Erected in memory of Stephen Collins Foster at the source of the stream which he made immortal in song: “Suwanee River”
The monument was donated by Charles J. Haden.
The Suwannee River is one of America’s best-known waterways, thanks to Stephen Foster’s immortal song.
Heavy rains this winter have forced the river over its banks.
The high waters are evident at the Suwannee River Visitors Center, a state-run facility that’s presently closed.
The river’s source is the nearby Okefenokee Swamp.
Bethany was established as a branch of Union Church in 1841 and was constituted in May 1847. It remains an active congregation, meeting on the third Saturday and Sunday of each month.
A pavilion for dinners-on-the ground is essential, as this style of Primitive Baptist meeting house is essentially a sanctuary with room for nothing else. They are very utilitarian, as are their Crawfordite cousins.
The church and grounds are situated on a high bluff of Arabia Bay, which is actually a Carolina bay surrounded by an extensive swamp. The cemetery has always been known as Arabia Cemetery, for its location. It’s the final resting place of many Clinch County pioneers.
Perhaps the white sand led pioneers to call the land here “Arabia”. The cemetery can seem quite stark to those who have never seen these white sand burial grounds common in Southeast Georgia, but they really have a subtle beauty.
Arabia is particularly well-maintained. The beautiful decorative arch marking the entrance is a landmark itself, having been given in memory of R. G. Dickerson, who died in 1924, by Mrs. R. G. Dickerson and family. The crossroads near the church are known as Dickerson Crossing.
The meeting house of Ramah Primitive Baptist Church stands empty today, largely unchanged from the time its congregation disbanded in 1979. The interior has the typical appearance of its nearby cousins, the Crawfordites. The date of the structure is not known, but the congregation was established in 1873.
The pews feature a crest on the ends, an unusual decoration for Primitive Baptist churches, where ornamentation is generally eschewed.
With a choir of two and a congregation of five, the very survival of this little church is an inspiration. Built in 1844, it’s truly one of the most historic rural church buildings in South Georgia. I can only imagine the challenges faced by the Wiregrass pioneers who cleared longleaf pine and palmetto thickets to raise this chapel. Many of those men and women are buried in the adjoining cemetery. The congregation built a social hall behind the old church a few years ago and obviously take great pride in this special place.
I hope the United Methodist Church will work to further secure the site, as the congregation ages and grows smaller in number.
The Steedley family has operated this landmark, from tavern to restaurant to catering business, since the Great Depression. I don’t believe the restaurant is still open but it was famous far beyond Homerville. Travelers passing through this isolated town on busy US 84 depended on its good food and friendly atmosphere for generations.