The origins of Emanuel Baptist can be traced to the First African Baptist Church, established by freedmen at Pike’s Bluff Plantation in 1869. On 6 April 1890 members of the First African Baptist Church, under the leadership of Reverend A. Neel, organized Emanuel to better serve members in the South End community. The present structure was built on 30 July 1904 and dedicated by Reverend S. C. Dent.
Tag Archives: Churches of Coastal Georgia
Now home to Lord of Life Lutheran Church, this Spanish Mission Revival chapel was originally home to St. William Catholic Church. Franciscan friars first established a mission presence near this very site in the late 1500s to minister to the native Guale peoples but these early missionaries were martyred and the mission destroyed in 1597. The location was selected by Father Peter McOscar, SM, pastor of St. Francis Xavier of Brunswick, architect Cormac McGarvey, and Mrs. Edith Smith Young. It was originally served by Marist priests from St. Francis Parrish.
Several celebrities had a connection to the church during its history. In the mid-1930s, actress Irene Dunn was a member of a Confirmation Class here; the great tenor Giovanni Martinelli once sang here; Joe DiMaggio was a volunteer altar server in 1950.
Thanks to Jimmy Goodis for identifying it as the original St. William’s.
Established in 1832, St. Bartholomew’s is the oldest active African-American Episcopal congregation in Georgia. The Episcopal church was actively pursuing the evangelization of slaves by the early 1830s. In 1832, a white family in the area initiated religious education for its slaves and by 1845, the bishop appointed the Reverend William G. Williams as the area’s first official pastor. He established a church and school on the three plantations he served and was so successful that by 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, his congregation was the largest, black or white, in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.
A gift of $400 from St. Barholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City to the Ogeechee Mission Congregation in 1881 helped stimulate interest in the construction of a permanent home. The present structure was consecrated in 1896 and named in honor of its first major patrons. The St. Barholomew’s Day School was constructed in 1897. It was operated by the church until 1916 at which time Chatham County rented the building and took over its operation. It was closed as a school in 1951 and has since served as the parish hall.
Known officially today as St. Bartholomew’s Chapel, the church which was once so integral to the life of the Burroughs community still meets on a limited schedule.
National Register of Historic Places
Midway Congregational Church, founded in 1754 and a seat of power in the Colonial period, was associated with three satellite congregations known as retreats, because their locations, slightly more inland than Midway, offered a respite from the malarial swamps of the coast. The last of the retreat churches to be established was located at Dorchester. Its origins can be traced to nearby Sunbury, a short-lived boom town founded in 1758 whose trustees were members of Midway Church. Sunbury thrived nearly from its inception, rivaling Savannah in commercial importance, but its proximity to Fort Morris lead to its capture and subsequent burning by British troops during the American Revolution. While many such casualties of the war recuperated, Sunbury never seemed to regain its prominence after the devastating four-year occupation that followed. The hurricane of 1824 and a yellow fever epidemic sent many of its residents scattering into the nearby countryside. Huge plantations with names like Laurel Grove, Arcadia, Melon Bluff, Cedar Point, and Palmyra were emerging in the countryside around old Sunbury. In 1843 upon the suggestion of Reverend Thomas Sumner Winn, a tutor for prominent Presbyterian minister Charles Colcock Jones, a site was chosen for a retreat between Sunbury and Midway. It was originally known simply as “the Village,” but was soon christened Dorchester, in tribute to the heritage of its citizens. Some families built summer homes at Dorchester, though many tore down their dwellings near Sunbury and rebuilt them on the higher and drier ground the retreat afforded. As this new location was only six miles from Midway, the idea of building a church was not initially entertained, though an academy was built in which Sunday school was regularly taught. By 1854, with the continuing decline in membership at Midway, the families of the village built a permanent church, which still stands today. The old town bell from Sunbury, dated 1799, was placed in the steeple. The land was donated by Bartholomew Busby, who owned the nearby Melon Bluff Plantation. At first it was used only in summer, but by the onset of the Civil War was in regular use. The church was officially recognized by the Savannah Presbytery in 1871 and named Dorchester Presbyterian Church. The church holds services on the first Sunday of each month at 5 PM.
National Register of Historic Places
Organized as Bethany in 1854, this congregation built their first church around 1860 about a mile from the present location. In 1900, during the pastorate of Reverend J. H. Frisbee, Bethany agreed to move into the town of Ellabell to increase membership. They built this church in 1904, using much of the material from the old location, and David Hess notes that this material was rolled on logs. The interior finishings of the church were done by Reverend Frisbee, who was also a contractor. I’m not exactly sure when the name was changed to Ellabell Methodist, but it was likely around this time.
Many of the early records of the church have been lost and if anyone has pertinent information, please share it here.