According to the Methodist history, such as it is, Cedar Grove Methodist was organized in the home of one of the founding members in 1887. ‘ Soon a frame building with wooden siding and very high ceiling was built. The windows are very long and narrow with a center pivot so that they swing out horozontally, allowing the breeze to circulate top and bottom.’ It further states that ‘Its membership has gradually disappeared and in 1975 it was closed; reopened in January 1979, renovated and services begun by Rev. Bill Thompson. Rev. Bill Jones followed for about nine months; once again it is not having services. In 1982, it was listed on the Methodist roles with two members’.
These photos illustrate an all too familiar story. A once vibrant rural congregation slowly dies off, the church falls into disrepair and finally to ruin. Unless Cedar Grove gets some help soon….she is doomed. Our experience here at HRCGA tells us these treasures can be saved if there are three ingredients present i.e. a local group of people who are willing to get involved, a little bit of repair money and finally, an on-going use for the church so that it can be maintained. Accomplishing these three tasks is not as hard as it sounds. There are some examples of these churches being rescued such as Barnett Methodist in Warren County. Click here for the before and after story and photos. We are working with local communities to save these old treasures while we still can.
The most important of these three ingredients are the local citizens who are willing to make the effort to raise a little money and willing to manage the project. These old box churches were built using local materials and simple construction techniques. Basic repairs are not that expensive and sometimes people are willing to donate labor and materials if asked. The beautiful and haunting image above was built over 125 years ago and could still be saved. It is in remarkable condition given that the windows have been removed and no one is making any effort to repair the roof. Just keeping the weather out will buy years of extended life and, in this case, that means at least boarding up the windows and doing some minimum work on the tin roof.
What about the ongoing use? There are some rational answers…….a repaired and functional church can be non-denominational and just used periodically for various purposes such as reunions, old time religion day, weddings etc. Working together, local citizens interested in Tattnall County and Georgia history along with those in the religious community who value the history these churches represent could save Cedar Grove for generations to come. Another option is for a private owner who is willing to maintain it or move it for preservation to step forward. In either case, the church can be preserved and saved for the enjoyment and use of generations to come. We will keep you posted on developments regarding Cedar Grove.
The front view presents a church still standing but in dilapidated condition. The open windows can allow blowing water into the sanctuary. But worse, the view from the rear of the church reveals a roof problem threatening to cause the collapse of the structure. Yes, all of the windows are open to the weather, that is bad. But worse is the fact that the roof is leaking badly allowing water continuous, direct access to the churches interior. The leaking roof is always fatal if not repaired in time. The heavily stained soffit and siding beneath the two leaks indicates severe water damage has already occurred. The fact that the tin is missing from a portion of the opposite roof is further grounds for concern. But, if the interior wood has not been severely damaged, the deterioration process can be greatly lessoned by roof repairs.
We are now looking inside from the front of the church to the apse in the back. The leaky roof seen in the last photo is directly above the rotting and buckling floor area to the right. This picture provides evidence of the much more severe damage that is caused from a leaking roof than open window and floor frames. Neither condition is acceptable,but compare the floors, walls and ceiling boards on the right side of the photo those on the left. All wooden elements on the right have been subjected to the leaking roof-water flow. In fact, damage is already being done all the way down to the floor joists. All on the left, subject only to the blowing rain from open window and door openings, are still intact. This is proof that timely action in repairing this kind of damage can insure a structure remains sound.
This apse is certainly in need of repair. Thankfully, the sound roof above has kept the severe water damage seen in the sanctuary from occurring here. Yes, missing floor boards and windows must be replaced. But, wall and ceiling wood need only to be scraped and painted to bring this spot back to life. In recent years, we have learned that in the “old church saving/rescuing/restoring/repurposing business”, timing and local participation is everything. We hope Cedar Grove in Tattnall County can attract the attention it needs… in time.
Here lies Stephen Thomas and his wife, Martha. Stephen enlisted as a private in May of 1862, in the 61st Ga. Infantry. He was wounded at Gettysburg when he took a minnie ball that shattered his leg below the left knee. He was subsequently taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in the Point Lookout, Maryland camp before being released after the surrender. His pension application in 1904 and that of his wife after his death is very interesting. We are always struck with the sheer amount of bureaucracy and paperwork, necessary to obtain (in this case) ten dollars a month. After his death, his widow is subjected to another round of paperwork requirements and documentation. Tedious, for sure, but it provides a close look at what some of these soldiers went through in a war that devastated the south.
The Cedar Grove cemetery is not extensive. But, as at all such sites, local and authentic stories abound. Over a century of lives and deaths are marked here by marble or granite memorial stones or sometimes only by the strategic field stones marking the head and feet of the deceased. This marble monument was clearly placed in memory of a person of means. Of course, every grave, even if it is only a depression in the ground represents the last resting place of a Georgia pioneer or child and is part of the Georgia story.
We have recently come in touch with some folks in Tattnall County that have expressed strong interest in taking on the restoration of Cedar Grove. We will keep all of you that follow the HRCGA website and Facebook page appraised of any developments on this project, positive or negative. Please stay tuned.
Here is a photo of Cedar Grove when she was an active church. We do not know the date but finding one of these old photos is a treat.
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The map denoting the location is incorrect. This church is located in Tattnall County on land now owned by Reidsville State Prison.
Thanks for catching this. It is fixed now.