Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and School

Glynn County
Org 1894
Photography by Bryan Stovall

The photo you see above is that of the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, built in 1928, and the little parochial school next door, built in 1901. Both were founded by Deaconess Anna Alexander, consecrated in 1907 as the only African American deacon in the Episcopal denomination.  Her headstone is in the foreground above.  Her story is one of dedication, service and determination to serve her coastal community of Pennick, located near St. Simons Island.  The schoolhouse served as both school and church in the early 1900s as well as living quarters for Deaconess Alexander who lived on the premises. The school has long been closed but the church is still active.

Anna was born in 1865 to parents who had been enslaved on the infamous Butler Island Plantation, across the river from Darien.  Anna’s mother, Daphne, was a mulatto whose biological father was the white plantation manager, Roswell King, Jr. who later founded the town of Roswell, Georgia.  Her father James, was one of the few slaves who had been allowed to receive some education and became the personal assistant of plantation owner, Pierce Butler.  Daphne and James Alexander had eleven children and passed on their passion for education and communal responsibility to all of them.  Many were active in the Darien community and especially so at the St. Cyprian Episcopal Church.

Anna, raised in The Episcopal Church, found the public education available to her in Glynn County, Georgia, substandard.  She became a teacher at the parochial school attached to St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in Darien that her sister, Mary Alexander Mann, had founded.  After the Civil War, the school was virtually the only access to education for local African Americans.  Anna’s base of operations for most of her life was the poor, rural community of Pennick, not far away in Glynn County.  In 1894 she prompted the founding of an Episcopal mission, The Church of the Good Shepherd. 

The school is particularly significant.  There are only a handful of these old African American church-sponsored school structures left in Georgia, but they are historically important.  After the Civil War, emancipated African Americans, who had not been allowed to read or write, were determined to obtain education for their children. Their struggle for access to education in pursuit of a better life, began a long journey that is significant in southern history, and the history of our nation.  This school began as one of those one room schools.  Another room was added at a later date.  This older building then served as both the Good Shepherd Church as well as an onsite residence for Deaconess Alexander.

 In 1998, Anna was named a Saint of Georgia by the Diocese of Georgia, affirming the deep impact she and her school had on her community.  Her service to the residents of the Pennick community and the education of their children is a large part of coastal Georgia’s African American history.  The Good Shepherd school was recently placed on the Georgia Trust Places in Peril listing for 2022.  We are grateful to the diocese of Savannah for their stewardship of this important part of Georgia history that can now be passed on to future generations.

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