Historic Church Built by Freedmen in Georgia

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Antioch Baptist Church | Taliaferro County, GA | c. 1880s

Tucked in a pocket of beautiful trees just off a rural highway stands Antioch Baptist Church. As historic as its design is unique, this impressive structure was built by an intrepid group of freed slaves in the Reconstruction Era South.

In November of 1886, led by Deacon Willie Peak, Deacon Abe Frazier and Deacon Philip Jones, a congregation was founded as folks worked to figure out what the future would look like during an undoubtedly uncertain time. The group, most of whom were from nearby Powelton and North Hancock County, likely met in Powelton until 2 acres were purchased, and 2 acres donated, from the neighboring Veazey Estate.

According to a building survey by the University of Georgia**, this building was constructed sometime around 1899 and the oldest documented grave in the cemetery is from 1898. There are some accounts that parts of the building burned in 1923 and was largely rebuilt, but I haven’t been able to confirm if these stories are true.

But some time along the way, things must have changed in such a way that life no longer looked the same for the people who had once worshipped here. The younger congregation likely moved away for better work opportunities while older members aged out over time. For many years, this church fell more into disrepair as its future seemed uncertain.

But some in the 2010s, a renewed interest in it brought a group of people together who hold annual services and have intentions to save it one day. In the meantime, you’ll notice at some point, a beam was installed inside the sanctuary to bolster a sagging ceiling and the church is in wonderfully clean condition. So I am inclined to think that someone nearby cares about this place and is keeping an eye on it, but I haven’t been able to track them down yet for more information.

This church is singular in its design and if it stands out against the rural landscape today, imagine what kind of a statement it made all those years ago. Even in its current condition, there is hope for this place and I think you might agree that it is truly deserving of being saved.

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    1. We found this beautiful church on one of our backroad adventures through Georgia last summer. It is truly an amazing piece of architecture and history. I highly recommend taking the time to stop and appreciate this place of worship if you are in the area.

  1. I remember some years back driving by this beautiful old church and thinking “I hope they preserve that piece of history” I see it hasn’t been done yet but there is still hope.

  2. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there could be some sort of “homecoming” service arranged for people who are descended from those people who built/attended the church? It would make one amazing story I am sure! Think of all the stories/photos that could be shared (and hopefully recorded). That might be a catalyst for future events/renewed interest in saving the church. I could see someone whose ancestors founded/attended the church getting married there/having family reunion there. That would be so wonderful.

  3. My mother’s family was from Talliferro County. They were Albert and Clara Smith. Their home was in Sharon,Ga. My great uncle was an undertaker in that area, I believe his name was Seals Darden. His sister was my grandmother-Clara. Their sister-Gladys, also lived I believe in Sharon. Gladys had a daughter, Barbara, whose family lived in Crawfordville at the state park. Her husband Emmett Darden, was the caretaker of the park. I had an Aunt Dot Flynt who lived in Woodville for most of my life. Her husband was Garnett and he worked for the mill. My Aunt Rose Chafin lived with her husband Robert, and son Bob in Warrenton for years. My mother’s half sister also lived in Warrenton Her husband was a dentist, Dill Kitchens. They had Charles and Isabel (Wheeler). I spent 2-3 weeks every summer of my life in that area and loved every minute of my visits. I got to visit with them all and grew close to some of my cousins….Becky, Al and Hal Wheeler in Warrenton , and Sue Ellen and Tommy Emmett Darden in Crawfordville. The memories…….. so grateful for those simple days. ☺️☺️☺️

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