(Eric Crump/Democrat-News) [Order this photo]
Marshall Fire officials cite a lightning strike as the probable cause of a fire that destroyed Mt. Carmel Methodist Church in rural Saline County.
The fire was reported just before 4:30 a.m. Thunderstorms had moved through the area in the hours prior to that.
"I could see it before we left town," he said. The church is located six miles north of Marshall about one-quarter mile west of the intersection of state Highway 41 and 290th Road.
The church structure burned completely, making it a total loss, according to the fire department report. The value of the property was listed at $75,000 and contents at $5,000.
The application for the national register listing was prepared by University of Georgia professor emeritus Thomas Dyer, whose family were long-time members of the church and who farmed nearby.
"It is a very sad day," Dyer said in an email message. "The loss of Mt. Carmel has effects on many levels. For nearly a century, the structure not only served as a place of worship; it was also a center of community life. Although officially Methodist, it had an ecumenical spirit and welcomed residents of the area regardless of religious affiliation."
In his application for forming the historic district, Dyer noted that the church's architecture was unusual for its place and time. It was an example of rural gothic architecture, which a 40-foot square tower, vaulted wooden ceilings and stained glass windows.
"The architectural loss is really quite profound," he said. "The structure was visible for miles around and was cared for by members of the Mt. Carmel Cemetery Association, many of whose families had worshipped at the site since the original structure was completed in 1851, and all of whom had a deep affection for the building."
Mt. Carmel Historic District: