The only information I’ve been able to locate on the history of Wesley Chapel, located in the forgotten community of Beatrice, is that it was established in 1838.
That date comes from the old South Georgia Conference-provided sign at the front of the church. The sign is of a type used by the conference in the 1930s-1940s or thereabouts.
An architectural survey dates the present structure to 1890. The stained glass windows appear to be later additions.
Perhaps as interesting as the church itself is the historic cemetery which lies adjacent to the structure. The earliest burials I noted dated to the early 1840s. The cemetery affords excellent views of the surrounding countryside and is characterized by two large enclosures made of local stone. They are great examples of early vernacular funerary architecture.
The shady respite of the Sims Plot is enclosed by a local stone fence, abundant with Resurrection Fern.
The plot of pioneer Thomas Turner House [18 April 1787-14 June 1851] & Elizabeth Young House [20 Jun 1787-5 December 1863] and family is made of local red stone and is a massive enclosure.
A gate once guarded the plot but is long gone.
The fence was well built and has survived largely intact, though this section has collapsed. It is likely descendants have made repairs over the years.
On 24 July 2021 I was honored to attend the dedication of a mural designed by nationally renowned artist Lonnie Holley and painted by his son Ezekiel, on the side of the Singer Hardware building on the square in Lumpkin. Mr. Holley’s work is often classified as Outsider Art, though The New York Times called him “the Insider’s Outsider”.
The work actually comprises two individual works of art. The image on the left is “Born into Color”, and the image at right is “Black in the Midst of the Red, White, and Blue”.
According to his website, Lonnie Holley began working by the time he was five years old. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1950, and lived in a whiskey house, the state fairgrounds, and several foster homes. Holley notes that his early life was chaotic and he never got to experience a real childhood. Perhaps this explains why the artist has such an infectious good spirit today.
Also from Mr. Holley’s website: Since 1979, Holley has devoted his life to the practice of improvisational creativity. His art and music, born out of struggle, hardship, but perhaps more importantly, out of furious curiosity and biological necessity, has manifested itself in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound. Holley’s sculptures are constructed from found materials in the oldest tradition of African American sculpture. Objects, already imbued with cultural and artistic metaphor, are combined into narrative sculptures that commemorate places, people, and events. His work is now in collections of major museums throughout the country, on permanent display in the United Nations, and been displayed in the White House Rose Garden. In January of 2014, Holley completed a one-month artist-in-residence with the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation in Captiva Island, Florida, site of the acclaimed artist’s studio.
A nice crowd turned out for the dedication and braved excessive heat for the opportunity to meet Mr. Holley.
This young man kicked off the ceremony with a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem.
Annie Moye, who organized the event and helped secure the mural, speaks at the dedication.
Mike McFalls, an Associate Professor of Art at Columbus State University and Director of Pasaquan, gave context about Mr. Holley’s place in the art world and a brief overview of his life and career.
Spontaneity was the order of the day, and Mr. Holley was quick to join the improvisational street dance and shared some good moves with the crowd.
Mr. Holley also took time to visit with anyone who was so inclined and personally answered many questions from those in attendance.
He also gave a demonstration of his process to local 4-H members.
I want to personally thank Annie Moye for inviting me to document the event and to give a special thanks to Lonnie, Ezekiel, and the entire Holley family for allowing me to photograph them. They were really nice folks and I’m honored to have had the opportunity.
Mac Moye notes that this wonderfully maintained Greek Revival farmhouse was built by his great-great-great uncle, C. R. West. He also mentioned that the late George Salter Lee, a one-time mayor of Omaha, Georgia, did a wonderful drawing of the house for the Bedingfield Inn Cookbook.
The land which today comprises West Hill was first acquired by William Cunningham of Pulaski County in the Land Lottery of 1827. Cunningham never occupied the property and sold it to David Harrell about 1836, when the Greek Revival main house* is thought to have been constructed. He sold the property to William West (1799-1873) in 1853. By 1860, West had 3500 acres in cultivation and 2000 acres in timberland, making him one of the largest plantation owners in Georgia. He was also a leading cotton producer, with a record of 430 bales produced around 1860. Slave labor was integral to the operation.
West deeded the property to his daughter, Annie Crooks West, in 1867. She later married James Nelson McMichael and they lived in the main house the rest of their lives. After Mrs. McMichael’s death in 1915, estate administrators operated the farm until it was purchased by her nephew, L. M. Moye, Sr., in 1929. His descendants continue to own the property. I’m most grateful to Mac Moye for a generous tour of the grounds. The property is inhabited and private.
*-Mac Moye notes the similarity of the main house to the Bedingfield Inn in Lumpkin, suggesting they were likely designed by the same builder. This must be considered more than coincidental, considering the rural nature of Stewart County in the 1830s.
West Hill Dependencies
The historical importance of West Hill is most evident in the surviving dependencies that were the hallmark of self-sustaining plantation life. That the West descendants have maintained these structures in such authentic condition for more than a century-and-a-half seems nothing short of miraculous. Other than the absence of the original wooden shingles, the outbuildings are true to their original condition.
Schoolhouse, Circa 1853
Perhaps the most significant of the remaining dependencies at West Hill is the plantation schoolhouse. One of the first schools ever built in Stewart County, its use by neighboring children was strongly encouraged by William West, who even brought a tutor from New York to teach his children here.
Schoolhouse- Foundation Stones
Schoolhouse- Dovetail Joinery
Commissary/Meat Storage House
Privy- Interior, showing the unusual five-seat design.
West Hill Dependencies- Slave Dwellings of “The Grove”
Few properties in Georgia retain the dwelling places of enslaved persons, so the survival of these three at West Hill is extraordinary. Though they have been maintained by the family for their historical value, they are the most endangered, and arguably the most important structures on the property. About a quarter mile from the main house in an area referred to as “The Grove”, these single-pen houses were used as tenant homes long after emancipation. As a result of their later use, two were slightly modified. One has an extra room and shed room, while another has a shed room. Like the dependencies at the periphery of the main house, these structures were of log construction with siding and would also have originally featured wooden shingles.
Slave Dwelling No. 1
All of the slave dwellings are believed to be contemporary to the construction of the main house, dating them to circa 1836.
One of Georgia’s best-known citizens during his lifetime, General Clement Anselm Evans (1833-1911) was born near Lumpkin to Anselm & Sarah Evans and grew up in this house. He was admitted to the bar at the age of 18 and married Mary Allen “Allie” Walton in 1854 . He was soon thereafter elected to a Stewart County judgeship and five years later was elected a state senator on the Know-Nothing ticket.
In April 1861, Evans resigned his legislative post and joined the Confederate army as a private. He became commander of the Bartow Guards (Thirty-first Georgia Infantry) in 1862, fought at Shenandoah and was present at nearly every battle of the Army of Northern Virginia. Evans was promoted to brigadier general in 1864.
After the war, General Evans was ordained a Methodist minister. He served at least six congregations in North Georgia over the course of 26 years. Upon the death of his wife in 1884, he married Sarah Ann Avary Howard. After retiring from the ministry, he edited the 13-volume Confederate Military History and coedited the influential Cyclopedia of Georgia. He was a co-founder and Georgia Division commander of the United Confederate Veterans and served the organization as commander-in-chief from 1909-1911. His body lay in state in the state capitol and his funeral was heavily attended. Evans County was named in his honor in 1914.
Pigtail Alley Historic District, National Register of Historic Places