Glendale Chapel Methodist Church and School
Glendale Chapel Methodist Church located in the Big Texas Valley in the foothills of northwest Georgia, stands today because a community came together, and through unwavering determination, saved the chapel from a fate that has befallen so many of our rural Georgia churches whose disintegrating remains dot our Georgia backroads. Glendale’s restoration is a story of respect for the people who fashioned our Georgia agrarian roots, and of their reverence for the role of religion in forming their community life. The story of Glendale Chapel helps us all form a more complete narrative of Georgia’s early rural history. Founded in 1875, Glendale Chapel came to the notice of Historic Rural Churches of Georgia in 2014. Originally the church worshiped in a brush arbor located nearby. There was another log structure on the property for a short time and in 1889 the first services in the little chapel above took place.
Like so many good things that happen in life, serendipity played a role in saving Glendale Chapel. Annie Shields and Patricia York, equestrian therapists for the deaf, bought the property that bordered on the chapel’s land. While looking for more space to exercise her horses, Shields came upon Glendale Chapel. She and York decided they would find the owners of the land, buy it and set about saving the Chapel. Along the way, they found former congregants, the Johnson sisters, Ms. Annie M. Johnson, Mrs. Jennie Johnson Jones, and Mrs. Alva Johnson Battey. Through them and their family the rich history of Glendale Chapel has been brought to life – the joyful gatherings, as well as the painful hard times its congregants shared inside those walls and around that churchyard.
For African American congregations in the early 20th century, their churches served the additional purpose of being the local school house, the only school facility available for many of the rural black citizens in Floyd County. The church schools were recognized by the county board of education and their teacher paid by the county, but the rest of the cost was borne by the local African American community. The Johnson sisters remember their school days in their church, bringing their lunch, sitting around the wood burning stove, learning the basics and also learning about their African American heritage. Eventually, the church school closed due to loss of county funding. However, the community came together again and paid for a teacher working out of a local home for two years before the parents arranged for the children to attend the only elementary school for African Americans in Floyd County over 25 miles from the Valley. Jennie Johnson Jones remembers that as a time of confusion and distress. However, her experiences in the Glendale Chapel school and the pain of the loss of those two years in a formal school, inspired her to pursue a life time of learning, eventually earning her Masters Degree in Education.
As the chapel’s restoration plans were being formed and implemented, the story took what could have been a tragic turn. The stresses of time, weather, and neglect had taken its toll on the structure. During the renovation, Glendale literally fell apart, turning that compelling old church into yet another heap of wood by the side of the road. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the small group decided to persevere. They discovered that the original church had been unpainted and was constructed in the board and batten style from white oak trees cut from the property. It turns out the little church had been covered with siding and painted white in the early 1900’s. The group decided to go forward with the original construction style and use as much material from the remains as they could.
Fortunately, we have good photographic documentation of the before, during and after process as you can see from gallery photos below. The church has been restored to its original glory as you will appreciate when scrolling the photos. The first photo in the series is an interesting historical contrast to the restored chapel above. The restoration of Glendale Chapel Methodist has gifted us with a glimpse into the lives of people like the Johnson family, who are entrusting us with the responsibility to preserve and pass on their rich tradition. Kudos to Annie Shields and Pat York for the vision and perseverance it took to do it. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude for their stewardship. For a deeper history of Glendale Chapel and the Johnson family, click here and here and here.