I am uncertain how old this church is or the congregation. I would age the building to be around the 1900s.
Located approximately two miles down a dirt road is the Smith Chapel and School. The scene above sits on the front of the church as a greeting for anyone who enters. Founded in 1911, there isn’t much know about the congregation.
Located in Heardmont, this unnamed school sits next to the Bethel Grove Baptist Church. My assumption is that it is called the Bethel Grove School. I am still looking for info. The church was founded in 1885. This was verified as a school in an oral history project I found online titled, “In Those Days, African American Life near the Savannah River.”
Founded in 1882, Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery in Athens, Georgia was the first cemetery owned by Black community in town. Over 3,000 Black Athenians have been laid to rest here. From Monroe “Pink” Morton, a prominent builder and namesake of the Morton Theater, to noted quilt maker, Harriet Powers.
The Gospel Pilgrims were a benevolent organization started after the Civil War. One benefit the group provided was burial insurance. In Athens, the organization was so popular that by 1912 almost 75% Black Athenians were members.
It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
Located in Cohutta, Georgia, there is a small group of two churches and a school that represent small Black community that lived in this north Georgia town. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation listed it as a Place in Peril. The Andrews Chapel, shown above, was built in 1902 and moved to it’s current location on the edge of downtown in 1923. The building is need of serious repair.
The Old Colored School was built in 1930 and was used until 1953. It was used as a fellowship hall by the two congregations located closest to it.
Located in Cowee, or Too Cowee, North Carolina, Pleasant Hill AME Church was started in 1874. Prior to the Civil War, Cowee was home to a significant population of freedmen and women and enslaved people. After the Civil War, Cowee had the most significant population of Black families in this part of Western North Carolina. This church building was built in 1929 and restored in 2009. While the church is no longer active, the cemetery is still used. This church is part of the Cowee Historic District for Macon County, North Carolina.
In celebration of its 100th year, descendants of students who attended Kinlaw Rosenwald School are restoring this 3-teacher type school. Once the restoration is complete, this school will serve the Kinlaw community for years to come.
When I visited with my friend, Brian, we were lucky enough to meet one of the men helping go restore the building, Marshall Glover. You can read more about the school and donate money by visiting the school’s site.
Located in Camden County, Georgia, Rising Daughter Baptist Church, the cemetery is filled with a mixture of vernacular and commercial headstones. I am uncertain of the age of the church and cemetery, but based on headstones I would the age the congregation to be from the 1910s.
This is one of the Madonna markers, my friend Brian and I located in three different cemeteries. A full post about these markers are located here.
These markers show a repeated motif of the loops. If these marks are called something else, please let me know.
Harold and Thelma Swain were murdered inside the church. Their case remains unsolved after DNA evidence exonerated the man who initially went to jail. There is a new suspect in the case. For more information, their story can be read here.
My friend, Brian Brown, and I planned a photo trip while I was down at St. Simons for the week. As I was looking through Find-a-Grave, I noticed these vernacular figures repeated in a couple cemeteries. We decided to take a look. After seeing a couple, we realized they were likely a Mary/Madonna figure. The elements have worn off many of the details.
Since these were all in cemeteries of Black churches, it is possible that a local funeral home did them, or that it was a local artist. This is the first time I’ve personally seen a connection in monuments like these in several cemeteries. Even though likely cast, I do consider these vernacular in nature.
The Village Cemetery is located on the 258 acre Guale Preserve which is part of the Musgrove Plantation. It is a private cemetery that is only open to the ancestors of the enslaved who are originally buried there. This is one of the most incredible collection of vernacular headstones I have personally had the opportunity to document.
The glasswork and friezes are all done by an incredible artist(s). I tried to do genealogical searches to determine why these markers are here. Sometimes there are clues in the records, but I am unable to determine any.
My appreciation to Brian Brown to showing me this hidden treasure of a cemetery.
If you’ve ever been to St. Simon’s, you’ve likely seen the iconic Hazel’s Cafe sitting close to the edge of the road. Proprietors Hazel and Thomas Floyd ran this cafe for decades. Their home still stands next to the cafe. Their final resting place is in Stranger’s Cemetery.
The Harrington School served the Black communities of St. Simons Island starting in the 1920s. It is not a Rosenwald school, but it is based on the one-teacher type plans. In 2011, it was listed as a Georgia Place in Peril. The community was able to save the building, and it reopened in June 2021.
Established in the 1880s, this cemetery was started for the burial of Black mill employees from the Hilton-Dodge Mill. According to island stories, locals kept to themselves and did not interact with those who came to work on the island. When locals passed, they would be interred wherever their ancestors, oftentimes local plantations, but the “Strangers” would be buried in this cemetery.
During the 20th century the cemetery was renamed Union Cemetery as four traditionally African-American churches on the island – St. Paul Baptist, Emanuel Baptist, St. Lukes Methodist, and First African Baptist – bonded together to maintain the burial ground for use by their congregants.