Collins Memorial United Methodist Church is the oldest church in Atlanta dating back to 1821. The building was built in 1909 and is still used for worship today.

By Judge Virlyn Moore, Jr.

Church Historian 

25th day of August, 1998

Early History

On January 8, 1821, the Creek Indians ceded their land south of their village,  The Standing Peach Tree, between the Flint and the Ocmulgee river all the way down to about Cordele, Georgia.    The Standing Peach Tree village later became known as Bolton and was located where Peachtree Creek runs into the Chattahoochee River at the location of the Atlanta Water Works.  

The first citizen to come into this territory, which at that time was Dekalb County, was James Montgomery.  he came from Jackson County and Jefferson, Georgia.  He built the the first house in Atlanta on the site where the shopping mall is at the intersection of Bolton Road and Moores Mill Road.  Just back of the shopping center is his burial place which is also the oldest burial ground in Atlanta.  

Montgomery Chapel

Mr. Montgomery had thirteen children who comprised the congregation of the little church which he established.  He started the ferry across the river known as Montgomery’s Ferry, later DeFoors Ferry.  He was the Senator from DeKalb County and died 1848.  His wife was named Nancy Farber (Nancy’s Creek).  She was  a Methodist; and he was a Presbyterian.  

The first church was built in Crest Lawn Cemetery at the top of the hill.  It served traffic coming in and from Decatur and Atlanta area and was near a little tavern.  Traffic was going towards the river crossing at Montgomery’s Ferry. The little chapel which became Collins Memorial United Methodist Church was known as Montgomery’s Chapel.

Mount Vernon Methodist

Right after the Civil war, about 1870, the people around Montgomery’s Chapel moved the location of the congregation to Inman yards which is about two miles anyway and which was developing as a railroad terminal and the name was changed to Mt. Vernon Methodist Church.  This church served all of the people within two or three mile radius.  The farmers drove their wagons to the church and it was the leading church for this area.  Many of the families who later moved to Collins Memorial were early members of that church.  Through the gift of one of the members, the small one room church was converted to a magnificence brick building which served as the church for many years.

About the turn of the century, 1900, the W&A Railroad had been moved down the river and established a railroad stop where Bolton Road crosses the Marietta Highway.  A great many people had begun to move into this area.  Riverside had been established as had the Whittier Mills and Chattahoochee.  With this influx of people, a schoolhouse which served both as a school and a Sunday school building, was constructed just behind the present Bolton Lodge brick building.  

It was during this period that the Collins family moved out to Bolton.  James D. Collins was clerk of the Superior Court and was quite wealthy. He was the son of James A. Collins after whom Collins District in Cobb County and in Fulton County is named.  James A. Collins’ brother in law was John Bolton.  The railroad station was named Bolton.  Mr. James A. Collins and his brother in law Lloyd moved their store that they had conducted on Cobb County side of the river to Atlanta and became two of the first merchants in the new city of Atlanta.  Lloyd street, which later became Central Avenue was named for Lloyd and Courtland Avenue was originally Collins street.

Collins Memorial Methodist

James D. Collins had died and his widow moved to Bolton to their magnificent country house which is located on Bolton Road just east of the present church building which is located at 222o Bolton Road.  Feeling the need of a church in this location, the people built a church building and name it James A. Collins Memorial Methodist Church because his daughter in law had contributed eight thousand dollars plus the land for construction of the church.   

It was known as the Church of the Five Widows who joined with Mrs. Collins in helping get the church started. The five widows ere:  Mrs. James D. Collins, widow of James D. Collins, Mrs. J.M. Moore, widow of James Moore, Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher, widow of Dr. Fisher, Mrs. J. H. Spinks, widow of J.H. Spinks and Mrs. Susan McGuirk, widow of William McGuirk.

Our church has remained steadfast through the rise and fall of the economy, through the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the subsequent wars, through increases in population and the final annexation of this area by the city of Atlanta.  We have survived times of prosperity and through the awful depression that struck this nation.  


Rich with history, our church lives in the present and lays plan for the future.