Young’s Chapel Methodist Church, in Ben Hill County, started in a brush arbor around 1875 and finally closed in 1974 when the congregation was too small to support it. Once a part of the long vanished Ashley community, the church is located near Rebecca. This structure was built on the site of the brush arbor where its organizers first gathered, but the congregation later moved it about three miles to the present site. This land was donated to the church by John Thomas Young, grandfather of Marsha McWhorter of Fitzgerald and Travis Biggers. Johnny Young, who grew up in the church, suggests it was built around 1876.
The chapel was named for the Youngs since so many members of that family were a part of the congregation over the years; Martin Young, who was a state senator and county commissioner; Clyde Young, a state representative; J. R. F. Young, a member of the Ben Hill County school board; and S. S. Young, Sr., Wilcox County Tax Collector. S. B. Young was treasurer and Emma Young was the longtime pianist. Other known members were: Sammy Young, Wiley Young, Able Young, Tommy Young, Hazel Snow, Helen Brooks, and Minnie Brown. Services were held every third Sunday.
The last major renovations were done in 1971 by its few remaining members in an effort to keep it open. There were only eight members left when it closed in 1974. The county has only one incorporated city, Fitzgerald, which was founded by former Union soldiers on a 50,000 acre tract owned by the non-profit American Tribune Soldiers Colony Company. The citizens of Fitzgerald, pledging unity with their former enemies, named streets after leaders of both armies.
There is an effort underway to save Young’s Chapel being led by a number of concerned local citizens. Please take a look at their Facebook page and help if you can. Old Young’s Chapel has been in a downward spiral for a long time but is in surprisingly good shape. The combination of a tin roof, tough Georgia pine and rugged construction is a powerful combination. There is still time to save this wonderful piece of rural Georgia history. We will keep you posted on progress via our newsletter and Facebook postings. Stay tuned.
It is hard to believe that this forlorn, 19th century meeting house once stood in the midst of a thriving community. Local, county and state leaders and dignitaries lived near by and attended the church. In this photograph, we see played out the story of agrarian collapse and flight to the cities that struck Georgia in the early 20th century. Our goal is to do all that we can to educate the public concerning the existence of these special, historic, social places and thus slow down their demise.
It is almost impossible to look at these abandoned pianos and not hear a rousing version of your favorite hymn.
This close up view of the south wall at Young's Chapel presents the double threat of a leaking roof and broken window panes that can combine to accelerate the demise of these old churches. If the roof remains sound and the windows keep out the rain, these heart pine structures, even unpainted, can last a very long time. In this case, we have already seen that the northeast corner of the roof is leaking. Now we see that the rain can also enter from the south side of the church through these gaping, open windows. A little paint and some carpentry would go a long way at this stage. The old structure can't last much longer without some attention. Let's hope she gets it.
Young's Chapel is the poster child of what can go wrong when a congregation leaves its building at the mercy of time and the elements. Lets take a quick look. Stepping through the front door of this abandoned meeting house engenders several opposed reactions. First, a person is positively touched by the simple beauty of the space. It is crowned by a vaulted, high ceiling. The interior on this day was bathed in the light pouring through the high, six by six, clear glass windows. A pastel glow was created by the light reflected off the faded, painted walls. The primitive, wooden bench pews sit ready and waiting to be appropriately arranged for a coming service. The quiet simplicity of this old church and the locally sourced materials that they used to erect it speak of their faded agrarian lifestyle and the hard work that went with it.
Abandoned and Endangered
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I attended this church often when I was a child with my uncle, Martin Young. I knew many of the people you named. I hope it may be saved. I would make a donation if there is an effort ongoing to save it.
It grieves us to say this, but we think it is too far gone. There is no local group rising up to make the effort.
Hi Again! We visited this church October 18. It seems the half of the back side of the church has either fallen or was taken out by the recent weather. I just wanted to give y’all an update. If you want I have pictures.
Hi Kelli. Yes, this was tornado damage. Sad.
Churches make wonderful homes so perhaps the group trying to save the structure might consider giving it to a deserving family to rehabilitate and preserve. This could be done with a stipulation in the deed that the exterior not be altered and the church signage kept permanently.