New Ford Baptist Church, 1832, Danburg

New Ford Baptist Church began as a white congregation circa 1795, and typical of the times, had African-American members until the Civil War. It should be pointed out that the these men and women were almost certainly enslaved and therefore had no input as to their religious choice but at least in the case of this congregation, they embraced their church. The structure seen here was built in 1832 and purchased by Black members, who retained the New Ford name, in 1879. The two front steeples were added much later, likely the late 19th century.

It is the most historic African-American congregation in Wilkes County and the landmark structure and well-manicured churchyard and cemetery are exceptional. It is a truly inspiring place.

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Danburg Baptist Church, 1870s, Wilkes County

Danburg Baptist Church has its origins in one of the oldest congregations in the state. Established as Newford Baptist Church, a few miles from this location on the banks of Newford Creek, the church later changed its name to New Ford. In its early history, Black members attended, holding separate services. This was a common practice before the Civil War and by the late 1850s, Black members accounted for nearly 75% of the congregation.

In the late 1870s, white members of New Ford built this church near the Danburg crossroads and renamed their congregation Danburg Baptist. Black members purchased the New Ford church and retained the name of the original congregation.

15 Years-Thanks for Coming Along for the Ride

Youngs Chapel Methodist Church, Ben Hill County – Even before I started doing the websites, I was photographing places like this around my hometown, beginning circa 1999. This church could be said to be “the place that started it all.” I’ve been watching and documenting its slow demise for over 20 years now. Film photograph, 2001.

Today marks 15 years since I officially began publishing Vanishing Georgia. It was known as Vanishing South Georgia in those days, and for those of you who have followed and supported me since the beginning, I cannot thank you enough. It has been an amazing experience getting to know this diverse state I call home. I’ve learned so much just by documenting the built environment. In the process, I’ve found most of the formal architectural landmarks that have always interested me, but significantly, I’ve realized that the most important landmarks are the ones that most people take for granted, or worse, never even notice.

The crossroads villages that once anchored the scattered farming communities of Georgia are mostly gone now, but evidence of their better days often survives if you know how to find it. I haven’t been everywhere in the state, but I’ve visited all 159 counties. I have no clear statistics on how far I’ve traveled, but I’d put it somewhere north of half-a-million miles. For those who have actually gone out into the field with me, you have made this the trip of a lifetime. Your friendship means the world to me.

As historians and researchers, we all have access to more resources than ever before, but it can still be hard to extract the minutiae of local history. The fact that so many of you have reached out, identified places that were important to you, and shared so many locations with me for all these years, does my heart good. The technological challenges evolve and always need attention, but the human element, the people who live in all these places and care enough to help me do this work, is what inspires me the most. When asked how much longer I plan on doing this, I’m reminded of one of my grandmother’s favorite sayings: “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be there”.

St. Johns Church, 1909, Wilkes County

Identifying this very isolated rural church has generated more questions than answers. Though it has generally been referred to as Jones Chapel, due to the fact that the road on which it is located bears that name, Richard Millman of Evans, working with our friends at Historic Rural Churches of Georgia, has confirmed that it was St. Johns Church.

In an article in the Lincoln Journal, Millman wrote: I spoke with an 87-year-old local man who began attending St. John’s church in the 1940s. He was one of the last two members and they closed the church. He also attended the Jones Chapel school that sat adjacent to the church. The school building is no longer standing. The man did not know of a Jones Chapel in the area. There are graves in the overgrown cemetery, but no history can be found on the folks buried there. The fact that the gentleman Millman spoke with knew nothing of the location of Jones Chapel, but that the African-American school associated with St. Johns Church was named Jones Chapel School, is curious. However, knowing that rural neighborhoods often take on the name of local landmarks, it may indicate that the community around this rural road was loosely known as Jones Chapel. Nothing about the location or history of Jones Chapel has been found, thus far.

Dating the structure is also difficult. Various resources date it to 1889, 1909, and 1920. I’m more inclined to go with the circa 1909 date, as I’ve seen many African-American churches built circa 1900-1920 with similar steeples. The vernacular three-bay-deep form was typical for both white and black congregations well into the early 20th century.

Update: The 1909 construction date has been confirmed locally.

All the guesses researchers have made regarding this church are logical, and though the full story may never emerge, it’s safe to say the church is not going to be around too much longer in its present state.

Rehoboth Baptist Church, 1903, Metasville

This beautiful structure is at least the third home of Rehoboth Baptist Church, a congregation which can trace its beginnings to 1806 in the community of Jackson’s Cross Roads, a couple of miles from the present location. The move to this location came in 1824 and the church built at that time served until the construction of this building in 1903. A very large historic cemetery is located across the road.

Wilkes County truly has some of the nicest historic churches of any county I know of, and they are all so nicely maintained. If you like old churches, it’s worth a visit for that reason alone.

Metasville School, 1925, Wilkes County

Thanks again go to the nice folks at the Vintage Wilkes County group on Facebook for identifying this place. It was built in 1925 to replace the old Rehoboth Baptist Church, which was used as a school after the construction of the preset Rehoboth Church in 1903. It is presently a social hall for the church.

Metasville, Georgia

Robert Willingham maintains a very good local history group on Facebook, Vintage Wilkes County Georgia and the following history comes directly from that source:

…The community was first called Rehoboth, for the church. Not far away was a crossroads and that settlement was called…guess what?…Cross Roads, then Jackson’s Cross Roads, not to be confused with the west Wilkes Jackson’s Cross Roads near Clark’s Station Church, but it was. So when this east Wilkes spot became a post office in 1887, it was christened “Metasville” by first postmaster Thomas Henry Albea. The name derived from Almeda “Meta” Stephens Bigby (1846-1940), wife of B.O. Bigby, buggy maker. One of their daughters was also Meta. Another, Lula, was married to Robert T. Dunaway. The Bigbys are buried at Rehoboth.

Metasville was a busy place. Of course there was cotton. Tom Garrett and John A. Logan had gin houses and grist mills. The timber industry was beginning and would center at nearby Lovelace just across the Lincoln line. By the ‘teens the Washington & Lincolnton Railroad would chug through the area hauling freight.

But what made the place distinctive was a major mining operation just a stone’s throw away–pun groaningly intended! Gold prospectors had identified the place before the Civil war. It had been interesting though not profitable. In the 1870s, Georgia’s State Geologist declared that “specimens of native copper…are the finest I have seen from any section of the State.” The site was listed on Callaway’s 1877 map of Wilkes as the “McGruder” mine [correctly Magruder] and, throughout all its ownership changes, retained that name locally. A New York company came in Feb. 1879 to take charge and that August L. Barber put in the stamps. By October, under Capt. Carlyon, the mine was producing a fine yield. It sold in January 1880 to Chicago and New York investors. That October a huge rock crusher with thirty-ton-a-day capacity was set up. A bonanza of a 4 1/2 foot wide silver vein assaying at $150 to the ton was uncovered in April 1882. A year later proprietor George Jackson and superintendent Major Mills reported boom times though by the end of that August underground operations had ceased. Above ground work continued.

Work proceeded in fits and starts. By 1897 Fred Frank of Colorado had taken charge of the ore production and shipments rolled to St. Louis for smelting. By 1900 Carl Henrich, a native of Germany, and partner Christian Wahl of Milwaukee had assumed control, Henrich managing for the Seminole Mining Co. When the company struggled in March 1904, Henrich bought the property as sole owner. He was a European trained geologist, having worked extensively in the American West and Mexico. He served the Mineral development Company of New York as a supervisor in Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe as well.

Henrich and his wife Martha were childless and, after settling in Metasville adopted ten-year-old Ruby Arnett, daughter of Mrs. Dan Arnett of Lincoln Co. In 1908 Henrich left for Mexico but the mine continued to operate and, upon his return expanded its production. His ill health intervened and he died in Dec. 1917. The estate attempted to maintain the site, with the mine reopening in May 1918, but it could not hold on through diminished results and financial panic.

The economic vibrancy of Metasville may have passed, but the friendly, industrious people remain. And there’s still a lot of history in this hallowed ground.

Hall-and-Parlor House, Metasville

As always, one’s mind goes to many places, imagining the lives that must have been lived in an old homeplace like this one. Even in its abandonment, left to the elements, it still has a lot of stories to tell.

Danner’s Store, Metasville

Thanks again to the Vintage Wilkes County group for the identification. This was Danner’s Store. Gloria Ulery wrote that the store was operated by her aunt Alma and uncle Albert. Both Danner’s and Powell’s are now used by the Standard Truck Parts business.

Powell’s Store, Metasville

This old shotgun store was first owned by John Maloof but is best remembered for its association with owner John Powell, who had a residence in the back of the building. Rem Remsen was the last person to operate it as a store. Thanks to Bernie Henderson of the Vintage Wilkes County Facebook page for the identification.

Emory Ware wrote: Mr. Powell…was asleep one night when he awoke to see the grill of a Mack truck about 6 ft. in front of his bed , still running! The truck driver was unfamiliar with the road and didn’t stop but drove into the front of the store.