The community of Smyrna originated in the late 1830s with the establishment of the Smyrna Campground by the Methodists of the area. The Campground served as a gathering point for religious services in a day when preachers rode circuit owing to their limited number and distances they were obliged to travel in this sparsely settled district.
The Campground was laid out on a 40 acre parcel of land belonging to Wiley Flanigan of Campbell County, who did not himself move to Smyrna until 1843. As noted in the published history of the Smyrna United Methodist Church, It is conceivable that the plot could have been used as a meeting place with or without the permission of anyone. The campground was situated on the south side of what is today Smyrna’s Market Village, enclosed on the east by Atlanta Road; on the south by Concord Road; on the north by West Spring Street; and on the west by Davis Street, as nearly as can be judged.
Religious services were in the early years conducted under a brush arbor, described as a crude temporary shelter of poles with brush roof, boards, and other available material. This rude structure is believed to have stood near the southeast intersection of what is today Church and King Streets.
About 1846, a permanent church building, constructed of logs, was built on the Campground acreage, with an adjacent parcel of land serving as a burying ground (now the Smyrna Memorial Cemetery).
The families of Asbury Hargrove, Hardy Pace, Pinckney H. Randall, Martin L. Ruff, and William Bowie have been identified as among the earliest congregants.
Appropriately, the name given the campground, Smyrna, was Biblical in origin. It was taken from the Book of Revelations and was the name of one of Paul the Apostle’s seven churches in Asia.
The choice of the name Smyrna for the campground has been attributed to Squire William Bowie, whose family homestead stood on the south side of Church Street adjacent to the Campground. The Bowie family owned considerable property extending south of this residence, an area long referred to as Bowie’s Woods, which later, in the late 19th century, was renamed Creatwood.
As late as 1930monly three Protestant denominations were represented within the boundaries of Smyrna—the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians.
An artist’s conception of what the Brush Arbor at the center of the Smyrna Campground might have looked like.
An illustration of an actual Methodist religious campground.
The first church built on the campground by the local Methodists, dating from 1846
Smyrna’s Memorial Cemetery was laid out by the Methodists on a parcel of land adjacent to the 1846 church.
The Collins Springs Primitive Baptist Church, on North Church Road, founded in 1856. The original building was destroyed during the Civil War but was rebuilt in 1866. The church was named for James A. Collins, a well-to-do Atlanta businessman, owner of one of the first general stores in that fast developing population center.
The Baptists built their first church in the downtown Smyrna area in 1884. It was located at the northeast corner of Atlanta Road and Powder Springs Street, on the site now occupied by Smyrna’s Second Baptist Church.
In 1984, on the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of Smyrna’s First Baptist Church, this illustration showing the three buildings the church has occupied over the course of its history was published.
In 1867 the Methodist erected a new building to replace the 1846 Methodist Church that was burned in the last stages of the Civil War. No picture of the 1867 building is known to exist. A larger Methodist Church (seen above) was erected in 1883 to accommodate the growing congregation.
Reverend Alvin Greene Dempsey, the first pastor to officiate in the 1867 Methodist Church. Reverend Dempsey was also active politically and strongly opposed the federal governments reconstruction policies
Reverend Robert Harris Jones, local Methodist Minister and Confederate veteran, 1875-78
A portion of the 1883 Methodist Church was saved when the building was demolished in 1954, and now occupies a lot adjacent to the Gautschy House and CVS Pharmacy on Atlanta Road.
The handsome 1911 Methodist Church, one of the most distinctive edifices in downtown Smyrna, stood at the northeast corner of Atlanta Road and Church Street.
Another view of the 1911 Methodist Church
Breaking ground for the Sunday School building, United Methodist Church, early 1930s
First United Methodist Church Women’s Club, 1945-46
The current United Methodist Church building on Concord Road, dating from 1967.
The sanctuary of the 1967 United Methodist Church.
The lot on which the 1924 Baptist Church sits being cleared by a group of church members in 1923
The 1924 Smyrna First Baptist Church, situated at the northeast corner of King and Church Streets, a building constructed of Stone Mountain granite and on that account known as the Rock Church. This structure was built following the destruction in a fire of the 1884 church.
First service at the 1924 Baptist Church on August 10, 1924
First wedding in the 1924 Baptist Church, held on June 22, 1927
First Baptist Church Fish Fry, 1924
First Baptist Church Sunday School class, 1923
View of Church Street from the driveway of the annex of the First Baptist Church, 1953
Buildings behind the First Baptist Church under construction, 1953
First Baptist Church, 1962 building
The belfry of the First Baptist Church under construction
Article describing the history of the Smyrna Presbyterian Church
The original headquarters of the Smyrna Presbyterian Church was in the old Academy Building which stood on the southern side of West Spring Street facing the Smyrna Memorial Cemetery. This congregation dissolved in 1905, but was reestablished in 1913 in a new wooden structure on Memorial Drive.
Groundbreaking Presbyterian Church Annex, Memorial Drive, 1953
Smyrna Presbyterian Church on Memorial Drive across the street from the Smyrna Memorial Cemetery, as remodeled in 1948.
Smyrna Presbyterian Church and annex
Presbyterian Church annex under construction
New Presbyterian Church, Atlanta Road
Log Cabin Sunday School, original building, dating from 1912
Class and teachers outside of the 1912 Log Cabin Church
The larger Log Cabin Church, dedicated in 1919
Congregants outside of 1919 Log Cabin Church
The modern edifice of the Log Cabin Church, dedicated in 1949, stands adjacent to the 1912 building on Log Cabin Drive.
The Mount Zion Baptist Church, an African-American congregation, was established on Hawthorne Street in 1877. A black cemetery was laid out on land adjacent to this church. The building pictured here was built at an uncertain date. In 1949 the congregation moved to a new location in the Davenport Town neighborhood. In 1953 this building was acquired and renovated to accommodate the Smyrna Assembly of God church.
The Baptist Church, Davenport Town, 1953
The Baptist Church, Davenport Town
St. John’s African-American Church
The Spring Street Baptist Church, built in 1933
A new brick sanctuary was built in front of the old building in the 1960s, the old building bricked over, and converted to a Sunday School.
Members of the original Locust Grove Church, which served the congregation from 1920 to 1927, located near the intersection of Atlanta and Oakdale Roads
The Locust Grove Baptist Church was built between 1937 and 1940. This building currently houses St. Benedict Episcopal Church and School.
The Second Baptist Church, located at the corner of Atlanta Road and Powder Spring Street, which was completed in the 1943-46 period.
Bethel Baptist Church on Spring Road
Bethany Methodist Church groundbreaking, 1965
Tillman Memorial Methodist Church, 1957
All Baptist Church, Bourne Drive at Old Concord Road, established 1955. Church plant completed in 1959.