The architecture leads me to believe this was a church, though it could have been a schoolhouse.
Young’s Chapel has been one of my favorite places since I first discovered it over ten years ago. I drive out from Fitzgerald nearly every time I’m home just to check on it. Though I have no connections to the church, I’ve always felt at home when I visit. It’s the kind of place that has that effect on many. On one of those recent trips, I was heartbroken when I saw the damage done by a tornado which passed through in January. As if this special little church needed anything else working against it.
Luckily, Matt Brown recently rescued the pews before vandals could steal or destroy them. They were gone before the tornado came through.
Talk of restoration has been ongoing, but in light of the recent damage it will be an even more difficult task, perhaps impossible.
Before it was known as Arp, this community on the Irwin-Ben Hill County line was known as Isaac. The name was changed sometime between 1910 and 1915, and judging by the burial dates in the adjoining cemetery, I would estimate that this church dates to about 1910.
Since there was already an Isaac Baptist Church, the small African-American community here named their church Mount Isaac, to distinguish it from the the white church. And though Arp is located in Irwin County, the church and cemetery are just over the county line in Ben Hill.
Many thanks to Laura Wiggins Norris for bringing it to my attention, and to Dale Bledsoe for the history.
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.
This landmark church was likely constructed with material from Fitzgerald Granitoid Works. In recent years its facade has been altered with the addition of a lift for elderly members.
From the cornerstone: Grand Lodge of Georgia F & A. M.; June 20, 1924 A. D. A. L. 5924; J. D. Hamrich, Grand Master Salem Baptist Church – Constituted 1876 – Erected 1924; Deacons: J. T. Young, W. B. White, J. B. Jones, A. L. Reeves, Alfred Gibbs, J. O. Livingston, J. F. Crow, Pastor