Tag Archives: South Georgia Churches

Dooly Tabernacle & Campground, 1875

I’m grateful to Janet Joiner, Community Development Director for the City of Vienna, for sharing the following text. Source: History of Dooly County Camp Ground, published by E. G. Greene in 1934. Thanks are due Bert Gregory, as well, for a tour of the grounds.

In 1874, the Rev. George T. Embry, Sr. was appointed by the South Georgia Methodist conference as Senior Preacher for the Vienna and Dooly Mission, which was in the Americus District.  Rev. Embry’s charge was a large one that included all the territory from the Flint River west to Pulaski and Wilcox Counties on the east, and from Houston County north to Gum Creek on the south.  The mode of traveling throughout the territory was on horseback or in buggies following Indian trails.

One day Embry was traveling the Slosheye Trail toward Vienna. This trail connected the Flint River at Drayton with the Ocmulgee River in Hawkinsville. As he crossed the Pennahatchee Creek over to Sandy Mount Creek, he stopped to let his horse drink. He crossed the creek to the south side and discovered a large spring bubbling out from under a rocky hillside. As he and his horse drank the cool water, Embry felt compelled to explore further. 

He climbed the slope on the north side of the creek and came to a high flat area covered with nice large trees of all kinds.  As he stood there, he felt God urging him to build a campground on the site.  There was no longer a campground in this section of Georgia.  Feeling the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Embry envisioned a campground where people could worship and fellowship with God and with man. 

Embry began to share his vision with his parishioners and soon people agreed to meet at the Methodist Church in Vienna on Saturday, July 18, 1874 for a camp meeting rally.  Several prominent men in the community gave speeches advocating the project and the enthusiastic congregation voted unanimously to build a campground somewhere near where Embry’s vision took place.  Various committees were appointed to select a site, to obtain a deed, to select a name, and to solicit funds. They agreed to meet again the first week in August 1874.

At the August meeting, the site committee offered several locations, but the place chosen to build an arbor was the spot where George Embry had his vision and where the Tabernacle now stands. Thomas Whitsett donated eleven acres of land to be used for the camp meeting purposes. This was Land Lot 118 in the Seventh Land District, three miles northwest of Vienna. The deed was a revertible deed with a clause that if services were not held for three consecutive years the land would revert back to Whitsett or his heirs. Seven men were elected Trustees to take care of the property.  They were:  John Skipper, O. P. Swearingen, Sr., C. C. Clark, Belton O. Prather, Miles C. Jordan, James Butler and W. I. Brown.

The name committee offered two suggestions:  “Pennahatchee Camp Ground” or “The Dooly County Camp Ground”.  The latter was selected.  The solicitation committee had collected approximately $100.00 to be used for building a brush arbor and to cover the expenses of the first camp meeting to be held in September 1874. There was a large attendance and this first meeting was considered a success. At the close of the session, there was much enthusiasm for building a permanent tabernacle.  Money and in-kind donations amounting to $2,000 were pledged and a building committee was appointed and directed to begin at once in order to have a permanent tabernacle ready by the next summer. 

In March 1875, once the crops were gathered, those who promised to work were ready to begin. The building committee had arranged with a man from Montezuma to oversee the construction of the tabernacle, but after looking at the plan he decided he could not build it and backed out.  At that time Lucius J. McCall* was building a bridge across the Flint River at Drayton so the building committee approached him about the tabernacle project.  He looked over the plans and felt confident that he could build it.  It is not certain who drew the plan for the tabernacle but it is generally thought that the building committee drew the plans assisted by Rev. Embry and Mr. McCall. Men and boys came from all parts of the county to help in building the tabernacle under the supervision of McCall.  Much of the lumber used was either donated or sold at a very low price by local saw mills.  The Tabernacle was completed and the first camp meeting held under the structure began on August 26, 1875.  Rev. Embry saw his vision become a reality as he preached at that first service under the Tabernacle. [*- Many bridge builders in the years following the Civil War were former slaves, like the legendary Horace King. I have not been able to locate any further information about Lucius J. McCall, but will share if I learn more].

The Tabernacle is 84 feet 6 inches wide by 100 feet 6 inches long.  The entire construction was done with notches and pegs. The beams were so carefully crafted to be straight and true that they did not miss their notches more than one-half inch.  The beautifully cut, hand-hewn heart pine beams were 44 feet long and were raised by hand-drawn windlasses.  They were cut with a broad ax in order that the smooth edge would not absorb water. The posts and rafters are yellow pine; all are heartwood which lasts because it was grown to full maturity.

As centers of social activity attended by people from multiple counties, tabernacles and camp grounds needed shelters for the many families who frequented them. These were originally temporary and often in the form of tents. As families were able, they built more permanent, if primitive cabins, but the term tents remained in use. The few remaining tents at Dooly Camp Ground have been modernized.

The historic Pleasant Valley Methodist Church, once located nearby, was relocated to the site for preservation.

Dooly Campground still serves its original purpose and is well maintained.

 

 

 

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Filed under --DOOLY COUNTY GA--

Ways Baptist Church, 1851, Jefferson County

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.

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Filed under --JEFFERSON COUNTY GA--, Zebina GA

Ebenezer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1877, Jefferson County

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.

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Filed under --JEFFERSON COUNTY GA--

First Presbyterian Church, 1884, Waynesboro

Dating to the colonial era, the First Presbyterian Church of Waynesboro was founded in 1760 with the establishment of a church on Briar Creek (Episcopalian) and another on Walnut Branch.  The present church grew out of the union of these two churches in 1812. The present structure, the third to serve the congregation on this site, was dedicated in 1884.

Waynesboro Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under --BURKE COUNTY GA--, Waynesboro GA

Mt. Zion C. M. E. Church, Shell Bluff

 

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Filed under --BURKE COUNTY GA--, Shell Bluff GA

Dodge’s Chapel United Methodist Church, 1920s, Telfair County

This congregation was established in 1886 on land given by the Dodge Lumber Company. Reverend W. D. McGregor was the first pastor. The original church building was destroyed by high winds in the early 1920s and immediately rebuilt.

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Filed under --TELFAIR COUNTY GA--

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Jeff Davis County

Mount Pleasant was organized in 1820 and is among the oldest congregations in Jeff Davis County. This structure, built on land given by the Byrd family circa 1878, was used until a newer structure was built next door in 1989. It is sometimes referred to as Byrd Church.

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Filed under --JEFF DAVIS COUNTY GA--