Red Hill AME

Almost Gone But Not Forgotten County
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Org 1890
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Photography by Steve Robinson

Red Hill AME, also known as Turner Chapel AME, is one of those mysteries that we encounter all too frequently.  She is located in a very remote part of Terrell County  on a dirt road with no signs of habitation for miles.  Scenes like this are moving to us and we would like to learn more about the origins and the history of this old remote treasure that is almost gone but not forgotten.  These old churches disappear without a trace eventually but the cemetery and the headstones of the old congregants who worshiped here endure, although in a weed covered and unkempt environment.  We estimate the congregation was formed in the early 1890s based on some of the oldest interments.

Typically these old abondoned rural churches have graveyards that reflect the economic fortunes of its congregants, most of whom struggled to get by in a world of share cropping and subsistance farming.  Almost all of them have more than a few unmarked graves.  Headstones were simply not affordable for many of them.  However, the cemetery at Red Hill has some striking headstones, especially with regard to the Flewellen family plot that you will see in the gallery photos below.  A little research into the Flewellen family reveals something even more remarkable. 

The patriarch of the family was Jacob Samuel Flewellen.  His headstone, as you will see, is made of specialty marble and gives you the impression of a prosperous, late 19th century white planter who created this impressive family burial plot surrounded by wrought iron fencing.  This is indeed the case, with one important and significant exception.  Sam Flewellen was born a slave in 1845.  At the end of the Civil War, Sam would have been twenty years old, without a last name and unable to read and write.  Further federal census information reveals that he could not read and write in the 1900 census , at the age of 54,  but he could read and write in the 1910 census.  His first wife, Mattie, died in 1895 and was almost certainly born a slave.  Sam nontheless, became a man of some standng in Terrell County.  He purchased land, borrowed money and paid a poll tax to vote.

A 1910 Terrell County map housed at the Georgia State Archives contains the name Sam Flewellen showing where his property was located. Just to the northeast of there the map shows Red Hill church and school as two separate buildings. The school building is now completely gone. Nearby Red Hill the map shows the name W. L. Randall, an African American born into slavery.  The 1870 Terrell County census lists the occupation of W. L. (Wesley) Randall as “attending school”. He was 25 years old and free in 1870 but would not have been allowed to attend school while he was a slave. We don’t know where he attended school but later census records confirm he could both read and write. Though no tombstone exists for him he likely attended Red Hill Church and is buried in the cemetery there.

The name Flewellen is an unusual one, and we suspect Sam took the name of his former owner.  Some research reveals that there were several slaveholders in the area named Flewellen.  James Theweatt Flewellen was the largest with 76 slaves.  He was a wealthy man who was a Lt. Col in the 39th Alabama Infantry Regiment.  He was born in Jones County Georgia in 1828.  He attended Oxford College, William and Mary and graduated from Harvard Law School.  He was both a lawyer and a successful planter.

We will update any additional information if it comes forth.  These old rural cemeteries are all over Georgia and we love to dig out a least a few “Tales from the Crypt” that tell us a little bit about the remarkable people who built this country.  The old churches were the center of their lives and it is a shame to see some of them wasting away in the pines, soon to disappear altogether. Red Hill AME is one of those, but even though she is almost gone she is not forgotten.

Be sure to click and scroll on the photos below for more informations and more tales from the crypt.

 

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