If you’ve ever driven through Midway, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the haunting beauty that is the Historic Midway Congregational Church’s cemetery. Surrounded by a brick wall and shaded by a canopy of oaks, the cemetery can make even the bravest visitors shake in their shoes.
According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, the Midway Congregational Church Cemetery was established soon after the first church was completed in 1756. Although the cemetery survived, the original church was burned during the Revolutionary War. The current church building was completed in 1792.
That was not the last “run-in” with military troops for the church and cemetery. During the Civil War, Gen. William T. Sherman and his Union troops invaded Liberty County during his infamous March to the Sea. According to Brown’s Guide to Georgia, Union Gen. Judson Kilpatrick and troops occupied Midway and Sunbury for six weeks. They destroyed plantations, crops and the railroad and desecrated the church and cemetery grounds. The church was used as a slaughterhouse, while the cemetery was used as a corral for the animals stolen from area plantations. After the Union army abandoned Midway, the city never recovered fully. Although restored, the church has not been used for regular services since the Civil War.
The church has a storied history, but many people are just as interested in the cemetery across the street. According to Brown’s Guide to Georgia, the 2-acre cemetery houses approximately 1,200 graves and is protected by a 6-foot-high, 18-inch-thick wall. Several distinguished individuals have been laid to rest in Liberty County. Gen. James Screven, captain of the St. John’s Rangers, was killed in “a skirmish with British” in 1778, according to the Midway Cemetery brochure.
The namesake of Fort Stewart, Gen. Daniel Stewart, made a name for himself in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. He also served as Liberty County sheriff and a state representative. A monument honoring the two generals was erected in 1915 by the U.S. Congress.
Other notable people buried in the cemetery include namesake of Hinesville and former state Sen. Charlton Hines, as well as scientist Louis LeConte, who is known for his botanical gardens.
If you’d like to experience the stories behind the graves, join the Midway Museum on Oct. 19 at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. as it conducts guided cemetery tours. Reservations are required, so call 884-5837 or email email@example.com.