St. Paul CME
The story of St. Paul CME cannot be told without relating the story of the renowned farmer and plantation owner, David Dickson. David Dickson was one of the wealthiest planters in Hancock County at a time when Hancock County was arguably the wealthiest county in pre – Civil War Georgia. Even though his land was not regarded as particularly suited to raising cotton and other cash crops, David pioneered agricultural techniques that were way ahead of his time. His fame as a planter was known far and wide.
David Dickson was also an outcast among the white planters of the region because of his open romantic relationship with one of his slaves, Julia Francis. Upon his death, the daughter(Amanda) he had with Julia was set to solely inherit all of Dickson’s landholdings – about 17,000 acres appraised at $309,000.00. After legal battles that went all of the way to the Georgia Supreme Court with the other Dickson would-be heirs, Amanda America Dickson won her right to the land and became the wealthiest African-American woman in the country.
To learn more about the life of Amanda Dickson click here.
The St. Paul CME church was organized in 1857 by slaves on the Dickson Plantation. In 1870, property near the brush arbor where services were conducted was deeded over to the church. This property is the site of the present church and cemetery. Lucius Holsey, a well-known Bishop in the CME church, founder of Paine College in Augusta, and former slave of Richard Malcolm Johnston, began his preaching career at this church. There have been many notable church leaders since, and the congregation is still active today having established a new sanctuary close to the one above.
St. Paul is off of the beaten path. There is a wide open field in the middle of the woods at the junction of St. Paul Church Road, Pine Bloom Road, and an unnamed dirt road that leads back to the Dickson Plantation house. The church grounds offer a quiet, peaceful place to reflect upon the lives of slaves and former slaves as they struggled to define themselves within the limits of their reality. The cemetery is unusually large for such a rural cemetery, and many of the markers are home-made. The congregation must have felt strongly about leaving reminders of the past for the future. Maintenance of the cemetery and church grounds is a daunting task considering the size, but things are well kept. We encourage visitors to be mindful of the sacred history of this place and the stories – both good and bad – that it has to tell.