Tag Archives: Georgia Folk Art

Village Cemetery, St. Simons Island

The sacred ground on St. Simons known as Village Cemetery is one of the most important African-American burial grounds in Georgia. Closely watched over and maintained by the First African Baptist Church of St. Simons, it is the final resting place of countless souls who worked nearby plantations from the early 19th century to Emancipation, and their descendants. It should be noted that until World War II, and perhaps a bit later, African-Americans were much more numerous on St. Simons, living in various historical communities scattered around the island.

I found the cemetery by accident and was so moved by its beauty that I felt an urgency to document its most important monuments. Though there are countless unmarked and unknown burials, the oldest surviving section of the cemetery contains numerous vernacular headstones. These nationally significant treasures represent the resourcefulness and perhaps shed light on some of the traditions of the first and second generations of freedmen who remained on the island after emancipation. In early 19th century Georgia, slave burials were decorated with the last object used by the deceased. It is likely that the decorated graves in Village Cemetery are a continuation of that tradition. The cemetery is active so modern headstones and markers are also present.

I hope that the church or others with more knowledge of the cemetery’s history will work to have it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A survey was published by the Golden Isles Archaeology Society in 2000 and the cemetery has been documented on Findagrave. I am unable to share the location of the cemetery but those interested may wish to contact the First African Baptist Church.

Vernacular Monuments of Village Cemetery

Hattie Lee (29 November 1871-6 June 1929)
The Hattie Lee monument features a mosaic of glass and shells in the form of a vase or tree of life. It is the most colorful of all the surviving monuments.
Thomas A. Lee (9 August 1881-10 January 1933)
Aaron Lomon (8 July 1891-19 August 1931)
The Aaron Lomon monument features a hand-sculpted bell, ringing.
Peter Ramsey (17 February 1873-2 April 193?)
The Peter Ramsey monument features a mosaic star and beautiful raised lettering.
John Davis (April 1871-21 September 1927)
The John Davis monument features an encircled star mosaic centered with milk glass.
Albert Hampton (1 April 1897-5 November 1937) The Albert Hampton monument features a garland of pebbles in a design I don’t recognize. In African burial customs, shells and stones represented the boundary to the afterlife. In African cultures, white often represented death, so the light color of the stones is an affirmation of that tradition.
Jim Hightower (30 October 1884-7 June 1934)
The Jim Hightower monument features an interesting placement of letters and a star. The name is spelled phonetically, which was common in an era when African-Americans were often denied a basic education. There is slight damage to the lower right side of the stone.
Louise Hunter Hightower (27 January 1887-24 March 1964)
Mary Floyd, Hunter Baffo. There is no discernible information about the deceased on this simple headstone.
Edward Floyd (March?-May?) Though it appears to be the resting place of Floyd Edward, the presence of other Floyds in the cemetery suggest it is likely Edward Floyd. Unfortunately, this is often encountered and illustrates the difficulties of African-American genealogy.
Phillist White (23 January 1893-4 December 1927) I’m sharing this monument to represent the others of this manufacture bearing the symbol of the Mosaic Templars of America. This was an African-American fraternal organization founded by former slaves in 1882 to provide life and burial insurance to the communities they served. The local chapter was known as the Wesley Oak Chamber 2128.


Filed under --GLYNN COUNTY GA--, St. Simons Island GA

Sheffield Cemetery, Glynn County

Sheffield Chapel was organized in 1854 with 20 members, including namesake Jack Sheffield, Sr. Three churches of varying construction housed the congregation from just after the Civil War until they merged with Haven United Methodist Church to form Haven Sheffield United Methodist Church in 1998. The last, built in 1969 and abandoned since the merger, was lost to arson in 2009. The cemetery is cited in some sources as Sheffield U. M. C. Cemetery and in others as Clayhole Cemetery, for its location in Clayhole Swamp.

Tile Grave Markers of Sheffield Cemetery

Sheltered by old-growth oaks, Sheffield Cemetery contains some of the most important surviving African-American vernacular grave markers in the region. Otherwise simple  headstones were decorated with commercial tiles of various colors. (There are nine by my count). Some of the sides and bases feature the tile, as well, while the backs are exposed and feature the names of the decedents. They generally date to the 1930s and 1940s and were likely accomplished by a member of the congregation.

Frenchie Taylor Wite (White?) 15 April 1902-7 October 1944)  – This is the most colorful of all the tile markers. The name for Mrs. Wite may be a misspelling of White. Such errors are common with homemade markers, in both black and white cemeteries. The first photo shows the marker in perspective.

Name Indiscernible (1940s) – This is the smallest of the markers.

Name Indiscernible (May 10 1885?-December 19?) – Eroding text on the exposed concrete backs complicates identification.

Sam May (7 September 1867-22 September 1936) – This is the only stone not featuring the predominant mid-century commercial tile.

Lawson Markers

Carther Lawson (22 May 1932-? 1946)

Unknown Lawson

Robert Sheffield (1884-9 June 1947) Tiles have fallen off this marker.

Name Indiscernible (1940s)

There is also a marker for Prince Richardson (1877-27 January 1949), but I somehow overlooked it.

Other Headstones of Sheffield Cemetery

Besides the whimsical tile markers, a number of other significant markers and plots are located within Sheffield Cemetery. I’m sharing a small selection here.

John Sheffield (11 November 1825-13 October 1910) – The Sheffield family, who established the congregation in slavery days, are well represented.

Susan (Akin) Sheffield (16 December 1834-9 December 1914) – Susan married John Sheffield in 1852.

Arnold Sheffield (25 February 1859-14 July 1910) – Arnold was the son of John and Susan Sheffield. Chains carved on the grave indicate he was born into slavery, as were all (or nearly all) those buried here who were born before the end of the Civil War. Sometimes, actual chains were placed within the concrete of the graves and some scholars suggest that broken chains indicate that the decedents were freed. This is not employed in all cemeteries but the chains speak for themselves, even for those who lived long after Emancipation.

March Wesley (August 1848-28 January 1931)

H. E. Westley (Wesley) (?-5 November 1957) – Birthdates of African-Americans, even long after the end of slavery, were often unknown.

Ida Roase (Rose) (1882-18 March 1904) – I believe this is a foot stone, placed before a more formal marker was added.

Atkinson Enclosure

Alex Atkinson (13 March 1863-6 December 1945) & Ida Atkinson (10 August 1869-10 September 1938) were successful small farmers, like many members of Sheffield Chapel.

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Filed under --GLYNN COUNTY GA--

Folk Art Gravesite Decoration, Crescent

Hopkins Belleville Cemetery Crescent GA McIntosh County Ornamental Gravesite Folk Art Flower Pots Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing Coastal Georgia USA 2014

This was one of the neatest things I found in the historic Hopkins-Belleville Cemetery.


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Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--, Crescent GA

Headstones of Behavior Cemetery, Sapelo Island

Sapelo slaves and their descendants have been buried at Behavior since 1805. Due to senseless vandalism in the past, the cemetery is now accessible only by permission. See Amy Hedrick’s article on the cemetery for more background.

Fleur-de-lis Marker & Headstone of Isabella, Wife of Monday Robinson

(26 September 1858 – 17 February 1889) Married 6 May 1876

Sallie Hall (15 March 1886 – 7 August 1951)

Ceaser Jackson (17 January 1893 – 7 February 1916)

(Additional Text) He. Die. In. Faith. Sleep. On. Son. Take. You. Rest.

This headstone, along with several others, features the “star” motif common in Gould’s Cemetery.

Charles Walker (1813 – 5 February 1897)

Sarah Wilson (29 July 1881 – 18 November 1940)

Peter Maxwell, Company A, 30th (?) United States Colored Infantry

Liberty Handy (1 August 1856 – 20 May 1916)

Beloved Husband of Katie Brown (1850 – 28 January 1918)

Mary Jackson (1837? – 7 February 1913)

Minto Bell (1780? – 25 August 1890)

The age, as well as the dates on the tombstone, is an estimation; Bintou (Minto) Bell was one of seven daughters of the patriarch of Sapelo Island, Bilali Muhammad (Mohamet).

Mary Wright (13 February 1873 – 29 September 1923)

Boston Gardner (1823-15 June 1920)

Philis Garnder (1839-7 December 1916)

Glasco Grovner (1856-3 November 1928)

Chloe Jacobs (1838-24 September 1893)

Reverend John Dunham (28 February 1859-15 March 1946)

Rachel Dunham (November 1865-November 1937)

Mrs. Nancy

National Register of Historic Places


Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--, Sapelo Island GA

Sapelo Tour Bus

This is one of numerous old school buses on Sapelo used for shuttling tourists around the island.



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Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--, Sapelo Island GA

Roadside Produce Stand, Eulonia

Roadside stands selling peaches, peanuts, watermelons, and other iconic local crops, seem to be making a huge comeback, as the traffic at this one just off I-95 would attest.

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Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--, Eulonia GA

Bowie Seafood, Tybee Island

Bowie Seafood is a popular and longtime local favorite on the island, though the hours are often irregular. Tybee Islanders will tell you that Bowie’s has some of the freshest seafood in town.

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Filed under --CHATHAM COUNTY GA--, Tybee Island GA

Centennial Mural, Kingsland

To commemorate Kingsland’s centennial Folkston artist Tim Bass, aka Signsmith, painted this beautiful mural in 2008. It illustrates the community’s commitment to history and preservation in its downtown area.

Kingsland Commercial Historic District, National Register of Historic Places


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Filed under --CAMDEN COUNTY GA--, Kingsland GA

Beauty Shop Signs, Sunbury

I thought these were nice.

As of 2017, this beauty shop was razed.





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Filed under --LIBERTY COUNTY GA--, Sunbury GA

Oysters for Sale, Harris Neck

This old repainted Sunbeam Bread Sign has been on Harris Neck Road for a long time, and is always a favorite. (Update: as or late 2015, this sign has been removed and replaced).

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Filed under --MCINTOSH COUNTY GA--, Harris Neck GA