William Sadler Fears
W. S. Fears was born January 31, 1807. He was the youngest son born to William and Mary (Griffin) Fears, his first wife. They lived near Scull Shoals on the Oconee River in Greene County, Georgia, near Oglethorpe County line and just across the river from old Franklin-Clark county. William S., along with his older brother, Jesse Griffin Fears, and his younger step-brother, Augustus Browder "Buck" Fears grew up on the American frontier.
In April, 2010, Virginia (Ginny) Fields, a family descendant, wrote that William was married twice. His first wife was Levicy Smith whom he married on December 25, 1828. The old family Bible records that to them were born, William Thomas Fears, born 18 November, 1828; Jesse L. Fears, born 28 June, 1831; and Mary Griffin Fears, born 12 September, 1932. It would appear that Levicy died either in childbirth or from complications, for on December 31, 1834 William then married Sarah Kleckly Whitsel, the widowed wife of John Whitsel. Fears, along with his brothers, accompanied an emigration of relatives in the 1820s to Henry County where William settled in the Third District on a plantation east of Bear Creek on the Locust Grove Road.
According to family sources, the Fears brothers accumulated land through buying and selling to the great total of over 4,000 acres between them. William's older brother Jesse, lived in the home of William and Sarah all his life, never marrying. A descendant, Jack Fears, of Hampton, Georgia, tells the story that his old uncle Jesse was somewhat of elusive character. Jesse was not a professed Christian, like his two younger brothers. He helped them build the original church building of the Disciples in Hampton, but never attended on a regular basis. It was said that Jesse attended a Revival meeting on one occasion, and he told his brothers that it was the last time he would attend, that religion was not for him. The only other time he went, was when his funeral was held, January 2nd, 1901.
Nathan W. Smith, long-time evangelist in Georgia, spoke of the conversions of "Buck" Fears and his step-brother William in the Christian Standard, May 24, 1879 as follows:
The first meeting of the of the Church of Christ in Henry County was in the home of William S. Fears in 1845. Through the influences of men like Dr. Daniel Hook and Nathan W. Smith, William became the minister of the congregation and helped to organize the Berea Christian Church in 1854. He was committed to the sound principles of New Testament Christianity all the days of his life. After the Civil War when innovations like, American Christian Missionary Society's Louisville Plan, it was William S. Fears who though in a minority stood against such organization.
According to J. Edward Moseley, in Disciples Of Christ in Georgia the controversy over the addition of musical instruments cause splits in fellowship among many Georgia churches, not so with Berea, though it's first gospel preacher was against it until his death. Moseley wrote:
The Berea Church of Henry County illustrated an enlightened way to solve the organ dispute. Christian liberty of opinion, in the best tradition of the Disciples, was extended to all concerned. William S. Fears, founder of the church and its spiritual guide until his death about 1903, opposed instrumental music in worship. The church did not divide, but members differed with Mr. Fears though they respected his convictions. Near the end of his life, unable to attend worship some elders talked with him about the use of the organ. The veteran preacher replied that he could not worship with an instrument, but he did not wish to hinder others by imposing his views upon them. After his death, the organ was placed in the church. (page 269,270)
According to the Christian Standard, Dec. 3, 1870, p. 386, it was William S. Fears who attended the 1870 Georgia State Convention and stated, "There are crushing strifes, contentions, feuds, and hair-splittings, among our brethren. The time may come that we will divide."
William Sadler Fears died at his home in Hampton, Georgia, January 3, 1903, at the age of 95 years, 11 months, and 3 days. He is buried in the cemetery that is adjacent to the old Berea Church building, on the property that he had contributed to the church years earlier for the construction of an edifice of worship. Some years later the building was sold and the congregation moved to the southwestern part of the town of Hampton.
Directions To The Graves Of William Sadler and Sarah Fears
South of Atlanta on I-75 go past the I-285 interchange, and continue another 3 or 4 miles until you see the Tara Blvd. State Hwy. 19/41 Exit. Travel about 15 miles south until you come to the Atlanta International Raceway. Pass the main entrance and continue to the next traffic light and turn left on SR-20. Travel about a mile into the downtown area, (you will pass the new location of Berea Christian on the right), and follow SR-20 across the Railroad tracks and turn right (Old SR-3/20) then turn right back to the left on Rosenwald (Continuation of SR-20). Go to the first stop sign. Immediately ahead of you will be the old Berea Christian Church Building (now a Church of God) and Cemetery. To find the Fears plot, go immediately behind the church building into the cemetery. William S. Fears is buried within two feet of the back of the building.