In Eastern Hall County sits a beautiful church, which has origins dating back over 150 years. In 1848 James Reid Dunagan married Mary Evelyn Buffington and built his home place and started his farm on what is now Dunagan Road in Hall County. He is recognized as the founder of the church, which started with services that James held under a brush arbor on his farm.
During this time in American History, the nation and its churches were very much divided over the issue of slavery. Because of this, the Methodist Episcopal Church split according to regional sentiments on slavery. From the split came the Methodist Episcopal Church, North, which favored the abolishment of slavery, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which favored the continuation of slavery. The whole nation, along with the church suffered through the American Civil War that followed. Although he was born and raised in the South, had ancestors that owned slaves, and had been given 3 slaves as part of his wedding dowry, James Reid Dunagan was a staunch abolitionist. He freed his 3 slaves soon after the wedding. His strong religious convictions would not let him fight on the side of the South to hold people as slaves. However, although he opposed slavery, he did want to fight against his homeland. During the four years of the war, recruiters for the Confederate Army would periodically come through the area to find able bodied men to fight for the South. Whenever they came around, James Reid Dunagan would seek refuge in a cave on the banks of the Oconee River to avoid being enlisted to fight in a war that was against his religious beliefs. When the Civil War finally ended in 1865 with Lee’s surrender and Georgia was invited back into the Union, James Reid Dunagan walked to Atlanta to pledge his allegiance to the Union (the United States of America) . Although he was harshly criticized by people in his community for his actions, James Reid was not physically harmed.
Pictured: James Reid & Mary Evelyn Buffington
After the war ended and people in East Hall County began restoring their home, farms and reuniting their families. James Reid wanted to establish a Methodist Church and he started by inviting people from all areas to attend summer revivals in front of the old home place under the big oak trees, which still stand on Dunagan Road. Later, more traditional services were held under a brush arbor that James Reid has constructed on his farm. Then, in September 1889, James and Mary Dunagan’s oldest son Ezekiel Parks Dunagan donated a track of land where Dunagan School was located, which today is at the intersection of Timber Ridge and Joe Chandler Roads. The original church was built there, and the present church still stands on that same tract of land today. They establish the church as Dunagan Methodist Episcopal Church North, which was aligned with James Reid Dunagan’s position as an abolitionist. The first trustees were Ezekiel Parks Dunagan, James Reid Dunagan, W.W. Thomas, James Jackson Dunagan, M. C. Crawford. The deed was recorded in the Hall County Courthouse in January 1 890. The name of Dunagan was used because the original leaders were of that name. The congregation remained a Northern church until unification of the Methodist Episcopal Church North and the Methodist Episcopal Church South on November 23, 1939 when they both became The Methodist Church.
The Georgia Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church North held its last session in Atlanta before merging with the North Georgia Annual Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church, South. After this meeting they were all known as the North Georgia Annual Conference of the Methodist Church.
In 1957 the circuit was re-organized, and Dunagan Chapel became part of the Gainesville Charge, as it remains today. Since the first appointed pastor on October 30, 1938, many pastors have served bringing many changes. With God’s continual blessings there will be many more to come.