Originally created 07/30/99

Methodist preserved religion in Linwood



In a secluded clearing at the west end of the training areas of Fort Gordon, half hidden by a fringe of pine trees, stands a small community cemetery dominated in one corner by a slender marble shaft. In military parlance it is known simply as Cemetery No. 30.

To the descendants of those buried there, it is Linwood Church Cemetery. Situated where Richmond and Columbia counties meet, the area was part of the community of Pinetucky, inhabited by hardy subsistence farmers who were known to their more sophisticated neighbors as dwellers in the "piney woods."

When the Army came to Richmond County to build the fort in 1941, the residents were displaced and their homes and settlements destroyed. All that remains are 30-odd cemeteries, tended by military caretakers, and the memories they evoke.

Linwood Church Cemetery and the marble shaft standing in its corner are memorials to the faith and energy of one who lies buried there.

Catherine A. Leitner was born, probably in Richmond County, about 1812. She married Daniel McCormick, a Columbia County farmer and businessman, in December 1831 when she was about 19.

A year or two after marriage, Mrs. McCormick gave birth to a son, probably named Daniel for his father. The baby lived but a short time; he was the only child Catherine ever bore. In Linwood Church Cemetery a small child's marker bears the inscription "D.McC." Fraught with grief but filled with energy and determination, Mrs. McCormick turned to religion for consolation and fulfillment. About 1833, she became an active Methodist.

Meanwhile, her brother Henry Leitner, a druggist in Augusta, saw opportunities in the piney woods where he lived. Near the family place was a pond that emptied into a creek. The pond was called Leitner's or Lightner's and the creek was Sandy Run.

Leitner's Pond, now graduated to a lake, is the site of today's Fort Gordon Rod and Gun Club. Mr. Leitner built a sawmill where the pond empties into the creek and operated a farm in the area.

As the piney woods population grew, the need for more permanent religious ministration grew. Methodists depended on circuit-riding preachers, and educational opportunities were few.

The wealthy, whom were not numerous in Pinetucky, could send their children to school at Academy of Richmond County in Augusta or to another small school in Bath near the Burke County line, but the farmers could not afford the fees and could not spare their juvenile farm hands for extended periods.

In 1845, at her home in Linwood, Mrs. McCormick organized a Sunday school for local residents. They held class in an old log cabin schoolhouse.

In addition to religious education, Mrs. McCormick taught her charges to read and write. Some came from northern Jefferson County and even from Burke County to study the Bible and learn to form letters.

For 12 years, through fund-raising activities and donations, money was collected to erect a new school and church building. Finally completed in 1857, it stood on five acres on McDuffie Road (now Gibson Road) just west of Leitner Pond and Leitner's mill in the old Militia District 121 of Richmond County, about three miles east of Berzelia. A 1908 Richmond County tax map shows the location.

The Civil War followed. In 1861, many church members and Mrs. McCormick's charges marched off in the Georgia regiments of the Confederate Army. As the terrible years passed, word of casualties and fatalities filtered back to Linwood. Added to the deprivation of their loved ones for the residents of Pinetucky were the hardships of scarce food supplies and other necessities.

Mrs. McCormick organized the community's women in making soldiers' clothing and bandages, which was a common practice throughout the South.

In addition to the prospect of Northern invasion, first realized in 1863, by 1864 large numbers of draft dodgers, deserters and bandits sought refuge in the woods.

Daniel McCormick's house and others were burned by the ruffians.

After the war, Mrs. McCormick conceived the idea of a monument to the fallen of the Sunday school. In June 1866, she began a subscription for a memorial. A nine-foot marble shaft on a granite base was dedicated in the churchyard in June 1872.

The inscription reads "Erected to our Boys in Grey by the Linwood Sunday School, June 1866." On three sides are the names of the 23 Linwood members who did not come home after the war.

Mrs. McCormick continued as superintendent of the Sunday school for 43 years from its founding, teaching classes, playing musical instruments and directing social events such as picnics and anniversary celebrations. Mr. Leitner aided in many of these activities until his death in 1892.

Mr. McCormick died in 1875. Mrs. McCormick died in Columbia County on Sept. 6, 1900. All three, plus many relatives and neighbors, are buried at Linwood Church Cemetery near the marble memorial they so lovingly erected.

The Linwood Church, with the passing of the population, fell into disuse and withdrew from the Methodists' North Georgia Conference early in the 20th century. When the U.S. government bought land at Linwood in 1941 to be part of Fort Gordon, only three of the original families and three tenant farmers still lived in the community. The church building lasted many more years but is now gone.

On June 3, 1995, the W.H.T. Walker chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy rededicated the Linwood Monument.

Russell K. Brown, a retired Army major who lives in Grovetown, is an author and lecturer in U.S. military history. He can be reached at (706) 868-6450 or russell@csranet.com.