Can we save this historic treasure?
Click HERE to take a tour of old Antioch
The stunning image you see above, Antioch Baptist, is probably the most photographed church in all of rural Georgia. She has recently been placed on the Georgia Trust Places in Peril list, and we think the timing is good for a successful renovation effort, that is badly needed. Support is now building for her preservation and you can help. Please join the FRIENDS OF ANTIOCH group HERE in order to make a DONATION and be part of the movement to save and support the efforts that will bring her back into community service once again. This will be an ongoing story and as a member of the Friends community, you can be part of it.
In November of 1886, a group of former slaves and their children from the nearby Powelton New Hope Baptist Church, led by Deacon Willie Peak, Deacon Abe Frazier and Deacon Philic Jones came together and founded the Antioch Baptist Church. The board of deacons purchased two acres of land from the Veazey family estate and two acres were donated to them for a cemetery. Shortly after the church was dedicated, a one room school was built on the premises. Prior to integration, many schools like these were the only access that some rural African Americans had to education. Up until the mid 1950’s, black children were not allowed to ride on county school buses. These church affiliated one room schools served the community until the emergence of the equalization schools in the 1950s, and it was not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that African American children began to get access to the same quality of education as the whites. However, this was not an easy transition and there was much turmoil in nearby Crawfordville, the county seat, in 1965. The history of this period is well documented in the television archives of the networks, who covered it extensively. It is a shame that the little school, which was located to the left of the church in the photo is no longer there to give us a proper sense of the history that took place in so many parts of rural Georgia.
The church appears abandoned, but there is actually a strong support group of church descendants who attend an annual reunion on the church grounds every August. As you click and scroll the gallery photos below, you will see a photo of one of these reunions that makes a strong point. In this photo are four generations of family descendants who came from several states to touch and feel their roots, and to pass the stories down to the younger generations. These efforts have been led for many years by George Turner, whose father was the last Deacon of an active Antioch congregation. They have been able to make some repairs and keep the grounds neat but more support will be required to save this important part of Georgia’s history. You will also see a few photos of the graveyard that contain so many stories. There are 75 recorded interments there but Deacon Turner, before his death, also documented 71 interments in unmarked graves that are located in the little yard. Unmarked graves were common in many of the older cemeteries and especially in African American cemeteries. Headstones were just beyond the reach of many of these early 20th century farmers and their families. We are fortunate that Deacon Turner documented these interments.
With your help we can bring Antioch back into service to serve the community in a number of ways just as she has since 1886. And more importantly we can ensure that his great part of Georgia and American history will be there for future generations. Be sure to click and scroll the images below for more information and click HERE for a 360 degree tour of Old Antioch in all her glory – courtesy of the Pitts Theology Library at Emory. This will serve as an important reference as the renovation progresses.