By Mardi Andrews
Before there was an Alpharetta, there was a Methodist organization called New Prospect Camp Ground, according to R.D. Manning who was one of our historians and church leaders for many years. Thanks to Mr. Manning, Mrs. B. F. Manning, Mary Elkins, Jack Karwisch and information from Drew University archives we have records and stories that take us back to before 1834 when Christian worship began in the same location where we worship today.
In the 1990s Jack Karwisch, one of our most enthusiastic and hardworking lay leaders, compiled our church history. In the foreword to this book he wrote:
The Cherokee Indians lived here first. In 1832 Georgia politicians convinced those in Washington to pass a bill requiring the Cherokees to leave North Georgia. The Indians did not obey that order at first. Then in 1836 the president ordered Gen. Winfield Scott to drive the Cherokees to a reservation in Oklahoma. That was the infamous “Trail of Tears.”
It is believed that the Indians living along the streams of the Chattahoochee River, Big Creek, and Little River gathered for “pow-wows” around the “water hole” which was near where the back door of Trinity Hall is now. This was high land somewhat central from these streams.
Shortly after the Cherokees were gone, the State of Georgia by lottery issued land grants to the winners. It is quite possible that descendants of some of those “winners” are members of our church today.
When the new landowners came into this area, probably using the same trails which led to the old Indian gathering place, they established a community here. Soon there was an “arbor” for public worship, with “tents” or some kind of shelters for those staying for parts or all of the campground meetings in August when the farmers had “laid by” their crops.
This gathering place was called New Prospect Campground. It is not known whether the new residents named it or if the prospectors named it as they stopped here on their way to search for gold in Dahlonega.
New Prospect Campground was in front of what we know as the Bagley House. This is to the north and west of our current Sanctuary occupying a section of Main Street and going back almost to Canton Street.
In the minutes dated November 28-December 6, 1860, of the Georgia Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, we find records of the pastors sent to Alpharetta.
We can follow our development from the campground about 1834, through our receipt of a gift of land from Isham Teasley in 1871 where our first known building stood. This building probably was our white wooden church of which we have a picture. Our current red brick chapel, completed in 1938, stands on that same piece of property. From there we follow our growth to the building of the Sanctuary in 1983, Trinity Hall in 1993 and the purchase of the Jones property in 2007 which is now the Methodist Youth Center.