As we researched Live Oak Methodist, we were able to find very little history on this church, located in a remote part of Turner County. There is a brief mention of it in The History of Turner County that speculates the church was a reorganization of an older church originally located about two miles away. Perhaps some more will emerge and we can add to it. The cemetery is substantial and appears to be an active one. The earliest interments are in the 1880s, which is consistent with the org date and age of the church. There are a few Confederate veterans there as well. The character of the cemetery reveals that Live Oak was once a prosperous congregation in this agricultural community.
Brian Brown’s Vanishing South Georgia website has some additional history and can be accessed here. Since our photographer Steve created these images, the church has deteriorated substantially and will not be around much longer, unfortunately. While the interior looks like it is not in bad condition, the roof has become compromised and, barring a serious intervention, will soon collapse on itself. We might point out the composition roof which has a short life span compared to a tin roof. Had tin been used when the last roof was replaced, she would still be with us for a few more years. Live Oak Methodist is another casualty of the shift in the population centers of Georgia resulting in declining congregations and abandoned churches.
Update: In 2022, we were notified that the building had fallen and the land was cleared, leaving little sign of the church that once stood here except for the graveyard. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to share these images and a little bit about the church to ensure she isn’t forgotten completely.
We saw in the initial photo that the roof of this church is failing rapidly. But, in this photo from what was the main aisle looking toward the chancel, we see that, though compromised, the interior of the church still remains mostly intact and dry. There are tell-tale signs that provide visible proof of regular leaking into the attic. But, the ceiling remains fairly sound and the walls, window frames and other wooden structures are not rotting yet. Those leaks will grow more severe in the next few years and the roof will inevitably collapse since there is no congregation to make the necessary repairs.
Here we have a view from the chancel’s pulpit platform toward the rear of the church. We see the front entry and two flanking high windows. Notice that the door and window frames still look sound as do the other windows and doors of the sanctuary. The fact that the large glass windows are mostly in place will continue to slow the demise of Live Oak Methodist. But, its demise is inevitable.
All of these old churches contained a pump organ or piano at some time. Singing was a significant element of any service. Live Oak’s upright piano sits to pulpit right, and the old piano was surely instrumental at thousands of funerals, weddings, Homecomings and other services. As you see, the piano has been vandalized and will never again be heard.
When documenting rural churches, we always feel fortunate if there is some piece of silver, chalice, furniture, piano, artifact or other evidence that can open up a view of the church’s past to us. In this case, we found that the piano’s name plate featured a memorial Badge regarding the W.W. Kimball company winning a prize of “Superior Merit” at the World’s Columbian Exposition. That exposition took place in Chicago during 1893 meaning that the piano had to be manufactured around 1895 which closely coincides with the church’s probable construction date. We enjoy thinking that it was probably one of the first purchases of the New Congregation and remained in place and in use at the Live Oak sanctuary throughout the entire life of the church and congregation.
In this final photo, we are looking at the now abandoned chancel and pulpit area. Looking out the back door, we see an ancient Live Oak tree that is still thriving. That tree, or one like it, was probably the namesake chosen for this church by its congregation in early days. We hate to see Live Oak Methodist slip away but are pleased to have been able to document its existence and importance to its members, many of who’s grave markers will survive and remain in the old cemetery for centuries to come.
Cleopatra Nevada Horne was the daughter of Tolliver “Tolly” Washington Horne and Susannah A. Bass Horne. She was born in 1880 and died February 20, 1883. She represents one of the many -infants and young children buried in this cemetery.
The Spurlock brothers were the children of Joseph Columbus Spurlock and Mary Julia Payne Spurlock. They died just one month apart. John William “Willie” Spurlock was born June 4, 1893 and died December 11, 1896. Samuel Forest Spurlock was born June 4, 1893 and died January 11, 1897. These were the first two children in this family. Eight more children would be born to this family.
Col. Zachariah T. Bass, Sr. was born September 21, 1816 in Cumberland County, North Carolina and died December 26, 1895 in Turner County, Georgia. He is buried at Live Oak Methodist Church in Ashburn, Georgia. His wife, Bethena Hogue Bass was born November 25, 1825 and died April 17, 1883. She is buried next to him. There are nineteen grave markers in this cemetery with the last name Bass. Of these nineteen, thirteen of them are for infants or very young children. All of these babies were likely descendants of Col. Zachariah T. Bass, Sr. He also had a daughter, Amanda, who died at aged ten. Col. Bass had two sons, Erastus Lafayette Bass, born 1842, and Henry Clay Bass, born 1844, who served in the Confederate Army. Col. Zachariah T. Bass, Sr. was a veteran of the Indian Wars and applied for a pension on May 28, 1894. His second wife Rachel M. Bass who in 1896 was a widow, also applied for a pension.
Mary Frances Rhodes Royal was born October 14, 1841 and died May 5, 1893. Her husband was Hardy D. Royal 1839-1899. They had ten children. One of their children, Ashley T. Royal (1879-1904) is buried at Live Oak. Hardy D. Royal enlisted as a private in Company C, 45th Georgia Infantry, CSA on March 4, 1862. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant and surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
The rural churches were always the center of these remote communities and the focus of their lives. This photo is a haunting reminder of days gone by. She will not be with us much longer and the actual history of Live Oak Methodist has been difficult to come by. But she served this community for well over 100 years and though she is almost gone, she is not forgotten.
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It’s gone. We traveled here today, 8/1/22. The ground has been recently graded. ??
Oh this is sad to hear. Thank you for updating us, Jennifer.
Visited 9-25-21. Severe sag in roof and walls. Gaps in seams of walls. On verge of collapse. Photos available. The biggest oak, just outside the back door, is a laurel oak but there is a smaller live oak off to the side of the giant laurel oak. email@example.com
Almost gone but not forgotten.
We found the live oak church today and it was almost falling over a strong wind or storm and it will not be there anymore. Great place and goad I got to see it before it fell thank you.
My great grandparents were founding members of this church, they and many of my family members are buried there. My family helps keep up the cemetery now. This is a special, holy place. Thank you for featuring!
I’d love to know more of the history of the church if you wouldn’t mind sharing, I have a lot of family buried in the cemetery, we went by it the other day. My dad was happy to see it was still being cared for, I was really disappointed to see the church gone as I last seen it when I was very young.