Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church is not far from the historical sites of St. Augustine, Florida. The church was established in 1929 and the marker in front of the church partially reads – “This spiritual and civic citadel was established in 1929 with Rev. R.H. Whittaker as spiritual leader, and Chairman of the Board of Deacons, D.P. Mims. This church, the gateway to New Augustine, experienced phenomenal growth under the
inspired leadership of Rev. J.A. Wright, beginning in 1955 — becoming a spiritual beacon of New Augustine and emerging leader and light of civic pride in The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.”
I made it to Taw Caw Missionary Baptist Church just before a spectacular sunset one evening. This South Carolina church was bought by former slaves after the opportunity to freely worship was available with emancipation. The building was formerly owned by a Baptist congregation who sold the land and the church in 1885 when they moved to a different location in Summerton, South Carolina. The building dates to 1859, though there has been some remodeling over the years, both to the interior and exterior. There’s also an adjacent cemetery on the southwestern side of the church.
Outside of Savannah, Georgia, is St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, built in 1896. The congregation formed in 1832 by the Episcopal Church to evangelize local slaves. There were approximately 1,000 slaves working the nearby rice fields at the time. The Victorian style church features a raised altar and windows of varying heights with pointed arches. Next to the church is a parish hall (1897) that was used as a schoolhouse until 1951. Although the church has a smaller congregation than it used to, services are still held on a semi-regular basis.
There are a few small churches within a couple of blocks of each other in Hastings, Florida. Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist was founded a few miles away in Federal Point, Florida some time in the 1880s. A fire destroyed the first church in 1908. Later (1923) it was decided to move to Hastings and the church was taken apart and the lumber hauled by mule carts to the current location where it was reconstructed.
The other two nearby churches are Gethsemane Missionary Baptist and Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal. Gethsemane was founded in 1906.
Mt. Zion A.M.E. was first built in 1914, but the current building dates from 1964.
Two small churches sit across the road from each other just outside of Black Mountain, North Carolina. Thomas Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church is a Gothic Revival design and was last rebuilt in 1922. It’s included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Valley Chapel Free Will Baptist Church appears to be newer, but I couldn’t find the history for this one.
What still remains of Pine Hill Christian Church can be found on a quiet dirt road in Brooks County, Georgia. Though records are unclear, it seems this church was founded in the last half of the nineteenth century by former slaves only a few miles from Grooverville Methodist and Liberty Baptist. The church held services every third Sunday for part of the time, but eventually closed briefly in 1987, was active again for a few years and then officially closed for good in 2005. It does seem that the little church is still looked after as the interior was fairly clean and there wasn’t any obvious signs of vandalism.