Bartow County Explorations

Another volleyball Saturday in the books. This weekend, hubby was coaching in Marietta, so I headed to White GA to explore Old Car City and Big Door Vineyards. Then I explored some more of Bartow County and a few of its Historic Rural Churches (St James A.M.E. & Brandon’s Chapel).

My first stop was Old Car City, as it closes at 4 pm and only had a little over an hour to explore. Since I had been before, I was saved from hearing the spiel and just let to roam as much as I could in my limited time there. This day, a lot of the cars were barely peeking out from under all the pine straw that had fallen from the many pines in the yard. There were also some downed trees on some of the cars, that were not there on previous trips. I only had time to visit the “front” section of the yard, but really love wandering through looking at the rust and twisted metal, imagining myself sitting in the driver seat, behind those steering wheels that still remain. I made sure to get a few of my favorite shots that seem to be some of the most photographed at Old Car City and left just as they were closing.

Next I headed to Big Door Vineyards. When I arrived, it was very busy. Live music had just ended at 4pm, so I think that was what had the crowd out. I made sure to wear my mask, grabbed a glass of wine and went and sat by the pond to enjoy the quiet and beauty outside while I sipped my glass of wine. It was a little to peopley for me, so I didn’t stick around, but long enough to sip my one glass and then I headed to my next stop.

Now it was time to find the Historic Rural Churches of Georgia that were in the area I was in. The first one up was St James A.M.E. It was boarded up, but in decent condition. It was near some older homes, but didn’t seem to be completely forgotten.

According to HRCGA.org, “The nondescript little church you see above in no way reflects the historical significance of it. The church was originally organized as Cassville Presbyterian in either 1833 or 1844, the records are not clear on which date is the proper one. We also know that the the Presbyterians dissolved in 1872 and the church was “given to the black families living in Cassville”, thus the AME church was organized at that time.

According to a the Cassville Historical Society “It was on November 5, 1864 when the city of Cassville was destroyed by fire at the hands of the Fifth Ohio Regiment of the Federal Army under the command of Colonel Heath and Major Thomas. They said they had orders from Sherman “that not a house be left within the limits of the incorporation, except the churches.” The town had been in the hands of Yankee forces since May 25th, when General Johnston had retreated without a fight, and left the city to the mercy of the Union Army. Sherman’s forces had marched on in pursuit and, as General Sherman gave no order to burn the town at that time, many people believe that possible he never did, but the burning of the town was the work of Yankee stragglers who had some sort of grievance against the people of Cassville”.

The history further states that “The three churches which still are on the same grounds and three residences were the only structures left standing by Sherman’s Army. The home of Dr. Weston Hardy served as a hospital and was not burned for that reason. The Mercer home also, was spared because of sickness. Tradition has it, the home of Mr. A. C. Day was saved when the captain saw a certain Masonic emblem as it dropped from a bible while the family brought out their furniture. These three homes and the Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches were unharmed”. Cassville never fully recovered from the war time damage and the business center of Bartow County moved to Cartersville. 

The old church has been heavily modified over time so it is difficult to recognize what may be original to the old structure and what has been modified. However, the historical aspect of St. James is significant in that we know it is one of only a hand full of structures to survive the 1864 destruction. After the war, the African Americans in the Cassville area were told they were emancipated but it took years to realize what that actually meant. They were given freedom but little else. Our research indicates a pattern of confusion in the south after the war for both races. The blacks embraced the white man’s religion because that was what they had been exposed to, but they learned to embrace it in their own way within their newly emerging and very strong culture. AME stands for African Methodist Episcopal and is the oldest independent Protestant denomination founded by black people in the world. It was founded by the Rt. Rev. Richard Allen and Absalom Jones in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the mid-Atlantic area that wanted independence from white Methodists.

After the war, southern African Americans began to form their own congregations, often assisted by whites. Thus churches like St. James AME came into being in 1872. Even though the original church had been Presbyterian, St. James would likely have been formed by congregants who had been raised in the Methodist church of their masters. This was a very difficult time for both races and they found spiritual comfort in these old churches, but they found it in very different ways. We salute the Historical Preservation efforts of the citizens of Bartow County. Hopefully, a way can be found to save historical sanctuaries like this that tell us who we are and how we got here.”

As I was leaving St James A.M.E., I noticed a historic site, that I stopped to check out. It was the National Historic Site of the Atlanta Campaign Cassville. According to the marker, On May 49, 1864, Johnston entrenched on the ridge east of this marker. Planned to give battle but Sherman threatened his flank and his corps. Commanders objected to the position. He therefore withdrew to Allatoona Pass rather than attack this strong position Sherman moved past it toward New Hope Church.

Lastly I headed to Brandon’s Chapel. Brandon’s Chapel was a surprise as it is still “in service”. Due to COVID, they are not currently holding services, but they do have an active congregation and staff.

According to HRCGA.org, “Thomas W. Brandon is the founder of the church in Bartow County known as Brandon’s Chapel. Mr. Brandon grew up in Gwinnett county but he was born in Virginia, a very typical migration pattern of early Georgia settlers that populated Georgia from Virginia, North and South Carolina. Thomas and Louisa Green were married in 1830 and moved into the county in 1835, and began their life on a plantation he acquired on the Etowah River in the wilderness that was then Bartow county. He became one of the leading farmers in the Euharlee-Stilesboro area. Thomas and Louisa had seven children, four girls and three boys. All three sons served in the Civil War. They survived the war but not without a lot of trauma. All three boys were captured but ultimately made their way home. Thomas died in 1874 and Louisa in 1883. Both are buried in the family cemetery near the old home place now on land now owned by Georgia Power’s Plant Bowen.

Thomas joined the Methodist Church at the age of 17 and later started a Sunday School on his property that was the beginning of Brandon Chapel. Built of hewn logs, with a large fireplace at one end, it was used as the first school house in the county as well as the church. The old United Methodist churches were called societies, and this new church was named ‘Brandon’s Society’ in honor of its founder. Later a new frame church was built on the west side of the present railroad, nearer the town of Stilesboro. Mr. Brandon was instrumental in the building of this church, and it was known as Brandon’s Chapel. The church was destroyed by a cyclone in 1898. The present building was completed in 1899 in Stilesboro and in the course of years has had a large membership.

Brandon’s Chapel was a Methodist church for 161 years but in 1997, it became a Baptist church. The church has recently undergone some restoration work.”

On the way back to the volleyball venue, I had a dinner/out fit malfunction and stopped at Target to buy a clean shirt. The joys of eating while in the car, but will always lead to a story to tell. The sunset was fabulous, but I could only get a good view when I was driving and therefore all I could do was bask in the beauty and you will just have to trust me to say it was FABULOUS!

I arrived back at the venue and watched a few of our teams. One of our teams won the Tournament. Good day for exploring and the teams as well! Bringing home GOLD to the club is always a good thing.

On to the next explorations…

XOXO

-S

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