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.
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