Hopeful Primitive Baptist has been renovated by an amazing group of local citizens who realize the importance of saving these historical treasures and we are all indebted to them for the effort. This from the local history – “Following the United States of America Declaration of Independence in 1776, pioneers began moving west into the frontier including the area that would become Fayette County. Acquired by the Creek cession of January 8, 1821, the county is named after the Marquis de LaFayette, the French general who served under George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Within Fayette County, one of the oldest communities is Hopeful. The focal point of this historic community is Hopeful Primitive Baptist Church on the southeast corner of the intersection of Georgia Highway 92 North and New Hope Road. Hopeful Primitive Baptist Church and Cemetery were established in 1825. The church has an impressive collection of original leather books that document the church’s history from the beginning. The pioneers handwriting, laid down by quill and ink pen, record the church’s business on what was then the American western frontier. These books are as impressive as they are beautiful.
Celebrating 190 years of service to the community, Hopeful rests on hand hewn beams with mortise and tenon joints. This construction practice has been used for thousands of years by woodworkers to join pieces of wood. It is both simple and strong. The impressive, single room, 30’ x 40’ foot architectural wood structure has a 12’ foot ceiling with three doors and nine windows. The recently restored roof once again has hand split 24” wooden shingles that replaced the 20th century asphalt shingles. Only 10” of each shingle course is visible which when combined with a steep roof pitch will keep the church dry for a very long time. Fayette County, through its ties to the Palace of Versailles, in May 2015 received a Marie Antoinette Oak Tree that was planted in the garden between the church and cemetery. The cemetery has 101 readable headstones yet ground penetrating radar clearly indicate there are upwards of over 300 graves in the old cemetery all facing east on perfect laid north/south lines.
Fayette County pioneers and church members who are buried in the cemetery served in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, World War 1 and II. Indians and African American Slaves are also buried in the cemetery. Mathew Yates, famous for the Yates Apple has his final resting place in the cemetery as well as descendants of Matthew Thornton signer of the Declaration of Independence from New Hampshire. Hopeful, an icon of Fayette County, is being saved, restored and preserved for future generations.”
Thank you citizens of Fayette for your stewardship of this historic treasure.
Through community cooperation with government, businesses, citizens and others in Fayette County, this historic church has been repurposed. Instead of just melting away, Hopeful will continue its long and meaningful service for generations to come. It is a wonderful example of how these old buildings can be saved from the wrecking ball or succumbing to the ravages of time. The above view shows the church interior before its renovation. The sanctuary ceiling had been lowered, 20th century pews installed and “modernization” had been accomplished. Still, the old bones of this treasure were in place and in remarkably good condition.
Here is a recent photograph of the bright new gathering place that Hopeful has become. When a Fayette County Community Center was built nearby a few years back, the locals choose to save Hopeful and restore it as an adjunct to the Center. The refurbished sanctuary of this 1825 church will now host events, meetings and celebrations of all kinds.
This is an interior, window photograph taken prior to the renovation. Here we get an idea of how the original interior had been remodeled in the 20th century. It is clear that this window, as have all the others, was a replacement of the original, high windows one would have expected in a church of this age. The wainscoting and flooring were also 20th century additions.
We have not been able to accurately date the age of the Hopeful building. Some state that this present structure was the original church building from 1825. We provide this photo as evidence that the 1825 date, or thereabouts, could be correct. What we are looking at are the underpinnings, foundation supports, original floor backside and framing. Though cinder block has been used in places to shore up the original stacked rock foundation pillars, the originals that remain could easily be dated from 1825. The joists are clearly rough, unfinished logs. The frame shows the adze marks that prove it was hand hewn. The underside of the original pine flooring shows no saw marks and has the patina of very old age. We will be seeking more accurate information of age, but this structure is of the age and has a documented history that makes it a very worthy “save”.
The Thorntons were a prominent family in this part of Fayette County. Of the 106 documented interments, twelve of them are the Thornton family. The grave in the foreground is that of Felix Thornton, a private who served with the 4 GA Inf State Troops toward the end of the war. He was born in 1818 and would have been in his middle 40’s by then. He served in the militia at a time when older men and younger boys were being heavily recruited to defend the invasion of the homeland. In addition to the 106 documented interments, there are a number of unmarked graves in the cemetery. Perhaps as many as 300 according to the local history.
This wonderful cemetery is full of diverse monuments. Above we see three that are particularly relevant to dating the cemetery. These are “false crypts”, stones stacked/mounted in a way that mimic an above ground crypt. They are actually above ground “grave houses” that sit above a traditional, beneath-the-ground burial site. This design of crypt was particular popular from the 18th century(think Savannah and formal, dressed stone Colonial Crypts) into the late 19th century. The primitive, rough hewn natural stone crypts above would be found in early 19th century cemeteries where finished stones were unavailable but the “style” was emulated with field stones (think “backwoods, early 19th century cemeteries in Fayette, Lamar, Butts, etc. counties).
This is a view of the rear of Hopeful, through the garden, from the cemetery. The small tree planted to the right in the garden is a “Marie Antoinette Oak Tree”. The tree was obtained by Fayette County officials through the county’s historic connection with the Marquis de LaFayette and the Palace of Versailles.
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I drive pass this church at least 4 times a year. I have always been interested in the beauty and history of the church. Who should I contact for a tour?
I would like to get information about possibly having a wedding here.
Hi Renee. We are not sure who you would contact but I believe they have a Facebook page. Good luck.
Please contact me about a Wedding my great grandparents went to this church. Thank you
https://www.facebook.com/hopeful1825/ Here is their Facebook page. Good luck.