The history of Black Rock is intertwined with the history of Independence Methodist whose roots go back to the late 1700s. The church was located in what is now known as the Village of Tignall, once a a crossroads known as Independence Campground. It was used for all denominations in the early days but became a Methodist Church in the 1830s. Many enslaved African Americans attended Independence, but in 1870 a few years after the Civil War, the church building was sold to the black congregants. They then moved the church a short distance away and placed it on land that had been donated by John S. Poole. At that time it was renamed Black Rock AME.
There is a historic marker at the Independence Methodist church which reads “In the beginning, the history tells us the church was built for all denominations, and perhaps the name Independence was chosen as a result. There is another school of thought that the Independence name stemmed from our recent victory in the Revolutionary War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Either way, some sort of dispute arose in the 1830’s and, as a result, the Methodists claimed the church. This claim was disputed and taken to court, where the Methodists were represented by noted Wilkes County lawyer, Robert Toombs. The Methodists prevailed and the church has been Methodist ever since.
In 1840, Thomas L. Wootten deeded the lot on which the old church building stood to the trustees. After the Civil War, this church building was “sold to the black people who moved it to land given to them in Tignall”, by John S. Poole. This African American church became known as Black Rock AME and the church thrives today after almost 150 years. A new church was then erected across the road and dedicated in 1871 by Bishop George F. Pierce. The history tells us that a Sunday school celebration was held in 1879 with the President of Emory College, Dr. A. G. Haygood presiding, that attracted almost 1,000 attendees.
The church is in a bucolic setting, and the large rocks in front of the church must have been the inspiration for the new Black Rock name.
The architecture of the church unusual and features a four-tiered Steeple standing over the main entrance into the sanctuary.
Here we have entered the sanctuary where we see the many improvements made over the years. However, the bones of the old church are intact and still reflect the simplicity of the original structure.
From this pulpit, many souls have been saved, hymns sung and departed souls eulogized. Black Rock has served this rural community for over 150 years.
The pulpit, prayer rail, and simple accoutrements give the chancel and the apse a dignified, yet simple, atmosphere to receive the words of the Gospel.
When gazing upon these old sacred graveyards, we must keep in mind that many, if not most, of the interments are unmarked. Headstones were expensive and many families could not afford the cost. Many were marked with either wooden markers that disappeared over time or simple fieldstones to pay final respects in the best way they could afford.
Lizzie Wilkerson was born into slavery in 1843 and died in 1909. Even thought she passed well over a hundred years ago, her grave is tended by descendants who regularly place flowers to honor her memory.
Here lies the grave of Pleasant McLendon, the oldest marked interment in the cemetery. Pleasant was born a slave in 1831 and would have been 34 at the end of the Civil War. He died in 1907.
Barney McLendon was born a slave in 1832. He likely was the brother of Pleasant McLendon whose headstone is in the previous photo.
Here lies Rev. C. M. Pinkleton who was born a slave in 1856. Rev. Pinkleton must have become a member of the clergy and likely served as pastor of the Black Rock church in the late 1800s. He died in 1905 at the early age of 49.
The birthdate of Mathie Wright is unknown. We do know there are two others in the graveyard with the Wright surname who were born slaves - Bob Wright, born in 1862, and Caroline, born in 1859.
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