This building is in a lovely rural setting on the crest of a gently sloping hill that has commanded a 360 degree view of the beautiful Jackson county countryside for over 125 years. The history of the church from the Baptist archives states that Apple Valley Baptist was organized May 7, 1887 in a school building with 34 charter members. It then states that the church was built the following year in 1888. A local history tells us that before the church was organized in 1887, the community attended church at Cabin Creek, Black’s Creek and Oconee Baptist. There is also local history that tells us this building was used as a school house in the early 20th century until it was abandoned. The present day Apple Valley Baptist church is almost adjacent to the old church in a building that appears to be fairly recent. Therefore if the church was built in 1888, we think this was probably the original church, which then did double duty for the community serving as a schoolhouse as well as the church until the present Apple Valley Baptist church was built.
These dates are certainly consistent with the age of the building you see in front of you. It is a classic rural box construction with no steeple, four windows on a side and a double door entry. The church/school has been deserted for some time and is now being used as a stable and for farm storage purposes. The tin roof is still in good shape really speaks to the beauty of tin as a perfect roofing material for these old structures. Prior to tin, wood shingles were the roofing material of choice and would have given out a long time ago. The structure is pretty sound, given the long period of total neglect and the pressure of the animals. We don’t know how long it will last but this is a classic old church that needs to be documented and rewarded for her service to the Apple Valley community for lo these many years. There is also a rather quaint old cemetery across the street that we feel deserves some special documentation as well. This little community has answered the military call to duty many times and several of its citizens have paid the ultimate price as you will see.
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It doesn’t look as if the structure was ever painted, or if it was, it was a long time ago. The side Windows are now boarded up but probably matched the one above. You are looking at the original glass in a 4 over 12 configuration, which is very unusual, as is the horse standing in the lee of church.
This is the first time we have ever seen an old church used as a stable. The above image gives a lot of cutaway detail that you would not get otherwise. You can see the hand hewn timbers supported by field stone and timbers with lap siding on the interior. The cutaway door that allows the horses to use the back half of the church as a stable frames a beautiful image of the horses grazing in the distance. The symmetry of the image is remarkable. A rural painting within a rural painting. Enjoy.
The rear view shows that the structure is in remarkable condition. The original church would have been filled with incredible light provided by the 12 large windows placed in all four walls. This, in conjunction with the location on the apex of the hill, would have resulted in a remarkable panorama of the rolling hills of Jackson county and perhaps a horse or two.
This cemetery contains many generations of Apple Valley volunteers who answered the call. Here are Revolutionary War veterans, Civil War veterans, WW II survivors of the Bataan death march and those who paid the ultimate price in North Africa or died in the seas of the North Atlantic.
There are 14 Bowles interments in this burial ground from 1834 to 2006, a span of 172 years. Here lies Nathan Bowles, a Revolutionary War soldier and the oldest documented grave in the Apple Valley cemetery. Young Nathan would have been but 14 years old at the outbreak of hostilities and but 19 at the end of active hostilities in the south.
Private John M. Smith would have been in his 40’s when he served with the 43rd Ga Infantry. Pretty old for a private in the trenches but he answered the call paid the ultimate price at the siege of Vicksburg.
Another Smith from Apple Valley who served his country and met his death in the sands of North Africa. This little village has paid a big price for our liberty. It is quite moving to think of the soldiers that came out of this little community to fight America’s wars over a 250 year time span. We thank you for your service and your sacrifice.
Hal Hope Potts was an Air Force Sergeant who survived the Bataan Death march. His brother, Robert Jackson Potts, served in the US Navy and was lost at sea in a ship collision in 1952.
Apple Valley was well represented with Civil War veterans. W.J.C. Hunt survived the horrors of the Civil War only to be struck down in a farm accident in 1898 as ‘the mules trotted down a hill, he got over balanced and fell from the top of the cotton to the ground, breaking his collar bone and cracking his skull bone, producing death in a few hours.‘ Life in the Georgia back country was hard.
Abandoned and Endangered
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Can someone please send me the contact information for who holds the records for the cemetery plots at Apple Valley Baptist Church in Commerce, GA?
My dad passed away and we believe he owned two plots. We are trying to find out what we can do to put them into my mother’s name. His name was Michael R. Shirley. Address – 400 Cown Road Temple, GA 30179.
You can contact me at 678-343-8206 (Cary Fouts – daughter) or 404-502-6012 (Joyce Shirley – his surviving spouse).
Here is the Findagrave link for Apple Valley. The church is active as is the cemetery. Someone there should be able to help. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/32577/apple-valley-cemetery