Who We Are & How We Got Here

Written by Kelly Gomez | Posted on 8 September 2020

Do you know where you came from? Not just the hospital in the city where you live now, but where your real roots are?

Do you know the stories of your area and the people who came before you?

Do you know the tales that weave the fabric of our state and Nation’s history?

In our tech-savvy, modern world, it’s easy to imagine that we could easily become disconnected from our roots and the stories of the people who founded the places that we call home now. But as we move forward so rapidly, it’s more important than ever to know and understand complicated and beautiful places where we began.

Who we are and how we got here.

And as luck would have it, the stars would align allowing us to create this project to help us figure out that very question so that we can continue to share these stories with future generations too.

How Historic Rural Churches of Georgia Got it’s Start

After a back road ramble one day, old friends and Atlanta residents, Sonny Seals and George Hart stumbled upon a picturesque old country church that called for their attention.

As fortune would have it, Sonny would discover the grave of his great-great-grandfather whom he knew little about. He did a little bit of research and uncovered the importance of this small but important rural village that has since faded into near obscurity.

A place where his own people had come from, yet he had never even heard of it.

Co-founders Sonny Seals (left) and George Hart (right)
Powelton Methodist

The church that started it all for us, Powelton Methodist in rural Hancock County.

(Photos courtesy of Scott Farrar)

And while there were invaluable resources like Find A Grave that chronicled the burials here, there was very little information anywhere online about the church itself or the community that used to exist at this old crossroads. So we set out on a journey of discovery that would lead to something much bigger and impactful that could’ve been imagined on that first road trip.

Because the history we did find about the community of Powelton wasn’t only interesting to Sonny personally, but important to the early story of white settlement across Georgia. A place of some significance at one point that had been largely lost to the ticking of time.

More trips down the backroads and we would discover more historic rural gems like Powelton. Some with dwindling congregations and some that had been left to the elements after their communities vanished. In the small communities with names that no one recognizes anymore, the history that once lived here many inching closer to disappearing completely from the landscape without their stories being told.

So we set out to do something about this and with that, Historic Rural Churches of Georgia was born.

We established ourselves as a non-profit 501c(3) and then we teamed up with an impressive group of volunteer photographers across our state. Alongside some fantastic researchers and academic resources, we have documented and researched more than 280 churches across our state and we are always adding more!

Ben Hill-Young's Chapel Methodist Hero Image
Young’s Chapel; another historic church that grasps to hold on as the future speeds on without it (Photo courtesy of Scott Farrar)

In our years of this pursuit, we have found incredible stories woven into each location that gives us an unfettered glimpse at what early life in Georgia was like.

About the hardships endured by all that allow us the lives that we live in today.

We think these places are important and are proud to say that since our founding in 2013, our project has inspired or directly contributed to the preservation of more than 20 churches in Georgia. We also published a book, Historic Rural Churches of Georgia with UGA Press and produced a successful documentary short series called Saving Grace: Southern History Through the Eyes of Our Rural Churches.

We invite you to join us as we journey across the state exploring the little known places that in some way or another, have made us all. Check out their stories with our Find A Church function where you can search by name or county and in future blog articles here!