Historic Rural Churches of Georgia was founded in 2012 by Sonny Seals and George Hart with a mission to research, document and ultimately preserve historic rural churches across the state. The movement started when Sonny inadvertently discovered his great grandfather’s grave in the old burial ground of Powelton Methodist, a long inactive church in the “lost village of Powelton” . That discovery of his personal family roots and the related history of the little village of Powelton led Sonny and George to wonder about the old rural churches across the state and the disappearing villages. How many were there? What will happen to them? Does anybody care? Is there any way to save them? These questions are what led to the development of this website. Georgia is blessed with many of these old rural treasures, but many of them are now gone and others are badly in need of assistance. HRCGA has recruited a group of very talented and passionate photographers to document these treasures in the style we think of as “reverential documentation”.
Our group of talented photographers attempt to make these old sanctuaries come alive with beautiful photographs, while paying appropriate attention to the primitive architectural integrity of the structures. We try to capture the beauty of the sanctuaries, inside and out, but also the history behind them. We also use the haunting cemeteries to tell some of the stories of the rural pioneers who founded and built these treasures. Simply put, Georgia history in unique in many ways and Georgia history is rural church history…….the story of who we are and how we got here. The response of our followers has been remarkable and gratifying. We now know people do care and, while we will continue the research and the documentation, we are beginning to work with selected local communities to physically save some the churches that are badly in need of an intervention. We think some of these churches can be saved from certain destruction provided three elements are present i.e. a strong local group to lead the effort, some money for the project and finally, an end use for the facility that will keep it maintained for the future. It is our intention to assist and collaborate with those communities that can provide the leadership to organize the effort, manage the renovation phase and then use and maintain the facility. We are still in the preliminary stages of developing a process for these projects that can be replicated successfully.
Most of the churches were organized in the 18th and 19th centuries and went through a transition from brush arbor, to log house, to one or more frame structures. The existing structure must be at least one hundred years old.
Some are more historic than others but we value those that have some interesting historical aspect. Sometimes that is the church, sometimes the location of it and sometimes the Tales from the Crypt that arise from the cemetery.
The more rural the better but some of our churches are located in rural villages that we define as having a population less than two thousand.
The church needs to have interesting exterior and/or interior architecture and most importantly, has not been so improved over the years that the visual links to the past have been severely diminished.
Not all churches have cemeteries but they are a strong plus for us if the cemetery has pre-1900 interments. However, the older the better.
We are hopeful that we can have a positive impact on preservation
where it is needed. Georgia is blessed with an abundance of these
historic treasures, but many of them are in various states of distress
and neglect. We feel that if we properly present, and call attention to,
some of the more dramatic historic churches we can bring these
endangered landmarks to the attention of those who can and should
take steps to see that they do not disappear forever.