Resources related to the historic role of the Presbyterian Church in Georgia now freely available online

ATHENS, Ga. — Three new collections featuring historical resources related to the Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian educators, and their role in Georgia history are now available through the Digital Library of Georgia. 

Housed at Columbia Theological Seminary, the resources are freely available online thanks, in part, to the DLG’s competitive digitization grant program, a funding opportunity intended to broaden DLG partner participation in statewide historic digitization projects.

The three digital collections are:

  • Joseph R. Wilson papers, from the late 1800s, including the sermons of Presbyterian minister and educator Joseph Ruggles Wilson dating 1858 to 1893. View at

Wilson served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Ga., and at First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, N.C. He also taught at Columbia Theological Seminary and Southwestern Presbyterian University and was the father of President Woodrow Wilson.

  • John Newton Waddel papers, 1821‐1881, including manuscripts and print material belonging to John Newton Waddel (1812-1895) and Moses Waddel (1770-1840). The father and son were Presbyterian ministers and educators in Georgia and Mississippi. View at

Moses Waddel served as the fifth president of the University of Georgia. John Newton Waddel served as president of Presbyterian Synodical College in LaGrange, Tenn., and as chancellor of the University of Mississippi. 

  • Presbyterian Church in the U.S. Presbytery of Hopewell minutes, 1797‐1866, the official minutes of the Presbytery of Hopewell, the first Presbytery in the state of Georgia. View at

The Hopewell minutes provide descriptions of early missionary efforts among Native Americans, deliberations about slavery, and other collective decisions that offer perspectives from the state of Georgia between the Revolutionary War through the Civil War. Special thanks to the Northeast Georgia Presbytery for permitting the digitization of these records.

Erskine Clarke, professor emeritus of U.S. religious history at Columbia Theological Seminary, describes the research significance of these three collections: 

“The Wilson sermons will have interest for anyone wishing to probe the religious life of Woodrow Wilson. In addition, they will provide insight into the theological assumptions and rhetorical and homiletical strategies of an influential nineteenth-century Georgia pastor. 

“Presbytery minutes are rich resources for cultural and religious history, and the years of the Hopewell minutes (1797-1866) will be of great interest to historians working in that period of Georgia history. 

“The links with the University of Georgia presidents are astonishing. The Waddel papers are even more exciting…To have these important documents available online will be a great gift to those who in the future explore the history of Georgia.”

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


New Partnership with Columbia Theological Seminary

Letters: Woodrow family, 1853-1857. Columbia Theological Seminary Collection, James Woodrow papers, 1808, 1836-1916 [bulk 1850-1867].
Letters: Woodrow family, 1853-1857. Columbia Theological Seminary Collection, James Woodrow papers, 1808, 1836-1916 [bulk 1850-1867].
We are excited to announce a new project partnership with Columbia Theological Seminary.

Chris Paton, the seminary archivist at Columbia Theological Seminary, shares the history of their archives:

“Columbia Theological Seminary received its first dedicated space in 1996 as the result of a major library renovation and in the same year was formally named the C. Benton Kline, Jr. Special Collections and Archives in honor of a former seminary president and faculty member. However, the John Bulow Campbell Library preserved historical materials for many years before then, focusing primarily on the seminary’s own records. In 2006, the archives collecting scope changed significantly, expanding beyond seminary history to include records of Presbyterian churches, presbyteries, and the history of the Presbyterian Church in the southeastern United States. As a result of this change in scope, the archives increased greatly in size; about 3,000 boxes of materials dating from the late 18th century to nearly the present were moved to the archives in spring of 2007.”


The three new digital collections that have just been made available from Columbia Theological Seminary include:

  • Charles Colcock Jones papers, 1831-1856  This collection includes manuscript sermons, 1831-1856, preached by Charles Colcock Jones, Presbyterian minister and educator at First Presbyterian Church (Savannah, Ga.) and other Georgia locations that include Montevideo, Maybank, Arcadia, Sunbury, Midway, and Pleasant Grove. The collection also includes an undated “charge” to newly ordained bishops; a booklet of handwritten notes taken by an unidentified individual and titled “lectures on the Religious Instruction of the Blacks by Prof. C. C. Jones, Columbia, S.C., May 22, 1838”; and three published booklets, two of which were authored by Jones: “Address to the senior class in the Theological Seminary of the Synod of South Carolina and Georgia . . .,” dated 1837 and “The glory of woman is the fear of the Lord,” undated. The third publication is “A mother’s legacy to her only daughter” by “Cornelia,” dated 1856.
  • James Woodrow papers, 1808, 1836-1916 [bulk 1850-1867]  This collection contains correspondence by and to Presbyterian minister, educator, and editor James Woodrow and his family and associates, dating mostly from the early 1850s to the 1870s. It also contains clippings, publications, and a scrapbook pertaining primarily to the controversy in the 1880s over Woodrow’s alleged teaching of evolution at Columbia Theological Seminary; Woodrow family correspondence, 1836-1916; correspondence relating to the Baker and Woodrow families; a published 1902 sermon by Woodrow; a manuscript copy of Robert E. Lee’s farewell address issued to the Army of Northern Virginia on the day following his surrender; a photograph of James Woodrow; and reproductions of materials relating to early Georgia newspaper editor Sarah Porter Hillhouse. The published materials relate primarily to the evolution controversy of the 1880s. The scrapbook includes clippings relating to discussions of the reunion of the northern and southern Presbyterian churches after the Civil War and other matters. Topics in the correspondence include Woodrow’s observations on life in the southern United States, his experiences at Oglethorpe University and studying abroad at Heidelberg University, his discernment of a call to ministry, family experiences during the Civil War, and matters relating to his publishing business.
  • John Newton papers, 1783-1797  This collection consists primarily of sermon notes and sermons (1783-1797) delivered by John Newton, Presbyterian minister and founder of the Beth-Salem Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Georgia. It also includes a few sets of notes labeled “lecture” and lists of catechetical questions based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Most of the sermons were preached at Beth-Salem church in north Georgia; some notes bear notations indicating they were preached at Goshen, Cloud’s Creek, Providence, Fairforest, Shugar [sic] Creek, and New Hope. Three documents dated late September, 1789 are titled “Preparation Sabbath,” “For the Fast Day,” and “Action.” Sermon notes from December 9, 1795 are titled “Fast of Humiliation Sermon.” Several additional documents are titled “Action” sermons.


Paton describes the significance of these three collections, and how they have furthered research:

“They have been used to support institutional initiatives (such as development campaigns, seminary publications, and institutional research); to enrich classroom work; and as resources for scholars exploring Presbyterian and Southern history and religion. At present, they are being used for research into the seminary’s history as we approach our 190th anniversary. As a whole, the collections shed light on important aspects of the history of the southeastern United States from the late 18th century nearly to the present day, especially religion, education, and issues relating to race, slavery, and the Civil War. Evolution is also an important topic in the collections; in the late 19th century the seminary was the center of a controversy regarding the relationship of evolution to scripture and religion.”


She describes a letter in the James Woodrow papers collection:

“I especially like the letters of James Woodrow written when he first came to Georgia to teach at Oglethorpe University in the early 1850s. In them, he comments on people, places, and customs of the time. One letter stands out especially for me; it is from 1853 and includes a small aerial sketch and description of the area around the mouth of the Savannah River.”


Please take a look at these new collections, and join us in welcoming Columbia Theological Seminary as our new project partner.