Grooverville is a special place in rural Brooks County. It is in a peaceful setting on a tree shaded dirt road common to this lovely part of deep south Georgia. Part of what makes old Grooverville so special is that there are two very historic churches here located only a few yards apart i. e. this one and Liberty Baptist. These two churches attest to the vibrant little village that populated these two congregations when Grooverville was located on the stage road from Tallahassee to Thomasville. Both of these churches will be a work in process and a very uplifting one. For years there has been a cloud over this old village that houses these two sanctuaries. The cloud involved local disputes and contested ownership that have now been resolved, and we are grateful to report that the old Methodist church has been acquired by someone with local roots who is determined to restore her to her former glory. These images we are presenting now are those of a church that has been neglected for some time, and to that extent they are an important part of what we hope will be the documentation of the re-birth of Grooverville. Even in a neglected state, she stands proudly just as she has since 1856. The church history below is courtesy of Clayton H. Ramsey. For a tour of the Liberty Baptist Church next door click here. There is also another very historic church, Bethlehem Primitive Baptist, located just four miles away. Click here for a tour of Bethlehem.
“Grooverville Methodist Church began as a brush-arbor meeting place on the property of William H. Ramsey. In 1832, Mr. Ramsey moved with his family from Bladen County, North Carolina, to Thomas (later Brooks) County, Georgia. Without an established church in the area and anxious to worship according to Methodist practice, he began services for his family and slaves in a temporary shelter on his land. As families with Methodist convictions gradually settled in the area, they sought out others with similar religious affinities and decided a sturdier structure should be built for their times of Sabbath meeting. A log-church was built one-half mile north of Mr. Ramsey’s home, on the road that led to St. Marks, Florida. They named the church Lebanon, and while there were no regular services visited by ordained clergy, the church served as a focal point for the developing Methodist community there. The faith of the congregants sustained the fellowship until Lebanon was added to the Methodist circuit in the 1840s as a regular appointment.
Near Lebanon was a center of trade known as Station No. 18, then Key, and finally Grooverville. Grooverville’s commercial success was due in no small measure to its placement on the stage road from Tallahassee to Thomasville and Troupville. Attracted to the growing town, the members of Lebanon Church decided to move their congregation to Grooverville and were granted an acre of land by deed of gift from the owner of the property, Mr. Malachi Groover. Richard Ramsey, M.W. Linton, and W.R. Joiner were appointed Trustees of the deed in 1856. With the move, the name of the church was changed from Lebanon to Grooverville Methodist Church.
Mr. Linton, with a team of slave and free carpenters, sawed and planed the pine planks for the existing church building. Shuttered windows and a belfry, with sides of wide planks painted white, mark the modest style of the church that was designed in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Methodist Discipline. It remains in a quiet stand of pine as perhaps the oldest church building in the county, and at one time the largest church on a circuit that included Grooverville, Beulah, and Prospect. Church members stopped meeting in December of 1998, and the church fell into disrepair. In early 2017, a private individual with family ties to the area purchased the building with the expectation that the historic church will be renovated and used as a resource to rebuild community in the Grooverville district. Grooverville Methodist Church served as a linchpin of the religious and social life of Grooverville for generations. The hope is that it may yet again.”
Here we are looking at the double shuttered, nine over nine sashed windows that remain in working order after decades of use and, recently, almost 20 years without maintenance and virtual abandonment. The fact that its siding, wooden window frames and wooden shutters remain sound is remarkable. We constantly sing the praises of the toughness, rot resistance and durability of the long leaf pine wood indigenous to this area. Because of this extraordinary building material and the presence of a still waterproof roof made of tin, this old church remains standing and, with some repairs, functional.
When you enter this old meeting house, you quickly see that an interior, column supported ceiling and roof design was chosen. Many of the structures we present used the suspended truss structural design. That allows the sanctuary to be built with no visible interior columns insuring clear sight lines and often vaulted/tray/curved ceiling finishes. On the other hand, we think the interior you see is quite grand and imposing. The thin columns provide minimum interference and the high ceilings allow for building windows that nearly reach the ceiling. The added light and height help create a welcoming ambience within the sanctuary. And, structures of this design are better capable of withstanding the tornadoes that so often blow these old churches away.
Here we stand in the chancel and before the raised pulpit, simple but classic in design, well fitting the requirements of the Methodist Discipline. The double doors at the rear of the church are unusual in that a double entrance of this type is normally in the front of the church.
Here we stand near the chancel with the altar rail to our left. To the left of the piano, we see simple original pews in the choir area. The piano, though silent now, was surely heard by thousands of congregants in olden times and provided the music to support the singing so prevalent and important in Methodist services. The later addition of the gas stove in the 20th century probably made the congregation more comfortable than did the pot bellied stove. Very, very few of these old churches still contain a wood or coal fired stove.
Standing behind the pulpit, we get a quite authentic view of the sanctuary. Other than the fans, the lights and the missing stove, this view is a very rare sight........a pre Civil War rural church that stands virtually unchanged for over 150 hears. What a treat! Horizontal wall boards and vertical ceiling boards create a subtle decorative effect within the interior. Other than that, no other decorative elements architectural or otherwise are present. For this congregation, less was more. One can spot in the ceiling to the left the old flu hole for the original stove that heated the sanctuary.
Here we have a closeup that suggests how the window design allowed congregants to have a perfect seat. Close to the ambient light and perhaps in a warming ray of sun in winter and at a window that could be raised to cool things down in the summer. The view of the outside is also refreshing. The old pews were built from local pine and designed for durability rather than comfort.
Here we see a hymnal along with an old publication of some kind. Another relic of the past that is captured in this place where time has stood still for three decades. This registration lectern along with a pen holder is ready to be put back into use when the sanctuary is restored by its new owners.
This lovely and haunting landmark does show its age. The belfry is battered but could easily be resurrected. Cornice returns, shutters and other minor wood and roof repairs are needed. The stock fences around the foundation need mending but otherwise are in remarkable repair, easily restored and harken back to another time and place. The present owner's plan this treasure's resurrection. As an authentic structure now past its 160th birthday, we feel Grooverville Methodist deserves to be reclaimed and salute the efforts of those who want to revitalize this relic and keep it alive for generations to come in the 21st century and beyond.
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My wife and I visited the church yesterday, as well as the Liberty Baptist Church just adjacent. Both have Georgia historical plaques from 1956 and 1958. We met Jerry McLeod, 84 years old, who lives on a lot between the two churches. He is a well spoken man with a great vocabulary and much business experience. According to him, the dispute over ownership of the Methodist Church is still ongoing. He gave us a tour of the inside. The church is holding up very well with no roof leakage. I have many photos if anyone is interested. The Liberty Baptist Church was locked but appeared to be in good shape from the outside. It would be a shame if these grand old churches are not kept in their original place and refurbished. We hope many people will become interested in their preservation as they tell a story of the deep faith of our forefathers and the tremendous struggles they endured in a frontier country. Truly these churches belong to our ancestors and their memory, still relevant to us today.
Paul & Mary Teter
Where the statement says to “clear here for a tour,” it won’t highlight for me to click for a tour. Sure would like to know if there is a tour I can take in the future. Maybe I’m not doing something right.
Judy, there are no organized tours for Grooverville at the moment.
I have had the chance to visit this Church and had the wonderful opportunity
to go inside. My family research brought me to this area . My Great Grand father
and family attended this church. Thank you for the pictures it will be a great asset
to our family history. I have family buried in the grave yard right down the road
that attended this church My next quest is to find the church records to see
if I can learn more about my family
Thanks for history. Grooverville is a special place. I am going to refer you to Janice Jamison, who can probably help you with your quest. Her email address is [email protected] Good luck and tell Janice we said hello.
I just emailed Janice and can’t wait to here from
her Thank you so much