Friday, Aug. 12, 2004
Genealogy: Finding Your Folks
The families of Flat Rock A.M.E. Church
By JUDY FOWLER KILGORE
Flat Rock African American Episcopal Church sits just off busy Highway 54, about halfway between Fayetteville and Peachtree City. Founded in 1866, the church is celebrating its anniversary and homecoming this week with special services set for this Sunday afternoon (see religion section of Wednesdays paper for full details).
Flat Rock is one of the older churches in Fayette County and has been the springboard for the founding of several other churches, among them Edgefield Baptist in Fayetteville and Little Vine Baptist in Tyrone.
The Fayette County history book states that some of the early members of Flat Rock were Bill Elder, Sterling Bennett, the Glover family and the Denham family. Originally, the church was supposed to be on Ebenezer Road but members ran into difficulty with obtaining materials which prevented them from actually building a structure.
Later, the Ebenezer Road property was swapped with property near the present location which already had a log church on it. The building served as both a church and a school for a while and was burned and rebuilt several times. All the older church records were destroyed in the fires.
In 1977 (when the Fayette County history book was written), Flat Rock had 75 members.
Like many older churches, Flat Rock has a sizeable cemetery adjacent to the church building and has provided a final resting place for many of the early members of the African American community in Fayette. According to the newest cemetery book, there are 181 graves dating from the earliest marked burial (1898) to the latest date the cemetery was surveyed (2000). Of course, there are probably many early graves which are unmarked and those which are marked only with field stones (not engraved).
One of those interred there was born in 1824 (Isabelle Thomas who died in 1904), another in 1825 (Martha J. Ware who died in 1898) and several were born in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s.
The family represented by the most graves is, by far, the Glover family with 24 graves. Second is the Swanson family with 13 graves. Other families with numerous graves include the Stokes family (9), the Chandler family (8), the Williams family (7), the Edmondson family (6), and the Robinson, Ware, Bennett, Glass and Bait(e)y families with five each. The Dorsey family has four family members buried at Flat Rock.
When I embarked upon this story, I had no idea how little information there is out there on African-American families in Fayette information available in your normal, everyday resources. Except for an excellent series of pieces in the old Fayette County history book on The Negro in Fayette County, there is not much available genealogically. There is nothing on Flat Rock church in the recently published book on Fayettes heritage and only a short paragraph in the old history book.
And, of course, given names and surnames of African-Americans who were not free were not even available on census reports until 1870. Slaves were listed by sex (male or female) and age groups only. Research for given names prior to 1870 requires searching wills and court records for bills of sale and bequests. Its tedious and time-consuming work, folks. Not a lot of fun, but very rewarding when you get it all put together.
I challenged my Ancestry.com census subscription by attempting to search its database of the 1870 Fayette County census with the surname left blank, and only those persons listed as colored (the choice they gave me in addition to white). I came up with 2,219 people. Of course, due to the databases limitations, I could only view 2,000 of them and that did not take me into the S names, so no Swansons. No Glovers came up at all.
The only name I could find associated with the major families at Flat Rock was that of Jane Chandler, but the one in the census was born in 1842 (in Virginia) and our grave says 1832. This Jane Chandler was married to Isaac Chandler and had children named Rinda (11), Young (10), Queen (9), Emma (4) and William (2). They were surrounded on both sides by white families, one with the same name, which was not uncommon.
I couldnt find any Swansons or Glovers who fit the bill for those buried at Flat Rock. A search in the 1880 census didnt yield any more information, and, due to time constraints, I didnt look much farther.
It would really be great to have some stories of southside African-American families among those we have already told. I encourage any of you who have d one even a little family history to submit it here for publication. The Citizen is read not only by your friends and neighbors in Fayette, Coweta and South Fulton counties, but also, since were on the Internet, by people all over the world. Theres no telling how many cousins you might meet by submitting your family story.
If you have family buried at Flat Rock, Id love to hear their story.
I welcome all letters and e-mails about genealogy and info on south metro Atlanta families. Send them to The Citizen, P.O. Drawer 1719, Fayetteville, GA 30214; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Any letters and/or e-mails I receive are subject to being used in the column.
Until next week, happy hunting!
Copyright 2004-Fayette Publishing, Inc.