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Black History Series

Black History in Pickens County Introduction

 

Black History in Pickens County

By Dr. Kathleen Thompson

This article is the first in a series devoted to the history of the Black residents of Pickens County.  Dr. Kathleen Thompson has completed extensive research including archives and library investigation, interviews of local residents, and searches of early newspapers.  This project has and continues to be made possible by the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance, and grants from the Georgia Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grant Committee members include; Robert McClure, Justin Davis, Portia Goss, Lawton Baggs, and Willie Mae Weaver.

Introduction

The total number and percentage of Black residents in Pickens County has varied from 4.6 percent during slavery to 8.2 percent during the Sam Tate years, and declining to 1.1 percent today.  Despite the small numbers, local African-Americans, past and present, have made significant contributions to the good of the community.  Many have achieved success here and in the places to which they journeyed.

As I have researched and interviewed I have come to realize that this story is about White residents as much as it is about Black residents.   When I began this project scholar Dr. Tom Scott, of Kennesaw State University, warned me that our research must be impartial.  I was instructed to keep an open mind and let the facts and conclusions fall where they may.  I have endeavored to do as he suggested.

In the last sixteen months of research, I have come to realize that the history  of race relations in Pickens County is one of tolerance and cooperation.   An unwillingness to resort to violence here in Pickens was often in contrast to the hatred and hostility of other communities. This heritage is truly worth understanding with pride.

What can you expect to read about in the dozen installments that will appear in the next few months?  The Civil War and slavery comprise the first period to be examined.  “Black Workers in the Marble Industry” covers a period from 1895 to the decline of the marble mining industry.  A significant story in that same period is the reaction of Colonel Sam Tate to vigilantes from nearby counties that wanted to harm Black families in Tate.  While school integration racked many states Pickens County’s two-year plan was accomplished with no violence and much new understanding for both races.

This research is not finished and even after the grant concludes this fall the grant committee will endeavor to continue the project. Any information readers have that they would be willing to share would be welcomed.

 

 

You many contact Dr. Thompson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. To learn more about Dr. Thompson and published history books go to www.kathythompsonbooks.com

Black History in Pickens: Part I Slavery and the Civil War

 

Black History in Pickens: Part I

Slavery and the Civil War

By Dr. Kathleen Thompson

This article is the first in a series devoted to the history of the Black residents of Pickens County.  Dr. Kathleen Thompson has completed extensive research including archives and library investigation, interviews of local residents, and searches of early newspapers.  This project has and continues to be made possible by the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance, and grants from the Georgia Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grant Committee members include; Robert McClure, Justin Davis, Portia Goss, Lawton Baggs, and Willie Mae Weaver.

Cherokee Owned Slaves and the 1860 Slave Schedule

The first Black residents of Pickens County were  slaves.  Today some Black people prefer not to use the term African-American.  “I’m an American and I’ve never been to Africa,” a local resident told me. Yet the first slaves did have a sense of being African.  Nelson resident Willie Mae Weaver explained that her great grandmother was taken at age seven from Africa to Dahlonega, Ga. and remembered aspects of village life which she shared with her children.

Using the ages of Black residents in later census records, their birthplace, and other records it appears that the area that is now Pickens County included slaves as far back as the 1830s.  Early inhabitant James Daniels, who built an impressive home, tavern and farm in the 1830s, owned slaves and had several slave cabins. According to Steve Griffith in his book The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia, “Daniel was of mixed Cherokee and White heritage and was the head of a family that included twelve Cherokee.  He owned and cultivated 300 acres of land with the help of 137 African-Americans.” It is a little known fact that wealthy Cherokee farmers owned slaves.  In fact many of their slaves accompanied them on the Trail of Tears.”   James Daniel‘s wife was a Cherokee, as was his mother.  His father was a White trader.

Effectively this means there were slaves in what is now Pickens County before the Cherokee were forced on the Trail of Tears and before the arrival of the majority of White settlers.  This may explain why all but three of the former slaves in 1860 were born in Georgia, not other states.

Luke Tate, in his book History of Pickens County, records that, “In 1839 a number of negro slaves were members of the Talking Rock Baptist Church and attended along with their owners.”  Given the customs of the day, they would have attended church in a balcony separated from the White families.

By the mid eighteen hundreds the Cherokee were gone and many settlers had arrived. Pickens County was created from parts of Cherokee and Gilmer Counties in 1853. The 1860 census established that the county’s population was 4,951 residents including adults and children, but not slaves who were counted separately.

In 1860 Pickens County residents included a total of 241 slave individuals who were owned by thirty-six local landowners.  They comprised a total of 4.6% of the county’s population.  Of these 29 were recorded as “mulatto” or mixed race (27 female and 2 male). By comparison Richmond County (Augusta, Georgia) had 7,812 slaves and 344 whites. In 1860 the state of Georgia was 25% Negro.

Of the thirty-six slave holders the majority had 8 or less slaves.  Those with more slave individuals included James Simmons (13), Andrew Blackwell (12), Thomas Murphy (14) and Hugh Briants (17).  By far the largest groups of slaves worked for Samuel Tate (31), and William Tate (25). Each of the Tate’s had five slave houses where their workers lived.  At this time, the marble industry had not developed so the slaves performed farm work.

Pickens, Slavery, and the Civil War

In 1860 the mountain counties of Georgia presented a special problem for Governor Brown and those who wanted to secede from the union.  With few slaves mountain farmers did not have the same incentives toward secession as the large slave holding counties. Pickens citizens elected two representatives to the 1861 Georgia Secession Convention in Milledgeville. Each was elected on a platform pledge to vote against secession.  One of these was James Simmons, owner of 13 slaves.  Upon arriving at the convention delegates from thirteen mountain counties, including Pickens County, wanted the vote given directly to the people but the measure was defeated. They believed that if there was a direct vote succession would fail. Despite opposition from the mountain counties, Georgia seceded January 19th of 1861.  While mountain representatives tried to prevent Georgia from withdrawing from the Union, in the end most, including Simmons, signed the final secession document.

Pickens County was divided with both Confederate and Union supporters.  The last United States flag to be flown in Georgia after Georgia seceded from the United States flew in Jasper.  For several weeks after secession the flag waved in defiance.  Other county’s officials encouraged Governor Brown to order state troops to forcibly take the flag down, but he refused.  Within a month the flag was removed by those who placed it aloft.

When Union troops entered the South many who had been opposed to seccession joined Confederate units.   In all, 1,427 men from Pickens fought for the Confederacy and 253 fought in the Union Army. Before the war was over a few even fought for both armies.  John Darnell was among those who flew the Union flag at the beginning of the war. In 1862, he was in the Pickens County Militia of the 107th Georgia Militia and later the 9th Georgia Cavalry, both Confederate units. But by 1864, he enlisted in the 5th Tennessee U.S. Mounted Infantry, fighting for the Union.

The 1870 and 1880 Census, Where have all the Former Slaves Gone?

In 1860 slaves were counted not in the census but in a separate “schedule,” reflecting their status as property.  Five years after the Civil War under Reconstruction colored individuals were counted on the United States Census.

Between 1860 and 1870 forty-six percent (112) of the former slaves left Pickens County.  Where they went and why is difficult to know.  Those who stayed continued as farm workers, often for their former owners. Others worked as domestic help in homes of White residents.  While they were no longer owned, their economic status showed little improvement.  The Black population in Pickens did grow in the future, but at this time many free colored families chose to leave.

While many families moved away those who stayed were recorded on the 1870 census.  Some kept the name of their slave owners.  Samuel and Amanda Tate, ages 32 and 30, and their seven children, ages 1 to 12, farmed on land worth one hundred dollars.  Hannah Tate, age 50 was listed as “farm labor.”   Her daughter Nancy, age 25, resided with her as did Nancy’s three children.  Hannah and Nancy owned no land

George Griffith was likely once owned by his neighbor Caleb Griffith.  George and his wife Emeline, and their seven children lived and worked on a farm valued at one hundred dollars.

Other names of Black residents in 1870 included Webb, Nalley, Murphy, Jefferson, Freld, Thompson, Tomelley and Sandvalley.  Because census records were written in sometimes illegible script the last two names are my best guess.  Enumerators were often forced to list information in impossibly small spaces with a quill pen and a bottle of ink.  Read today on microfilm one can see blots, water splotches, and dirt smudges.  Riding on a horse or mule from farm to farm was not an easy task for those employed to record the countries population.

Occupations of former slaves included farming their own land, farm labor on the property of others, and domestic servant.  Willie Webb, age 17, was a “farm laborer” as was James Field of the same age.  Lowery Murphy looked after the children of farmer James Hollins.  The children were ages 1, 5, and 8.

The decade after the Civil War was difficult even in areas not ravaged by large battles or Sherman’s March.  There were shortages of materials, neglected roads, injured soldiers returning home, and families whose men did not return. But Black residents together with their White neighbors would rebuild a more equitable place, a good place to call home.

References:

The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia, Stephen E. Griffeth, 1998

History of Pickens County, Luke Tate, 1935

Wolfscratch Wilderness, Charlene Terrell, 1994

Next installment: Black Workers in the Marble Industry

You many contact Dr. Thompson at 706 633 3865 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. To learn more about Dr. Thompson and published history books go to www.kathythompsonbooks.com

Black History in Pickens County Part III -- Black Communities in Tate and Jasper

By Dr. Kathleen Thompson

 

This article is the third in a series devoted to the history of the Black residents of Pickens County. Dr. Kathleen Thompson has completed extensive research including; archives and library investigation, interviews of local residents and searches of early newspapers. This project has and continues to be made possible by the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance, and grants from the Georgia Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Black communities in Tate and Jasper were quite different, each with their own traits. From the turn of the century to the 1950s, Tate was a “company town.” One lived in a company owned rental house assigned to you by your employer, shopped at the company store and, if you were a kid, your dad worked for Georgia Marble or a business dependent on patronage from company employees.  In these ways the Tate experience was no different for Black or White residents. By contrast, Jasper’s Black residents owned their own land and homes and lived in clusters around the town’s neighborhoods. Employment for Jasper’s Black residents included a diversity of jobs.

Tate

All housing for Georgia Marble employees, Black and White alike, was rental. Families were assigned homes in specific neighborhoods. As a result, all of the homes in the Black communities in Tate were company owned.  Tate’s Black communities began at the Pink Marble Mansion and over time included eight locations, all with specific names.

As was in the village of Tate, these were safe communities. A retired teacher told me that after out of town school trips she would return teen students to their homes late at night in “the Hollow” and other communities with no fear or concern for her or their safety.

These communities and all of Tate thrived from the 1920s to the 1950s. Georgia Marble began to sell off their company houses in 1952 at very reasonable prices to employees. By then, some of the homes in the Black sections were unoccupied. People had moved away to find other work when the marble industry began declining. Houses fell into disrepair and were eventually torn down by the company. When I visited Smoky Hollow in 2009 there were two old abandoned homes. Since then, both have caved in and are no longer visible. Today only Smoky Hollow exists as a Black community.

Black Communities in Tate

• Lonesome City was located off of Highway 53, across the road from the Tate House, and deep in the woods. Families living here predominately carried the last name Patrick. Reverend Bill Patrick was raised here. In the 1910s into the 1930s this was a Black settlement. By the 1950s this had become a White farming area. Due to job losses in the marble industry, Black families had moved away.

• Sandy Bottoms was located just to the right of Lonesome Dove and along the creek. Armstrong was a common family name. Like Lonesome City, Blacks moved away and the area reverted to farming.

• The Rock Cut: At the Tate House turn right. As you turn and near the railroad track you can see that rocks were blasted and cut to allow rail construction. Several homes were located here. In the 1930s the families of employees Jim Roach, Murphy Moore, Tim Echols and Joe Stephens resided at the Rock Cut.

• Mudhead was a White community adjacent to Smoky Hollow and above the Miracle Fellowship Baptist Church (built 1897). Here, seven or eight houses were occupied by the families of White employees. There was a “mud pond” located here, hence the name.  Another road led into this settlement from behind the Tate School Gym. Children from Mudhead played with youngsters from Smoky Hollow. Emma Julia Washington’s sister had a friend in Mudhead and the girls would sleep over at each other’s homes.

• Smoky Hollow: Just past the railroad tracks, Smoky Hollow was the oldest and largest of the Black communities and most widely known. A local resident noted, “There were so many people living here and visiting you couldn’t stir them with a stick.” Today, three families live in the Hollow, but in the 1920s and ’30s almost 30 homes were provided by the Company.  Additionally a store, “The Stand,” sold goods to White and Black customers.

Of all of the settlements, only Smoky Hollow had a bit of a rough reputation and was considered by some as a less desirable place to raise a family.  That reputation was known in the White community. Pickens was a dry county and liquor could be bought in the Hollow.  Spirits could also be bought in White sections across Pickens County made by local moonshinners.

The name Smoky Hollow was explained by a resident in an article in the Pickens Progress, “In the winter the smoke from all of the fires settled like a cloud in the hollow.  We only had wood and coal to burn and it was a smoky place to live.”

According to Willie Mae Weaver and Stephen Griffeth, in his book The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia, White employees of the Georgia Marble Company lived in the Smoky Hollow community in the 1910s and early 1920s. Mrs. Weaver can remember her mother talking about a short period of time when both Black and White families lived in the Hollow. “According to my mother the people got along well. At one point a young White child died of a disease.  The whole community, Black and White, mourned together. At the funeral they cried on each other’s shoulders they were that close. This was when Colonel Sam was in Europe seeking furniture for his mansion (Between 1922-24). Shortly after he returned he began moving the White families into company homes in other sections of Tate which he had recently established.”

• New Town was on the road to today’s Head Start (once the Tri City High School) just before and up from Mt. Calvary Church. There were about five houses. There also was and still is a White neighborhood of beautiful homes in Tate on New Town Street, but that is a different place.

• Upper Whippoorwill (or Wipowill or Wipp-Poor-Will) and Lower Whippoorwill were built after Smoky Hollow at a time when the company was expanding and hiring new employees. Upper Whippoorwill was between New Town, and where the Pickens Training School was located (Now Head Start). The communities were named after the birds that sang sweetly in the afternoons and evenings. Willie Mae Weaver and her husband Howard Haywood Weaver began their family life here in a company home. She recalled that the area was very hilly and residents had to haul their water from “the spout,” a spring in a rock.  Colonel Sam Tate had a boarding house built here for the Black teachers in this community which was managed by Homer and Lula Green. Later they moved back to Dahlonega and Ike and Sally Lou Anderson took over management of the facility. The building is still standing.

• Lower Whippoorwill was close to Head Start on the west side and a little way down the hill. It was almost level with the Georgia Marble Company. The homes could be located via a narrow dirt road that started at the Georgia Marble Company. No roads connected the Upper and Lower communities, only walking trails. There was a company boarding house here for Black male employees.  It was run by Harrison and Katie Roach Anderson. George and Katie Collins raised their family in a house at this location as did the Welch, Goodmond, Anderson, Davis and Castleberry families.

• Brown Town was not named Brown because of the color of the resident’s skin but for the brown color the houses were painted. This cluster of homes was located just above the quarry and along the creek. Brown Town was surrounded by woods and was about two miles below the White Methodist Church. About eight houses were here, lived in by families with names including Brown, Collins, Anderson and Castleberry.

“The Stand” in

Smoky Hollow

George and Katherine (Kitty) Collins worked for Colonel Sam Tate for many years. George was a stonemason and supervised the building of the Pick Marble Mansion and she was the Tate’s housekeeper. Their son Olin had lung problems ruling out military service as well as a job in the marble quarries or production plants. Because of the close association with the Tate family, Colonel Sam had a store built in Smoky Hollow for George and Katherine’s son Olin. The Stand, as it was called, was located just past Miracle Church on the right. Olin Collins and his wife Julia ran the store together while they were raising their family.

Emma Julia Collins Washington remembers her father’s store in Smoky Holler. She explained that because marble industry employees were expected to shop at the company store, he had more White customers than Black. On Saturday mornings and sometimes Friday night he would pack up orders from area families and deliver their groceries on Saturday.  “My father sold meats and produce, canned goods, feed for stock animals, just about anything you needed. There was penny candy for the children and soda pops. You could buy gasoline for your automobile from an old fashioned hand pump. Kerosene could also be bought. On Fridays he would get a shipment of fish which would arrive at the depot. We seldom left our community so having the job of fetching the fish shipment was thrilling. I would walk to the depot with a friend and proudly bring the fish back to my father. ”

In addition to a grocery store there was a room with a juke box where one could dance.  Julia Collins ran a cafe in another section of the store. One could get sandwiches, hamburgers, and the like. On Sundays she served a full dinner with biscuits, chickens, greens and more. A barber shop was also included and the barber was Chester Roach.

The Stand was opened in the 1930s and closed in the late 1980s when Mr. Collin’s health precluded continuing working.  By then the store’s business had begun to decline because the marble industry was not expanding and people in the Black communities had moving away.  Eventually the building deteriorated and was removed by the company. Olin Collins died in 1985.

Nelson

Nelson had a back community connected to the marble industry. These were also company homes here which were centered around where the water tower stands. Nelson has the distinction of having a county line bisect the town. One part is in Pickens County and the other in Cherokee County. The line bisected the Black community.  The natural result would have been that some of the Black children would go to school in Pickens and others in Cherokee.  However, the nearest Cherokee County school was an all White school in Ball Ground. There was no school for Black children. As a consequence, the Cherokee County Board of Education paid a fee to the Pickens School System to educate their Black children at the Pickens Training School (later Tri City High School).

Jasper

In contrast to Tate, Black families in Jasper owned their own homes and land. Clusters of Black families were scattered among White homeowners.  Compared to Tate, Jasper’s Black population was much smaller. Emma Julia Washington lived in Tate until she was 15 when her father and mother purchased land in Jasper and moved their family. In explaining the difference, she noted that Tate was a close knit community where everyone knew each other and had the Marble Company in common. Jasper’s Black community was, compared to Tate, more independent. They lived apart and worked at many different jobs making the situation quite different.

Jasper’s Black residents worked at a diversity of jobs.  Many of the men were employed in the sawmill industry. Women were employed by well to do  professionals as housekeepers and nannies to their children. At the Roper Medical Clinic in Jasper several Black residents were employed by doctors E.A. and C.J. Roper as orderlies and nursing attendants. An early photo shows Aarn McHan, Zillar Barrow (female) and Edward Pitts are seen. Bessie Moore, Charlie Washington and Frances Chapman also worked at the hospital.  James Farrow was a school bus driver for the school system.

When speaking to local people, Vonce Farrow is often mentioned with great fondness. Mr.  Farrow worked for the Jasper Banking Company for 44 years.  A hard working and industrious man he was also employed at a dry cleaning establishment.  Today he is 80 years old and happily retired.

Today

The homes in Smoky Hollow and the other Black Tate communities are gone, survived only by good memories and a handful of families still living there.  Today people of all races choose where to live with no restrictions, and that is a good thing.

Reference: The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia, Stephen E. Griffeth, 1998; Pickens County, Georgia, Heritage, 1853-1995; unpublished document and chart listing the communities that existed in 1931; interviews Willie Mae Weaver, Emma Julia and Eddie Washington

Special Thanks to Lawton Baggs for his help with the research.

Next installment: Black Churches in Pickens County

Segregation, Local and Regional

You many contact Dr. Thompson at 706-633-3865 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Comments, feedback and new information are welcome.

Black History in Pickens: Part II Workers at the Georgia Marble Company and Jasper

 

Black History in Pickens: Part II

Workers at the Georgia Marble Company and Jasper

By Dr. Kathleen Thompson

[This article is the second in a series devoted to the history of the Black residents of Pickens County. Dr. Kathleen Thompson has completed extensive research including; archives and library investigation, interviews of local residents, and searches of early newspapers. This project has and continues to be made possible by the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance, and grants from the Georgia Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.]

A year after the arrival of the railroad in Tate and Jasper, the Georgia Marble Company was chartered in 1884. A 1902 account in the Atlanta Constitution newspaper records that Blacks had been employed in the marble industry for 15 years.             That would mean that the first Black employees were hired in 1887, before Colonel Sam gained control of the Company in 1905.

The article also refers to the Black workforce as holding jobs as “workers in the rubbing beds and as truck men.”

Old photos, preserved on a state run website called Vanishing Georgia, document the type of work of Black employees provided. Captions and notes clarify work seen in the photographs.  A picture taken in 1890 of the entire workforce of the Blue Ridge Marble Company in Nelson clearly shows Black workers.

Three photos, shot in the 1930s of quarry workers in Tate and Marble Hill, confirms Black work crews doing tasks such as “attaching cable to a marble block to be lifted out the quarry.”  Teams of mules and men are seen in another photo and include a Black employee.  These teams “transferred marble from the stock yard to the plant and back.”

Beginning in 1906 Willie Sanford Green (father of Willie Mae Weaver) worked at the quarry.  One of his duties was to check on Sunday afternoon to make sure that the pumps were properly removing ground water.  One day Willie arrived at the work site and found that the creek had flooded, swamping the pumps and filling the quarry.  He had started the sirens in order to get help from other employees. The sirens always signaled an emergency such as a home fire, accident at the company, or other serious problems.

By the 1930s Colonel Sam Tate had developed the Georgia Marble Company to a size that required 1,030 workers.  It is estimated that 15 percent of that work force was Black. That would be around 160 workers, most of whom lived nearby with their families.

The Black population of Pickens County in 1930 included 426 Negro males counted on the census.

As an employee of the Marble Company family men were provided housing.

In fact one was not allowed to buy land and build one’s own home if you worked for Colonel Sam Tate. According to Steve Griffith, Sam Tate believed, “If he owned the land, he had the power to remove someone he considered undesirable at any time.”

In addition to family housing, single Black men could stay at a boarding house for colored workers that was provided by the Georgia Marble Company.

It was located in the Lower Whippowill section, near the creek and quarries. According to Nelson resident Willie Mae Weaver, many of the Black men were from Dahlonega. They would walk home to their families in Lumpkin County on Friday and walk back to the Tate boarding house Sunday afternoon.

When Colonel Sam Tate took over the marble company in 1905 he began recruiting Black workers from other areas of Georgia.

The first employees came from Lumpkin County. Willie Mae Weaver’s father, Willie Sanford Weaver, walked to Tate to become a quarry worker around 1906. She explained that in rural Lumpkin County the only choice was to work at farming.

In Tate the pay was better and one could get company housing for their families. Willie Green met Kittie Mae Roach, married her, and moved from the workers boarding house to a home in Upper Whippowill.

Additionally Black workers from the areas around Sandersville, Georgia came to Tate to toil with marble and to Jasper to work in the sawmill industry.  They heard of employment opportunities from relatives and friends who had already moved to Pickens County.

Roderick Moore’s father moved to Jasper because an uncle had already relocated and got a position at a sawmill.  One of the reasons for this migration was the lack of industry and jobs in rural South Georgia

At the pink marble mansion Colonel Sam, his sister, and brother Luke were attended to by several Black employees. An ex slave, Jeff Strickland, was Colonel Sam’s first valet and lived in servant’s quarters in the basement of the house.

Three Black families lived near the mansion in company homes build on orders from Colonel Sam. Just outside the gate of the Tate House one can locate what was once a residence. It has recently been expanded for use as part of events held at the house.

This was the home of the Roach family. James Roach was the chef at the Tate Mansion.  He and his wife Dora raised their children in this home including; James (Chester), Mary Lois, Grady, Preston, and Truman. Son Preston Roach (Sr.) worked for Steve Tate until Steve’s death in 1958. Preston worked managing the Tate property at Lake Sconti (Today’s Big Canoe). Brother Truman Roach also worked for the Georgia Marble Company.

While the home no longer exists, just up the road from the mansion toward Smokey Hollow, on the left, was the residence of Temp Echols and his wife Mattie Frances.  Temp was Colonel Sam’s chauffer and Mattie was a school teacher.

The Collins family lived in a company house on the opposite of the road from the Echols family. George Collins was a brick and stone mason and carpenter for Sam Tate and was foreman of the crew that built the mansion.

His wife Katherine worked at the Tate House as housekeeper taking care of Sam, Miss Flora, and brother.

When George’s health precluded stone work, Colonel Sam had a store constructed in Smokey Hollow for George to run. The “Stand” was a landmark in the community for years (More about the Stand in a later installment.)

African-American citizens have worked in Pickens County for as far back as the 1830s, when they were slaves to Cherokee landowner James Daniels.  In the marble industry Black workers were so valued that Colonel Sam Tate sought out company employees in South Georgia and other locations.  The Tate family had a group of loyal employees that lived near the mansion.

In Jasper Black workers worked in the sawmill industry, at the Roper Hospital, in local homes, and other businesses.  While the numbers and percentages of Black residents was and still is small, they have been and are a valuable part of the community.

 

Next installments: The Historic Black Communities in Tate Jasper’s Black residents & Community

Black History in Pickens Part IV: Historic Black Churches

 

1968 Vacation Bible School at Friendship Baptist Church. Rev. James Dargon is seen in the center and Rev. Charles O. Walker to the right. (Photo courtesy Vanishing Georgia.)

 

By Dr. Kathleen Thompson

This article is the 4th in a series devoted to the history of the Black residents of Pickens County. Dr. Kathleen Thompson has completed extensive research including; archives and library investigation, interviews of local residents and searches of early newspapers. This project has and continues to be made possible by the Pickens Arts and Cultural Alliance, and grants from the Georgia Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Previous installments of this series can be found at www. pickensprogress.com

In Appalachia, churches are the heart of community. They provide spiritual guidance, fellowship and support in times of need. Each of Pickens County’s four historic Black churches have been in existence for over one hundred years. Mt. Calvary, in Tate, was established in 1886 while the Tate Methodist Episcopal Church, now Miracle Fellowship Holiness Church, was built in 1887 or possibly a year or two later. Friendship Baptist Church was founded in the 1880s making this congregation the oldest Black church in Pickens County. Started in 1910, and now 101 years old, Pilgrim Baptist Church in Nelson is the youngest of the four. All have ties to the marble industry and the Tate family, having had land or parts of their facilities donated by the Georgia Marble Company.

History of Mount Calvary Baptist Church

Contributed by Mrs. Willie Mae Weaver

From The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia by Stephen E. Griffeth

A Baptist Church for Blacks was organized in Tate, Pickens County, Ga., by Rev. J.N. Jennings. The church was given the honor of being named by a woman, a member of a neighboring church, Mrs. Lucy Armstrong. Mrs. Armstrong saw fit to bestow upon this church the name, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, a name which served as an inspiration to early members and which has grown dear to many generations in Tate.

The organization of this church took place in a school building a few hundred yards from the present structure at the turn of the hill leading to Smokey Hollow. This building was destroyed by fire. The young church, heroic in spirit determined to go forward under God. Hence, they worshipped under a brush arbor without a shepherd, inviting ministers as opportunity offered, praying and working together, and the good Lord blessed their efforts.

In 1903-04 Deacon Jeff Strickland, assisted by Deacon Sam King and others, laid plans for the present house of worship. The plans were successful. The church is in the shape of a cross.

Mr. Jeff Strickland, an ex-slave, was Colonel Tate’s valet. One night Colonel Sam got into a terrible brawl which was very frightening. Mr. Strickland came to his aide and he credited him with saving his life.  Colonel Sam was very deeply affected by the courageousness of Mr. Strickland’s help and wanted to do something very special for him. Since Mr. Strickland was a Baptist and a deacon in the church and he knew they needed a church building, Colonel Sam chose this way of showing his appreciation by helping build Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. Mrs. Bell Strickland, Jeff Strickland’s second wife, was the first Sunday School teacher at Mt. Calvary.  Colonel Sam Tate, the late president of the Georgia Marble Company, stood by this church with his money, advice and influence. Ever serving in the spirit of Christ, he proved himself to be a Christian philanthropist.

The church’s first pastor, Rev. Lloyd, was called to the pastorship, and after a few years was followed by Rev. Tuggle. Under Rev. Tuggle’s administration, Brother John O. Stephens, Robert Hamilton and Augustus Hamilton were ordained as deacons and Brother Earl Patrick was licensed to preach. During Tuggle’s tenure the Senior Mission, Baptist Young People’s Union and the Junior Mission were organized.

The next pastor, Rev. W.H. Ferrell who organized the Usher Board, and under his leadership the church joined State and National conventions, as well as the Foreign Mission Board.

The church building was enlarged when Rev. J.J. Watson led the congregation.  The wings were expanded and a choir stand added. The Georgia Marble Company donated a pulpit.  From 1942 to 1949, Rev. G.P. McKinney led the church.  While he directed the congregation, the church was remodeled with the addition of hardwood floors, new bathrooms, pews, pulpit furniture, a new piano, and a central heating system.  Homecoming and Vacation Bible School were established as events that are still looked foreword to with great anticipation.

Between 1959 and 1960 Rev. E.H. Mitchell served as Shepard of the Flock followed by Rev. E.R. Davie. During Rev. Davie’s tenure additional bathrooms were installed and the dining room added. In 1979 he resigned to become the Director of Black Church Relations for the Southern Baptist Convention.

For the next seven years Rev. Paul Reynolds was pastor of the church. During that time the building was again renovated and central air conditioning was added. Other subsequent pastors have included Rev. Gregory Smith (1988-91) and Pastor Leland Jones. Rev. Charles Morgan is the current pastor.  This is his third year of serving the church with diligence and stirring preaching.

As we march into another century of church work, we feel secure in looking to God for future guidance in winning souls for Christ.

Services are held on the second and third Sundays at 11:30 a.m. Sunday School is every Sunday at 10. Homecoming is always the second Sunday in June. Mt. Calvary Baptist Church is located on Smokey Hollow Road between Tate and Nelson. Turn right off of Highway 53 East just before the Tate Mansion. The church is on the left just after the road to Head Start.

On Sunday, Nov. 20, Mt. Calvary Baptist Church’s congregation will be 125 years old.  Friends and neighbors are invited to share in this auspicious anniversary. It would be wonderful to see a turnout that included old friends from the community and other churches.

Miracle Friendship

Holiness Church

The Methodist church was vacant for about 15-20 years and then, in the 1970s, the Holiness believers took over. Three ladies, Pastor Moss, Mother Thurman and Gladys Glover, are responsible for starting the services.

Pastor Mamie Sue Moss found the church in a deplorable condition. She collected money in order to do some refurbishing to the inside of the church. The walls were paneled, carpet came from Calhoun Nelson Baptist Church gave some pews and E.L. Howell built the restrooms.

A piano was donated by a lady from Marietta, Edna Glover; chairs were donated by friends from Marietta and W.L. Stephens built the pulpit. Pastor Moss purchased the drums and had the communion table build. Joyce Dorsey donated an organ and The Marietta Housing Authority provided heaters.  Services were held on Wednesday and Friday nights and on each Sunday.

Pastor Moss wanted the frosted windows changed. They were painted red and white which gives the checker board appearance.

From Pickens Progress, Smoky Hollow Church in need of repair 9/9/2010, Jeff Warren.

How Mamie Moss ended up leading a church in Pickens County when she lived in Marietta and had never seen the church or the community is an amazing story, one that I enjoyed hearing from Miss Mamie during my interviews of her and Joy Dorsey.

Mamie Moss had a reoccurring vision in which she saw a large group of people, unpainted houses, and people running up a hill. She prayed to the Lord for understanding. Later at a church gathering in Marietta she was invited to begin a home Bible Study in the Pickens County community of Smoky Hollow.  It was 1967 and she accepted the invitation. When she began to visit the Smoky Hollow community she was visiting near The Stand and she recognized that this was the place she had seen in her visions.

Knowing the Lord wanted more of her than just a Bible Study, Mamie Moss knew she needed to open a church and that the abandoned Tate Methodist Church was where it should be located. “The windows and doors were gone. It was in bad shape,” she recalled. Her first sermon was in January of 1971.

Pastor Moss served this church for seventeen years before moving to Kentucky. Joyce Dorsey over as pastor of the church in her absence. After seven years in Kentucky and eight years in Texas, Joy convinced Rev. Moss to return. Rev. Dorsey is now the assistant pastor.

Today the congregation is very small, with about five church members attending. “Most of the church members died or moved away to Atlanta,” Rev. Moss explained. She holds Sunday services on the first, third and fifth Sundays at noon.

This historic church is in desperate need of repair. To offer assistance or for more information call Rev. Moss at 706-301-9025. Donations can be made to the Miracle Fellowship Church account (#638261) at Jasper Banking Company.

Historic Tate Methodist Church 1887-

When Stephen C. Tate built the Tate Methodist Church in 1887, he also built a Methodist church for his black friends providing the land and the materials. The Methodist Conference from Atlanta sent a minister for many years to pastor this church. Some sources tell me it was known as the C.M.E. church – Colored Methodist Episcopal and others think it was A.M.E. – African Methodist Episcopal. Their opening ceremony was a little different but basically the same as the Baptist church.

Mr. Josh Tate and family attended the church along with the Temp Echols family, Monroe Dodd and family and Nora Buck and daughter. At one time the church grew and they had approximately 50 members.  Mr. McElroy, Mr. Monroe Dodd, Mr. Josh Tate and Mr. Temp Echols were stewards in this church.

They only had services on the third Sunday so on the second Sunday, they worshipped with the Methodists. This same pastor preached at a church in Canton on the other two Sundays.

The church had panes in the windows that were frosted and had little ripples in them. The membership dwindled and soon no one was attending church.

The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia by Stephen E. Griffeth.

In the 1940s the church closed as a Methodist congregation. The last pastor was Rev. Curtis from Adairsville. He also preached in Canton coming to Tate one a month for a second Sunday service. The conference encouraged him to move on but he insisted on continuing.  When he left the congregation closed the church.

The church stayed abandoned and locked up for at least a decade.  Stephen Griffeth estimated between fifteen and twenty years passed with the building empty of worshippers. Initially it was reopened by Annie Buck’s father, a Holiness minister.

Pilgrim Baptist Church,

Nelson, Ga.

In the year of 1910, Pilgrim Baptist Church was established under the leadership of Rev. Head. The first facility was destroyed by fire. The Georgia Marble Company donated the current building as a gift to the Pilgrim Baptist Church. The building was also used for Masonic Lodge Assembly’s and was the old Black school building. It had marble chalk boards and desk tops. And the stage had purple drapes.

Rev. A.V. Williamson was pastor of the church along with Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church until he recommended Rev. Henry Rogers.  Rev. Rogers served faithfully for 39 years. He took in 63 members, established a Baptist Training Union Study, an Usher Board, a Missionary Society and prayer meetings. In addition to ordaining deacons, two members were licensed and ordained to preach. They were Rev. Paul Lawson, Jr. and Rev. Paul Gidden. Improvements during Rev. Roger’s tenure including new furnace, painting the building and adding a new Baptismal pool.

Rev. Wofford Bailey was the minister from 1981 to 2002 followed by Rev. Barry McCall. Rev. McCall is now serving as Pastor Elect. Currently God has blessed us with Pastor John H. Brown and we have grown spiritually under his guidance. We thank God for the leadership of Rev. Brown and pray that God will continue to bless us as we continue to do his will as we go forward.

Pilgrim is located at 1775 Pickens Street in the Ball Ground side of Nelson. Pickens Street connects with Smokey Hollow Road and Old Highway 5 on the Tate side of Nelson.  Services are the second and fourth Sundays and begin at 11:30 a.m.

History courtesy of Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Friendship Baptist Church, Jasper, Ga.

In 1880 Black residents in Jasper organized a church and christened it Friendship Baptist Church. The first church services were held in a brush arbor where a crowd of older members and friends worshiped in true spirit and faith. We are told that they would spend nights praying fervently as the Holy Spirit would inspire them to convert souls to Christ.  It was there that the little church was founded.

Shortly thereafter a lot was bought by church member Mr. Will Simmonds for $20. A two- story frame building on the property was used as church and elementary school with a lodge hall on the second floor. A White pastor served during these years. However, his name is not known or was it found in church records, but he was remembered by older members. He baptized some of the first members including Mrs. Louisia McClure, mother of Addie Smith and Mr. Sam McClure.  Rev. Lloyd was also one of the earlier pastors.

In 1909 another lot was purchased from Mr. John McHan, just above the initial property. It is here where the members decided to build another church. Rev. G.B. Harden was a carpenter as well as the pastor. He built a nice frame building on lot #2 and the old building was used only for school purposes after this time.

Seven years later, this school was consolidated with the school at Tate. After a period of years the old church and the school building were torn down.  The church that Rev. Harden built was also torn down to make way for a new church facility. A new block church was built in 1962, Rev. Pinkard being the pastor.

In 1984, under the leadership of Rev. James W. Dargon, new additions were constructed as part of the original building. Renovations also included stained glass windows and bricking.

Rev. Russell T. Kennedy, Sr. was called to become the next pastor in 1989. Under his leadership carpeting and pew upholstery were purchased. Also Deacon Otis Morgan, Jr. was ordained into the ministry.

The pastor since 1992, Rev. R.S. Thomas has accepted the challenge and task of leading his flock through the religious, social, economic and educational changes that confront us in these times. We thank God for the leadership we have had in the past, and today, and pray that God will continue to bless us.  May we continue to do good for His kingdom and remain humble.

History courtesy of Friendship Baptist Church.

It was during a conversation with Rev. Charles Walker that he shared the special relationship between Jasper First Baptist and Friendship Baptist Church. On the Vanishing Georgia Web site, I had come across a photo of Rev. Walker, and two of his church members at a Vacation Bible School at Friendship Baptist Church in 1968. Rev. Dargon, pastor of Friendship is seen in the center of the photo. That would be two years after school integration. I asked how long First Baptist did a separate Bible School at Friendship. “Not long after that we decided that the Black children should come to Jasper First, after all we are all the same,” he replied.

Rev. Walker also told me that when Friendship Church needed to buy building materials at a sawmill in Gilmer County in 1962, he and his deacons worried that they might be cheated by the owner because Friendship was a Black church. He recalled that several deacons from First Baptist went with the Friendship deacons to Ellijay to be sure the process was fair.

Located on the southwest side of Jasper on Mineral Springs Street, church services are held second and fourth Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

References

Interviews of Mamie Moss and Joy Dorsey, 2009 by Dr. Kathleen Thompson

Interviews of Rev. Charles Walker, 2008 and 2009, by Dr. Kathleen Thompson

The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia, Stephen E. Griffeth, 1998

Pickens County, Georgia, Heritage, 1853-1995

A special thanks to Vivian Chapman and Robert McClure for providing church histories for Pilgrim and Friendship churches.

You many contact Dr. Thompson at 706-633-3865 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Comments, feedback and new information are welcome.