fire had completely destroyed six houses, two general stores, the post office, two workshops and three other buildings, plus badly damaged another house. Only three houses and the Junior Mechanics Hall were spared from the burn. Losses ranged from $4,000 to the winter’s store of apples, flour and apple butter,” Henry writes.
Henry even touches on items within the church that have been provided through the talents of local residents. Norman Mellott crafted both the communion table and pulpit for the facility and donated his art in memory of Steward and Rose (Mort) Linn. A painting of Jesus hanging in the front of the church was painted by Julia Appleby and donated to the church in 1950, and artwork by local artist Chris Newman has also been known to grace the walls of the church.
“In 2010, the congregation of Clear Ridge UMC set upon a journey to celebrate 150 years of history. Many long hours have passed by as histories were written; paintings and drawings were created; original deeds preserved; a time capsule made and filled; and many, many ideas and details for the celebration made possible,” Henry concludes in the booklet. “With every breath we take, we are speeding into the future and leaving history to memory. Onehundred fifty years is only a flash in time. No matter how old you feel, you have just begun. Clear Ridge UMC is just beginning her story.”