Tag Archives: Churches of Jefferson County GA

Gordon Grove Baptist Church, Jefferson County

Smith Grove Cemetery, Jefferson County

This well-maintained African-American cemetery contains a collection of vernacular headstones of statewide importance, both as artifacts of ingenuity in the face of adversity and as sacred ground to the loved ones of those interred here. Thanks to Cynthia Jennings for making me aware of the site. Smith Grove [Smiths or Smith’s in some references] members made the best of what was available to them, which was typical of rural congregations. Many of the memorials are nearly unreadable*, but consider that at the time they were made, most rural African-American schools were grossly underfunded and were barely able to provide the basics of an education, and the makers of these were likely “drawing” the letters as opposed to writing them. I believe Smith Grove Cemetery should be on the National Register of Historic Places.

*-All names and dates that follow are presumed to be correct but the nature of the script makes it difficult to be completely accurate

Triangular Headstones

There are four triangular memorials, likely all accomplished by the same maker. Dates on Findagrave for these stones are not completely accurate. The way the numbers are positioned makes it nearly impossible to determine an actual date, in most cases.

Alex Stone (10 August 1862-22 November 1930). The date of Mr. Stone’s birth would indicate he was likely born into slavery.
Ed Way (1873-?)
Billie Lee Way (1865-1902).
Reverend B. T. Smith (1900-?). It is possible that Reverend Smith was the first pastor here and of the family for whom the church was named. [The name is listed as B. C. Smith on Findagrave, but I believe that may be an error in translation].

Unique Headstones

Inell Belle (2 December 1932-1944). This unique memorial is perhaps the most interesting of all the vernacular headstones at Smith Grove. I believe it represents a crown and/or the trinity.

This is the back side of the Inell Bell monument.

Unknown Memorial. It appears at first to resemble a keystone, but I don’t know if that was intentional. The rectangle in the middle likely once served as a frame for a piece of glass that held something of importance. The grave of PFC Robert W. Lockhart (not pictured), while a simple form, also has such a space and retains the original glass.
This side of the memorial has an even more complicated appearance, including incised areas that seem to be purposeful.
Tora Hymes (18 February 1864-?). This is a small wedge-shaped stone. I am not sure if the name I have given is correct.
Unknown. Stacked stones were once a common way to mark burials in African-American and white cemeteries, especially in rural locations.

Round Headstones

Sanie Brown (2 December 1932-1944)
Jessie Campbell (1931-1953)
Willie J. Hymes (1895-1945)

Traditional (Rectangular/Square) Headstones

Mell Berrie (1890?-February 1930). This is identified as Nell Berrie on Findagrave but I believe it to be Mell.
Unknown Avera (1850-1936). The first name is unreadable but contains an “o”, and an “r”. The surname is misidentified on Findagrave as Iveya. Avera was a common name in the area at one time.
Elex Tyler (14 November 1933-14 July? 1934)
Tom Hymes (February 1886-January 1920)
Professor L. W. Seabrook (January 1864-October 1956). Many of the later headstones in the cemetery use a form slab and stenciled letters.
The beautiful churchyard at Smith Grove.

Old Mt. Olive Baptist Church & School, Circa 1909, Jefferson County

This historic African-American congregation is still active and this structure is adjacent to the associated cemetery. I am unaware of the history of the church, but it is possible that itwas established by former slaves of the Old Town plantation, located nearby.

This structure is located near the old church, and may have been a schoolhouse. Near the newer church is also a structure which appears to have been a school. I hope to learn more.

Eden Baptist Church, Jefferson County

This historic African-American congregation dates to 1885. Reverend Andrew Wilkerson was the first pastor.

Ways Baptist Church, 1851, Jefferson County

Ways Baptist Church was organized in 1817 by Revolutionary War veterans near the present-day community of Stellaville, about three miles east of Wrens. It was named for John Way, who donated the land on which it was sited and was known originally as Darcy’s Meeting House. The members were originally part of Brushy Creek Baptist Church but were dismissed for some reason, perhaps because they had slaves or had disagreements over other controversial issues. Enslaved persons were among the first members of the new congregation. A log cabin was built first, then a more formal structure. William Donovan oversaw construction of the present structure in 1851. It features what appears to be a slave gallery (common in churches with slave members) and the labor was likely accomplished by the slaves themselves. After emancipation, they founded their own congregation nearby, known as Ways Grove Baptist Church.

It is a beautiful church and churchyard, and there is an historic cemetery across the highway.

Ebenezer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1877, Jefferson County

Ebenezer can trace its roots to the 1770s, when a group of Whigs split with the Tories at nearby Buckhead Bethel Church (known today as Bethel, in Vidette). The Whigs first met on the property of Richard Fleeting. The church was first known as Fleeting’s Meeting House, then Big Creek, before settling on Ebenezer. Reverend Thomas Beattie was the first pastor, sometimes dividing his duties between Buckhead Bethel and Louisville. He died suddenly and was replaced by a Tory, the Reverend William Donaldson, but due to the Revolutionary fervor of most members he left the congregation in 1776. The next minister, Reverend David Bothwell, cam from Ireland in 1790. Bothwell was a friend and counselor to Governor Jared Irwin. Irwin, and Governors James Jackson and David Emanuel were elders at Bethel. Erskine Caldwell’s father, Ira Sylvester Caldwell, preached here much later, as well.

The church, located between Louisville and Wrens, is still active and has done a wonderful job maintaining the church and its historic graveyard.

First Baptist Church, Stapleton


This congregation was organized in 1905.

Ways Grove Baptist Church, Stellaville

Old Ways Grove Baptist Church Stellaville GA Jefferson County Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

A modern brick church stands adjacent to this structure. I’m glad the congregation has done their best to save this structure.

I recently revisited this wonderful old church and was able to photograph the interior.

Not only was the pot-bellied stove still intact, but a stack of firewood remained at the back of the sanctuary, awaiting the next congregants.

The church is true landmark of vernacular architecture and its survival is extraordinary.

Bartow Methodist Church, 1890s, Jefferson County

Bartow Methodist Church Shingle Steeple Jefferson County GA Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

According to Lorraine Frederick Minton, whose great-great-great-grandfather, Francis Eugene Flanders founded the church, it was designed with a “Quaker Heart”. Flanders was a circuit rider. Her great-great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Drake, was the architect. She notes: It was originally built on the other side of the “swamp” and later pulled by oxen and placed on logs to cross the swamp and placed where it is today. The original church records are now reported to be stored at Lake Junaluska, NC.

Bartow UMC was organized on 18 July 18 1879. In the late 1890’s the church was moved into the town of Bartow. The original church building was torn down and rebuilt.

Bartow Baptist Church, 1925, Jefferson County

Bartow GA Baptist Church Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

Constituted as the First Baptist Church, the congregation now simply calls itself Bartow Baptist Church. J. G. Gunter was the pastor at the time this structure was raised. The cornerstone lists the building committee as: J. R. O. Smith; A. S. Chamlee; N. A. Williams; T. C. Jordan; T. Y. Smith; G. H. Ratchford; and L. G. Smith.