top of page

The History of Fairview Presbyterian Church


In 1823, the year Fairview Presbyterian was founded on a hill west of Lawrenceville, James Fenimore Cooper had just published “The Pioneers,” the first of his “Leatherstocking Tales.” Clement Clark Moore’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” appeared for the first time in a New York newspaper. Scotsman Charles Macintosh patented his waterproof cloth and started selling raincoats. The town of Lawrenceville had been chartered only two years earlier, and Gwinnett County was formed just two years before that, in 1819. The church came into being on the second Sunday in August, 1823 when thirteen people “desiring to enjoy the privileges and discipline of a church as soon as possible” pledged themselves one to the other to “walk in the commandments of the Lord.” In 1823, Fairview’s hill was on the nation’s frontier. There were just 5,000 residents in Gwinnett County, clustered mostly around Fort Daniel, the Federal outpost at Hog Mountain near present-day Hamilton Mill. (Today Gwinnett County has 805,000 residents.) Fort Daniel had been built to defend against the native population allied with the British during the War of 1812. Federal treaties signed with the Cherokee and Creek Indians in 1817 and 1818 laid the groundwork for moving native populations west, opening up the area for white settlement. Land lots of some 250 acres carved from territory formerly held by Creek Indians were awarded by lotteries held in 1820, 1821, and 1827. A final lottery in 1832 distributed land formerly held by Cherokee Indians. In 1823, 15 years before the last of the Cherokee Nation had moved west, the population was sparse, and mobile. Skirmishes with native populations were not unheard of, life was strenuous, civic institutions were remote, but with land to be had for the price of a filing fee, settlers came seeking land, opportunity, and a better life. Some down roots; many only paused then headed further west. With such uncertainty, Fairview Church was a product of a desire for stability and community, as well as a desire to participate in Christian worship. The church served as a moral compass, a social center. It provided the discipline needed to bring order to life at the frontier. As Franklin Talmage notes in his book, “The History of the Presbytery of Atlanta,” churches of the time were critical in the development of the civic and moral character of their communities. People often lived far from law enforcement officers, travel was slow and challenging, opportunities for irresponsible and intemperate behavior abounded. The early notes from the Fairview session bear this out. Members of the church were regularly brought before the session to answer charges of conduct unbecoming a Christian, or unbecoming a member of the Church. The session would bring charges, hear testimony, render judgment. Frequently, the transgression and the penalty would be announced from the pulpit. During the first decade of Fairview’s existence, church members were found guilty of violating the 7th commandment (adultery), public intoxication (several times), profane swearing, fighting, making false and injurious statements, shooting a slave, and slander. The penalty for transgression was generally suspension from the communion of the Church for a period of time, with reinstatement coming upon sufficient time and a penitent demeanor. The session minutes reveal that it paid to keep your own counsel. One woman was cited for slander when at a party in her home she had suggested that her mother in law had given birth to a child five months after her marriage. After much investigation it was determined the member was guilty. She was suspended from church until she “gave evidence of repentance and reformation of life.” One case took on the drama of a courtroom, involving such prominent members of the community as the president of the University of Georgia and Elisha Winn, one of the first court judges in Gwinnett County. It was in 1827. The session brought charges against a church member, Elisha Chester, for making “false and injurious statements” against two prominent educators. One was Dr. Moses Waddell, the president of Franklin College, the forerunner to the University of Georgia. The other was Rev. John S. Wilson, Fairview’s pastor and also the superintendent of the Lawrenceville Academy, the area’s first school. Chester had allegedly questioned the ability of these men to effectively administer their institutions, and by his statements was said to have made it difficult for them to do their jobs. In the case of Reverend Wilson, Chester’s words were also said to have created disharmony within the church, thus damaging the church community. The conversations during which the alleged statements occurred were at a social gathering at Chester’s home, and at a meeting of the trustees of the Lawrenceville Academy. Several witnesses to the conversations, including Elisha Winn, one of the first Inferior Court justices in Gwinnett County and the namesake of the Elisha Winn House in Dacula, testified before the session. After much testimony and due deliberation , the session determined that Chester had indeed made false statements regarding Dr. Waddell’s ability to lead Franklin College, and about Dr. Wilson’s administration of the Lawrenceville Academy. Chester was also judged to have acted in an un-Christian way to members of the congregation, upsetting the communion of the church. He was suspended from the sacraments of the church until such time as he would repent his actions. Chester protested the jurisdiction of the session to no avail, and subsequently appealed to the Presbytery. The records do not indicate the resolution of the case at the Presbytery, but after a period of time Chester did return to Fairview, where he continued to worship until he moved to Ohio in 1833. Interestingly, Lawrenceville attorney Richard Winn, one of Elisha Winn’s 13 children, writing some 50 years later said that the harsh verdict from the session probably resulted from a disagreement between Chester and Reverend Wilson over the administration of the Lawrenceville Academy, with Rev. Wilson “unable to brook such dissent.” Aside from his role as a Fairview parishioner, Elisha Chester was a lawyer involved in a court case which ultimately went before the United States Supreme Court. As more and more settlers came into the area occupied by the Cherokee and the Creek Indians, greater tension and conflict ensued. Georgia and the Federal government signed a series of treaties with the Native Americans, each asserting greater claims to native lands and imposing more stringent laws upon that population. Around 1830 Georgia passed laws requiring non-Native Americans working or residing in Indian territory to obtain a license and to swear an oath of allegiance to the State of Georgia. The Cherokee leaders claimed their land was a sovereign nation not subject to the laws of Georgia or the United States. Nevertheless, in 1831, several missionaries and other settlers living in the Cherokee Nation were arrested and tried for refusing to obtain the required license and for refusing to sign an oath of loyalty to the state. However, law enforcement officers went into Cherokee territory, shackled the men, marched them to Lawrenceville, and brought them before a Lawrenceville grand jury. The grand jury, which included as members Reverend John S. Wilson, Fairview’s pastor, and prominent Fairview members Robert Craig and Hamilton Garmony, indicted the men. They were subsequently convicted by the Lawrenceville court. Some were pardoned when they agreed to either leave the area or abide by the Georgia law, but two of the men appealed, eventually reaching the U. S. Supreme Court. When the court found in the defendants’ favor, President Andrew Jackson, vehemently opposed to Native American rights, reportedly said, “Now that John Marshall [Chief Justice of the Supreme Court] has made his decision, let him enforce it.” Georgia refused to abide by the ruling, keeping the men in prison. Faced with four years of hard labor and no prospect of release, the men apologized to Georgia’s governor, agreed to leave the area, and were pardoned. As Fairview’s first decade came to a close, church membership had expanded more than ten-fold, from 13 to 158. Gwinnett County’s population had tripled from what it was in 1820. A jail and courthouse had been built, a judicial system was in place, and there was a schoolhouse open for those who could afford the tuition. Fairview had become an important part of the community, even hosting the annual meetings of the Hopewell Presbytery, the predecessor to the Atlanta Presbytery, in 1825 and again in 1831. The next decade would continue the building process, but not without turmoil. There would still be conflict with native populations; travel would continue to be precarious; universal education would continue to be elusive; and the session would continue as a monitor of civic and moral responsibility.


The 25 years after 1833 saw progress and upheaval in Georgia and Gwinnett County. Easy land acquisition and the discovery of gold to the north accelerated population growth. Railroads were bringing people and communities together. Native Americans were fighting and losing ground, with conflict reaching even into Fairview’s congregation. There were medical breakthroughs; there was growth in civic and church governance. Through it all, month after month Fairview’s session met, recorded their notes, lived their lives, guided the church on the hill the best they could. Events around them marched from the conquest of the frontier to the brink of Civil War. Railroads were a catalyst for change, advancing commerce and communication as never before. The first track was laid between Athens, Macon, Augusta and Savannah in the mid-1830’s. The place where three of these railroads intersected became Terminus. Terminus became Marthasville, and Marthasville became Atlanta-named for Martha Atalanta Lumpkin, daughter of Wilson Lumpkin, Georgia’s governor from 1831-1835. A rail line connecting Terminus with Chattanooga laid the foundation for a central hub, eventually connecting the entire South. When war broke out this network of railroads made Atlanta a center of action. Growth and expansion continued for Presbyterians as well. In 1834 the Hopewell Presbytery was divided to better serve the increasing number of churches. The western part of the Hopewell Presbytery, home to Fairview, became the Flint River Presbytery. The eastern area continued to be called Hopewell. That same year 20 Fairview members who lived east and south of the church left to form the Goshen Presbyterian church, now Norcross Presbyterian. Even with the new offshoot, Fairview maintained a membership of 161. By 1839 an “in-town” branch of Fairview had been built in Lawrenceville to provide a more convenient location for members in the eastern part of the region. The same pastor would travel among the churches to preach. European settlement continued to encroach upon Indian holdings, sometimes resulting in violence. In 1835 Seminole Chief Osceola, unhappy with his tribe’s treatment under the treaty with the United States, waged war. While the Seminole Wars centered in Florida, the Creek Indians, considered by the United States government to be a branch of the Seminoles, did make forays into Georgia at this time, mostly in the area near and south of Columbus. In 1836, at the request of Georgia Governor William Schley, several Gwinnett County volunteer brigades were formed to defend the area. One of these brigades, led by Fairview member Hamilton Garmany, headed toward Columbus on May 26, 1836, arriving there on June 3. Since the fighting was to the south, Garmany’s troop continued in that direction, encountering a Creek war party at Shepherd’s Plantation in Stewart County. In the ensuing fight eight of Captain Garmany’s company were killed. Garmany himself was shot through the leg. The bodies of the fallen were returned to Lawrenceville, where they were buried with much ceremony in a common grave on the grounds of the Gwinnett County courthouse. A plaque telling the story of the battle marks the location. As Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County grew, education continued to be a priority. In 1835 the Gwinnett Manual Labor Institute, a school for boys was founded. It was a farm of about 250 acres located near Fairview Church. Trustees for the school included Fairview’s Reverend John S. Wilson, along with several Fairview members. (Hamilton Garmany also worked at the farm, overseeing the boys in their farm work. The Lawrenceville Female Seminary, an academy to educate girls, opened in 1838. Reverend Wilson was once again prominent in the effort, serving as first president of the board of trustees. Schooling was interrupted for over a year when the building burned around 1850. The seminary was rebuilt between 1853 and 1855, continuing in service as a school until 1886. The building stands today on Perry Street, housing the Gwinnett County History Museum. Later in 1838, Reverend Wilson moved to Decatur Presbyterian, where he served for twenty years, eventually leaving to become the founding pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. As the young women of Lawrenceville began their educations, and Reverend Wilson began his work in Decatur, the remaining members of the Cherokee nation began their long trek west, following what would become known as the Trail of Tears. At Fairview, session notes are unremarkable, except perhaps for two items revealing the temper of the times. Several families were dismissed from the rolls in order to join churches further west, and a church member was suspended from church for drunkenness.


Clearly, being a church session member required diverse skills. Not only must he know the Book of Order and the Book of Confession, he must also pass judgment on public morals, and at times become an interviewer and an investigator. For example, in 1840, a session committee was appointed to “converse with certain members” about reports that another member had acted with intemperance and had been immoral in his conduct. After a six month investigation, the member in question was indeed determined to have acted profanely and immorally, but by the time the inquiry ended he had left the state, beyond the reach of the session. Nevertheless, on the chance he might return, he was excluded from the communion of Fairview church. Tending to the spiritual side of the congregation, 1841 found the session ordering that all children and young people in the congregation be examined on the catechism and that all members be examined on church doctrine. It was also resolved that a prayer meeting be held each week in some part of the congregation, with the pastor (Reverend James Patterson at the time) and one elder attending whenever possible. This was to enable more people to attend worship. Travel from far flung farms to church over the rough roads of the time was very difficult. Down the road in Atlanta, gatherings of another sort produced a medical breakthrough. Sometime in 1842 Dr. Crawford W. Long hosted an “ether party.” People would come together in a sealed room to breathe fumes from an open bowl of ether until they passed out-all the rage at the time. Long noticed that his guests, under the influence of ether, staggered about, fell, bruised themselves, and yet experienced no pain. Connecting home with work, Long gave ether to one of his surgical patients, hoping for the same numbing effect. When Dr. Long cut a tumor from the patient’s neck, there was no pain. The practice of using anesthesia during surgery was born. In 1843, in another indication that the church was maturing, the Presbytery ordered that churches prepare and submit annual statistical reports, as well as reports on the State of Religion in each church. Unfortunately, the Session minutes do not contain these reports. Entries in 1843 do note expenditures for candles (totaling $1.12), for wine (totaling $.78), and a collection for domestic ministries ($15.50). There was also an expense for glass, putty and glazing–$1.25. A year later in 1844, Fairview member James Hawthorne was cited by the session for shooting and wounding one of his slaves. Hawthorne claimed the slave had refused to follow directions, had threatened Hawthorne, and the shooting was self defense. Despite those claims, the session ruled that Hawthorne had acted intemperately and so excluded him from the communion of the church. He was eventually reinstated, remaining in communion until his death in 1847. The 1845 session notes make the first reference to developing a plan for collecting money for the church. The recommendation was to devise a “regular and systematic plan” to collect money for foreign and domestic missions, Presbyterial purposes, and to support those who wanted to enter the ministry. This heritage of support for mission work and outreach in support of the community continues to this day. Also in 1845, responding to the increasing number of churches and congregants in Georgia, the Presbyterian General Assembly created the Synod of Georgia. Georgia churches had been part of the larger Synod of South Carolina and Georgia. Meetings had been held in South Carolina or Augusta, making it hard for western and southern church representatives to attend. The new organization would make communication among and support for local churches much more effective. In 1847, the year Marthasville became Atlanta, longtime Fairview Clerk of Session Thomas Alexander passed away. A respected member of the church and the community, his passing was marked in session notes by a series of resolutions expressing regret and grief, remembering a life of commitment and integrity. This life, remembered by a small group of churchmen, noted in a page of respectful tribute buried in a book of seldom-read notes resurrected every two or three decades by the occasional historian, unearthed here 162 years after the fact, is part of the foundation of our church. Alexander is one of many whose names are unknown, their work unsung, but who are models for church members today who also build communities one day at a time. That same year the session noted the petition of Mrs. Goodwin (her first name is not given), a woman seeking the aid and support of a church community. Imagine the scene. A woman of most likely middle age, appearing before a group of strangers, men holding the key to a community of support, comfort, and the sanctuary of common belief. She said she had been a practicing Presbyterian in her youth, but had married, moved away from places where there was church, then lived “for a long time without enjoying the privileges of the sanctuary.” She had become “indifferent on the subject of religion.” Now something had happened. She had “come to view her situation in a clear light and felt she could no longer remain out of the church.” It is hard to know what happened here. The notes do not reveal it. We can only imagine, looking back to a rough and tumble world, the challenges people faced in the course of a day or a week or a month. Fairview church must have been to her an island of stability and comfort in what may have been a sea of doubt and lonesomeness. And it must have taken courage to come before strangers to confess her sense of emptiness, to ask for sanctuary and support. She was of course received into the fellowship of the church. The following day, Sunday, Reverend Patterson preached at her home and baptized her children. 1849 found Fairview with 127 members, down from 140 two years prior. It’s hard to know if this membership number was accurate, though. In 1851 after conducting a membership audit for the first time in eleven years membership stood at 104. Membership would fluctuate as people moved further west and north and more churches were started closer to people’s homes. Despite the seeming drop in membership, in 1851 contributions had risen to $348.50 from $240.60 in 1849. The pastor’s salary rose to $210.00 from $175.00. In 1852 membership was reported as 105 white, 8 black. From the mid-1840s, reports of members appearing before the session due to moral infractions had greatly declined, although there were still some incidents of note. One black member was called to appear on charges of fornication. She admitted guilt, was penitent, and was restored to the church. As this quarter century of Fairview’s history drew to a close, Reverend James Patterson resigned from Fairview to accept an appointment to the presidency of the synodical female college in Griffin. Patterson was succeeded by an interim appointment, Thomas Noel, then by Reverend W. C. Smith, who remained at Fairview until 1861, returning to his home north of the Mason-Dixon line as the Civil War began. Branded a Northern sympathizer by the Synod of Georgia, his name was stricken from their roll, “he having been known to entertain sentiments hostile to the Southern Confederacy, and having gone over to the enemy.” The years between 1833 and 1859 saw much civic advancement as well, however. The population of Georgia nearly doubled to just over a million people (of whom 400,000 were enslaved), and 42 Georgia counties were created during that span of time. As Fairview’s first 35 years drew to a close, skirmishes with the native population had ended. Gwinnett County’s population nearly tripled from the 4,500 souls in residence in 1820. The growth of Presbyterianism brought more churches, a state synod, and a more regional Presbytery fostering more local representation and stronger organization. On the horizon of course, was the upheaval and conflict of the Civil War. Harbingers of conflict between the North and the South can be seen even in the mid-1840’s. In 1845 the Methodist Episcopal Church in America split into Northern and Southern conferences when Georgia Bishop James O. Andrews resisted an order to either give up his slaves or resign his bishopric. In 1848, Dred Scott sued for his freedom in a case which was eventually heard before the United States Supreme Court. In a decisive verdict rendered in 1857, nine years after the case began, the court found that Scott, a slave suing for his freedom, had no legal right to sue, having in the court’s view never been a citizen. The verdict rendered the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery north of the parallel 36 degrees, 20 minutes, unconstitutional. Differing views on the meaning and effect of the decision served to broaden the divide between the Northern and Southern states, bringing the nation closer to the brink of war.


1860 was the calm before the storm. With the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency, most Southerners anticipated the end of slavery, which was viewed as the foundation of the Southern plantation economy. Even though less than one third of white Georgians were slave owners, and most slaves were owned by an even smaller percentage of landowners–perhaps 5% of the population–smaller farmers depended upon the large planters to process their cotton crops and help them get their product to market. In 1860, 44% of Georgia’s population–around 462,000 people–were slaves. In Gwinnett County there were 12,940 people, including 2,551 slaves, or just under 20% of the county population. Those slaves were held by 361 owners; one of the largest slave owners in the county, with 65, was Fairview member Robert Craig. At Fairview, 1860 was a high watermark for membership, with some 250 in the congregation. Of those, several were large landowners. Three members of the Craig family, Robert, John, and George, collectively held more than 5,000 acres; Henry Strickland had more than 2,000 acres; Daniel Byrd owned 1,300 acres; George Brogdon held more than 1,200. But of course, great change was on the horizon. In January, 1861, Georgia convened a special assembly to consider whether to secede from the Union. Although Gwinnett County delegates opposed secession, they yielded to the 208-89 majority vote in favor of the measure. Following that vote, Fairview Pastor W. C. Smith left to return to his home in the North. Branded a “traitorous Northern sympathizer” by the Presbytery, Smith’s name was stricken from their rolls. The Civil War began in April, 1861. In May, Presbytery representatives, including members of the Flint River Presbytery, met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to discuss the unfolding situation as it related to the church. Resolutions from the meeting called for support of the Federal (Northern) government, with the “unchurching” of those who supported any other government. This did not set well with the Southern delegation, which left recommending secession from the national group. In August, Southern church representatives met in Atlanta, hosted by former Fairview pastor and current/founding pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, John S. Wilson. A Southern Presbyterian General Assembly emerged, chaired by Reverend Wilson. During this time, church affairs in general and at Fairview in particular, were in upheaval, a mirror to the upheaval in the surrounding countryside. For most of 1861 and all of 1862, regular services at Fairview were suspended, although one woman did attend regularly by herself, to read scripture, say a prayer, and sing a hymn, thereby maintaining a continuity of worship throughout the war. Session notes from 1861 and 1862 are sparse. There are no entries at all in 1863. Very little is recorded in 1864 or 1865. There is no mention of the war, nor of the September,1864 fall of Atlanta to Union forces. An entry does appear from August 12, 1866 noting that “the war had thrown everything into a state of derangement, with no regular record made of meetings of the session from April 1865 until June of 1866.” (The war ended in April, 1865.) The fall of the plantation system had brought much change. Without slave labor to do the work, the value of their investments near zero, and no money to pay laborers, many plantations were abandoned, their owners moving to the towns and cities to seek employment. Emancipated slaves also headed for the towns seeking work, increasing the size and importance of the cities. Atlanta’s population had grown to 20,000 by 1865. At the time surrounding that 1866 Session entry, however, life appears to have been regaining some sense of normalcy. By 1867 Fairview had engaged a minister, Reverend James Wilson, to offer regular worship services. The Flint River Presbytery had been divided that same year, with the northern portion becoming the Atlanta Presbytery, and the southern portion becoming the Macon Presbytery. The new Atlanta Presbytery established as its goals providing missionary services to its existing destitute churches, of which Fairview was one; extending the denomination in the area through the establishment of new churches; and assisting young men to become ministers. A new pastor, Rev. J. L. King came to Fairview in 1869. During his 12 year tenure, church, state, and region worked to recover and progress. Church membership in 1869 stood at 50. During Rev. King’s tenure, membership would rise as high as 107, but when he left in 1881, the roll stood at 48.


Georgia was readmitted to the Union in 1870. That same year Georgia’s General Assembly set in motion laws establishing a system of public schools. Gwinnett County wasted no time appointing a school board and school commissioner. Schools were opened in1871, but suspended in 1872 due to funds allotted being diverted to other purposes, leaving debt and unpaid teachers. In 1873 a second school board came into office, electing a new school commissioner–J. L. King. Schools flourished under his administration, which lasted until 1876. In 1871, the Southern Railroad laid track through Gwinnett County, spawning new towns along its route and opening avenues for travel and commerce. Railroads would continue to play a major role in the development of the area. Ten years later, in 1881, the Lawrenceville Branch Railroad connected Lawrenceville to the Southern Railroad track at Suwanee. Ten years after that, a second major railroad, the Seaborne Air Line, connected to Lawrenceville as well, further extending commerce and connections. In 1872 a new Gwinnett County courthouse was built, then quickly torn down. The original courthouse was destroyed by arson; the replacement was deemed unsafe. The replacement for the replacement, the current historic courthouse on the square, was completed in 1885. It was in 1872 that one of Fairview’s longest serving elders passed away. Session notes ponder how best to honor this man, John Mills. In the end, the session book was dedicated in his memory, and a notice of his death was sent for publication in “The Southern Presbyterian.” Looking beyond the session notes, Mills had come to the area from South Carolina in the early part of the century, joining Fairview in 1824 at the age of 25. He quickly became an elder, serving in that role and as Clerk of Session for the intervening years until his death. He twice served as a Gwinnett County Inferior Court justice, the second time for the duration of the Civil War; he served as Justice of the Peace in 1829 (followed by another Fairview member, Hamilton Garmany, in 1830); he served as Lawrenceville’s postmaster from 1840 until 1846; he was a founding trustee of the Lawrenceville Academy, the first area school for boys, and an initial stakeholder in the Lawrenceville Female Seminary, the first school for girls. It was no doubt his service to his community as well as his church that brought such respect from his peers. In 1873 Reverend John S. Wilson passed away. Wilson, Fairview’s second pastor, serving from 1825-1838, was also the founding pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta. He died while in that office. In 1877 Atlanta became Georgia’s capitol. In 1881 the M. Rich Dry Goods Store opened its doors in Atlanta. That same year Rev. King took another assignment, replaced at Fairview by Rev. J. F. McClelland. Rev. McClelland served until his death in 1885, leading to a succession of five pastors in the next six years, the last of whom was Rev. King, returning to Fairview for a second appointment. Rev. King remained at Fairview until 1901, serving for a total of 21 years. He was quite busy during those years, finding time to preach at Norcross Presbyterian as well as Fairview, and to found the Buford Presbyterian Church and preach there too. In 1885, after a gap of 27 years, the session resumed its role as occasional arbiter of behavior and morality. Among the usual notes of members coming and leaving, births and baptisms, we find a once routine but now uncommon request from the Session to a church member, a local doctor, to appear before them to confer about rumors of his immoral conduct. There are no subsequent entries to let us know the good doctor’s fate; his guilt or innocence are unknown, no consequence is noted. That same year a committee was formed to investigate “flagrant reports” of a member acting in ways “unbecoming a Christian.” The committee was charged with visiting the member to ask about the rumors. They did, but before they could make their report the case became a matter for the courts, so the report was tabled. Nothing further is mentioned until April, 1889, when the member met with the session, confessed his guilt, asked forgiveness, and was restored to church fellowship. Meanwhile, the Georgia Institute of Technology was founded in 1885, and in 1886 Coca Cola went on sale at Jacobs Pharmacy in Atlanta. 1891 was a watershed year at Fairview. Membership had declined from a prewar high of 250 to as low as 41, but had since risen to 75. On April 12, 26 of those 75 members, with the blessing of the Atlanta Presbytery, left Fairview to form Lawrenceville Presbyterian. What had been a branch of Fairview Church became an independent congregation. Four of the six Fairview elders, and all of the deacons, were among those who left. Of the remaining elders, one had moved to Texas and would soon leave the church as well. Two new elders and a deacon were elected the next day, beginning the work to rebuild the leadership and the congregation. The new Lawrenceville congregation occupied the building which had been the in-town branch of Fairview. Session notes of February, 1892 mention a committee formed to confer with the people at Lawrenceville Presbyterian regarding ownership of that building, “claimed by Fairview but being withheld from them by the Lawrenceville church.” In May another committee was formed to represent Fairview at a meeting of the Presbytery to settle the question; there is no mention in later notes of what came from that get together. Time marched on. In 1893 the Georgia legislature created the Lawrenceville Public School system, a city system separate from the County system. Two years later the first public high school in Lawrenceville opened, and in 1899 the first graduating class of four students walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, just in time to begin a new century. On the verge of the 20th century, Gwinnett County’s population had grown to more than 25,000. Fairview membership stood at 50, but had since its founding been the direct source for both the Norcross and Lawrenceville churches, and had contributed to Decatur, First Presbyterian of Atlanta, and other Presbyterian churches as well. What 77 years before had been an outpost on the edge of a wilderness was now solidly in the center of things. The Seminole Wars were past, the Cherokee had been banished, and while no battles were fought in the area, the civil war had devastated the regional economy. As the area recovered, railroads brought people, goods, and commerce in ever greater numbers. Atlanta, just a few miles south, was even then becoming an economic engine powering the area’s economy. The people of Fairview played prominent roles in all of it. They fought in the Indian Wars. They were judges, postmasters, merchants, farmers, lawyers. One even argued a case which reached the U. S. Supreme Court, winning a landmark ruling studied by law students to this day–a ruling, interestingly, defied by the Governor of the state and the President of the nation.


Between 1900 and 1950 the country saw two world wars, the great depression, and the start of the Korean conflict. Powered flight went from a 540 foot, 12 second hop at Kitty Hawk in 1903 to a jet powered 10 hour ride from New York to Paris in 1950, punctuated by Lindbergh’s solo trans-Atlantic adventure in 1927. The era of the popular automobile also began in 1903, when Henry Ford brought out the Model A. By the time production of the Model A ended in 1927 he had sold 15 million of them. Famously, Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘Faster Horses.'” By 1950 there were thirty million cars on American roads. There were nearly 7,000 students enrolled in Gwinnett County schools in 1900, although in the absence of compulsory attendance laws fewer than 4,000 came to school. 123 teachers taught in 102 schools-it was the era of the one-room school house-meeting students over a 100 day school year. Funding totaled just over $16,000. Ten years later enrollment was about the same, but average attendance had grown by 500. There were 150 teachers, with funding over $26,000. Ten years after that, in 1921, a school tax of 4 mills was levied, a compulsory attendance law was in place, the school term had been extended to six months, and teachers had to have a professional certificate to be employed. By 1941 the school tax had risen to 5 mills. Teacher salaries had increased and been codified based on qualifications, with monthly pay ranging from $40.00 to $90.00. A uniform schedule was imposed for all county schools, and efforts were made to provide better and more consistent facilities for students. Between 1933 and 1941 schools for white students were consolidated from 61 to 18, with 13 schools for black students. By 1950 there were 7,300 students in 19 Gwinnett County public schools. 15 different pastors served Fairview between 1900 and 1950, beginning with Rev. J. L. King, and ending with Rev. Fritz Rauschenberg. (Rev. Rauschenberg was also in the pulpit from 1907 until 1911, supervising the first major renovation of the church.) Membership rose from 50 to 84, although it dropped as low as 40 at one point. 1940 session minutes note that in the previous five years, Fairview had recruited 44 members, more than half the then current membership of 75. There were probably a lot more people attending, though. According to longtime Fairview member D.Y. Williams, when he was a boy in the ’20’s and ’30’s, Fairview was a community church. The area was rural, with a few large farms worked by sharecroppers who would move in and out. Anyone within walking distance considered Fairview their church, and they would come to service. At the same time Henry Ford was gearing up his auto factories, people coming to Fairview were walking or being pulled in wagons by horses or mules over dirt roads. As D. Y. Williams tells it getting to church during those days was no easy task. “Over there on Old Norcross, a little rain, it would make a mud mess of everything. It was a challenge to come to church. The reason we didn’t have many night services, it was dangerous to travel on those roads.” Getting horse drawn vehicles through could be challenging, or impossible. Even with good conditions, getting to and from church could be an all day affair. Still, for the residents of the area Fairview was a central part of life. D. Y. remembers that when a young man or woman found their true love, it was expected that they would come to Fairview to receive the blessing of their church family. When D. Y. and fellow congregant Winfred Huff joined the Air Force in 1942, they reported to Fort MacPherson directly from Fairview after the August Second Sunday celebration. D. Y.’s sister Mary Ellen remembered the family making the five mile trip in their fringe topped surrey, on pleasant days stopping by the Yellow River for lunch on the way home. Roads and transportation did gradually improve of course. In one of the first big road building efforts of the day, in 1923, the state began paving the way from Lawrenceville to Decatur. During the next twenty years, nearly 100 miles of road was paved in Gwinnett County at a cost of a then-substantial $3 million. This included the paving of the courthouse square in 1925. Automobile traffic must have been building, because in 1928 Lawrenceville’s first two traffic signals were installed, both on Crogan Street near the square. When Reverend Rauschenberg arrived in 1907 a building committee was hard at work planning for much needed repair and renovation of the 75 year old church. Reverend Rauschenberg credits Claude Craig, clerk of session and superintendent of the Sunday School, with doing much of the work to organize and complete the project. The “new” church was dedicated January 10, 1909. While notes and other resources indicate “remodeling,” there are no indications as to what was done. However, at the start of the century, the church was a very plain looking affair. There was no steeple. The interior consisted of unpainted boards. Lighting was still by sun or kerosene. Even though Lawrenceville installed a power generation plant in 1903, it wasn’t until 1935 that the number of household meters passed a thousand. Fairview didn’t get electricity until after World War II when the REA (Rural Electrification Agency) extended service to outlying areas. Over the course of time from the 1908-09 renovation until mid century, benches and chairs were replaced with rows of theatre seats, a cupola and two vestibules were added at the entrance of the church, and beaded paneling was installed to replace unpainted boards which had served as interior walls and ceiling. (The theatre seats came un-upholstered, so the women of the church cut the patterns and installed padding and upholstery for each chair. The seats were not a standard size, so each one had to be done individually.) The basic construction of the church is still as it was when it was built. According to D.Y. Williams, each interior column is one tree, hand turned, supporting hand formed beams at the top, which support the roof. The columns rest upon hand hewn sills of 14 x 13 and cross beams of 3 x 10 and 3 x 12. The stained glass windows, unusual for their time in this area, would swing open on a central pivot to let in the summer air. Mary Ellen Williams recalled during evening services they would also let in the bugs, the dust, and the occasional bat. Fairview’s general financial condition was tenuous during the entire first half of the 20th century. The Civil War had put Fairview under stresses that continued nearly a century later, with the Presbytery Home Mission Board continuing to provide financial support to the church. Clearly being a pastor was not a lucrative trade. In 1908, the first time salary is mentioned in the session notes, we learn Fairview was paying Reverend Rauschenberg $200 per year, subsidized by the Home Mission Board. Lawrenceville Presbyterian also paid a salary since Lawrenceville and Fairview shared the pastor but even though the churches did provide a manse for the pastor and his family, with all sources the compensation was low. Things appear to have been looking up in 1909, when the session voted to “relieve the Presbytery of $50.00” of the appropriation they had been receiving, hoping to move toward self sufficiency. However, a few years later, in 1917, the church was able to pay only $162 of the $250 salary promised to the pastor. 1924 and 1925 saw similar problems; in 1925, the Presbytery Home Mission Board asked the church to raise their payments by $100 in order to “lighten the load” of the Board. Fairview agreed, but in the end couldn’t find the extra $100. That year marked the first mention of fund raising-an “Every Member Canvas” was planned for March, the beginning of an annual stewardship program which eventually did put the church in better financial condition. At the time however the region was heavily dependent upon agriculture, and heavily dependent on cotton for cash to buy things families couldn’t make, grow or butcher on the farm. As D.Y. Williams recalled, “nobody had any money until the fall, when you gathered your crop and sold it.” If a child was seen with new clothes, he said, the comment was, “Ya’ll must have sold your cotton!” Average annual cash income for families was between $50 and $60. But cotton, as any crop, is a fickle friend. In the early twenties, a boll weevil infestation crossed the state, slashing production in half. On top of that, Mary Ellen Williams recalled that in 1925 there was a drought so bad none of the crops came in. Their family moved to Florida in search of better prospects. (Thankfully things improved, and the Williams family returned within a couple of years, never to leave again. Mary Ellen was confirmed and became a member of Fairview in 1928.) By 1930 there were 28,000 people living in Gwinnett County, most involved in agriculture. Fairview had 70 members. Church disbursements were $412. Bobby Jones won the golf grand slam that year. Ray Charles was born down in Albany, and talking movies came to Lawrenceville. You could buy a new car at the Ford dealership for $600. Fairview kicked the decade off by organizing the men of the church to paint the building. A note from 1932 indicates the final cost was $128. Pastor B. R. Anderson resigned his position at the end of 1931; Reverend B. W. Baker was called to preach the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month, to be paid $200 annually. D. Y. Williams was confirmed and became a member of Fairview in 1932. Ten years later, as noted earlier, he would leave for the Air Force from the annual Homecoming dinner, headed for the skies over Europe. In 1937 the session appointed a committee to begin a three year study of how much Fairview should contribute to a new Presbytery ministerial pension plan. Ironically, in the same meeting one of the elders requested that the salary amount already due the pastor be raised as soon as possible. This proved to be a challenge, as the 1938 statistical report indicates a total disbursement for the prior year was $247. Membership stood at 68. Throughout the ’30’s and early ’40’s, Fairview struggled to keep financial commitments. Session notes for 1940 call for plans to make up the arrears for the pastor’s salary, and to raise the funds to tune the piano and paint the inside of the church. It is hard to know what the church budget was during those years. The word “budget” is used only once in session notes, in 1945. A budget of $462 was adopted for 1945-46. All other financial records are related through an annual Statistical Report, which was a report of the prior year’s income and expense. Little is noted of the sources of income; only disbursements are consistently noted. The largest amount of money disbursed between 1900 and 1950 came in 1909, presumably due to the renovation of the church. The lowest amount was $114, in 1933. The 1946 disbursement-the year there was a stated budget of $462-was $549. Between 1900 and 1907 there is no record of any disbursements-in fact, there are few records of any sort; each of those years saw only one session meeting. The forties brought other business matters to attend to as well. The session wanted to insure the facility, but the rate was high due to the flue of the stove in the sanctuary not being constructed according to accepted practice. The belfry was in need of repair, and the possibility of electric lighting was on the horizon. Joint meetings in 1944 between Fairview Church, Lawrenceville Presbyterian officers, and the head of the Home Mission Board, Franklin Talmage, were held to explore financing church operations, pastoral salary, and repairs to the manse. At the end of the day, the Home Mission Board agreed to match funds raised locally up to $350.00, and to provide up to $1,130 in support of the pastor. The officers of Fairview pledged to become self supporting within five years. Plans were made for the repairs, which were completed in due course. If you look up to the ceiling near the center of the sanctuary, you will see a plate over the place where the flue used to be. Before central heating and air, there was a large pot bellied stove in the center of the sanctuary. D. Y. Williams recalled that if no one came to start the fire early, before service, people would freeze; by the time it got warm, the service would be over. Someone must have come most times, because D. Y.’s sister Mary Ellen recalled that her grandmother, who was cold natured, would make a point to pull a chair up next to the stove, and on occasion get so warm and comfortable she would fall asleep. D. Y. recalls that the stove was eventually removed because “the fire department didn’t like it.” By 1940, the population in Gwinnett County had increased by some 1,200 people, but had still not hit 30,000. The census notes 25,731 white residents, 3,325 black residents, and one “other.” Twenty county residents were foreign born. Of course the United States entered W. W. II in 1941, the same year Nunnally, Peggy and Donald Phillips were received into membership. In 1943 Georgia became the first state to allow 18 year olds to vote. Gwinnett’s population topped 30,000 that same year. In 1945 FDR passed away in Warm Springs, Georgia. Both the European war and the Pacific war came to an end. Financial stresses appeared to ease following W. W. II. 1945 was a year of growth and optimism. The annual August homecoming was proclaimed “a great day in the history of this congregation,” with the conclusion of an excellent week-long revival and the addition of several new members to the church. With at least a bit of prosperity coming their way, in an echo of efforts twenty years earlier, the session voted in 1946 to reduce its request for support from the Presbytery Home Mission Board by $40.00, pledging once again to move toward self sufficiency as soon as possible. 1946 was also the year to turn on the lights. When the REA (Rural Electrification Agency) extended service near to Fairview, special arrangements were made to bring in temporary lighting for a revival held August 8-11, 1946. Another very successful revival culminated in another enthusiastic Homecoming crowd, with the collection topping $200.00, the highest total in church history. A month later, on September 8, 1946, permanent electrical service was established. Nine sanctuary light fixtures were installed, the same fixtures that are in place today. Eight of the lights were dedicated to Fairview members, the 9th to “all of the boys in World War II.” The dedications were: 1: Donald S. and Sallie Williams 2: Kate and Lizzie Williams 3: Becky Byrd Williams (donor) 4: J. Craig Williams (donor, daughter) 5: William Huston and Sally Quinn Huston 6: George Craig, donated by family 7: Nellie Pratt Williams, donated by husband 8: Claude Craig (daughter donated) 9: All the boys in service in WW II, especially those from Fairview, (donated by Frank Y. Williams and family) Much progress was made in the first half of the century, but there was still room to improve. The Presbytery was encouraging Fairview and Lawrenceville to increase their compensation to their pastor. With input from Rev. Franklin Talmage of the Presbytery Home Mission Board, the officers of Fairview and Lawrenceville did resolve in 1949 to increase the total salary of the pastor to $3,000. Fairview would pay $600, Lawrenceville would pay $1,400, and the Presbytery Home Mission Board would kick in $1,000. Rev. Talmage stipulated that the congregations strive to raise funds to reduce the Home Mission Board contribution as soon as possible. Self sufficiency was still a ways away. 1950, the same year ground was broken for the new Buford Dam, Rev. James McNair came to Fairview, splitting his time between Fairview and Lawrenceville Presbyterian. As was the tradition, he would preach every other week at each church. In 1954, services changed from bi-weekly to weekly, with the Fairview service at 10:00, and the service at Lawrenceville at 11:00 The early ’50’s saw building improvements in the form of a tower added to the west side of the building, and eventually a steeple. Fairview also built an annex to the rear of the church housing two classrooms, restrooms and a kitchen. This area is now the choir room and library. In 1954 the children of former pastor B. R. Anderson donated new chancel furniture. The pulpit platform was remodeled at the same time, and new carpeting was installed. A new manse was built for the pastor in 1955, owned jointly with Lawrenceville Presbyterian. There were exploratory discussions about working with Lawrenceville Presbyterian to build a fellowship hall on Fairview’s grounds, but the project got no further than a bit of grading and the purchase of some lumber. The Lawrenceville church decided to use their resources to improve their own facility. In 1957, the same year Lake Lanier came into being, Dr. Fred Moss of Washington D. C. came to visit. Dr. Moss was the great grandson of James Russell, who built the original, often remodeled, much improved, but still standing today Fairview; the church at Goshen; and the original Lawrenceville Presbyterian Church. Dr. Moss wanted to establish a rose garden in memory of his great-great Grandfather, and donated rosebushes, benches, and a sundial. He had a mausoleum constructed in the garden for his eventual burial. According to notes from the Women of the Church group, 1958 saw “much upheaval.” There was a movement to merge Fairview and Lawrenceville Presbyterian, joint officers’ meetings were held to work it out, and in the midst of it all Reverend McNair resigned. Saying his work at Fairview was complete , he left Fairview and moved to Elberton after his May 4th sermon. Nonetheless, merger proposals were reviewed and voted upon at a May 24th Congregational Meeting. Two people voted to continue as separate churches sharing one pastor, six voted to merge the churches, and 29 voted to continue as a separate church with one full time pastor working exclusively at Fairview-a first for the congregation. That first full time pastor was seminary student Rev. Jack Morris, who came on as an intern in 1959, to be ordained in 1960. Rev. Morris continued to live in Decatur while still a student at the Columbia Theological Seminary. The shared manse was given over to Lawrenceville, with land acquired for a new manse for Fairview. Membership was up for Fairview, at 97. Sunday School enrollment stood at 45, with Conrad Huff superintendent, Clyde Phillips assistant superintendent, and Don Phillips teacher of the young adult group. In March of 1959, long time member Rolla Williams, the grandfather of D.Y. and Mary Ellen Williams, passed away at the age of 91. The outside world was moving our way. Interstate Highway 85 was completed to Pleasant Hill Road, Button Gwinnett Hospital was opened and dedicated by Governor Ernest Vandiver, and a telephone line was installed at Fairview. For the first time church members could speak with the pastor during the week. Meanwhile, 280 highschoolers graduated from Gwinnett County Public Schools Upon his graduation and ordination in June of 1960, Reverend Morris moved his family into Fairview’s newly built manse. Two months later, on the Monday after the 2nd Sunday Homecoming at Fairview, Mrs. Morris and the two Morris children were involved in a terrible automobile accident. Eight year old Kathy was killed. Mrs. Morris and another daughter were hospitalized for weeks. Memorial funds given by friends and family were used in the construction of the Education Building. The memorial plaque is outside the office door.


In 1961, Fairview’s budget was $10,000. The pastor’s salary had risen to $4,800. New doors were installed to enclose the front porch of the church. New communion and offering sets were donated through the efforts of the women of the church and Mrs. Howard Huff, in memory of her son Winfred. These are the same sets we use today, 50 years later. 1961 also marked the first year Fairview held a vacation bible school apart from the Lawrenceville church. East Pike Street in Lawrenceville was paved. The University of Georgia admitted its first black students, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes. In 1963, Fairview recognized nine members who had been active in the church for over 50 years. They were Mrs. William Dodson (61 years), Mr. Frank Y. Williams (61 years), Miss Anna Craig (57 years), Mrs. Frank McElvaney (57 years), Mrs. Hattie Johnson (55.5 years), Mrs. Corene McElvaney (55.5 years), Mrs. Frank Y. (Maude) Williams, 51 years, Mrs. Ruby Murphy (50 years), and Miss Essie Craig (50 years). Frank Y. and Maude Williams were the third generation of Williamses to call Fairview home, and were the parents of a fourth generation, D. Y. Williams and Mary Ellen Williams. Their names and works feature prominently in the history of Fairview Presbyterian Church. Construction of the Education Building was approved in 1963, projected to cost $35,000. Funding came from a $20,000 loan and a “sizable gift” from the Atlanta Presbytery. Ground was broken at the August 11th Homecoming, celebrating Fairview’s 140th anniversary. At a Congregational Meeting in December of 1963 the congregation approved a new system of rotating elders and deacons. Moving forward, officers would be elected for three year terms, with officers rotating off and newly elected officers rotating on. Prior to this time, many officers served for 10 years or longer. In June of 1964 Reverend Morris announced that he was leaving Fairview to accept a call to Oakhurst Presbyterian Church in Decatur. The resignation created unrest in the church, leading to the announcement by church officers of “[a] plan, which apparently had been forming for some time ” to once again consider merging Fairview and Lawrenceville Presbyterian. The logic was that since the Lawrenceville church building had recently been sold and Fairview was without a pastor, it would be a good time to merge the two congregations. Each church distributed relevant documents, facts, and figures pertaining to the merger, then each held congregational meetings to vote on the merger. Fairview voted 60-19 in favor of the merger; Lawrenceville voted overwhelmingly against it. Hard feelings ensued among those on opposite sides of the question. The three women’s circles, always a force at Fairview, were disrupted; many younger members became less involved or left the church, resulting in two of the three circles merging into one. In an interesting bit of timing, the Education Building was dedicated to Kathy Morris on August 2nd, 1964. Leading the dedication service was Reverend Morris’s last official act as Fairview’s pastor. In December, Reverend Charles Handte became the pastor, remaining for three years. In April of 1965, the Education building was opened for business, hosting the first Sunday School classes on April 19. In September, Fairview began a kindergarten class, open to the community. The class was from 8-11 Monday through Friday, under the direction of Caleta Handte, the pastor’s wife, and Joyce Parks, a member of the church. Tuition was $15.00 per month. Notes mention a parent-teacher meeting for the kindergarten held January 7, 1966, but that is the last mention of the program. In 1966, Dr. Moss, the benefactor of the Rose Garden, passed away. As was his wish, he was buried in the mausoleum in the midst of the garden he created. His wife, a native of the Maryland area where the Mosses lived at the time of his passing, had no desire to be buried in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and so upon her passing years later she was buried with her family near Washington, D. C. Fairview’s viability as an independent church seems to have been persistently in question during these times. Just two years after the church officers’ ill-fated merger proposal, the Presbytery prepared a report analyzing the future prospects of Fairview Church, again suggesting a merger. Key points of the report: ” Land nearby has been zoned residential but is still rural in character, designated for development sometime after 1970. ” Projected growth patterns indicate residential area within Lawrenceville, then south and west. The area around Fairview will be commercial and will hold back the growth and development of Fairview. ” Due to the cemetery and utility easements, expansion of the church would be difficult. Land behind the church would have to be acquired. ” The church, though it has a number of younger couples, is basically an older church with many retired persons and a few younger people. This is not very conducive for the involvement of new people in the church or in the community ” The church has no special emphasis or program. It has conducted a weekly kindergarten in the past year. ” The time has come for the Congregation to look realistically at itself and determine its real reason for existence. ” The report extols the better location of Lawrenceville Presbyterian, notes its more modern and flexible facility, and says the church seems to be developing a program around the community’s youth. ” Based on a demographic analysis the report says for the next 10 years (until the mid-1970s) Lawrenceville Presbyterian will have a stronger outreach than Fairview, and that Fairview will have a period of “very slow” growth and development. ” The report argues that the two congregations should combine to form a single new vibrant congregation. The “new home” would be at Lawrenceville Presbyterian ” If the congregations were to merge, the cemetery should be deeded to a group of appointed trustees and incorporated. The sanctuary and grounds should go to the Presbytery for the eventual and probable beginning of new work when the population warrants it. ” The author of the report recommends the two churches merge to serve the center of Lawrenceville. Needless to say, the recommendations were not adopted. Beginning in March of 1967, a series of interim pastors filled the pulpit, continuing until 1970 when Merlin Watts, a seminary student, became the pastor. Mr. Watts graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary in May of 1971. At a Congregational Meeting in September, Fairview voted to extend the relationship with Rev. Watts, but he refused. He said he did not want to become a Presbyterian minister as he did not agree with the order. He resigned, leaving at the end of October, 1971. In 1972 since there was no resident pastor the manse was sold. It was felt the manse was a wasted asset. The church was painted.


In June, 1972 a reception was held for Hope Williams, the daughter of D. Y. and Doris Williams, in honor of her graduation from the University of Georgia, with a B. S. in Education. On a January Saturday night in 1973, eighteen members of the church gathered at a service to commemorate the signing of a peace accord in Vietnam. D. Y. Williams and Don Phillips rang the church bell from 7:00 until 7:30. Also in 1973, Rev. Robert Smith became the pastor at Fairview, and would remain for three years. That year the congregation considered whether to remain in the Presbyterian Church in the United States or join the National Presbyterian Church. The vote was 24-3 in favor of remaining with the Presbyterian Church in the United States, which was a denomination found predominantly in the Southern and Border states. (We are now part of the Presbyterian Church USA, a group resulting from the 1983 merger of the Presbyterian Church in the United States and the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, a group with denominations nationwide.) In 1976, Reverend Hugh Ward came to Fairview, remaining until 1979. By this time the pastor’s annual salary was $6,000, with a $1,200 car allowance. That same year Mary Ellen Williams was installed as a deacon, becoming the first woman to hold office at Fairview. Later she would become the first woman Elder, and also served as treasurer of the church. Two long-time Fairview members, Essie Craig and Maude Williams, passed away in 1978. Ms. Craig had been a member since 1913, and Ms. Williams, D. Y. and Mary Ellen’s mother, had been a member since 1912. The following year, 1979, a special service was held to honor Mark Phillips’s graduation as an honor student from Central Gwinnett High School.


In 1980, Glen Busby replaced Hugh Ward as pastor, serving until 1986. Miss Anna Craig passed away at the age of 101, leaving the bulk of her estate to Fairview for the upkeep of the cemetery. The Anna Craig fund was established for this purpose and continues in place today. Mrs. Weldon (Rosebud) Williams presented a new organ to the church, in memory of her husband and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rolla Williams. The organ continues in service today. Of interest to those who had been involved in painting thirsty wooden siding over the years, it was in 1980 that aluminum siding was installed on the church. The following year the church was rewired, and central air and heat were installed. In September of 1981 Clyde Phillips, father to Don, grandfather to Mark and Lee, passed away. He had been a member of Fairview for 44 years. Clyde’s wife Sue passed away in December. She had been a member for 66 years, joining in 1915. In 1984 the Congregation voted to incorporate Fairview, and to request a property tax exemption, which was granted. That same year, Gwinnett Place Mall opened for business and the Gwinnett Medical Center opened across the street from Fairview, with 190 beds. In 1985, on the way home from a youth car wash on a Saturday morning the pastor’s son, Glen Busby, Jr. was killed in a bicycle accident. Unable to come to terms with the death of his son, Reverend Busby resigned from the pastorate the following year The Education Building was renovated in 1986. A lack of ventilation under the building had contributed to extensive damage requiring expensive repairs. In order to carry out the repairs, the Presbytery approved a $10,000 loan at very attractive terms, and provided a grant of $3,000. There was also a renovation of the cemetery and grounds. A handicapped ramp was added to the side of the church. The Anna Craig Courtyard was installed between the church and the rose garden. The rose garden wall was reconstructed. A new entrance sign was built. The parking lot was enlarged, curbed, and resurfaced. Sidewalks and driveway improvements were added to the cemetery. In February of 1987, Dr. David Janzen was installed as pastor at Fairview, moving from Florida to Lawrenceville with wife Kathy and infant daughter Blair. A woodworker, Dr. Janzen made a cup and plate to be used in the communion service, crafted from a fallen walnut tree he discovered on the property of Mary Ellen Williams. Still used on occasion, the service provides a link to families and traditions which are a foundation of the church. In 1988 a Building Study Committee was formed to “consider the concept of a fellowship hall with kitchen facilities attached and classrooms underneath.” The cost was projected to be some $200,000. In 1989 a fund raising campaign was begun, the goal to raise $10,000 for architect’s fees for the new fellowship hall. From that beginning, a design was made, congregational commitment was gained, and the Fellowship Hall, with a kitchen, basement storage, and a connecting corridor to the “old” fellowship hall behind the choir loft was constructed in 1992.


In 1993 Dr. Janzen began the process of developing a mission statement for Fairview, enlisting support from the Columbia Theological Seminary. The mission statement was adopted by the Congregation in August, 1994. It was at this time also-early 1994-that Fairview began to seek a paid youth director. There were many young people at the time who had recently been confirmed or were in the process of being confirmed. A job description was developed and our first Youth Director was hired in September. Mid 1994 saw economic development in the area as well. Increased traffic resulted in the widening of highway 120 from two lanes to four. The land behind the church was slated to become a shopping center. Developers proposed a land swap with Fairview, as well as a cash payment to gain access to the development from Highway 120. In September it was agreed that Fairview would exchange 1.86 acres of its undeveloped property for 1.45 acres of adjacent property, an access easement to the property, certain improvements on our new property (a new parking lot), and $400,000. During the land swap process it was discovered that in order to comply with County ordinances and zoning rules, when executing the land swap Fairview would have to divide itself into two properties, the church itself and the cemetery. This was done in November and December, 1994. 1995 was a time of growth and optimism. A long range planning committee was established to analyze church and community needs with respect to facility, financial, and program needs, and to make recommendations to the session. About the same time, Dr. Janzen was asked to engage an architect to explore rough drawings to “give a starting point to decide where God is calling this church in the next 2-30 years.” The session also directed the $400,000 to be designated for a building fund to be used for the eventual construction of a new sanctuary. The conceptual building plan was presented at the 2nd Sunday Supper August 11, 1995, and in October the LRPC asked Dr. Janzen to contact an architect to develop a site plan. Two years later, on January 19, 1997- Dr. Janzen’s 10th anniversary with Fairview-the LRPC debuted their financial and building plan, to include paying off the Fellowship Hall mortgage from existing funds, refurbishing existing facilities, developing a new Christian Education building, multipurpose room and sanctuary. In September, 1995 the Missions Committee initiated the Parish Nurse program, funded by an anonymous donor. During the summer of 1997, Rev. John Latta retired as the associate pastor of Fairview. Dr. Latta had been with Fairview since 1990. Heath Blackard was hired as the new youth director, and the Worship Committee agreed to fund a new handbell choir. In 1999 Mary Ellen Williams was honored by the Presbytery as Fairview’s Outstanding Senior Presbyterian. At the time of the event she had been a member of the church for 71 years.


In 2001, Columbia Theological Seminary student Eston Allen joined the staff as Fairview’s pastoral intern and Youth Director, replacing Brian Copeland. In August, Ms. Allen led the youth on their second annual mission trip, this one to renovate a church and operate a vacation bible school in St. Petersburg, Florida. 2001 was a year for renovation. In March, the men of the church performed a major remodel on the church office. Restrooms were upgraded, exterior doors to the restrooms were removed; interior access was moved, a pocket door to the pastor’s study was replaced with a conventional door, the space was painted, door hardware was replaced, storage closets were renovated, and ceilings damaged by roof leaks were repaired. Near the end of the summer, what had been a storage room off the Narthex was converted into a crying room. Scott and Stephanie Norton donated the funds, Frances Minton designed the room, and Carlos Bascas, Melanie McDonald, and Steve McDonald did the work. In April, 2002 the Fellowship Hall kitchen and restrooms were rejuvenated. New floors were installed, a new island was installed, and the rooms were repainted and wall papered. Also in 2002, Lisa Grimsley celebrated her 15th year as Fairview’s choir director. New hymnals, the Celebration Hymnal, were adopted. The new hymnal contains more hymns than the ones it replaced, with a broader mix of musical styles. Late in 2002, Dr. Janzen began leading the congregation through the process of reading and reflection upon the book, “The Purpose Driven Church.” Stacia Thetard began her tenure as Fairview’s new youth director in September. The 2003 youth mission trip took the group to Tampa Bay, Florida’s Good Samaritan Mission. The young people worked in a pre-school and daycare, and worked on building improvements and additions. In a ceremony at the 182nd Homecoming on August 10, 2003 Mary Ellen Williams was honored as Fairview’s oldest living member. It was the 75th anniversary of her confirmation as a member of the church. Mary Ellen was the fourth generation of her family to spend their lives in the church. She passed away in 2005, and is buried along with her ancestors in the cemetery next to the church. In September, Clerk of Session Charles Burke wrote in the church newsletter that David Janzen had resigned as pastor, that the session was forming a committee to search for an interim pastor, and a that Pastoral Nominating Committee would be formed in order to find a permanent replacement. In November, Rev. Paul Abell joined Fairview as interim pastor. Gerry Mattox became Fairview’s Youth Director in June of 2005, replacing Stacia Thetard. In October, Rev. Robert Sparks was engaged as Fairview’s new pastor. He was installed in May of 2006. That same month, Kathy Wolfe joined Fairview as its new Youth Director. She led the youth on a trip to New Orleans, helping out in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In August of 2006, at the 183rd Homecoming Anniversary, a newly renovated sanctuary was unveiled. Theatre seats had been replaced by upholstered pews. The heart pine floors were refinished. The interior was repainted, and new carpeting and upholstery were installed in the choir loft. It was a beautiful upgrade, a far cry from the days of backless benches, bare wood walls, and a pot-bellied stove venting through a hole in the ceiling than marked the turn of the 19th century to the 20th. In 2007, Fairview implemented a new administrative structure, committee night, designed to improve internal communication and foster the flow of creative ideas to move Fairview forward. In October, 2007, Andrea Roche became Fairview’s new Youth Director, replacing Kathy Wolfe. Andrea remained at Fairview through 2009. Alex Barnes joined us in March of 2010. Continuing the tradition of service to others, Alex expanded our horizons in 2011 with a youth mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Total financial assets at the end of 2008’s challenging economy were $402,000. That same year the Worship Committee developed a Lenten Devotional, using devotionals submitted by the members of the congregation. This personal and meaningful document was well received by the people of Fairview. On November 15, 2008, the First Annual Run 4 Shelter was held at Tribble Mill Park. This 5K run/walk to benefit the homeless in Gwinnett County, and to raise awareness that there is a problem of homelessness in Gwinnett, raised $5,000, donated to the Salvation Army. The Run 4 Shelter tradition continued in 2009 and 2010, raising another $20,000 to benefit homeless people in Gwinnett. The fourth annual Run 4 Shelter was held November 12, 2011, and was once again a successful effort to raise awareness of homeless people in Gwinnett County, and to support programs to assist the homeless in time of need. In February of 2010 Janet Russell was recognized by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta as the Presbyterian Citizen of the Year, for her role in developing and organizing the Run 4 Shelter As 2011 comes to a close, Fairview Presbyterian Church continues to be the small church on the hill, an island of tradition in the midst of amazing change. The church continues to be a small but vibrant congregation committed to spiritual growth, community outreach, and meaningful fellowship and service. It is impossible to know what tomorrow will bring, but for the past 188 years, the people attending Fairview Presbyterian have been a perhaps subtle, but very strong force for positive change in the lives of its members and in the community around it. That tradition will no doubt continue.

Information for the article comes from the Fairview Session minutes, “The History of Gwinnett County, Volumes I and II”, by James Flanagan, “The Story of the Presbytery of Atlanta,” by Franklin C. Talmage, “About Lawrenceville,” by Mary Frazier Long, “The New Georgia Encyclopedia” ( and the Gwinnett County Census reports, 1830-1890.

bottom of page