Tag Archives: Churches of Camden County GA

Bickley Chapel, Camden County

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Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church, Spring Bluff

Rising Daughter Missionary Baptist Church is an historic congregation, but other than its association with a tragic unsolved murder case, I haven’t been able to locate any of its history. It’s one of several important early Black churches near the Satilla River in Camden County.I determined it’s an old congregation due to the historic cemetery.

Though the congregation has not allowed itself to be defined by a well-known tragedy, and has thrived in fact, Rising Daughter has been known to the outside world for the events of 11 March 1985. At a missionary meeting on that date, a white man interrupted the proceedings and senselessly shot and killed Deacon Harold Swain and his wife Thelma inside the church, with no apparent motive. Witnesses noted that the intruder pointed to Harold Swain and specifically asked to speak to him. As Mr. Swain walked toward the entryway to speak to man, his wife followed. She was shot once and Mr. Swain was shot four times. The only real evidence was a pair of glasses left by the shooter at the scene, and a composite sketch made by descriptions from some of the ladies who were in the church for the meeting. No one was arrested for nearly 15 years.

A new investigator came on the scene in 1998 and his focus turned to Dennis Perry, who was arrested and ultimately convicted of the crime in 2000, an election year. Perry had been an early suspect, based on an identification made from the composite sketch and the presumably false testimony of a woman (now deceased) who collected a reward, unbeknownst to jurors at the time. Fast forward to 2020, and Dennis Perry has been exonerated, thanks to the work of the Georgia Innocence Project and irrefutable DNA evidence. Today, he is a free man.

A possible DNA match is being investigated by those who have reopened the case and hopefully justice will finally be done, most importantly for the loved ones of the Swain family.

Rising Daughter Cemetery

Rising Daughter Cemetery has quite a few important vernacular monuments, including two of the Madonna monuments detailed here. A few random examples are documented below.

Butler Baker (23 March 1906-11 December 1970)
David Scott (22 March 1895-15 August 1958)
Bertha Ann Hampton (20 May 1952-17 September 1952). The headstones of the two Hampton children feature a cross made from readily available bathroom tile. A nice touch is the pink tile for the daughter and the blue tile for the son.
Michael E. Hampton (5 July 1952-18 July 1958)
Sylvia Scott (6 January 1860-27 March 1938)
Ester Flagg (9 December 1915-1 July 1943). The name on the headstone is “Easter”.

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Clinch Chapel United Methodist Church, Tarboro

African-Americans have been well-established in the Tarboro community since the days of slavery, and in subsequent years owned land and farms throughout the area. Clinch Chapel traces its origins to an informal congregation organized by Brother Zachery Butler to serve the spiritual needs of enslaved people from the nearby Owens, King, and Clinch plantations. After years of meeting in a brush arbor, the congregation erected a wood frame church in 1896, using trees milled at Ceylon plantation and floated on the Satilla to Owens Ferry, from where they were hauled on oxcarts to this site. The first trustees of the congregation were Josh Washington, Rinea Washington, Henry Robinson, Hanna Robinson, Isaac Johnson, Lucy Nicklow, Pompey Gordon, and Lizzie Gordon.

The new church was destroyed by a storm and reorganized in 1897, and again in 1901, at which time a new structure was constructed. Reverend A. B. Fish was pastor at the time.

During the pastorate of Reverend C. O. Gordon, the church was again reorganized in 1953 and the foundation of the present chapel was laid in 1963. Association with the United Methodist Church began in 1968. According to the cornerstone, the present structure was completed circa 1992. Sarah Small, Jack Small, William D. Small, Sr., Henry Butler, Sr., Calvin Small, Sr., and Joseph Hamilton, Sr., were on the Building Committee.

Clinch Chapel Cemetery

The cemetery at Clinch Chapel contains more than a dozen vernacular memorials, including one of the Madonna monuments detailed here. The following photographs appear in no particular order but serve as examples of the variety of work present. As is the case with all such markers, environmental factors and the passage of time pose the greatest threat to their long-term survival. This is my main reason for documenting them, but I also find them beautiful and moving works of art and have the utmost respect for the love and devotion they represent.

Reverend John Mungin (Birth and death dates unknown)

Reverend Mungin’s headstone features three crosses and is wedge-shaped.

Luevenia Randolph (29 November 1886-1 May 1944). Ms. Randolph’s headstone is of a type found in numerous African-American and white cemeteries, especially rural locations, which simply use a stencil on a poured slab to identify the decedent. Not quite as common, though, are the applied symbols, including shaking hands, hands pointing to Heaven, bibles, and winged heads (cherubim).

Peter Jackson (1888?-29 July 1938)
Addie Mitchell (17 August 1905-6 June 1942)
Unknown. The symbols have obviously been reapplied on this headstone, which is unfortunately unreadable.
Unknown
Solina Glassco (7 November 1874-5 November 1926). This is obviously a commercially produced monument, and a very nice one at that, but I have included it here because it documents an association with a Mosaic Templars lodge. In African-American communities of the time, these lodges often provided low cost burial insurance and in some cases the placement of a headstone. This one indicates that Glassco was a member of the Carrie Bell Chamber 2855, Mosaic Templars of America, which was located at nearby White Oak.

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Oak Hill United Methodist Church, Camden County

The South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church notes that this church near the Satilla River was…Organized before the Civil War, for years the congregation didn’t know its denomination. Following the Civil War, it was unused; several groups tried to buy it, but the Methodists succeeded. For a time it was also used as a school. The wooden building [no longer extant] was built in the early 1900s, and in 1973 the South Georgia Conference Work Team helped to begin a new concrete block building…It was the first Black-owned church in Camden County.

Aside from being among the oldest Black congregations in Camden County, Oak Hill is home to an important historic cemetery, which includes two of the Madonna monuments detailed here.

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Christ Episcopal Church, 1885, St. Marys

The first Episcopal Church in St. Marys was built on this site prior to 1812. The present structure was built circa 1885, while the Reverend Anson Green Phelps, Jr., of Christ Church, Frederica, was serving as the priest.

St. Marys Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Camden County

This historic church is located in a rural area of Camden County.

A newer building now serves the congregation, which dates to 1877.

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