Tag Archives: Churches of Chatham County

Hunter Field Base Chapel, 1941 – Whitefield United Methodist Church, 1948, Savannah

I’ve been passing by this church on the corner of Waters Avenue and 55th Street for years, on my way to watch rugby tournaments at nearby Daffin Park, and always presumed it to be a much older building that had been modernized at some point. Its actual history is much more interesting.

It was built as the base chapel at Hunter Field between 1940-1941, for the sum of $28,000, and was apparently a standard design found on many newly commissioned bases during World War II. I can just imagine the young men at the base finding solace in its sanctuary, as they prepared to ship off to the European Theater of Operations. Many of these chapels were surplussed after the war, as was the case with the Hunter chapel, but thanks to its solid construction, it was purchased in 1946 for the sum of $1 by the Savannah United Methodist Church Board of Missions. The church was sawed in half and moved on trailers to its present location and a yet-unnamed congregation held its first services on 10 October 1948. It was officially chartered as the Whitefield Methodist Church on 30 January 1949.

These two photographs likely date to the earliest days of the Methodist Congregation, circa 1948 or 1949. They were included in a 2017 article by the U. S. Army.

Photo Credit: U. S. Army
Photo Credit: U. S. Army

Soon after the Army article was published, the church, whose membership had greatly dwindled in recent years, decided to close its doors. I believe it is now a mission site of the Isle of Hope United Methodist Church.

Nicholsonboro Baptist Church, 1890, Chatham County

200 former slaves from Jacob Waldburg’s plantation on St. Catherines Island first settled in the White Bluff area between the Little Ogeechee and Vernon Rivers in 1868. After purchasing 200 acres from John Nicholson in 1878, the community was first known as Nicholsonboro, then Nicholsonville. A church was established here by 1883 and the original (not pictured) still stands in poor but stable condition. The present structure, dating to circa 1890, is the most significant remaining landmark of the historic community.

National Register of Historic Places

Our Lady of Good Hope Chapel, 1875, Isle of Hope

From the Savannah Diocesan Archives: Our Lady of Good Hope Chapel began as the novitiate of European Benedictines invited to Savannah by Rt. Rev. William Gross to minister to the former slave population in Savannah. After beginning St. Benedict’s Parish on Harris Street (now St. Benedict the Moor Parish, Savannah located on E. Broad Street) the Benedictines began their novitiate on the Isle of Hope in 1875. It only lasted for one year, being abandoned in1876 after the Yellow Fever Epidemic killed some of its community. Bishop Gross invited the Benedictine Monks of St. Vincent’s Archabbey (Latrobe, PA) to continue ministering to the former slave population in Savannah, and they came in 1877, taking up the mission on Isle of Hope. Soon after the Benedictines moved off of the Isle of Hope, but kept ministering to the congregation until 1888. At this point, another monastery (St. Mary’s Abbey, Belmont, NC) took over the management of the Isle of Hope Chapel, and closed it. It does not reopen for 20 years. Sacred Heart monks minister to the congregation until the founding of St. James the Less Parish in 1949. Mass frequency is cut back to once a month as St. James’ boundaries include Our Lady of Good Hope’s congregation. After the initial 1875 conversion of house to a chapel, it was subsequently restored in 1908. A major restoration and rededication occurred in 1974.

The conversion of an extant frame house into this chapel in 1875 represents the first Benedictine monastery in the South.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Isle of Hope United Methodist Church, Circa 1859

The marker placed by the Georgia Historical Society in 1962 notes, in part:  The Isle of Hope Methodist Church was organized in 1851. The first Trustees were George W. Wylly, Simeon F. Murphy, John B. Hogg, William Waite, Theodore Goodwin, Thomas J. Barnsley and the Rev. William S. Baker. The church building that stands here was erected in 1859 on land given by Dr. Stephen Dupon. Its architecture is similar to that of the early churches at Midway and Ebenezer. The gallery at the rear of the church was built primarily for accommodations of slaves…During the War Between the States a Confederate battery stood on the church lot, mounting two 8-inch columbiads and two 32-pounder cannon. The church was used as a hospital for Confederates stationed in the area, the pews (still in existence) serving as beds. Thirty-three Effingham County soldiers sleep in the adjoining churchyard.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Circa 1923, Isle of Hope

St. Thomas Episcopal Church was established in 1922 and this chapel was built soon thereafter, circa 1923. While the congregation has outgrown it, it is still beautifully maintained and used for weddings and other special occasions.

Isle of Hope Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 1896, Burroughs

Established in 1832, St. Bartholomew’s is the oldest active African-American Episcopal congregation in Georgia. The Episcopal church was actively pursuing the evangelization of slaves by the early 1830s. In 1832, a white family in the area initiated religious education for its slaves and by 1845, the bishop appointed the Reverend William G. Williams as the area’s first official pastor. He established a church and school on the three plantations he served and was so successful that by 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, his congregation was the largest, black or white, in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

A gift of $400 from St. Barholomew’s Episcopal Church in New York City to the Ogeechee Mission Congregation in 1881 helped stimulate interest in the construction of a permanent home. The present structure was consecrated in 1896 and named in honor of its first major patrons. The St. Barholomew’s Day School was constructed in 1897. It was operated by the church until 1916 at which time Chatham County rented the building and took over its operation. It was closed as a school in 1951 and has since served as the parish hall.

Known officially today as St. Bartholomew’s Chapel, the church which was once so integral to the life of the Burroughs community still meets on a limited schedule.

National Register of Historic Places

 
 
 

New Ogeechee Missionary Baptist Church, 1893, Burroughs

Organized in 1891 when members split from nearby First Bethel Baptist Church over their choice of Reverend Burke as pastor, New Ogeechee Missionary Baptist Church was built two years later on land donated by member J. D. Campbell. F. E. Washington was the first pastor to serve the congregation.

 

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this area was predominately populated by slaves. In the 1870s and 1880s, freedmen bought land on which they had worked prior to Emancipation. Burroughs was established on the lands of Wild Heron Plantation, at its peak encompassing over fifty dwellings, a school and a store, as well as three churches. It was incorporated in 1898.

National Register of Historic Places

Christ Church, 1838, Savannah

Christ Church is known as the “Mother Church of Georgia”, as it was the first church established with the founding of the colony in 1733. John Wesley was the rector from 1736-1737; during that time he published one of the first English hymnals in the colonies and established the first Sunday school. George Whitefield, the next rector, was reponsible for establishing the Bethesda Orphan House & Academy, now known as Bethesda Academy, the oldest home and school for boys in the United States.

The present structure is the third building to occupy the site and was built by James Hamilton Couper in 1838. A bell cast by Revere and Son of Boston in 1819 is still in use in the church today. Famous members include Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low and songrwiter Johnny Mercer.

Savannah Historic District, National Historic Landmark

Isle of Hope Union Baptist Church, 1941, Sandfly

This historic congregation was organized on 23 June 1873 by Lucius Houston, John Simmons and the Reverend Quives Frazier.  The present structure was rebuilt to replace the original meeting house in 1941.  Reverend Collins Tilson was pastor at the time; Jacob Golden, Frank Elliott, Israel Elliott, Isaac Golden, and Norman Thomas were deacons. The cornerstone was placed in the Masonic tradition.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, 1876, Savannah

The first Catholic congregation was established in Savannah in the late 1700s by Haitian and French expatriates seeking refuge from religious persecution in their native lands. The present structure was built between 1873-1876. The spires were added in 1896 and in 1898 a fire devastated the cathedral, which was completely renovated by 1912. St. John the Baptist has seen many changes and renovations throughout its long history, but remains the heart of an active diocese.

National Register of Historic Places