Newsletter issue # 44, Fall 2000
The Great Revival of 1873
On August 12, 1836, a faithful group of Christians came together in a Cherokee County, Georgia to constitute a new Baptist church. Named the Sharpe Mountain Baptist Church, this new church quickly earned a reputation for welcoming people from all races. At the very first church service, "Colored People" and Indians were present and became active members. Several are buried in the predominately white cemetery. Church records reveal that one former slave, Aunt Rose Lay, remained a member until her death. "After whites on communion day, she was served the sacrament and a white woman would wash her feet." Very unusual for a community and a church located in a southern state known for it's cotton plantations and large slave populations. Soon, an unbelievable event would add to this church's reputation and ensure it would forever be remembered in Cherokee County, Georgia history.
As is tradition in Baptist churches, Sharpe Mountain held a revival each year. In September, 1873, as members were preparing for their revival by participating in a communion service, a strange event began. A "great light" appeared, hovering on and around the pulpit. "Sweet music" could be heard, yet no one could figure out where the music was coming from. The congregation huddles close together, scared, yet calm, and began to pray. They remained in the church over night, never leaving the building, watching the light and listening to the music while praying.
Light and Music
Wood began to spread throughout the community and others soon came to see the light and hear the music. Many searched to find the origin of the light and music, yet no explanation could be found.
The light and music continued, the pulpit bathed in a beautiful glow while "sweet voices" and music floated in the air inside the church from September throughout the Fall. The faithful never left the building, remaining in constant prayer and meditation. Each day brought more curious people to the church, many joining the prayer and vigil.
One of the faithful to join in and assist with this growing revival was the Reverend Elias W. Allred who lived a few miles north in Tate, Georgia (Pickens County). Rev. Allred was the great grandson of the "original" Thomas (Thomas, Elias, Elias, Elias)
Church records tell us that new members were accepted and nonbelievers were converted throughout this extraordinary experience which continued until December 6, 1873. According to the legend and church records, as the glow began to dim and music faded, the congregation broke through the ice on the nearby frozen Etowah River. Seventy-seven converts were baptized in the icy waters that day by the church pastor Francis Marion Williams who was assisted by the Reverend Benjamin Hitt and the Reverend Elias W. Allred. One hundred names were added to the church roll as a result of this Great Revival.
When I first read accounts of this Great Revival, I could hardly believe this wonderful story and was inspired to find out as much as possible about it. Accounts of this Great Revival are listed in the book Heritage of Cherokee County, Georgia (1998) on page 38 and 44. Allred historian, Robert S. Davis, has written about it in his family history and an article telling the tale was published in the Atlanta Journal on November 28, 1966 (Tombstones Tell The Tale of Great Revival of 1873). The more I've read about it, the more curious and inspired I've become.
As a result, we have added a visit to this historic church to our 2000 Week of Allred schedule. I'm looking forward to visiting this church in November and I hope you'll be able to join us.