Tag Archives: Churches of Coastal Georgia

Harrington Graded School, 1920s, St. Simons Island

The recent restoration of this historic African-American schoolhouse is one of the greatest preservation successes on the Georgia coast and should serve as a model for similar projects. After the Civil War and the collapse of the plantation economy, the descendants of enslaved persons remained on St. Simons and lived in the communities of South End, Jewtown, and Harrington. They were the dominant population on St. Simons until development in the early and mid-20th century changed the racial makeup of the island. Only remnants of their presence remain, and among them, the Harrington Graded School (thought to be a Rosenwald school), and Hazel’s Cafe, are the most significant.

The school served all three African-American communities until desegregation in the 1960s and was briefly used as a day care center until being abandoned in the early 1970s. It was eventually purchased by Glynn County and the St. Simons Land Trust but due to deterioration, it was slated for demolition in 2010. The Land Trust and the St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition formed the Friends of Harrington School and saved the school house. Serious work began in 2015 and by December 2016, the school was restored to its former glory.

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, St. Simons Island GA

St. Andrews Church of God, Circa 1954, St. Simons Island

This interesting church in the Harrington community was built just as the historic African-American neighborhoods of St. Simons were reaching their ebb. It’s a utilitarian example of the two-tower style, common among African-American congregations on the coast in an earlier time. The cinderblock structure, built sometime between 1950-1954, has unpainted sides, with the front being the only “finished” section. A more traditional structure, the circa 1920 Pentecostal Zion Church, stands behind this one.

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Filed under -GLYNN COUNTY, St. Simons Island GA

Smallest Church in America, McIntosh County

Built in 1949 by Agnes Harper and deeded to Christ, the Smallest Church in America has been a place of refuge for thousands who have traveled US17 over the years. While it isn’t actually the smallest church in America, it’s among the smallest. Such roadside chapels are scattered all over the country. It was lost to arson on 28 November 2015 but a reconstruction effort was in place immediately with contributions of money and materials pouring in from all over the world.

I made the first four photographs of the tiny 190-square-foot before the fire.

Visitors often leave prayers and messages to loved ones who have passed.

The following photos detail the reconstruction of the church, which reopened on 8 April 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under -MCINTOSH COUNTY, South Newport GA

Horse Stamp United Methodist Church, 1926, Camden County

According to the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, this congregation dates to circa 1814. [The church site lists it as Horse Stomp, not Horse Stamp, but all modern maps and the church signs themselves use Stamp]. Either is among Georgia’s most interesting place namesl. First established at a location used as a headquarters during the War of 1812, the name is said to originate from the clearing created by horses ‘stomping’ vegetation. The first house of worship was built of logs and several frame structures followed. The present structure dates to 1926.

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Filed under -CAMDEN COUNTY

Burnt Fort Chapel & Cemetery, Camden County

At least two different explanations of the origin of Burnt Fort can be found in a general search of available sources. One account suggests that South Carolina built a fort circa 1715-25 along the banks of the Satilla River near this location [Georgia didn’t yet exist]. The most interesting evidence, though, centers on Edmond Gray, who came to Georgia from Virginia bent upon opening the “neutral lands” between the Altamaha and Satilla Rivers. He and a small group of followers settled upon a site near here in 1755 and named it New Hanover. As the land was in dispute between Great Britain and Spain, the English sought to destroy the colony to avoid a confrontation with Spain and further rousing the native Creek Indians. In late January 1759, Major Henry Hymes of South Carolina and James Edward Powell of Georgia were dispatched by Colonial Governor Henry Ellis of Georgia to destroy the town. Gray complied and was given 28 days. He ordered the settlers to vacate but some remained and operated a small trading post/fort for a time. It was burned soon thereafter; whether by the Creeks or other force remains unclear. The name Burnt Fort was firmly established at least by 1793, when Captain James Randolph built Burnt Fort Station for his squadron of dragoons charged with protecting Camden County from the Creeks. Whatever the real story, it’s a fascinating chapter of Georgia history and bears further inquiry. I will update as I learn more.

A multi-denominational congregation at Burnt Fort dates to at least 1872, though burials in the cemetery date to the early 19th century. The first church was in use until 1947, when declining membership led to its closure. The structure was abandoned and had collapsed by 1960. Area residents, including descendants of the founding families, came together in 1976 to rebuild the church, which was dedicated on 4 September 1977.

Of special note in the cemetery are are the six crypts of the Hedleston children, dating to the 1850s. Most notable are their winged death head reliefs, such as the one seen below.

A good variety of typical funerary iconography can be found here.

Considering there are a number of unmarked but documented burials here, it would be interesting to know if there was indeed a congregation in the early 1800s to serve the thriving community of loggers and timber workers in the community.

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Filed under -CAMDEN COUNTY, Burnt Fort GA

Brown’s Chapel A. M. E. Church, Tarboro

Like the other Tarboro churches, this one has a White Oak address due to the post office location. This congregation was established on 7 July 1900 by Reverend T. N. M. Smith, Reverend S. W. Wood, and L. Fatio; the present structure was dedicated in 1979 and has been remodeled since.

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Filed under -CAMDEN COUNTY, Tarboro GA

Church for Sale, Tarboro

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Filed under -CAMDEN COUNTY, Tarboro GA