Young’s Chapel Methodist Church, 1895, Ben Hill County

This is hallowed ground to me, my favorite place in my home county, and I’ve been photographing and visiting for many years. Many of my photographer friends have driven from all over Georgia and even Florida to document it themselves. It’s in a horrible state of disrepair, and may well be gone if nothing is done to stabilize it. I know some of the family members who have a connection to the place, but I’ve never been able to track down much information, until now. My friend Sherri Butler, the feature editor of the Fitzgerald Herald-Leader, dug up an article she wrote about it in 1995. A synopsis follows: Young’s Chapel Methodist Church started in a brush arbor around 1875 and finally closed in 1974 when the congregation was too small to support it. Once a part of the long vanished Ashley community, the church is located near Rebecca. This structure was built on the site of the brush arbor where its organizers first gathered, but the congregation later moved it about three miles to the present site. This land was donated to the church by John Thomas Young, grandfather of Marsha McWhorter of Fitzgerald and Travis Biggers. Johnny Young, who grew up in the church, suggests it was built around 1876. The chapel was named for the Youngs since so many members of that family were a part of the congregation over the years: Martin Young, who was a state senator and county commissioner; Clyde Young, a state representative; J. R. F. Young, a member of the Ben Hill County school board; and S. S. Young, Sr., Wilcox County Tax Collector. S. B. Young was treasurer and Emma Young was the longtime pianist. Other known members were: Sammy Young, Wiley Young, Able Young, Tommy Young, Hazel Snow, Helen Brooks, and Minnie Brown. Services were held every third Sunday.

The last major renovations were done in 1971 by its few remaining members in an effort to keep it open. There were only eight members left when it closed in 1974. The historical background was supplied to the Herald-Leader in 1965 by Wiley T. Young and Mrs. R. C. Gilmore.

Source: Sherri Butler, Fitzgerald Herald-Leader, 16 August 1995

Note the severe damage to the ceiling at top right…

When Sherri wrote this article, Fitzgerald’s Main Street director was attempting to have the church listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and minor repairs were done at that time. However, its condition is now critical to say the least. I’m hoping to get a grassroots group together in the future to do the work to stabilize Young’s Chapel. Instead of waiting for the local government to do something, which is unlikely in the current economy, it’s time concerned citizens step up to the plate…I don’t want this to be a “committee” group, concerned with all that entails. I’d rather it be, in the near future, akin to the work of Habitat for Humanity where people come together and share talents and time to accomplish the goal.

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17 Comments

Filed under --BEN HILL COUNTY GA--

17 responses to “Young’s Chapel Methodist Church, 1895, Ben Hill County

  1. Has any work been done to preserve the church? If you have something in the works, I am a carpenter and would be happy to volunteer my time to help, let me know.

  2. Brianna Stone

    My grandmother grew up going to this church. She always goes there to visit her loved ones at the cemetery. Also I go there to make sure everything is okay with place and to see of anything has been stolen that is sentimental to my grandma. Please be careful what you do with this church. It means a lot to her. She wouldn’t want to see it go away forever.
    Thanks,
    Brianna Stone
    Student of FHS
    Granddaughter of Marsha Biggers McWhorter

  3. RhondaS

    May be it could be used for a construction class from the local high school or tech school as a “hands on project.” Just a thought.

  4. One more thing – there is an old church in Hancock County that has been “preserved” by a local group there – keep in mind Hancock County is a very poor county in GA. I posted some iphone photos here: http://theoldpostroadblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/perfect-church-on-outside.html It may take minimal restoration to keep it standing (keep the roof from leaking) and place it on the historic register. Just a thought.

    This is all I could find about the Hancock County preservation group with a google search – a few names at the bottom that might be helpful in establishing an Historic Foundation for similar buildings in Irwin/Ben Hill Counties. There may even be grant money available (which I know is actually tax money which is actually govt money which is not where govt should be putting any money…) http://www.bizapedia.com/ga/HANCOCK-COUNTY-FOUNDATION-FOR-HISTORIC-PRESERVATION-INC.html

  5. Joan Richards-Herndon

    Westville in Lumpkin area might be interested, if all else failed. Hwy 27 North of Blakely about 1 hour, an interesting 1850 village…Joan Herndon in now Early county,Ga.

  6. I shared the facebook page with my friends, hopefully word of mouth will spread and be of some help. Good luck with this endeavor!

  7. What a shame. Beautiful old building. I sent your link and some photos to This Old House. You never know – they often feature a “save this old house” section.

    What amazes me is that a beautiful old church like that can fall into disrepair while congregations will spend money to build an ugly steel structure with no windows -a building which favors a warehouse more than a church!

  8. Bruce Capps

    Brian,
    You might be on to something with that idea. There are a lot of buildings in South GA that could be helped (not saved but somewhat stabilized) with some good advice, donated materials and day or two of work from a group of volunteers. I tried to do exactly this in Vienna at the Rosenwald School but the Board of Education was not very receptive. However there might be more success with a private structure and a group organized something like Habitat. Certainly this is not a solution but might buy time and draw attention to the issue, both specifically and generally.

    • Thanks, Bruce…I CERTAINLY would not expect any help from local governments that often don’t even know about or promote such structures. It’s a slippery slope, either way…

      • Bruce Capps

        I am ever the optimist and I wanted to do it right.
        But seriously, perhaps for starters you team up with a church. In Vienna I was trying to work it through the Empowerment Zone people. And they were willing. Perhaps a more diversified mission to include historical education and minor construction experience for beginners.

      • Sounds like a useful idea…

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