This well-maintained African-American cemetery contains a collection of vernacular headstones of statewide importance, both as artifacts of ingenuity in the face of adversity and as sacred ground to the loved ones of those interred here. Thanks to Cynthia Jennings for making me aware of the site. Smith Grove [Smiths or Smith’s in some references] members made the best of what was available to them, which was typical of rural congregations. Many of the memorials are nearly unreadable*, but consider that at the time they were made, most rural African-American schools were grossly underfunded and were barely able to provide the basics of an education, and the makers of these were likely “drawing” the letters as opposed to writing them. I believe Smith Grove Cemetery should be on the National Register of Historic Places.
*-All names and dates that follow are presumed to be correct but the nature of the script makes it difficult to be completely accurate
There are four triangular memorials, likely all accomplished by the same maker. Dates on Findagrave for these stones are not completely accurate. The way the numbers are positioned makes it nearly impossible to determine an actual date, in most cases.
This historic African-American congregation is still active and this structure is adjacent to the associated cemetery. I am unaware of the history of the church, but it is possible that itwas established by former slaves of the Old Town plantation, located nearby.
This structure is located near the old church, and may have been a schoolhouse. Near the newer church is also a structure which appears to have been a school. I hope to learn more.
Ways Baptist Church was organized in 1817 near the present-day community of Stellaville, about three miles east of Wrens. It was named for Bill Way, who donated the land on which it was sited. The members were originally part of Brushy Creek Baptist Church but were dismissed for some reason, perhaps because they had slaves. Enslaved persons were among the first members of the new congregation. A log cabin was built first, then a more formal structure, replaced by this church in 1851. It features what appears to be a slave gallery (common in churches with slave members) and was likely built by the slaves themselves. After emancipation, they founded their own congregation nearby, known as Ways Grove Baptist Church.
It is a beautiful church and churchyard, and there is an historic cemetery across the highway.
Ebenezer can trace its roots to the 1770s, when a group of Whigs split with the Tories at nearby Buckhead Bethel Church (known today as Bethel, in Vidette). The Whigs first met on the property of Richard Fleeting. The church was first known as Fleeting’s Meeting House, then Big Creek, before settling on Ebenezer. Reverend Thomas Beattie was the first pastor, sometimes dividing his duties between Buckhead Bethel and Louisville. He died suddenly and was replaced by a Tory, the Reverend William Donaldson, but due to the Revolutionary fervor of most members he left the congregation in 1776. The next minister, Reverend David Bothwell, cam from Ireland in 1790. Bothwell was a friend and counselor to Governor Jared Irwin. Irwin, and Governors James Jackson and David Emanuel were elders at Bethel. Erskine Caldwell’s father, Ira Sylvester Caldwell, preached here much later, as well.
The church, located between Louisville and Wrens, is still active and has done a wonderful job maintaining the church and its historic graveyard.
According to Lorraine Frederick Minton, whose great-great-great-grandfather, Francis Eugene Flanders founded the church, it was designed with a “Quaker Heart”. Flanders was a circuit rider. Her great-great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Drake, was the architect. She notes: It was originally built on the other side of the “swamp” and later pulled by oxen and placed on logs to cross the swamp and placed where it is today. The original church records are now reported to be stored at Lake Junaluska, NC.
Bartow UMC was organized on 18 July 18 1879. In the late 1890’s the church was moved into the town of Bartow. The original church building was torn down and rebuilt.
Constituted as the First Baptist Church, the congregation now simply calls itself Bartow Baptist Church. J. G. Gunter was the pastor at the time this structure was raised. The cornerstone lists the building committee as: J. R. O. Smith; A. S. Chamlee; N. A. Williams; T. C. Jordan; T. Y. Smith; G. H. Ratchford; and L. G. Smith.