This home was built by Gilliard Roberts, an early African-American entrepreneur who had businesses in Savannah and Claxton. It was later owned by Walter & Mattie Scott, Julius Caesar Banks, and served as a boarding house and apartment house for teachers.
Tag Archives: South Georgia African-American History & Culture
Lena Baker (8 June 1900-5 March 1945), the only woman ever executed in Georgia’s electric chair, sang in the choir at Mt. Vernon.
Ms. Baker, a mother of three, was forced into a sexual relationship with her elderly white employer, Ernest B. Knight. It was well-known and frowned upon throughout the county. When Knight realized that Ms. Baker was determined to end the relationship he locked her in his gristmill, as he had done many times before. When she tried to escape, they “tussled” over his pistol which fired and killed him. She immediately turned herself in and claimed the shooting was in self-defense. Not surprisingly, the all-male, all-white jury in the ensuing sham trial found Ms. Baker guilty of capital murder and sentenced her to death. She was executed at Reidsville on 5 March 1945 and buried at Mt. Vernon. That this was a tragic, if typical, miscarriage of justice was confirmed when she was granted a full and unconditional pardon by the state in 2005.
Church members placed a headstone on her unmarked grave in 1998 and family members pay tribute every year on Mother’s Day.
As to the history of the congregation, I’m unable to locate anything at this time.
At the western edge of Sumter County stand the remains of the African-American community of Archery. As a boy, President Jimmy Carter lived about a mile up the road and in his books has shared fond memories of Archery. One of his earliest role models was Archery native William Decker Johnson, Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
From the historical marker: This rural community of Archery, established in the 1800´s, consisted of a train stop, houses of railroad employees, the St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, a school for black youth, and a store. The community was named for Sublime Order of Archery, a relief organization of the A.M.E. Church which assisted the southern black families.
Two permanent white families, the Watsons and the Carters, lived here. Edward Herman Watson was the Seaboard Railroad section foreman and James Early Carter, Sr., was the father of Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States who spent his youth here. The other 25 families were African-American.
William Decker Johnson, bishop of the A.M.E. Church, became the most prominent person in Archery. He came here with the purpose of establishing a school for black youth lacking the resources for an education. The Johnson Home Industrial College opened its doors in 1912 and offered technical classes aiding students to obtain jobs. This school offered male and female students primary, high school, collegiate, and vocational classes. Bishop Johnson´s efforts for the cause of education had many faithful supporters who helped the school to flourish. Bishop Johnson is buried in the St. Mark A.M.E. Church cemetery.
Built as a grocery store in 1899 by Joseph H. Dismuke, this structure also served his family as a residence. Dismuke was the nephew of Elbert Head, a well-to-do black farmer and philanthropist, from whom he initially acquired the property. It was sold to Janice Coleman in 1919 and briefly owned by W. C. Flatt before being purchased in 1922 by John Minyard, who added a cafe. The cafe was so popular, especially on weekends and special occasions when it sold alcohol, that the neighborhood came to be known as”Minyard’s Bottom”. The Minyards got out of the business by the 1950s and Earnest Wilson, then his son Clyde, ran a barbershop here until Clyde’s illness in 1978.
These memories come from Karl Wilson’s (Clyde’s son) “History of the Storehouse”, written in 1985.
[The storehouse was originally located about 20 feet closer to the corner of the lot but was moved during infrastructural modifications in the neighborhood in 1987].
National Register of Historic Places
This historic marker, recently placed by Ben Hill County, details the history of the old Queensland School: In July 1913, applicants furnished 10 acres of land and $800.00 cash to build the Queensland Negro Industrial Training School on this site. The Ben Hill County Board of Education matched the funds, work began, and the school and grounds were dedicated on October 2, 1913. The Rosenwald Fund continued to support the school by financing building projects as needed for growth.
The first principal, J. Clifton Smith, a graduate of Brown College and Tuskegee Institute, promised the patrons that with their cooperation he would teach their children and themselves better use of the land and better modes of living. First term commencement exercises were held May 2-May 5, 1914. School enrollment for the first term totaled nearly 300 students representing seven counties; with 107 boys in the corn club and 76 girls in the canning club. The school was one of the first three in Georgia designated as Training Schools for excellent vocational training in labor professions. The school expanded academic offerings and prepared graduates to pursue professional careers as lawyers, doctors and educators as well as farmers and laborers.
In 1918, the school was supported by the county board of education, the Slater Fund and a Negro Baptist Association, mainly for the purpose of training teachers for the Negro schools. The original school included a two-story building with five large classrooms, a dormitory and teachers’ home. The faculty consisted of the principal and four assistants with an average enrollment of over 200 students. At that time, including Queensland, there were fourteen Negro schools in Ben Hill County. The rest were one- teacher schools located in church buildings with very little equipment.
The world is a better place because of the dedication of patrons, educators, administrators and the thousands of students who were educated on these grounds located “Deep into the heart of Southeast Georgia.” The Christian Fellowship Tabernacle Church, which now owns and occupies this site, continues the legacy of preparing people to make a positive difference in this world.
This image, from 1918, shows the original school in the foreground and dormitory in the distance. It appeared in M. L. Duggan’s Educational Survey of Ben Hill County. A modern replacement followed by the late 1940s or early 1950s and all components were razed by the early 2000s.