Hopewell Missionary Baptist

Quitman County
Org 1876
Photography by Steve Robinson

We do not know a lot about Hopewell Baptist but Cemeteries and Churches of Quitman County, Georgia, by Jacquelyn M. Shepard tells us the congregation was organized in 1876 and that they met in a brush arbor for about ten years. The church you see above was completed in 1886 and, judging from the footings and the support joists underneath that you can see in the gallery photos below, this would be the original building.  The history further tells us that the pulpit and pews were replaced in 1976, and that “The first pastor was the Reverend Dixon and the first Deacon was Croff Crumbley.  About 1900 the Hopewell Music and Education Convention was established by Jordan Miller.  Edward Miller, who is his grandson serves as the president of the convention now, as this organization continues with its work of training the young voices of Hopewell Church”. 

The congregation is now inactive and has been so for a number of years.  However, the structure is in remarkable condition, given the footings and underpinnings of the church have been there for 135 years.  We are always amazed by these crude construction methods we find all across rural Georgia, and the fact that they have held up so well.  These people were very poor but they were skilled in working with what they had….and what they had was trees and rocks.  Georgia heart pine is a remarkable building material.  If is kept water tight, it will endure for a very long time.  You will note that the tin roof is relatively new and that the sanctuary is in good condition as a result.  In our opinion, if tin had not emerged as an affordable roofing alternative in the late 19th century, very few of these structures would be left.

We think it is worthwhile to put these remarkable icons of our past into the historical context that created them.  The location of Hopewell is very remote and we are struck by the fact that there are no houses anywhere near the church, given that the early congregants attended by foot and by horse.  An African American congregation organized in 1876 makes it one of the older ones in Georgia.  When the Civil War ended in 1865, chaos had descended upon the rural south and the reconstruction period had begun.  Over the next few years African Americans, often with white assistance, slowly began to form their own churches which became the center of life for these newly freed slaves and their children.  Hopewell is one of the churches that emerged from this environment.  We are confident that there are many unmarked graves in the cemetery of people born into slavery who now began to create a life for themselves and their children the best way they could in this remote part of Georgia. 

This meant still raising cotton for the most part since farm labor was all they knew.  As America began to industrialize at the turn of the century, opportunities for a better life and better jobs emerged in the larger cities, especially in the North, resulting in declining rural populations.  Georgia now has 159 counties and Quitman County ranks 158 in terms of population and 152 in per capita income.  Hopewell remains as a testament to this period of our Georgia history.  As we often remind ourselves, this is where we came from and this is how we got here. 

Be sure to click and scroll the gallery photos below for more history and graveyard genealogy.

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