The first time I had the privilege of stepping foot in this church, I knew the 183 mile trip to get there was more than worth it. This place stands in cotton country and reminds of a time when things were simpler.
The hollow acoustics inside echo with the sounds of the birds who have made their homes in the rafters. The piano sits amongst the original pews and this single chair that stood next to the altar. Just beyond this window are the headstones of the church’s original members.
Built shortly after the Civil War, this rural church was founded by a community of farmers and their families. For many, It was time to rebuild and start over and these families were doing just that.
They couldn’t have known the changes and challenges that would lie ahead. There was no way for them to foresee that within 100 years, this place would become too isolated, too disconnected. Wars had been fought, industry had shifted and life had changed. This very simple old church house was no longer relevant for the congregation it had once served.
I wonder who sat here last and what memories they could share of this place. I think about all of the ceremonies, celebrations, funerals and life that happened here. What will the next 100 years hold for this place?
[Ben Hill County, GA c. 1875]
[Lake County c. 1890’s]
Florida in the late 1800’s was a tough place to make a living as the South was trying to re-define itself in the post-war days. This area was mainly farmed by cattlemen, but a new era of prosperity would come rolling through this area in 1887 in the shape of a wood-burning engine. The railroad brought access to new markets, the ability to transport more efficiently to them making commercial farming a possibility.
Citrus experienced an incredible boom during this period but many also worked as fishermen, cattlemen or in the pine/turpentine industry. In 1889, C.C. and B.M. Taylor would construct a still, labor shacks and a commissary near this site. The area would continue to prosper through the early 1900’s, boasting the largest sawmill in the Southeast by 1917.
This old home hides just off a quiet country road near this old Florida settlement. Even as I stood at this distance, I could hear the tree branches scraping the tin roof. I think about what it must sound like inside on a rainy day. I imagine the family who looked out on this field from the front porch. Their lives were much harder than what we know now, but somehow much simpler too. I like to think that although so much has changed since then, this view is probably not much different than it was back then.