History of one of south’s most photographed churches and its cemetery

One of the most picturesque churches I’ve ever visited is Christ Church, Frederica on St. Simon’s Island. “Frederica” is the name of the island community where the church is located, which is the namesake of nearby Fort Frederica. I toured the church and adjoining cemetery on my occasional visits to the island with my late grandparents, who made regular trips to St. Simons because of the Methodist history there.

christ church 1 kk
(Photo by Kelly Kazek/permission required)

The church, built in 1884 on the site of the 1820 original partially destroyed during the Civil War, is a small wooden structure with a trussed Gothic roof and steeple that is known for its gorgeous stained-glass windows. According to GoldenIsles.com, it was built by Rev. Anson Phelps Dodge Jr. in memory of his wife, Ellen.

One of my favorite parts of the church was the stone wall surrounding the church and cemetery. The stone is interspersed with cross-shaped cutouts.

(Source: ExploreStSimonsIsland.com)

The church, set on a lush green carpet and framed by drapes of Spanish moss, was made famous as:

  • The site where brothers and Anglin ministers John and Charles Wesley preached in 1736 before returning to England to help found the Methodist Church.  Charles Wesley also wrote numerous hymns, including “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”
  • The setting of several historical novels by Georgia author Eugenia Price, who was so enamored with the island, she eventually moved there and lived out her life. One of her St. Simons books was based on the life of Ellen and Anson Phelps Dodge Jr.
  • The oldest tombstone in the church cemetery is dated 1803. It is the burial site of many early settlers and notable locals but one interesting grave site, in addition to that of Eugenia Price (1916-1996), is that of Jack Davis (1924-2016), a cartoonist and illustrator who, among his numerous credits, illustrated for Mad Magazine and Tales from the Crypt comics. He illustrated 36 covers for Time magazine, as well as covers for dozens of other publications and created post art for movies such as “American Graffiti” and “The Bad News Bears.” He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.
  • Christ Church is one of the most photographed churches in the south … and maybe the country.
christ church grounds
Entering the church grounds beneath this arch, visitors can see the ethereal drapes of Spanish moss in the live oaks around the church. (Photo by Kelly Kazek/permisison required)

If you plan to visit, here is the website info:

Christ Church, Frederica is open to the public for tours Tuesday through Sunday from 2 – 5 p.m. (closed on Easter and Christmas). The cemetery grounds are closed Mondays for routine maintenance but visitors can otherwise walk the grounds for free. Church services are held at 5 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and Saturdays, at 11:30 a.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. on Sundays. Guests are asked to “avoid visits during service hours.”

chrsit church goldenislescom
(Source: GoldenIsles.com)

6 thoughts on “History of one of south’s most photographed churches and its cemetery”

  1. I used to live in St Simons–visited the Church (outsides) several times.

    Another interesting feature is the covered gate through the fence–this feature (also in other churches of tgatcperiod) is called the “lich gate” and at a funeral the body of the deceased is placed there where some prayers are said before being brought into the church (the gate thus symbolizes the passage between here and the hereafter).


      1. I seem to remember it was part of the fence itself–although it looked just like that little portico on the front of the church itself.

        Getting old I guess–I cant remember something from a mere twenty years ago!


      2. I wasn’t looking at the right photo–yes, I think that’s it in the last picture–you are looking right through it (better than being in a coffin going through it!).


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