The information on the following pages was compiled by Mary Jane Owen, Ph.D.
The First Westward Movement
Piedmont Georgia, of which Henry County is a part, was ceded to the State of Georgia by the Creek Indians in the context of a violent historical period in our nation’s history. Thousands of European immigrants came to the young nation as a result of economic, political, and religious upheaval. The immigrants who chose to settle in the Southeastern part of the United States were predominantly from English, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh descent.
The Settlement of McDonough
The McDonough Presbyterian Church was founded at what is today 61 Lawrenceville Street. The precise date in unknown, but according to the records of the old Hopewell Presbytery, the church was established on or around August 4, 1827 with 25 members. The first minister, Reverend James A. Gamble, taught in a school in Rocky River, South Carolina from 1815-1827. Rev. Gamble, in addition to ministering to the 25-member congregation, operated an Academy for the education of McDonough youth. The strong bond between the church and public education (as exemplified by this arrangement) dates back to John Calvin, a Reformation leader who established the Presbyterian motif in Geneva, Switzerland, “the most perfect City of God”.
The early members of the McDonough congregation included many whose progeny are listed on the church roll this very day: the Carmichaels, Greens, Lemons, Russells, and Tyes. One of the members, Elder Thomas Russell, was a host and represented the congregation when the new presbytery, Good Hope, was established on March 20, 1834, at the Lawrenceville Street site in McDonough.
A Southern War for Independence
The aforementioned events took place against a dramatic political backdrop that would culminate in a costly war, bringing destruction, despair, and division to the south. Shortly after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the union. Church fathers hoped that the Presbyterian Church could be a means of preserving unity, however at a convention in Philadelphia, positions were taken that were unthinkable to the South. Plans were laid for Presbyterians from the southern states to reconvene in Atlanta in order to determine an acceptable and appropriate direction. During the convention a secessionist philosophy prevailed and the larger national Presbyterian Church was divided, and would not be united until nearly 125 years later.
In November of 1860, the right wing of Sherman’s troops finished the job of scorching Henry County soil. Dr. Louis Mackamie Tye, was an oft-quoted and wise citizen of McDonough and a member of McDonough Presbyterian Church. In an attempt to halt the destruction of his hometown, Dr. Tye agreed to provide medical services to the Union troops in exchange for protection of the town of McDonough. The McDonough Presbyterian Church was spared, however the Timberridge Presbyterian Church, a sister church just east of town, was not so lucky. Sherman’s troops used the little church as a slaughterhouse and later destroyed it entirely.
In 1890, the church fathers recognized the need for a more modern facility, and purchased a site on the City Square. Great difficulties were encountered in securing this lot. H.W. Carmichael was commissioned to go to Oichta Parish, Louisiana, to purchase this lot and return with the deed. He was successful and on February 20, 1890. H.W. Carmichael and JD Daniel, were appointed as trustees and Elders. The last service was held in the Lawrenceville Street site on April 13, 1890.
A Modern Structure Is Built
By 1922 the congregation of the church once again deemed their facility inadequate and completed a brick structure that currently stands at the northwest corner of the Town Square. This building was dedicated on December 4, 1927. The Rev L.D. King served as pastor at the time, and as the moderator of the Session which included R.H. Daniel, H.B. Carmichael, W.R. Green, T.A. Sloan Sr., and W. Terry McDonald. Members of the Diaconate included: T.A. Sloan Jr., John J Fisher, A.Y. Lesslie, D.T. Carmichael, and J.M. Carmichael. Cam Carmichael was president of the Christian Endeavor along with Georgia Walker.
Services were held in this church every Sunday at eleven and seven o’clock except for the third Sunday of the month. Membership totaled 114 and in addition, the “Baptized Roll” included: Caroline Carmichael, Ellen Carmichael, Nancy Anne Hutton, Mary Calvin Russell, Wyman Sloan, Ann Helen Sloan, Annie Ola Sudderth, Mary Tye Sudderth, Stewart Taylor, Edgar Taylor, James Turner, and Leslie Turner.
Dedication and centennial service were incorporated during the week of November 30 through December 4, 1927. Fellow Presbyterians from Timberridge, Kelly, Hemphill, Stockbridge and Fairview churches were present along with local Baptist and Methodist members. In 1933, Rev. H.E. “Jeb” Russell, brother of a former Governor of Georgia and long-time Senator Richard B. Russell, accepted a call as pastor of the McDonough Church. While the entire nation was suffering from a severe depression, Mr. J.C. Daniel Elder and church historian wrote that “under his (Rev. Russell’s) guidance and kindly ministration, the future of this Church seems very bright.” (Daniel,1933) Rev. Monk followed Rev. Russell, serving the church during World War II. Rev. Philip Noble and his young wife Bette Pope, granddaughter of Agnes Scott, assumed the pulpit. A brief period followed when the church was without a pastor until Rev. John A. Hayes came in December, 1948.
An Anniversary Celebration
The Church membership numbered 114 in 1952 when the 125th Anniversary was celebrated by week-long services. Present for the celebration included former pastors Russell and Noble. The Session of the church in 1952 included: T.A. Sloan, Clerk. Raymond Rape, A.Y. Leslie, J.F. Ward Sr, and W.T. McDonald. Members of the Diaconate were W.A. Chafin, Treasurer, J.E. Stroud, Secretary, A.D. Robertson, Cam Carmichael, and Ben Carmichael. During Rev. Hayes’ service to the church, his wife, Mary Moore along with May Turner Engeman organized the church’s youth into Pioneer and Senior Fellowship, and in addition, reorganized under church sponsorship, troop 2 of the Girl Scouts of America. These organizations formed the cornerstone for both religious and social activities for many of the town’s young men and women. Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. Engeman worked in tandem with others who devoted time as Sunday school teachers for the young people. Margaret Carmichael is fondly remembered for her efforts with the church’s very young children. She was joined later in this effort by Jane Dickerson, Elwin Ward, Frances Gillard, Mrs. Whit Turner, “Cousin” Stella Russell, Jo Carmichael and Latrell Robertson, all of whom add significantly to the life and Christian nurturing of the church’s youth during the 1950’s.
Upon Rev. Hayes retirement, the McDonough pulpit was filled by J. Fred Moore who came to McDonough, having served for served for several years in the Darien, Georgia church. It was during Rev. Moore’s tenure that the first women were elected to serve as church officers. Sarah Carmichael and Sara Ann Hightower were called by the congregation as members of the Diaconate, Class of 1975.
Relocation to the McGarity Road Site
The year 1974 marked the move to the present site on McGarity Road when the new church was completed and dedicated. Members of the Building Committee for that effort were: Jack Hall, Chairman, Alfred Hayes, Roddy Oglesby, R.J. Rucker and T.A. Sloan, who continued for many years as Clerk of the Session. Other Session members included: H.B. Carmichael, J.E. Bond, A.A. Dickerson, Cam Carmichael, R.H. Daniel Jr., W.P. Sloan, R.J. Rucker, W.A. Chafin, R.F. Engeman and Raymond Rape. In addition to the two ladies indicated above as members of the Diaconate, were Don Cardell, Arnold Grogan, R.H. Oglesby Jr., J.J. Hall, E.M. Taylor, Hix Carithers, Alfred Hayes, Jason Patrick and Paul Rowan. These officers undertook the project which culminates with the current sanctuary.
Directing the choir and organist for the 1974 dedication service was Estell Roebuck. Comprising the choir was Helen Asbury, Fred Beers, Sarah Buice, Don Cardell, Dot Carmichael, Russell Hightower, Wilathea Jackson, Ellen Rucker, J.B. Russell, and Martha Russell. Present at the service were Rev. William Adams, Executive Presbyter, and Atlanta Presbytery: Rev J. McDowell Richards, Moderator of the Synod of the Southeast, Charles Jenkins, Architect and Marc Buttrill, Contractor. Rev. W. Frank Harrington of the Peachtree Road Presbyterian Church delivered the Dedication sermon entitled: “What Is Right With The Church”.
Succeeding Rev. Moore to the McDonough congregation was Malcom Davis. Rev. Randy Calvo was called by the congregation in 1980, prior to which he had been a student at Columbia Seminary. In 1983, while meeting in Atlanta, the historic rift which had separated Presbyterian churches in the country since 1861 was healed when the major factions, including Presbyterian Church U.S., became the Presbyterian Church, United States of America.
A New Sanctuary
Rev. Randy Calvo’s arrival occurred during significant demographic changes in the Henry County area. In 1985, the Session undertook a systematic study to determine the feasibility of building a sanctuary and other appropriate space to complement the existing facility. After careful and prayerful consideration, the decision was made to proceed with the structure which was dedicated October 4, 1992.
On Easter Sunday 1997, Rev. Calvo left for a new calling. In May, 1998, Rev. M. Dudley Rose was called to McDonough Presbyterian. His tenure lasted until February of 2009, when he retired after more than 40 years in parish ministry. Rev. Rose was instrumental in introducing the church to some of the old traditions of the Presbyterian church while at the same time helping us charge into the new century with a modern approach to Christian understanding. Under his leadership, we have started the tradition of celebrating the “Kirkin O’ the Tartans” on Reformation Sunday each year. With the tremendous carpentry effort of Dr. David Humphries and various artists in our church, many members of our congregation with Scottish ancestry have purchased dozens of Tartan banners to use in the celebration each year. These banners decorate our church beautifully all year. We stand ready for the new century, accepting God’s new challenges and remembering those who brought us to where we are today.
McDonough Presbyterian also saw the need to add the position of Associate Pastor during the last 10 years. In February of 2001, the Rev. Lisa Majoros was installed and served until January of 2004. Our former Associate Pastor, Rev. Rachael B. Knoll was called June 18, 2006, and served until March of 2017.
A Service of Worship and Dedication, April 7, 1974, Unpublished document. Church Files.
Daniel, R.H., SR, (1933). McDonough Presbyterian Church 1827-1933. Unpublished document. Church Files.
Daniel, R.H., Sr. (1927). Program Of Centennial and Dedication Service. Unpublished document. Church Files.
Haynes, J. A. (1952). The Presbyterian Church, McDonough, Georgia: 1827-1952. Unpublished document. Church Files.
Rainer, V. T. (1971). Henry County Mother of Counties. Privately published.
Talmage, F.C. (1960). The Story of the Presbytery of Atlanta, Atlanta: Foote and Davis, Inc.