This church doesn’t appear to be in use. I hope someone can identify it.
This is one of three congregations located within a few hundred yards of each other in the Queensland community. I hope to share more history soon.
As I’ve noted before, the Queensland community in northern Ben Hill County was settled before the county seat of Fitzgerald.
The church dates to the early 1880s at the latest, a typical foundational time for churches in Freedmen’s communities.
The church is one of the most historic and perhaps the most significant surviving African-American religious structure in Ben Hill County. It is well maintained.
The stained glass windows and the steeple are distinguishing architectural features of the church.
Mountaintop Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery
The earliest known burials at Mountaintop date to the early 1880s, which is typical of churches established in the first generation after Emancipation. These are representational and not meant to be complete.
Deacon Coffee was the Treasurer of the Ocmulgee Baptist Association, with which Mountaintop was affiliated at the time.
Lonnie Brown was one of the leaders of the Queensland community throughout his life and one of the main roads in the neighborhood bears his name today.
The first known school in Queensland was built at a time when many churches and benevolent societies demanded and funded improvements for African-American students in the South. The first school [pictured above] was originally known as the Queensland Negro Industrial Training School and was later Queensland Elementary and Queensland High. The original structure was replaced by a modern facility in the late 1940s or early 1950s and all structures were razed by the early 2000s.
The historical marker, placed by Ben Hill County, is titled: Queensland Negro Industrial Training School to Queensland Elementary and High School. It reads: In July 1913, applicants furnished 10 acres of land and $800.00 cash to build the Queensland Negro Industrial Training School on this site. The Ben Hill County Board of Education matched the funds, work began, and the school and grounds were dedicated on October 2, 1913. The Rosenwald Fund continued to support the school by financing building projects as needed for growth.
The first principal, J. Clifton Smith, a graduate of Brown College and Tuskegee Institute, promised the patrons that with their cooperation he would teach their children and themselves better use of the land and better modes of living. First term commencement exercises were held May 2-May 5, 1914. School enrollment for the first term totaled nearly 300 students representing seven counties; with 107 boys in the corn club and 76 girls in the canning club. The school was one of the first three in Georgia designated as Training Schools for excellent vocational training in labor professions. The school expanded academic offerings and prepared graduates to pursue professional careers as lawyers, doctors and educators as well as farmers and laborers.
In 1918, the school was supported by the county board of education, the Slater Fund and a Negro Baptist Association, mainly for the purpose of training teachers for the Negro schools. The original school included a two-story building with five large classrooms, a dormitory and teachers’ home. The faculty consisted of the principal and four assistants with an average enrollment of over 200 students. At that time, including Queensland, there were fourteen Negro schools in Ben Hill County. The rest were one- teacher schools located in church buildings with very little equipment.
The world is a better place because of the dedication of patrons, educators, administrators and the thousands of students who were educated on these grounds located “Deep into the heart of Southeast Georgia.” The Christian Fellowship Tabernacle Church, which now owns and occupies this site, continues the legacy of preparing people to make a positive difference in this world.
The Dixie Highway was conceived in 1915 by a group of governors and business leaders seeking to increase tourism in their states. As assembly lines made cars and trucks more affordable to the masses, improved roads were a necessity. Historically, Georgia’s were notoriously bad. As late as 1915, paved streets were rare in the state and no paved highways existed.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this was the first viable ‘interstate’ highway in Georgia and local leaders lobbied aggressively to have the route come through their communities. Its presence in Ben Hill County was likely a result of the influence of local newspaperman Isidor Gelders. He was a member of the board of the Dixie Highway Association.
Scattered original sections like those pictured here still remain, but they’re increasingly rare.
Very few houses of this era survive in Queensland, but they were once common in this historic African-American community. Very little is known of the area, though it had a school through the late 1950s/early 1960s. The organization of churches here in the late 1870s indicates it was likely a Freedmen’s community, with employment likely found in the timber industry of the day. Owen Stewart, Jr., a Queensland native and resident, is presently writing a history of the community.
Thanks to Dottie Stewart Blount, who grew up in this house, for the identification.
This was the home of Elby and Realie Jones, beloved members of the Queensland community in their time. Their granddaughter Dottie Stewart Blount graciously shared her memories with Vanishing South Georgia. This 1960s photograph of them also features their daughter Iziliar, who took care of them in their old age. Dottie, who was a member of the last graduating class of the Queensland School, writes: Their house was right across from Queensland School. Big Papa was Elby Jones and Big Mama was Realie Jones. She was a midwife and delivered my 2 younger brothers and lots of others all over the area. Most of the time she’d walk from Queensland to wherever she was needed!! I loved them so much. Big Papa was very comical and was always telling funny jokes!
As of mid-2022, the house is being razed.