Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

These words are from an old hymn called “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, written by British pastor Robert Robinson in 1757. It’s one of my favorites. But there’s always been one part I didn’t understand and that was “Here I raise my Ebenezer”. What’s an Ebenezer and why would anyone raise it?

I hadn’t thought about that hymn in years until I pulled up outside Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church at the busy intersection of Spalding Drive and Dunwoody Club Drive. Established in 1829, it’s the oldest church in Dunwoody.

This is the fourth building that's housed Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church. As per their religion, the building is simple with no cross or steeple to draw attention to it.

This is the fourth building that’s housed Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church. As per their religion, the building is simple with no cross or steeple to draw attention to it.

Over the years, Ebenezer has had four different church buildings. The first sat diagonally across the road from where the church stands today, which is built on the foundation of the third church. The story goes that Confederate soldiers burned a bridge over the nearby Chattahoochee River to keep Union soldiers at bay. Union soldiers took boards from that first church to build a pontoon bridge.

Ebenezer still holds Sunday services but membership has dwindled in recent years. A new pastor,  Gus Harter, recently arrived after serving over 30 years as pastor of Bethany Primitive Baptist Church in Suwanee. He’s hoping to breathe new life into the church.

This rustic cemetery sign spells out the rules. I see many of these old faded signs at cemeteries like this.

This rustic sign spells out the rules. I see many of these old faded signs at cemeteries like this, before area codes were required to make a phone call.

Unlike Stephen Martin Cemetery, Ebenezer is quite visible to the legion of cars that navigate this intersection daily. The church has a newer sign out front but I found myself drawn to the old one that’s leaning against the back of one of the old buildings behind the church.

I'm glad to see they've held onto this wonderful old sign, a special keepsake of the church's history.

I’m glad to see they’ve held onto this wonderful old sign, a keepsake of the church’s colorful past.

Some websites say that the town’s namesake, Major Charles Archibald Dunwoody, is buried here. That’s probably because a memorial marker was donated in 2003 by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to commemorate his importance. But Major Dunwoody (formerly spelled Dunwody) is actually buried over at Roswell Presbyterian Church Cemetery with his family.

While this monument commemorates the man for whom Dunwoody was named after, he's buried in a different cemetery.

While this monument commemorates the man for whom Dunwoody was named, Major Charles Archibald Dunwoody is buried in a different cemetery.

The cemetery is mostly on the side of a hill, so keeping it mowed and weeded is an onerous task.

The cemetery is mostly on the side of a hill, so keeping it mowed and weeded is not an easy task.

Ebenezer’s cemetery holds about 300 people. Names like Adams, Ball, Carpenter and Beal are common. But the one that stands out the most, with about 50 graves, is Delong (or DeLong). Several generations of the family are buried here.

As the son of South Carolina-born Benjamin and Elizabeth DeLong, James DeLong and his wife, Elizer Jane, raised 12 children in the Dunwoody area. Several are buried at Ebenezer.

James DeLong and his wife, Elizer Jane, had a dozen children during their marriage. Many are buried at Ebenezer. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

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James and Elizer Jane were married on June 3, 1886.

Malissie Young was James and Elizer's third child. She died at the age of 30, unmarried.

Malissie DeLong was James and Elizer’s third child. She died at the age of 30, unmarried.

In the back corner of the cemetery are some of the oldest graves. Many have been broken or damaged by the ravages of time and weather. The 1998 tornado that came through didn’t help matters. The tallest marker in the cemetery is for Pacoletta Ball, who died a young wife at the age of 20. I haven’t been able to find out anything more about her.

The older section of the cemetery has a number of damaged markers. Repairing them would take much time and expense.

The older section of the cemetery has a number of damaged markers. The tall monument is for Pacoletta Ball, who died at the age of 20 as the wife of C.W. Ball.

Two graves that are off by themselves are those of Obediah Copeland and his wife, Salina.  Lee Eula Copeland, their granddaughter, remembers being told by Salina that Obediah was away fighting as a Confederate soldier in Company A, 38th Georgia Regiment (known as Wright’s Legion) when Union troops came to the family home. After gathering all the food they could find, the soldiers started to go when Salina begged them to leave something for her children. One of the soldiers returned one bag of food for the family.

This is a picture of a young Obediah Copeland, who survived his years fighting for the Confederacy. Photo courtesy of the Dunwoody Crier.

This is a picture of a young Obediah Copeland, who survived his captivity in a Union prisoner of war camp. Photo courtesy of the Dunwoody Crier.

Salina Copeland survived the Civil War while her husband was away. When he returned, he found her hair had turned pure white from all the worrying she had done over him.

Salina Copeland kept her family intact during the Civil War while her husband was away. When he returned, he found her hair had turned pure white from all the worrying she had done. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

A few days before this, Obediah was taken prisoner in Rossville, Ga. and transported to a prisoner of war camp in Chicago, Ill. Salina told her granddaughter that her hair turned white from the fear that he’d died. He was released on June 16, 1865 and returned home to a very relieved wife.

The graves of Obediah and Salina Coleman sit at the edge of the cemetery. The home they shared is now the site of Dunwoody Springs Elementary School.

The graves of Obediah and Salina Coleman sit at the edge of the cemetery. The home they once shared is now the site of Dunwoody Springs Elementary School.

There are two very old graves close to Pacoletta Ball’s monument for Samuel Perryman Cheek and his wife, Martha Ann Bruce Cheek. The Cheek name is well known in Dunwoody as one of the pioneering families.

Samuel Perryman Cheek and his wife, Martha, headed one of Dunwoody's most prominent families.

Samuel Perryman Cheek and his wife, Martha, headed one of Dunwoody’s most prominent families. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Martha Bruce married Samuel Perryman Cheek on November 7, 1874 in Franklin County, Ga. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Martha Bruce married Samuel Perryman Cheek on November 7, 1874 in Franklin County, Ga. Photo courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Martha Bruce Cheek's epitaph is still intact despite her marker's condition. It reads:  Holy Bible; Mother, thou art now at home, 'mong angels far above, but yet below thy child must roam, till summon'd by His love. You are not dead to us, but as a bright star unseen, we hold that you are ever near, though death intrudes between.

Martha Bruce Cheek’s epitaph is still intact despite her marker’s condition. It reads: Holy Bible; Mother, thou art now at home, ‘mong angels far above, but yet below thy child must roam, till summon’d by His love. You are not dead to us, but as a bright star unseen, we hold that you are ever near, though death intrudes between.

Samuel and Martha’s son, Joberry, had his own farm in Dunwoody. In 1906, he built a one-story farmhouse for his son, Bunyan Cheek. The house sat on 2.5 acres of land in the heart of Dunwood and included a pasture, cornfield, barn, smokehouse, and a chicken house. In 1945, it was purchased by Carey and Florence Spruill, and became known as the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse. Mrs. Spruill lived in the home until her death in 1993.

Located at the busy corner of Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Road, the Cheek Spruill Farmhouse is still standing as a reminder of Dunwoody's past.

Located at the busy corner of Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Road, the Cheek-Spruill Farmhouse is still standing as a reminder of Dunwoody’s past.

The Dunwoody Preservation Trust held a campaign to “Save the Farmhouse” after Mrs. Spruill’s death and raised more than $200,000 but the amount was not enough to purchase the property from the Spruill heirs. The Farmhouse was saved when Guardian Savings and Loan (in Houston, Texas) purchased the property in 1998 and donated the home and 1.5 acre of land to the DPT. Today, it is leased by the law firm of DelCampo, Weber and Grayson.

I did eventually find out what the story was behind “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” It comes from the book of I Samuel in the Bible, when the Israelites defeated the Phillistines. Samuel raised a stone to commemorate their appreciation for God’s help in saving them and called it Ebenezer or “Stone of Hope”.

In turn, I think Ebenezer Baptist Church and its cemetery are symbols of hope to the community, reminding those that drive by how the strong roots planted by these pioneers continue to shape its present and future.

That’s a true fount of blessing, isn’t it?

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