Posted: Sep 06, 2013 4:48 PM CDT Updated: Sep 06, 2013 6:44 PM CDT
By Archith Seshadri, WJBF Reporter/GMA Weekend Anchor
Augusta, GA –One of the oldest African-American churches in the country is located in Millen, Georgia.
Carswell Grove Baptist Church was founded in 1867.
Millen is in Jenkins County, which is about 45 minutes south of Augusta, on Highway 25.
The church itself is located about 3 and a half miles west of Highway 25, on Big Buckhead Church Road.
Now, there is a push to restore the church, and for one man, it’s about resurrecting a piece of Jenkins County’s history.
The church’s former deacon is trying to raise $100,000 and hopes to restore it within the next 5 years. For him, the goal is two-fold – to protect a piece of Civil War history, and continue the legacy his forefathers left behind.
The boarded windows hide the light that once filled this church.
“I have 4 generations of this church – my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather and of course myself,” said former deacon, Palmer Lewis.
Carswell Grove’s former deacon Palmer Lewis now wants to shed some new light to this place of worship.
“I was baptized here, my sisters, my great great grandfather,” said Lewis.
Built in 1867, after the Civil War, the church was one of the oldest African-American churches in the country until it was shut down in 2008.
“So, this was one of the major battle zones of the Civil War…600 soldiers were killed here,” said Lewis.
Violence erupted at the church after a mob burned it down in 1919. Nobody knows exactly what started the violence, but it is believed to have been racially motivated. The blood bath is captured in the first chapter of the book, ‘Red Summer’.
Lewis’ great grandfather rebuilt the church, and now Lewis wants the church to carry on, after it closed for good 5 years back. “Very much so, these are my roots,” said Lewis. “We’re hopefully going to have future events here – weddings, funerals,” he added.
At one point, the church attracted thousands of visitors from across the southeast, but Lewis says he misses one thing the most. “What I miss the most is foot stomping. In the black church in the South, there are wood floors, so when everyone got happy they would stomp their feet,” he added.
Next month, there is a fundraiser benefit at Carswell Grove next month. It’s on Saturday, October 12th at 10:30 a.m., where you’ll get to tour of the church and cemetery. The author of the book ‘Red Summer’ will also be there.