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 Glynn County
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.
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.
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.
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and the adjacent Good Shepherd Parochial School are essentially all that remain of the historic Pennick community, a settlement of the descendants of freed slaves. Like Needwood Church and School, also located in Glynn County, they represent a rare church/school complex in relatively original condition. I’m hopeful they’ll both be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the near future.
The school was founded by Deaconess Anna Ellison Butler Alexander (1865-1947), who took very seriously the education of her community and became the first black deaconess in the Episcopal Church in 1907. In 1999, she was named a Saint of Georgia, with a feast day of 24 September.
Deaconess Alexander’s life was forever interwoven with her faith. She lived in this apartment (above right) and is buried in front of the school house. Follow this link to see a video tribute to the deaconess by people who knew her personally. It’s quite interesting.
I recently acquired this postcard, mailed by Deaconess Alexander from the Fort Valley High & Industrial School (forerunner to Fort Valley State College) to Dean Richard of the Bishop Tuttle House in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1931.