Tag Archives: Slavery in Georgia

First African Baptist Church, Riceboro

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.

 

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Riceboro GA

Historic Baptismal Trail, Riceboro

African-Americans were baptized in this swamp beginning in the 1840s. It’s just downstream from a well-known fishing and swimming spot known as Round Hole and was likely chosen for its proximity to that natural landmark.

Baptisms were first performed on enslaved persons by white members of the nearby North Newport Church. When the white congregation moved to Walthourville in 1854, the slaves renamed the church First African Baptist Church and continued ritual baptisms here until the 1940s. Some of their descendants are the Geechee people who still live nearby.

Today, the Historic Baptismal Trail has been memorialized as a public park with a  boardwalk, including signage identifying plants and trees that were historically important to the community.

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Filed under -LIBERTY COUNTY, Riceboro 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

Isle of Hope United Methodist Church, Circa 1859

The marker placed by the Georgia Historical Society in 1962 notes, in part:  The Isle of Hope Methodist Church was organized in 1851. The first Trustees were George W. Wylly, Simeon F. Murphy, John B. Hogg, William Waite, Theodore Goodwin, Thomas J. Barnsley and the Rev. William S. Baker. The church building that stands here was erected in 1859 on land given by Dr. Stephen Dupon. Its architecture is similar to that of the early churches at Midway and Ebenezer. The gallery at the rear of the church was built primarily for accommodations of slaves…During the War Between the States a Confederate battery stood on the church lot, mounting two 8-inch columbiads and two 32-pounder cannon. The church was used as a hospital for Confederates stationed in the area, the pews (still in existence) serving as beds. Thirty-three Effingham County soldiers sleep in the adjoining churchyard.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Isle of Hope GA, Savannah GA

The Shadows, Circa 1854, Isle of Hope

Also known as the Wylly-Bee-LeBey House, this raised Plantation Plain is an interesting variant of the popular style of 19th-century Georgia. Local tradition says that construction of the house was started by Wylly and completed by Barnard E. Bee. A later owner, Miss Ella LeBey recounted this story: Mr. Fred Wylly told my mother this…story. When the overseer and slaves were digging deep for the main chimney, an iron box with a ring in the top was discovered by the slaves and also human bones. The slaves thought it was a casket, quickly covering it over and the chimney was built. The Negroes were afraid of the haunting of the dead for disturbing the grave. Nothing was said until the chimney was almost complete and the overseer said the chimney was more valuable than any old pirate’s loot. After that, whenever the house was vacant people dug to find the treasure. Mrs. Chaplin [later owner] said she filled the hole with cement. Later we found reasons to believe she engineered the removal of the treasures because of the old watches and bracelets satin and velvet she showed my mother.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Isle of Hope GA, Savannah GA

Roland-Ellis-Cope House, 1850s, Isle of Hope

Though tax records indicate a construction date of 1864, that is likely the date of completion. It is thought to have been begun in the late 1850s and delayed by the Civil War.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Isle of Hope GA, Savannah GA

Sarah Glen Bayard House, Circa 1855, Isle of Hope

The architecture suggests that this house was built in a simpler style, with the veranda porches and other ornamental amendments made later. One source dates it as early as 1847. Local tradition (not confirmed by me) indicates it briefly served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. It was also used as a set location in the 1974 movie The Last of the Belles.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under -CHATHAM COUNTY, Isle of Hope GA, Savannah GA