The cornerstone of this idyllic country church near Lake Blackshear notes that it was completed in 1962 at the initiation of Reverend J. B. Josey, who died before construction was completed. Reverend Matthew Brown was pastor when the church was dedicated and deacons were Brother R. M. Mercer, Chairman; Brother Oscar Daniel, Vice Chairman; Brother Willie Hooks, Sexton; Brother George Harris, Treasurer; Brother Brother Ike Holt, Sr.; Brother Joseph Holt; Brother Robert Walker; and Mrs. Jewel Jones, Secretary.
Tag Archives: South Georgia African-American History & Culture
The lost community that came to be known as Church Hill was opened to white settlers by the Land Lottery of 1827. To accommodate new arrivals, Native American trading routes were improved or superseded by the creation of new roads. In 1832, Timothy Barnard’s Path, which ran from Columbus to St. Marys, became known as the St. Marys Road or the Old Salt Trail. At a point between Kinchafoonee Creek and Lanahassee Creek, where three roads crossed St. Marys Road, five churches were built in a relatively short time, including: Mt. Pisgah (Kinchafoonee) Free Will Baptist (date unknown); Shiloh Baptist (1835); Christian Union (1840); Smyrna Associate Reformed Presbyterian (1838); and Evan Chapel Methodist (1838). Records indicate a school known as Centerville Academy was formed by the Smyrna trustees in 1838, suggesting the original name for the community was Centerville. It is unclear when the moniker of Church Hill came into use, but it first appeared on maps in 1870. The Church Hill post office was operational from 1893-1903, so it is likely that the area suffered a significant population decline at the beginning of the 20th century.
Shiloh-Marion is the last remaining church of the five that gave Church Hill its name and is a great example of vernacular Greek Revival architecture, common in antebellum churches in Georgia. A sign at the church notes the founding date as 1812, the year of the first mission; further documentation gives the founding date as 1835, when eleven members joined the Bethel Baptist Association. The church structure is believed to be contemporary to the latter date.
Shiloh-Marion Baptist Church Cemetery, 1830s
The cemetery is a fascinating landmark in its own right, containing typical Victorian monuments and an unusual collection of stone markers. The stones are either stacked in elongated triangular forms or used as fencing. There has been some speculation that they are Native American in origin and to my knowledge there are no familial claims by church members. This still doesn’t get anywhere near evidence of Native American ties, but t’s worthy of investigation either way.
A sign and wooden cross mark the slave cemetery.
Unmarked concrete stones have been placed at approximate burial locations.
Travelers Rest was an early community near the banks of the Flint River, settled circa 1830 as pioneers pushed westward in the Georgia interior. On land given by pioneer David Jones in 1836, the Methodists established a church and cemetery here, which they shared with Travelers Rest Baptist until that congregation built a new home, just steps away, in 1867. For many years they were referred to as twin churches.
Travelers Rest was incorporated as Bristol in 1838 but by the 1860s was supplanted in importance by the growing communities of Oglethorpe and Montezuma, a few miles distant. Since most members of Travelers Rest Methodist moved their letters to new congregations in those communities, the church was deeded to the Travelers Rest C. M. E. Church in 1884. The present structure was built circa 1890 by the African-Americans and hosted its last service in 1994. Graves of black and white members are scattered around the building, mostly obscured by vegetation today and in desperate need of attention.
Ann Chamlee made this photograph in 1989. A newer structure stands on this site, near the Powersville community, and this historic African-American church is presumed to be long gone. Like Jordan Chapel A. M. E. in Haddock, Lizzie Chapel was likely used by the community for various purposes.