19th and early 20th century collections from the Presbyterian Church are now available online without paywalls or passwords.

Page selected from a group of 19th-century handwritten letters.

Selected by Georgia stakeholders and funded by the DLG, these materials document the Church’s interaction with slavery, emancipation, and religion.

These collections are: 

Lexington Presbyterian Church (Lexington, Ga.) records, 1822-1916

The names of enslaved church members may be found inside this collection. It’s possible that these are the sole documents proving that some of these people actually existed. There are also records of famous academics and politicians who lived in Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Henry Newton papers, 1842-1900

Henry Newton grew up in Athens, Georgia, as a Presbyterian preacher. In 1841, he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, and in 1845, he received his master’s degree from Columbia Theological Seminary. Newton preached to both enslaved and liberated African Americans throughout the state from 1845 to 1897 in several northeast Georgian churches.

These projects are the Columbia Theological Seminary’s second collaboration with the DLG. 

Ashley Simpson, former president of the Athens Historical Society and Georgia historical marker researcher, describes the importance of having these materials available for research freely online:

“Digitization has allowed historians, genealogists, family researchers, and the merely curious to see and use records without harming the originals. 

During COVID, we discovered that we could all work with the digitized manuscript simultaneously by working remotely.  

Access to digital copies of original documents permits some claims to be verified and some misinformation to be disproven. 

Granting digital access to the Henry Newton papers and the Lexington Presbyterian Church records facilitates a greater understanding of daily life and the rich historical background of northeast Georgia. ”

View these collections online

About Columbia Theological Seminary 

Columbia Theological Seminary exists to educate and nurture faithful, imaginative, and effective leaders for the sake of the church and the world. It is an educational institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a community of theological inquiry, leadership development, and formation for ministry in the service of the church of Jesus Christ. Visit ctsnet.edu for more information. 

Selected images:

Christian Observer, May 6, 1886. Courtesy of Columbia Theological Seminary. Three letters written by Reverend Henry Newton to the editors of the Christian Observer regarding the controversy surrounding James Woodrow and the theory of evolution. In the first letter, Newton clarifies the nature of the investigation into accusations against Woodrow. In the second letter, Newton describes the evolution debate happening in the Presbyterian church, claiming that the church has no say in scientific theories and vice versa. In the third letter, Newton admonishes the false persecution being advanced against Woodrow by enemies within the church. From notes: Contains three letters to the editors of the Christian Observer regarding the deposition of James Woodrow in the evolution controversy in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.
Page of 19th-century ledger featuring lists of hand-recorded financial transactions
Accounts and expenses, 1853-1870, page 39 of 166.
Account book of reverend Reverend Henry Newton. This account book features lists of transactions, family expenses, monies paid out, and produce received from churches, all dating from 1853 to 1870. In addition, there is a list of sermons performed by Newton organized by the book of the Bible from which they came. Also included are notes on a contract for building additions to Newton’s home and a list of sermons ‘Preached to Negroes at Thyatira at Jefferson at Concord.’
Page of 19th century church record book/ledger with handwritten accounts of church-related events.
Book “A” Record of Presbyterian Church at Lexington, 1822-1874. Courtesy of Columbia Theological Seminary. Page 24 of record book of the Presbyterian Church at Lexington, Georgia covering the years 1822 to 1874. This book covers various happenings pertaining to church events, polity, and membership. It lists baptisms and sacraments performed, changes in church leadership, including ministers and elders, changes in congregants, including those joining and those leaving the church, and news of major events in nearby Presbyteries. The Lexington Presbyterian Church records document the names of enslaved members of the church, and it is not unlikely that for some of the names provided it is the only existing record that these people ever lived.
Page of 19th century ledger featuring lists of hand-recorded financial transactions "Family Expenses."
Title: Accounts and expenses, 1853-1870, page 110 of 166. Courtesy of Columbia Theological Seminary Description: Account book of reverend Reverend Henry Newton featuring lists of transactions, family expenses, monies paid out, and produce received from churches, all dating from 1853 to 1870. Includes a list of sermons performed by Newton organized by the book of the Bible from which they came. There are also notes on a contract for building additions to Newton’s home and a list of sermons that includes those preached to African Americans.

Family Papers Documenting The Lives Of Enslaved People In Liberty County, Georgia, Dating Back To The 1700s, Are Now Available Online.

Black and white photograph of a young African American boy standing next to a cow in a fenced pasture.
Julia King Collection – boy with cow  https://dlg.usg.edu/record/midm_jkic_682



In partnership with the Midway Museum, the Digital Library of Georgia has just made the Julia R. King Collection available online.

King (1863–1952) was a descendant of the Roswell King (1765–1844) family of Georgia plantation owners and managers who owned land, property, and enslaved people across Georgia dating back to the 1700s. 

The collection includes essential documents related to slavery, including estate appraisals and inventories that include the first names of enslaved African Americans. It will be of particular interest to those doing family research on people enslaved in Liberty County, Georgia.

Stacy Ashmore Cole, the creator of “TheyHadNames.net: African Americans in Early Liberty County Records, secretary of the Midway Museum Board of Governors, and president of the Coastal Georgia Genealogical Society, describes the importance of these records.

“The Midway Museum’s Julia R. King Collection contains essential references to enslaved people unavailable elsewhere. 

These documents will interest them and others who have not yet discovered their ancestry. 

The study of these enslaver families, including the Kings, is critical to Liberty County African American genealogical and historical research. 

They had a long tradition of keeping enslaved people within their families through inheritance, lending, and gifting, including down the white female lines. Because of this, the only way to trace a particular enslaved person is often through probate and enslaving family documents. 

The small size of the collection and its relative geographical remoteness have made it difficult for academic researchers to prioritize. The Midway Museum is also in an area vulnerable to hurricanes. 

Digitization ensures that we preserve these materials and make them easily accessible for future generations.”

View the entire collection online


About the Midway Museum

Since its founding, the Midway Museum has been supported by the descendants of the Midway Church members, who have provided 18th- and 19th-century family heirlooms, documents, books, genealogical lineages, and heirloom furnishings, paintings, and artifacts. Many Midway Church descendants still live in Liberty County and coastal Georgia, serve on the Board of Governors, and visit during the Midway Church’s annual Homecoming. Visit themidwaymuseum.org/ 

About the Digital Library of Georgia

The Digital Library of Georgia is an award-winning GALILEO initiative housed at the University of Georgia Libraries. With the state’s cultural heritage organizations, the DLG shares Georgia’s history online for free through its websites. The project supports its partner organizations by offering free and low-cost services. The DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper preservation project. 

Visit our website at dlg.usg.edu
Facebook: http://facebook.com/DigitalLibraryofGeorgia/ 
Twitter: @DigLibGA
Instagram: @diglibga 
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Selected images from the collection: 

Image courtesy of Midway Museum

Title : Julia King Collection – Man with Hands.



Image courtesy of Midway Museum

Title : Exchange of Slaves between Mary Maxwell and Julia R. King, 1842.