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 Young’s 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.
Although there was an effort to try to raise money to stabilize it, unfortunately, a tornado hit the church in 2017, tearing off the back wall and delivering the last blow to the hope that the church could be saved.
Sam Young, a descendant founding family, shared with us some memories of the old church:
“I grew up sitting on the first row of pews watching my mother, Emma Caroline Wootten Young, play that piano while my dad (S.B. Young) kept the fire going in the old potbelly stove. I was baptized there when I was around 11 or 12. We had one gentleman who drove his tractor 13 miles to come to church with us. Fond memories of that place. Sad to see it deteriorating so quickly.”
The back wall of the church showing the damage from the 2017 tornado.
Downed trees from the tornado winds.
The south wall of the church after the tornado damaged the building.
Interior view of the damage to the back wall.
The empty sanctuary.
The view from the interior looking out the front door. For many years, the original pews sat inside the sanctuary until a local removed them for safe keeping.
The original wooden pews for the congregation who met here every third Sunday.
A tattered chair where church elders would sit.
View out of the rear of the sanctuary and looking into the graveyard. This wall and window were destroyed when the tornado hit.
The Sterling Piano that Mrs. Emma Caroline Wootten Young would play on Sundays.
The Sterling piano where Mrs. Emma Caroline Wootten Young would play piano every third Sunday.
Damage to the front entrance.
The church as it looked in the 1980s.
1875 in Ben Hill County
Almost Gone But Not Forgotten
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What is the cemetery’s name? Is it on Findagrave? Thank you for your interesting photos and histories.
Yes it is on Findagrave. Youngs Chapel in Ben Hill County.
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.