Donated and built by John Walt, this was the meeting place of the International Free & Accepted Masons and Order of the Eastern Star, known as Johnson Lodge No. 37. It was an African-American lodge. A list of Walthourville’s historic resources in the most recent Liberty County Joint Comprehensive Plan dates it to circa 1845, but I believe this to be an error. If it was originally a white lodge, it could date to the antebellum era, but the style of construction doesn’t support that date. Furthermore, its African-American association precludes that date as such organizations and gathering places for blacks were illegal at the time. My guess is that it was built in the late 1800s. Whatever its history, it’s an important landmark and should be preserved.
Tag Archives: Landmarks of Coastal Georgia
Today, it’s nothing more than weed-choked concrete and asphalt, but these barren strips within Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge played a part in civilian and military aeronautical history. Before its association with the military, Harris Neck was the site of an emergency landing strip featuring two sod runways and an 81′ beacon. It was built in 1930 and leased by the Department of Commerce. Serving the Richmond-Jacksonville air route, it was officially known as Harris Neck Intermediate Field Site #8. On 7 December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, guardsmen from Hunter Field in Savannah took over operations of the property. The site was already being used for aerial gunnery training. In 1943, Harris Neck became an auxiliary-base of Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee and was assigned to the III Fighter Command.
Pilots at Harris Neck were trained on two types of fighter craft: the P-39 “Airacobra” and the P-40. The P-40 was known as the “Kitty Hawk” and was associated with Chenault’s “Flying Tigers” in China. In 1944, a hangar, warehouses, repair shops, barracks for 125 men, and a non-commisioned officers club were constructed from pre-fabricated material on site.
In September 1944, there were 575 enlisted personnel at Harris Neck, along with 129 officers, but by November, the number was greatly reduced, leading to its deactivation on 31 December 1944. The property was given to McIntosh County after the war for potential use as an airport, but this was never realized and mismanagement by the county led to its reversion to the federal government. It was acquired by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (now the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service) in 1962 for use as a refuge. It’s now known as Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge and the federal government has had a contentious presence ever since*.
*When the government expropriated the site in World War II, landowners were given two weeks to leave their properties. African-Americans owned 1102 acres of the original property while whites owned 1532. Families of both races felt their land was stolen, though token compensation was given. Many descendants believe the forced removal was mishandled and have mounted legal challenges for years.
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
From is construction in 1852 until the 1920s, this little one-room schoolhouse served students of Dorchester Village. It was located adjacent to the Dorchester Presbyterian Church and was all but lost when the Selectmen of the Midway Church and Society saved and relocated it to the “new” Dorchester School nearby. This photograph dates to 2011.
Located on the opposite corner of the intersection of the E. B. Cooper Highway and Barrington Ferry Road from First African Baptist Church, First Zion was established by members of the “Mother Church” in 1870-1871 with the Reverend U. L. Houston as its first pastor. The present structure was built in 1971 during the pastorate of Reverend B. N. Jones. The churchyard is a beautiful spot shaded by old-growth oaks.
The First African Baptist Church of Riceboro is considered the “Mother Church of all Black Churches in Liberty County”; the present structure was built in the 1960s to replace the original church. The community, just west of Riceboro, is locally known as Crossroads.
A marker placed by the Liberty County Historical Society notes: The First African Baptist Church, the oldest black church in Liberty County, had its origins in the North Newport Baptist Church, founded in 1809. In 1818 the North Newport Church, composed of both white and black members, purchased this site and erected a church building here [circa 1849] which had a gallery for the slave members. In 1854 the North Newport Church moved to Walthourville, but the black members in this area continued to use the old building. In 1861 the black members formed their own church organization and the first black pastor was the Reverend Charles Thin. On July 20, 1878 the North Newport Church sold the building to A. M. McIver for $225 for use by the First African Baptist Church.
One of the early white pastors of this church was the Reverend Josiah Spry Law to whom a cenotaph was erected here in 1854 by both blacks and whites.
Three other neighboring churches have been formed from the membership of this church: First Zion Baptist Church in 1870, First African Baptist Church of Jones in 1896, and Baconton Baptist Church in 1897.