Thanks to Robert Deen for the identification; this was the longtime home of his grandparents, Preston and Orleans Seanor. This was also the third home of the Fitzgerald First Baptist Church. It was first located somewhere on Main Street, I believe. The congregation first met in a furniture store, from December 1895 until erecting a small slab building which they used from 1896-1898. This is thought to be the first frame church, used by the congregation from 1898 until 1912. A bell tower was originally part of the structure, but was likely demolished before it was moved. The bell tower was built to hold the bell given the Baptists by Governor William J. Northen for being the first congregation in Fitzgerald to build a permanent church. (The bell is located on the front lawn at the present Fitzgerald First Baptist Church.) The side dormers were obviously added to give the structure a more acceptable residential appearance; take them and the covered front porch away and you can see the faint outline of a typical vernacular church.
Thanks to Bob & Jan Dean, via Skeeter Humphreys, for sharing this circa 1940s image.
Here’s one from my personal collection. I recently acquired this image of my father’s church, as it looked in the mid-1950s. What I’m most amazed by is all the ladies in their hats. Pine Level was constituted in 1889, and though it’s been bricked in, it’s still in its same location. The lady third from left, facing left, with the black hat and shawl, is my great-grandmother, Mattie Leila Doggett Brown (1876 – 1977), who lived to be nearly 101.
Westwood is an historic unincorporated African-American community located west of Fitzgerald. Most of its residents originally worked in the nearby Atlantic Coastline Railroad shops. I believe this was a fundamentalist church, either Holiness Baptist or Apostolic.
Though the present structure dates to 1913, Bethlehem Church has been active for nearly 175 years. The historic marker reads: Ozias Primitive Baptist Church was constituted July 14, 1832. Elders Wilson Conner and John Martial were the Presbytery. Members were John McDonald, Randall McDonald, Elijah Hunter, Penelope Hunter, Catherine McCall, Mary McDonald, Elizabeth McDonald. The Rev. Randall McDonald was pastor, and Redding Hunter was clerk. On March 11, 1854, it was agreed to change the name to Bethlehem Church. The Rev. Hardy McGlawn and the Rev. W.F. Willis served as first pastors after Bethlehem Church was constituted.
Many area pioneers are buried in its historic cemetery.
South Main-South Lee Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
This historic African-American congregation dates to 1881. Many former slaves are buried in its cemetery.
This is the church I grew up in, going to Sunday School and sitting beside my great-grandmother, Sadie Browning (Momma’s side). We always sat near the back and near my great-aunt and great-uncle, Gladys & Chester Brown (Daddy’s side). We also occasionally attended Daddy’s family church, Pine Level Methodist out off Evergreen Road.