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 this aspect of 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 Pitts Theology Library at Emory. This will serve as an important reference as the renovation process progresses.
In front of the church is a solar box containing very interesting aspects of Antioch history. It is well worth a visit and a listen. The four audio files can be accessed on the video virtual tour. THE CHURCH - THE CEMETERY - A REVIVAL - MEMORIES OF ANTIOCH
Antioch is a very spiritual place that is difficult to describe. It is nestled in the trees beside the old graveyard and presents a very photogenic profile. There used to be a small one room schoolhouse to the left of the church but it was dismantled some years ago. Antioch can still be saved but time is running out.
As stated earlier, the Antioch Baptist church building is suffering significant damage from top to bottom. But, engineering analysis reveals that with money, time and local support it can be successfully restored. Though the damage to the brick corner foundation shown looks daunting, a local contractor declares that it can be repaired at a reasonable cost. As you can see most of the remaining brick piers are not so severely compromised.
This photo presents that significant repairs will be needed to stabilize and restore the building framing. However, most of the timbers remain sound and the building remains plumb and square after 120 years. Note the fieldstone footings. All the locals had to work with was wood, rocks and sometimes brick. They made great use of what was at hand.
Though definitely compromised, the front steps and open vestibule entry area and its large support framing remains level and repairable. The siding, though rough and worn will, in most cases, not need to be replaced and can be repaired and painted along with the curved vestibule ceiling.
Here we get a peek through the open front door into the sanctuary. Remarkably, the original heart pine floor boards, though neglected for decades, remain intact and can be brought to life with minimum effort. Isn’t the glimpse of the pulpit area and apse windows intriguing?
This charming photo presents the Antioch sanctuary as it is today. We see over twenty of the original hand hewn, heart pine pews resting on the pine floor boards just as they have since the church’s 19th century beginning. The weight of each, solid wood pew is remarkable. Throughout the sanctuary, we see the signs of many restoration efforts. The original heart pine ceiling and walls has been covered and sheet rocked. Thankfully, all of the original elements of this period interior can be restored.
Here we see a close up photograph of the chancel, pulpit area and apse. This church was built by and for former slaves and without the input of professional contractors and architects. We marvel at the creativity and cleverness exhibited in the design of gothic window frames created by placing triangular elements atop rectangular frames. We love these three windows and what they represent. All elements like these can be repaired and restored and remain available for all to see and enjoy for decades to come.
In this photo we see how the builders created a charming apse at this simple church by kicking out its back wall to create a bay. We also see a decorative wainscot along the walls. These are just another example of the creative design talent and capability of these former slaves that is reflected in the construction of this old church.
According to George Turner, son of the last Antioch Baptist Bishop, congregational singing was a critical element of the worship services at the church. He also tells us that sometimes, the congregation would not sing but simply tap their feet in rhythm expressing elements of unity and community.
We chose to present this photo of a hand hewn, un-planed heart pine pew back to provide an example of the authenticity of almost every element present at Antioch today. We believe that preservation of such treasures as these for the edification and enjoyment of future generations is critical.
This is a close up of one of the gothic window frames. Here we point out that these are handmade, sashed, 6 over 6 windows. None are from a factory. All were hand made, another example of the talents of the builders. We also want to point out again that the walls, ceilings etc. were sheet rocked in the 20th century. The plan is to see that all the significant, original sanctuary elements will be restored.
In this view, we display some of the problems that must be addressed to breathe life back into Antioch. The roof is leaking as evidenced by the ceiling stains near the chancel and patched, damaged areas seen nearby. More serious leaks exist and will need to be addressed. On the other hand, isn’t the scene depicted charming and tranquil. We hope to bring you in the future pictures of the repaired church and the back story of its successful rejuvenation.
The tendency would be to think of Antioch as an abandoned church that has no support, but that is not the case. There is an annual homecoming that takes place each August, attended by family descendants from far and wide, who pay homage to their heritage and their roots. In this photo of a recent reunion are represented four generations of descendants from as far away as New York and Connecticut. They raise enough money to keep the grounds up and do some repairs but need help for the full renovation.
What a lovely shot from the church interior to the little graveyard outside. While there are 75 recorded interments, Deacon Turner, when he was still alive, identified 67 other graves that are unmarked. Gravestones and caskets were expensive for people making perhaps two dollars a day. They were buried with love and dignity but headstones were simply unaffordable.
The oldest interment in the cemetery is that of Rev. William H. Darden, who was born into slavery in 1856 and died in 1898, shortly after the congregation was formed. He lies at rest under the signature pine tree in front of the church.
Here lies Dock Peek, born in 1852 and died in 1925 at the age of 72. At the end of the Civil War, he would have been about thirteen. We don't know how many freed slaves are buried in the graveyard but we suspect there are a lot. Many of the early unmarked graves would have been formally enslaved people.
Here lies Deacon Turner, George Turner's father, his mother and her sister. Family roots run deep at Antioch and especially so for the Turner family.
Your tax-deductible donation to Historic Rural Churches will help keep history alive through digital and physical preservation efforts for Georgia’s rural churches, their history and the communities that support them.
Full Name *
Sign me up for the newsletter!
I was at Heavy’s BBQ yesterday and the owner said work has been ongoing at the church.
What’s the latest ?
Nothing going on at Antioch that we know of.
Any donations I make are NOT given over the internet and I prefer to make them to a specific legitimate address which can be verified as being Friends of Antioch Board of Trustees. As I am a descendant of Pryor G. Veazy, (great-great grand), I wish to keep up his legacy for this church.
Thank you very much. We will send you a mailing address. We appreciate the support.
The links to make a donation don’t work on my iphone, fyi.
Timing is everything and there’s no time to waste to restore Antioch. Lots of corporate money available for this project in the current environment.
This church is not far off I-20 so that makes it easier to get to than many of the churches on HRCGA.org
Anitioch conceivably could host small destination events of some sort.
Thanks Matt. Good thoughts. We will take a look at the link.
Hi. I’d like to contact anyone involved in the preservation of Antioch Baptist Church in Talliaferro County. My father, Jim Cantrell, has been involved in preserving many other historic buildings, including a water mill, court house and church in Banks County. My dad has access to period building materials and is willing to help. He heard that someone named Jackie Butts is involved; should we talk with him? Any help you can offer is much appreciated.
Would love to find the Google map with all of these plotted on it. It would be handy to have on a day trip. Thanks.
Good thought. We are working on a format for this. Easier said than done but we are getting there.