Liberty Baptist is one of the few surviving examples of an antebellum church structure in Southwest Georgia. Though nearby Grooverville Methodist is thought to be antebellum, as well, it’s privately owned and not listed, to my knowledge.
The historic marker placed by the Georgia Historical Commission in 1956 notes: Between 1837-1841 the Baptists in this section were stirred on Missions, Sunday Schools and ministerial support. In 1841 the Ocklochnee anti-Missionary Baptist Assn. passed a ruling to dismiss members believing in the “new fangled institutions of the day.” Disagreeing, Sister Nancy Hagen asked for her letter from Mt. Moriah Church and, at her request, was excommunicated. With Elisha Pack Smith, R. T. Stanaland, James I. Baker, Mrs. Sarah Ann Groover, Mrs. Mary Smith, Mrs. Amanda Denmark and Sam Whitfield, she organized this church. The first pastor was Elder R. J. May. Mt. Moriah Church ceased to exist long ago.
The sanctuary is smaller than the outside view of the church would indicate, but it makes great use of the available space.
Boxed pews were a common feature in most churches of this era, and though there aren’t double front doors as is common with Methodist churches, women and men were likely segregated.
The balcony seen above and in the following images is the slave gallery. I’ve photographed several churches with slave galleries, mostly near the coast, and they are generally larger there.
The slave gallery was accessed by a small interior staircase, accessed by a separate door. [visible at the left side of the exterior in the first image].
National Register of Historic Places
I live in North Florida and absolutely love this old church. Something draws me to it and I have visited it 3 times in the last year and a half. My 5th Great Grandfather, Richard T. Stanaland was one of the founding members of Liberty Baptist Church. Another 5th Great Grandfather of mine, John Butler Lacey, pastored this church in the 1840s and 50s as a circuit riding preacher. Yep other 5th Great Grandparents of mine, Isham and Nancy (Roddenberry) Sheffield lived in the Grooverville Community around 1850 and 1860 and very well could have attend Liberty Baptist as their daughter married William Stanaland , son of Richard T. Stanaland who was a founding member.
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Bryan, I recently your comments concerning the slaves attendance of white’s churches and the formation of First Elizabeth Church. My study, for about 49 years, has uncovered no evidence that slaves were forced to attend white churches. Some did attend and become members as a very few did at Liberty. My belief is that most if not all those that attended and became members of Liberty were house slaves and not field slaves. Also, I’ve studied every record of Liberty that I think can be found and have found nom\ evidence that it was former Liberty members who established First Elizabeth. I am writing a book on the history of Liberty Church and would like to have the info on this to include in my book. Thanks. Please e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ed King
Does anyone have a photo of Nancy Hagan? Any in church records? Would like to see it if it is available. Thanks Mary
Mary, I have researched Liberty Baptist Church and Nancy Hagan for a number of years. I have found no photos. Info is contained on the net and in several books,” Creating an Old South, Middle Florida’s Planation Frontier Before the Civil War,” byEdward E. Baptists and “Indian Springs, the tory of a Pioneer Church in Leon County, Florida.” Further, the Florida State University, Tallahassee, has a box filled with her writings. Ed King
What more do you know about the church slave galleries, you photographed in these pictures. Was such simply a place for the slaves of the Church-goers to ‘enjoy’ the services?
They were, indeed, Tom. Obviously, masters didn’t want to leave slaves behind on the plantations while they were in service. So yes, they were essentially forced to attend. Most created their own churches after emancipation, as the slaves of Liberty Baptist created First Elizabeth in Grooverville.
Thanks. I will visit that one. This is another interesting church on Oak St in Thomasville. Good Shepherd Episcopal which ran one of the earliest pre schools for Afican-Americans