Tag Archives: African-American Culture of Coastal Georgia

Our Lady of Good Hope Chapel, 1875, Isle of Hope

From the Savannah Diocesan Archives: Our Lady of Good Hope Chapel began as the novitiate of European Benedictines invited to Savannah by Rt. Rev. William Gross to minister to the former slave population in Savannah. After beginning St. Benedict’s Parish on Harris Street (now St. Benedict the Moor Parish, Savannah located on E. Broad Street) the Benedictines began their novitiate on the Isle of Hope in 1875. It only lasted for one year, being abandoned in1876 after the Yellow Fever Epidemic killed some of its community. Bishop Gross invited the Benedictine Monks of St. Vincent’s Archabbey (Latrobe, PA) to continue ministering to the former slave population in Savannah, and they came in 1877, taking up the mission on Isle of Hope. Soon after the Benedictines moved off of the Isle of Hope, but kept ministering to the congregation until 1888. At this point, another monastery (St. Mary’s Abbey, Belmont, NC) took over the management of the Isle of Hope Chapel, and closed it. It does not reopen for 20 years. Sacred Heart monks minister to the congregation until the founding of St. James the Less Parish in 1949. Mass frequency is cut back to once a month as St. James’ boundaries include Our Lady of Good Hope’s congregation. After the initial 1875 conversion of house to a chapel, it was subsequently restored in 1908. A major restoration and rededication occurred in 1974.

The conversion of an extant frame house into this chapel in 1875 represents the first Benedictine monastery in the South.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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First Credit Hill Baptist Church, McIntosh County

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Folk Victorian Shotgun House, Circa 1900, Darien

This iconic shotgun house is located on the edge of the historic Mentionville community.

West Darien Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

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St. John Baptist Church, 1920, Darien

This congregation was organized on 22 June 1905 by Reverend J. Rogers and the church building, still in use today, was  dedicated in July 1920.

West Darien Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Grace Baptist Church, Circa 1915, Darien

Now known as Emmanuel House of Prayer, this Gothic Revival church is a landmark of the African-American community in Darien. It was home for many years to Grace Baptist Church.

Vernon Square-Columbus Square Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Upper Mill-Presbyterian Cemetery, Circa 1806, Darien

Located in the historic Mentionville community near Cathead Creek, the Upper Mill Cemetery was originally known as the Presbyterian Cemetery. As well as prominent early white settlers of Darien, including William Carnochan and Henry Todd, many of the community’s most important African-Americans are buried here. It has come to be known as the Upper Mill Cemetery for the neighborhood’s association with the Upper Mill Sawmill, owned by the Mention family in the 19th century.

The memorial to George is quite interesting. [As was often the case with early African-Americans, no surname is known; being a free person he did not assume the name of his employer as did slaves]. The man who placed it, Dr. John Champneys Tunno, once owned Champneys Island [then known as Tunno or Tunno’s Island]. It reads: This stone is here placed by J. C. Tunno as a grateful appreciation of his attachment to George, a free person of color who died in his service in Darien, June 26, 1822 aged 25 years. Having possessed the advantages of decent competence and a good education. His humble, unassuming and correct deportment gained him the approbation and secured him the good will of every liberal person under whose notice he chanced to fall. And in no heart perhaps was gratitude ever so strong. It’s a bit confusing as to why a “free person of color” died in “service” to someone.

This brick enclosure contains the remains of Armand LeFils, Sr. (1790-?) and family. A native of Paris, LeFils married Sarah Fox (1796-1856) and served on the county board, presumably as Secretary and Tax Collector.

The LeFils plot is one of the most historic in the cemetery, but is beginning to need preservation.

Several large Chestunut Oaks (Quercus prinus) can be found throughout the cemetery and are very colorful in autumn.

The mausoleum of Henry Todd (10 August 1813-1 May 1886) and Mary Ann Cardone Todd (20 January 1826-27 May 1887) is the most significant monument in Upper Mill Cemetery, befitting the wealth of Mr. Todd. Henry Todd was a leading citizen of Darien during the port’s prosperous timber era.

Born in Fernandina, he came to Darien as a “free man of color” and established the San Savilla Union Steam Saw Mill. Some confusion as to Todd’s race has arisen over the years. He’s thought to have been of Minorcan ancestry, which was a common thread among early fishing families in Fernandina. Today, he wouldn’t be considered “black” but in the racial structure of that era, he was. He was a member of the white Presbyterian Church and was apparently embraced by both the white and black communities. He left money to white and black churches upon his death, as well as for the establishment of a black school. His obituary in the Atlanta Constitution noted: At the funeral of Henry Todd, a negro and ex-slave of Darien, Ga., some of the wealthiest white men of the place acted as pall-bearers. He died worth $125,000. He left much of it to local schools and churches.

Reverend William H. Rogers, about whom I can locate very little information, was obviously another Darienite respected by both the white and black communities. He was African-American but elected to the Georgia legislature. To say that this was highly unusual in post-Reconstruction Jim Crow Georgia is an understatement.

Robert G. Cuthbert (3 September 1936-7 Feruary 1969). This is one of several headstones decorated with commercial bathroom tile, a folk embellishment somewhat common in African-American headstones in the mid-20th century.

Pfeffer Headstone (1860s). I presume the Pfeffers were German or Austro-Hungarian immigrants, as the headstone is in German.

Unknown Confederate Veteran

Sadie McGuinley (1872-10 April 1885)

Ann Jones (?-19 October 1822). This is one of just a handful of typical early-19th-century headstones in the cemetery. Considering the age of the cemetery, and the fact that the Presbyterians were among the most prominent early Darienites, one could assume that many have been lost over time.

William Bradley (20 July 1811-30 November 1832)

Huntington Family Plot, Victorian fence detail, 1870s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Single-Pen House, Darien

This is located in the historic Mentionville neighborhood.

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