Oak Grove was established by the city of Brunswick in 1838 as its first public cemetery and was originally designed to encompass ten acres. I received a nice message from Oak Grove Cemetery Society President Robert M. Gindhart III and he updated some of the history of the site: The cemetery was finally reduced to the size we see today in 1901 to make way for the new Brunswick and Birmingham Railroad roadbed. This greatly altered the western boundary of Oak Grove, moving the fence 50 feet eastward. Fifty graves were exhumed and most of those were brought within the new cemetery boundary. Were all exhumed? Recently, OGCS, using Ground Penetrating Radar, identified hundreds of unknown graves. We have added those to our electronic map found at: www.oakgrovetour.com identified by beginning with letter U and a blue dot.
Oak Grove contains a nice variety of Victorian funerary monuments and is one of Brunswick’s most fascinating public spaces. It shouldn’t be overlooked.
The memorials that follow were randomly selected and appear in no particular order
Oak Grove is open from dawn until dusk. Parking is free, on the street beside the cemetery.
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.
It’s obvious that the porch, in its present configuration, is a later addition to this house. I’m unsure as to its original style; the date of 1895 is from a resource survey and may only be a guess. I hope to learn more.
Brunswick Old Town Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
In 1870, the Freedmen’s School was established as the first public school for African-Americans in Brunswick. Colored Memorial High School, designed by Cloister architect Francis L. Abreu, was built adjacent to the Freedmen’s School in 1923* and named to honor African-American veterans of World War I. The Freedmen’s School was replaced by Risley High School in 1936 and served the community until 1955 when a new Risley High School was built elsewhere. It was named Risley School, for Captain Douglas Gilbert Risley, who advocated for the school as the head of the Freedmen’s Bureau.
*- The 1922 date on the building is the date the cornerstone was laid by Dr. H. R. Butler.
Wayfair Primitive Baptist Church is the only representative congregation of the Alabaha Association Crawfordites in McIntosh County. It was established in 1873 but little else is known about it. It is no longer active but the cemetery is still used for burials.
Like all of the Crawfordite meeting houses, Wayfair is free of ornament and any modern creature comforts.
Members of this faith believed that such enhancements distracted from worship.
The carpentry skills of the members are on full display in each of these meeting houses, and Wayfair is no exception.
These photographs were made in 2012; they were originally posted on Vanishing South Georgia.