Tag Archives: South Georgia Tabernacles Singing Conventions & Campgrounds

Royal Singing Convention Memorial, 1991, Mystic

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Mystic Baptist Church Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

In July 1893 delegates and members of vocal classes established by William Jackson “Uncle Billy” Royal assembled at Irwin Institute to organize the Royal Singing Convention. From 1893 until 1912 the Convention met in Irwin and surrounding counties in churches of different denominations or in school houses. In 1912 a huge tent was purchased to accommodate the large number of people attending. In 1919 the people of Mystic established a fund to build a tabernacle to serve as a permanent home for the convention. The tabernacle was erected on this site in time to house the 1920 session. Changes in society and advancements in technology brought an end to the Royal Convention after meeting continuously each July for 85 years. The final session was held in 1977. The tabernacle was razed in 1982. [The New Georgia Encyclopedia notes that the first documented gospel singing convention in Georgia was founded as the South Georgia Singing Convention by Uncle Billy Royal in 1875, prior to the convention profiled here].

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Entrance Mystic Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

As many of the old timers were passing on, the first commemoration of this special place was the placement of a granite marker by Uncle Billy’s grandchildren in 1953. It’s located at the entrance to the new memorial.

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Tabernacle Footprint Mystic Baptist Church Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

This memorial reproduces the plan of the original tabernacle at full size. A low brick perimeter wall supported wooden posts which held up a massive roof. Today granite cubes indicate where those posts were located. The singer’s stages is recreated with the monument to “Uncle Billy”. At its edge, permanent memorials are dedicated to friends and loved ones or recall precious memories, favorite hymns and treasured Bible verses. It was dedicated in 1991 after much work by the Royal Singing Convention Association. The Board of Trustees included: Charles C. Royal, Jr., President; Dorothy Royal Grimsley, Vice President; Helen Day Spacek, Secretary; Ralph W. Sims, Treasurer; and board members Eloise Royal Luke, Michael F. Royal, and Jacqueline E. Turner. Stanford Anderson, a nationally-known architect and professor at MIT was responsible for the design.

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Mystic Irwin County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

The memorial is located next to the historic Mystic Baptist Churh on Highway 32 in Mystic. It’s an open air memorial and therefore always open to the public. There is no admission charge.

Royal Singing Convention Memorial Mystic Irwin County GA Bust of Uncle Billy Royal by Marshall Daugherty 1953 Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Famed sculptor Marshall Daugherty, who created the John Wesley Monument in Savannah’s Reynolds Square, completed this bust of Uncle Billy Royal in 1953. Following are archival photos from the memorial.

Royal Singing Convention Tent in 1916 Mystic Irwin County GA

This is a view of the tabernacle tent in 1916. It was used from 1912 until 1919.

Royal Singing Convention Tabernacle Mystic Irwin County GA 1953

This photo from 1953 shows the tabernacle which was first used in 1920.

William Jackson Uncle Billy Royal Founder of Royal Singing Convention Mystic GA

William Jackson “Uncle Billy” Royal (16 April 1850-24 May 1931) – Founder and 1st President of the Convention.

James A Uncle Jimmie Royal President of Royal Singing Convention Mystic Irwin County GA

James A. “Uncle Jimmie” Royal – 2nd President of the Convention, 1931-1950. Son of William Jackson Royal.

Erston B Royal President of Royal Singing Convention Mystic Irwin Count GA

Erston B. Royal – 3rd and last President of the Convention, 1950-1977. Grandson of William Jackson Royal.

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Filed under --IRWIN COUNTY GA--, Mystic GA

Tattnall Camp Ground, 1867

Tattnall Campground GA Tabernacle Religious Folklife Landmark Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Camp grounds and tabernacles of this sort were once so common in Georgia that the phrase “at a Georgia camp meeting” was known the world over as an indication of religious fervor. Today, about thirty remain throughout the state. Tattnall County pioneer William Eason Tippins donated the land for the Camp Ground in 1867. The first trustees were: A. D. Eason; L. A. H. Tippins; Martin G. Tootle; D. H. Smith; J. J. Grooms; William Harden; and W. J. Jordan.

Tattnall County GA Campground Tabernacle Historic Marker Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The present tabernacle is not the original, though it is built in a similar style. It’s one of the neatest such camp grounds I’ve seen in my travels and it’s obvious how much pride the members take in the place.

Tattnall County GA Campground Tabernacle Altar Pulpit Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The interior of the tabernacle features lights and ceiling fans, a nice improvement over the old days.

Tattnall County GA Campground Tabernacle Pews Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Tents of the Tattnall Camp Ground

Tents Vernacular Houses Tattnall County Campground GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

The term “tents” is used to describe the small vernacular cabins that surround the tabernacle, a reference to the early days when actual tents were used. Most of these structures are quite modest, though they generally feature modern conveniences today. They are owned by member families and usually passed from generation to generation.

Tattnall Campground Vernacular Tents Dogtrot Cabin Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Tattnall Campground GA Tents Religious Landmark Folklife Old Time Religion Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Tattnall Campground GA Old Cabin Tent Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Tattnall County GA Campground Tents Vernacular Cabins Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Tattnall Campground GA Tent Interior Vernacular Architecture Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Tattnall County GA Campground Tabernacle Reverend William Eason Memorial Local Founder of Methodism Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

A monument beside one of the tents is dedicated to Reverend William Eason, the founder of Methodism in Tattnall County. It lists the children (and spouses) of Reverend Eason and his wife, Sarah Mattox Eason: Nancy – Died Young; Mary E. – William Tippins; Elijah – Died Young; Elizabeth – Dr. Daniel Sikes; Michael M. – Nancy James; Jane – Died Young; George – Died Young; Sarah Miriam – Elijah H. Mattox; William – Harriet Hurst; Abraham D. – Susan Tillman.

Visit their website here:

http://www.tattnallcamp.com/

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Antioch Institute, 1850s, Louvale

Antioch Institute School Primitive Baptist Church Louvale GA 1850s Antebellum Architecture Landmark Community House Picture Image Photograph Copyrigh © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

At first glance it’s not as imposing as the other three structures on Louvale’s wonderful Church Row, but the Antioch Institute is the most historic of the lot. Antebellum school buildings are rare in South Georgia. It was built in the 1850s and operated by the Antioch Primitive Baptist Church until 1895. It is believed to have also been used as the church until the structure to the south was built in 1885. Today it serves as the Louvale Community House and is the home of the Sybil and John B. Richardson School of Sacred Harp Singing.

Antioch Institute School Primitive Baptist Church Louvale GA Interior Community House Richardson School of Shape Note Singing Picture Image Photograph Copyrigh © Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2013

The historic marker, placed by the Historic Chattahoochee Commission and Antioch Primitive Baptist Church in 1986 reads: Built in the 1850s, the school was operated by the Antioch Primitive Baptist Church until it was sold to Stewart County in 1895. The building is believed to have been used for church services until the handsome building to the south was erected for that purpose about 1885. The county operated the Louvale High School here until 1928 when the upper grades were transferred to Lumpkin. The elementary school remained until 1942. The school is now used as the Louvale Community House which serves as the home for the Sybil and John B. Richardson School of Sacred Harp Singing.

Louvale Church Row Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

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Filed under --STEWART COUNTY GA--, Louvale GA

Effingham County Methodist Campground, Springfield

effingham-county-campmeeting-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012

Thought to be the oldest campmeeting in continuous existence in the South, the Effingham County Methodist Campground has been held at several locations since 1790, with the present tabernacle dating to 1910. The family “tents” which line the campground are actually permanent structures where people gather during events, which were once much longer in duration than today.

effingham-county-methodist-tabernacle-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012

A historical marker placed by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1990 notes: Effingham Camp Meeting has the longest record of continuous service in South Georgia-from 1790 according to oral tradition. The first camp ground was off Sisters’ Ferry Road on land of George Powledge, later sold to Gideon Mallette. In 1864 the site was burned during Sherman’s March to the Sea. In 1865 and 1866 encampment was held at Turkey Branch Methodist Church. In 1867 the camp ground was rebuilt on the Edward Bird tract at Springfield. In 1907 the present site was occupied after an exchange with G. M. Brinson. August encampment includes the third Sunday.

“Tents” of the Effingham County Methodist Campground

effingham-county-methodist-campground-zettler-tent-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012The Zettler Tent

effingham-county-methodist-campground-tent-photograph-copyright-brian-brown-vanishing-south-georgia-usa-2012

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Filed under --EFFINGHAM COUNTY GA--, Springfield GA

Royal Singing Convention, 1977, Mystic

This photo was made by Howard Marshall in 1977, as part of a folklife project funded by the Library of Congress. It depicts a dinner-on-the-grounds, which is a communal dining experience sadly disappearing from today’s church and family gatherings. To see more images like this, please visit the wonderful South Georgia Folklife Collection.

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Filed under --IRWIN COUNTY GA--, Mystic GA

Wesleyan Methodist Tabernacle, 1902, Ashburn

ashburn ga historic wesleyan methodist tabernacle photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

This is the typical style of pavilion used for gospel music “singing conventions” throughout the Wiregrass Region in the early part of the 20th century. Typically, these conventions were day-long or weekend-long gatherings. The structure was built by R. V. Ayers in 1902 when J. S. Shingler leased the site to the South Georgia Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In the nomination form for the National Register of Historic places, it’s noted that its urban setting makes it unusual for a Georgia campground. Most are located in rural areas. The form also notes, “The campground is also significant in religion as a product of the Wesleyan-Methodist faith, which began in 1843 and is a rare faith for Georgia but one that still exists today, as the Wesleyan Church. The Wesleyan Mehodist Church, a different Methodist faith than the Methodist-Episcopal Church (now the United Methodist Church), had a small following in Georgia, with the Ashburn-Tifton circuit being the largest in the state. This campground is said to be one of six associated with that faith that survive in Georgia. At the height of this faith’s activities is when the tabernacle was constructed about 1902, which was  before Ashburn became the county seat of Turner County in 1905. The Wesleyan Church itself stood nearby but is now gone. The religious campground/camp meeting movement was widespread in the 19th early 20th centuries and continues to this day.”

National Register of Historic Places

 

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Filed under --TURNER COUNTY GA--, Ashburn GA

Uncle Billy Royal Monument, Mystic

william jackson uncle billy royal memorial mystic ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2010

The inscription reads: William Jackson Royal “Uncle Billy” Apr. 16, 1850 – May 24, 1931 – Founder and First President of the Royal Singing Convention – Stalwart in heart, mind and body, gentle, kind, and considerate: his lilting gospel songs thrilled and admonished, lifted and inspired. He loved as he was beloved by the thousands who joined with him here and throughout his native section to sing joyously hymns of praise and petition. Leader, gentleman, and nobleman of God, his spirit and influence will live throughout the ages.

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Filed under --IRWIN COUNTY GA--, Mystic GA