Category Archives: –BURKE COUNTY GA–

Savannah & Atlanta Railway Coaling Tower, Sardis

The text that follows is abridged from a plaque at this site, which was dedicated to the people of Sardis in 2017. To me, the most unusual thing about the tower is how modern it looks, even if it resembles an old frontier fort. Though the text doesn’t definitively say when it was built, I believe it was during the ownership of the Savannah & Atlanta Railway, circa 1917-1921.

The Sardis Coal Chute, also known to locals as the Coaling Tower, is a reminder of the days when steam locomotives dominated the railroads and when Sardis was a booming little town. This intact coaling tower…was once used to load coal into the tenders of steam locomotives using a gravity feed system. The tower was built with solidly reinforced concrete and stands approximately 90 feet tall…The 142 mile rail line, Savannah & Atlanta, ran from S&A Junction, between Camak and Warrenton, to Savannah…

Sardis did not have a railroad until 1911 when the Brinson Railway was extended from Millhaven to Waynesboro. Later, on March 26, 1914, the line became the Savannah & Northwestern and even later, in July 1917, became the Savannah & Atlanta Railway. The line entered receivership in 1921 and was sold to Robert M. Nelson in 1929. The Central of Georgia bought it from Nelson in 1951. In 1962 the Central of Georgia abandoned the line between Waynesboro and Savannah and Sardis was once again left without a railroad.


J. D. Roberts House, Circa 1858, Waynesboro

Built in the Georgian Cottage style by John Trowbridge for J. D. Roberts, this home later housed a doctor’s office, millinery shop, and the Burke County museum.

Waynesboro Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Lone Star Benevolent Society, 1898, Waynesboro

The property of the Lone Star Benevolent Society in Waynesboro is a bit of a mystery. Previous surveys have identified the large structure (above) as the society hall, but it certainly resembles a church. It’s possible it served both purposes. Lone Star was one of many fraternal organizations aimed at creating a sense of community and a source of burial insurance for black communities from Emancipation well into the early 20th century.

This small building is located beside the larger church-like structure.

Further away from the main building is this structure, which was almost certainly a schoolhouse.

Ahmaud Arbery Memorial, Burke County

I recently spent a weekend with a friend documenting historic black churches in Burke County, with the goal of visiting the final resting place of Ahmaud Arbery (8 May 1994-23 February 2020). It was a timely visit, as the three men responsible for his murder had all recently been found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for their act of racist vigilantism/lynching.

It gave me pause to think how much work still needs to be done to erase the attitudes that led to this heinous crime, though I’m encouraged that people of all races are just as repulsed by it as I am. While politicians continue to thread the needle with pie-in-the-sky philosophies intended to discourage any discussion of race, a majority white jury finding three white men guilty of lynching a young unarmed black man is proof that we have indeed made progress.

Eclectic Cottage, Burke County

Vine Branch Baptist Church, Keysville

This church, now known as Vine Branch Baptist, originated as another congregation, but I’ve not been able to locate any history at this time.

Keysville Evangelistic Church, Burke County

This church was founded by Reverend Quillar Vertery Russell (6 October 1889-26 June 1959), whose mausoleum is located on the property.

Russell was a successful entrepreneur who owned the mill in Keysville and other commercial interests. I’m unclear as to what the original name of the church was, but it has primarily been known as the Keysville Evangelistic Church. It has served both white and black congregants, and was last known as the New House of Worship.

Georgian Cottage, Keysville

Rowland Grove School, Burke County

This historic school is located on the edge of the Ivanhoe Plantation. It is built in the typical vernacular style of late-19th- and early-20th-century rural schoolhouses and churches.

Thompson Bridge Baptist Church, Burke County

I will share a history of this congregation when I’m able to find it.