This sweet little mountain church you see here in rural Fannin County began its existence as Pleasant Gap Methodist but at some point it became known as Tarpley Chapel, in honor of the Tarpley family who were founders of the church, and are still active in her maintenance. The story of the church is really the story of the Tarpley family, and this history is richly documented in A History of Fannin County, Georgia, as well as family history furnished by Nellie Abercrombie and articles from The Blue Ridge Summit-Post.
The family originated in England and migrated to America prior to 1664, where they made a living as tobacco farmers. Mason Tarpley, and his wife Sara, both born in Virginia, were married in 1842 but decided to move their family into what is now Fannin County in 1850. He acquired a large farm beside the Toccoa River, where they farmed and raised their family of six boys and two girls. Mason was crippled from childhood, according to the history, and this made him exempt from military service during the Civil War. However, in addition to being a very successful farmer, he was also a Methodist Circuit preacher who pastored several congregations in Fannin County. Mason died in 1907 and is buried along with his wife at their old home place in Blue Ridge.
One of Mason’s grandsons was Linzy Tarpley, who married Martha Ware in 1872. Linzy and Martha raised a family of eight children on their farm where they raised sheep, cows, chickens, geese and prospered off the land. In 1890 Linzy’s father, James, deeded land to his son to build a church, named Pleasant Gap Methodist, that was made of logs and had a dirt floor. In 1908 the decision was made to build a larger and more comfortable church. The new church was built by Simpson and Nolan Ambercrombie and was dedicated in June of 1911. At some point, the name was changed from Pleasant Gap to Tarpley Chapel, although Findagrave records the cemetery interments under both names.
All of this is to point out that the Tarpley family is a great example of how the North Georgia mountains were settled just prior to the Civil War. This was Cherokee land until gold was discovered, resulting in the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the infamous Trail of Tears. The treaty of New Echota was signed in 1835, and the Tarpley’s moved in shortly thereafter. Please take a moment to look at the faded photo below taken in 1913, shortly before Linzy’s death in 1916. It says a lot about these tough early settlers and how they survived in a land that was extremely difficult to farm. The photo shows Martha and Linzy with two of their grandchildren, Ora Jane and Sadie. Their house is in the background and they are surrounded by chickens, geese and a cow. It was a hard life but one filled with love and family.
This migration pattern of England to Virginia and then south to North and South Carolina was quite typical of how Georgia was settled. After the Revolutionary War, Indian land was rapidly overrun with settlers willing to own a piece of it and do the hard work necessary to survive. The Tarpley family roots have been in this part of Georgia now for over 170 years. James Allen and Sarah are buried in the graveyard as is their son Linzy. Little Sadie Tarpley, shown in the photo when she was two, is also there having died at the age of eight. We salute the family for their respect of their ancestors and the stewardship of this wonderful part of North Georgia history. Also thanks to family member Cheryl Jacobs for call the chapel to our attention.
Please be sure to click and scroll the photos below for more information.
We love this photo of Linzy and Martha with two of their granddaughters, Ora Jane and Sadie. It says a lot about carving out a life in the North Georgia mountains, and the Tarpleys were very good at it. Sadly, the graveyard shows us that little Sadie died at the age of eight. Infant mortality was very high in the backcountry and occurred all too frequently.
This is an exterior close up of the right rear corner at Tarpley Chapel. The smaller window, when open, provides a rear view of the chancel and pulpit within the sanctuary. Notice the simplicity of the design and construction. The original, old footings of rock remain and the building is dead level. This view of the century-plus structure presents lots of worn, stressed and warped siding as well. Nontheless, the building remains sound and waterproof (because of its tin roof) and is still serving the families of generations of its faithful congregation.
When you enter the interior of the chapel you are presented with a view much like the one you would have seen at the church’s dedication in 1911. The design and architecture is of the period. The single gable building’s interior has a suspended ceiling that allows for the creation of a cathedral-like atmosphere in this very simple sanctuary. No interior columns are needed and every attendee has a clear view. Its lack of decorative architectural or other decoration is in keeping with the tenets of the faith to “keep it simple.”
This close up further supports the authenticity we encounter in the Tarpley Chapel Methodist sanctuary. We first notice the 4” heart pine floor boards that were cut, sawed and planed nearby. Then our eyes are drawn to the original pews, also made of wood locally cut sawed and joined by pegs. These pews have sat upon the floorboards and served their purpose for 100 plus years.
The walls, window frames and ceiling are also of wood as you see in this photo. Quite often, we find the interiors of these old churches in very poor shape and suffering from rain leaks that damage the ceilings, walls and floors. This old church is actually in good condition compared to many others of its vintage thanks to the dedicated families and congregations throughout the years.
Most of the original window frames and panes are still in place. Here, with the exception of the window on the right, we see that most are 4 over 4, sashed with clear glass panes.
This photo presents the absolutely authentic , early 20th century sanctuary that still exists at Tarpley Chapel today. It is a wonder that such a perfect example of a 120+ year old rural church still stands thanks to the wonderful stewardship of its congregation for all those years.
This is a view of the rear of the Chapel from the graveyard. Notice that the solid wood window covers/storm shutters are open. This burial ground is listed with findagrave as “Pleasant Gap”, not Tarpley Methodist Cemetery. We are not sure when the name change took place, but it is entirely fitting, given the family connection and support.
James Allen Tarpley moved to what is now Fannin County, Georgia around 1850. He was born May 10, 1818 in Halifax County, Virginia. He married Sarah Vann Austin November 16, 1840 in Caswell County, North Carolina. They had seven children. Sarah was born December 17, 1817 in Halifax County, Virginia and died April 7, 1890. She is buried at Tarpley Chapel. James died July 18, 1909. James and Sarah’s son Linzy Green Tarpley 1849-1916 is also buried at Tarpley Chapel.
Geneva Emma Tarpley Johnson was born February 14, 1860, the daughter of James Allen Tarpley and Sarah Vann Austin Tarpley. She married Elisha Johnson October 2, 1901 in Fannin County. He was born May 1, 1851 in North Carolina and died April 10, 1939 in Fannin County. Geneva died July 6, 1946.
Andrew Jackson Sosebee was born May 6, 1844 in Habersham County, Georgia. Roster of Confederate Soldiers of Georgia shows he enlisted March 10, 1862 as a private in Company C, 43rd Georgia Infantry. He was appointed 5th sergeant December 1863. Pension records show he was crippled in the right shoulder while on detail. At the time of surrender he was at Dalton, Georgia to guard an Ordinance train of cars. He was married to Mary Pharr and they had four children. He died January 31, 1916. His casket was provided by Mineral Bluff Hardware and Furniture Company at a cost of eleven dollars.
Sadie Tarpley was born September 3, 1911 and died February 25, 1920 at age 8. She was the daughter of Henry Tarpley and Mattie Long Tarpley. She was the granddaughter of Linzy Green Tarpely.
Your tax-deductible donation to Historic Rural Churches will help keep history alive through digital and physical preservation efforts for Georgia’s rural churches, their history and the communities that support them.
Full Name *
Sign me up for the newsletter!
My G-Grandmother was Caldona Mordecie Tarpley Rose. She was the daughter of William Calvin Tarpley and Sarah J. Bailey. William was the son of James Allen Tarpley. William owned the land for the Copper HIll Mines and entered a land lease to the Tennessee Milling and Mining corp. The land was supposed to revert back to the family after 50 years. The records were lost in the Polk County Court house fire. Caldona (D.C.) was killed by an automobile on Benton Pike in December, 1920 in front of her house. She was the second wife of Robert Henley Rose. The car was an Essex driven by Hoyt Payne. When I was younger and went to Family reunions in Benton people would talk about 2 things, getting the Copper Hill Property back and that DC was the first woman to be killed by a car in Tennessee.
We recently visited this historical site after passing by on way to our vacation cabin. It is absolutely beautiful and well preserved! Our 9 year old daughter was drawn to the headstone of Sadie, and became fascinated with learning all she could about the church. She would love to know how little Sadie died. Is there any information about this? Thank you!!
Sweet comment about your daughter. We will see if we can find anything.
Here is what we found about little Sadie. Sadie Tarpley is shown in the 1920 census, Fannin County as Saida, age 8, born Tennessee. This census was taken January 23, 1920. She was the daughter of Henry A. Tarpley (1881-1965) and Mattie V. Long Tarpley (1882-1943). Henry A. Tarpley’s occupation is given as Ware House Man working in a supply house. Sadie had one brother, Hayden Gilliam Tarpley (1907-1988) and a sister Ora Jane Tarpley Richards (1908-1984). They are all buried at Blue Ridge except Sadie. Ancestry says Sadie died in Polk County, Tennessee. I am sure they brought her back to Tarpley Chapel for burial because they were related to the Tarpley family there. Sadie’s name on her death certificate is spelled Zeda. She died of influenza/pneumonia that was an epidemic at that time.
Joseph Frank Tarpley was my grandfather. I have been to this church many times. Thank you for sharing this history.
Thanks Maye. If there is an event at the church, let us know and we will help promote it.
A jewel indeed. The times when what’s inside is what matters. Are those day lost forever?
I love the work you do and thank you. I love these old buildings and their history
Thanks Betty. It is a labor of love.
This one’s a gem. – I can’t wait for the next book!