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.”
For approximately fifty years after the Civil War, a popular way to memorialize young children who had passed was a figure resting in a half shell. Prior to 1900, twenty-two percent of all children in the United States died before their first birthday.
The shell can represent a pilgrimage, spiritual protection, and innocence. Using those meetings, it makes sense this became a symbol for child graves.
Wealthier families would employ sculptors to make one that represented their child. Poor families, who wanted their children memorialized, adopted the shell as a way to mark graves when Sears Roebuck offered them in their catalog.
Here is a great academic article about these monuments by Annette Stott.
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.
Tilley Bend Baptist Church is located in the mountains of Fannin County. It organized in 1858 and was relocated to this location in the late 1920s because the local electric company was creating a reservoir.
Based on what I’ve read in other sites, it seems the cemetery existed before the church was built since there were burials before the 1920s in the cemetery.
One fascinating tale is that Elizabeth Tilley Bradley put a hex on the fighting Tilly and Stanley families. No children were born or lived past infancy after this supposed curse was placed. Church and community members hung her from the tree in the center of the cemetery and buried her below the tree.
I don’t believe the story because why would a church bury a witch in their sacred burial grounds? However, this story has been repeated enough that someone was in the churchyard recently and burned something near the tree. Elizabeth’s head and foot stones are on the other side of the tree.
According to a couple of other blogs out there, this isn’t the first time for someone to find burns near the tree.
Other great reading on this church, and it’s graveyard can be found at:
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.
Built in the late 1870s, the Gillespie Chapel sits atop a steep hill where the front steps put you close to the edge of the hill. Regular services ended in 1975, but it now serves the Upper Cartoogechaye area as a community space.
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.
At the moment, the only information I know is that the church was founded in 1868, and the building was erected in 1914. I know they were an active congregation prior to COVID.
Located on a dirt road in Burke County, I’ve not found much in the church.
The Poplar Spring School sits on the grounds of the Poplar Spring United Methodist Church. Built when the church was a part of Campbell County, this is a beautiful example of a one-teacher type school.
The church began in 1867 in a brush arbor. This is at least the third physical structure the church has had in it’s history. You can read more of their history on the chirch’s website. Outside of the church and school, there is a small cemetery and picnic area on the church grounds.
Rock Chapel Methodist Church was the oldest Methodist congregation in DeKalb County, Georgia. Founded in 1825, the congregation started on what is Rock Chapel Road near where the Joseph Bond house is. In 1834, Bond donated land west of its first location. A church was built that burned in 1870. The current structure is what replaced that building.
Based on church documents, enslaved members were included in the church rolls. In 1846, 11 people were listed. In the 1858 rolls, the comgregation included 61 enslaved people.
Based on information I found online, I believe the congregation dissolved in 2016.