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Children of Holly Grove Baptist Church, early 1940s
I found this photo of a group of kids at Holly Grove Baptist Church in Haywood County, TN in the early 1940s at my parents house a few weeks ago. It’s really hard to identify people but I am pretty certain I spotted my grandmother, Elizabeth Castellaw Williams (1915 – 1998), and her son, Jesse Earl Williams (1934 – 1997) in the upper left corner.
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Likely Elizabeth Williams and Jesse Earl Williams
My dad was born in 1939 so it’s possible he was too young to be in the photo. If you see anyone you recognize, send an email and let me know and I’ll note them here.
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Photo from Sandra Smith
The original Holly Grove School in the late 1940s
House in the distance of the old photo was the home of my
Holly Grove Baptist Church has a very interesting history and one that is very much part of my own personal genealogy.
On the second Sunday in October 1885, 38 people who were former members of Zion Baptist Church in Haywood County, TN met in the Holly Grove School building to start a church for people in that community.
The closest church previously, had been Zion Baptist Church and it was a number of miles away so it was decided a church in the area of what is now Poplar Corner and Dr. Hess Rd. would greatly serve that growing community.
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Thomas Jefferson Castellaw Jr. and Nancy Marianna John Castellaw
The land for the school in which the group met was donated around 1880 by my third great grandmother, Nancy Marianna Johnson Castellaw (1844 – 1921). She had married my third great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson “Tom” Castellaw, Jr. (1841 – 1879) shortly after the Civil War ended.
After donating the land and seeing the schoolhouse built, her daughter, Jennie Jacocks Castellaw (1866 – 1946), became the school’s first teacher.
According to stories from the community, the one room school house had been built in a cluster of holly trees, so it was named the Holly Grove School. However, many of the members from Zion Baptist Church who built the school and then began the church were from Bertie County, NC and there had been a Holly Grove Baptist Church in that community.
George Williams, the pastor of Zion and my third great grandfather had been a pastor of Holly Grove Baptist Church in North Carolina before he moved to Haywood County to be the pastor of Zion in 1838. Perhaps the name was a nod to the groups mutual heritage in North Carolina.
In the Baptist denomination, the church to which you are a member has your “letter of membership.” The minutes of a Zion Baptist church business meeting held on September 27, 1885 included a list of the members of Zion Baptist Church who would be “moving their letter” to the new church which would meet at the Holly Grove School until they could find land and build a new church building.
Zion Baptist Church Minutes – September 27, 1885
Brother John Ambrose Thomas presented a list of names of the members of the church petitioning letters of dismissal for the puspose of organizing a church at Holly Grove, where upon, Brother Joshua Jones, in order to save the clerk from writing so many letters, moved that the names of the brethren and sisters who would be going into the organization of the church at Holly Grove be dropped from our roll book and the following brethern and sisters went into the organization. Adjourn.
Note: The clerk also saved time by only writing initials into the minutes rather than complete names. Thankfully, Martha Jones researched and completed the names for her book, “A Journey Into Yesteryears.” Those in my ancestry line are bolded and noted.”
James Williams Castellaw – brother of my third great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Castellaw, Jr.
John Ambrose Thomas
James Henderson Carvan
Joshua A. Jones
George W. Castellaw – brother of my third great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Castellaw, Jr.
Dr. George Rayner Thomas
Jeremiah Fletcher Castellaw – brother of my third great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Castellaw, Jr.
James Bembery Booth
Albert Cicero Booth
William “Will” E. Williams – brother of my second great grandfather, George Dempsey Williams
Media Mathias White
William Price Outlaw
Moses “Mose” E. Lockard
James William Castellaw Jr. – brother of my third great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Castellaw, Jr.
Benjamin Franklin “Ben” Hughes
John George Livingood
Thomas Lemuel “Tommy” Rawls
Mary Caldonia White Carvin
Jane Woods Jones
Mary Aurelia Blaydes Castellaw – wife of Jeremiah Fletcher Castellaw
Mary Catherine Rawls Shaw
Nancy Marianna Johnson Castellaw – my third great grandmother
Catharine Pearcy Booth
Lucy Albina Castellaw – daughter of Jeremiah and Mary Fletcher
Mary Jennie Castellaw – daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Nancy M. Johnson Castellaw, my third great grandparents
Mary E. Watridge – Wife of Dorsey Watridge who was a brother to my ancestors James F. Watridge and Daniel W. Watridge
S. E. Hall
Alice Evelyn Castellaw – daughter of James W. Castellaw who was my third great grandfather’s half brother
Rebecca “Reba” Manie Williams – sister of my third great grandfather, George Williams
Ada P. Booth Stewart
Rebecca Caroline White
Amanda Crowder Williams – wife of Edward Williams who was a brother to my third great grandfather, George D. Williams
Catherine E. “Katie” Williams – sister of my third great grandfather, George D. Williams
Next to the school was a plot of land that was determined to be the perfect place for a church. It was donated for that purpose by Dorsey H. Watridge (1840 – 1890) who was the brother of two of my direct ancestors: my third great grandfather, Daniel W. Watridge (1835 – unknown) AND another third great grandfather, James F. Watridge (1823 – 1875).
Dorsey donated the land and was active in the church which met in the school house. He was ordained a deacon in May 1885.
Dorsey would never get to actually attend a service in the church for which he donated the land since he died of malaria two years before the church was completed.
In September 1890, Andrew Jackson Outlaw and Simeon Amherst Cobb were two of the Zion Church members who wrote the obituary for Dorsey Watridge who had been an important part of the early years of the church.
D. H. Watridge Obituary
Brother deacon D. H. Watridge died at his residence of malarial fever seven miles northeast of Brownsville on the 12th day of September 1890. He was born in Haywood County, TN on the 18th day of July 1840. He professed religion and was baptized into the fellowship of this church by the Rev. Josiah Daws in September, 1854. He was ordained a deacon of this church the first Sunday in May 1885. He was a devoted husband and affectionate and idolized father, a true friend and a good neighbor and citizen. He left a wife and seven children to mourn his loss.
He was buried in the Zion Baptist Church cemetery.
In 1892, the first church building where the members of Holly Grove Baptist Church was completed.
Another important part of the church property, the cemetery, was begun on February 29, 1900 when Jeremiah Fletcher Castellaw (1847 – 1915) donated the plot of land west of the church. Jeremiah was the brother of Tom Castellaw, referenced above. A while back, I wrote a blog entry about Jeremiah’s move to Texas with his family and then their return to Haywood County.
According to local legend, the first person to be buried in the new cemetery was a black vagrant who had been found dead near the railroad tracks at Jones. Since he could not be identified, it was suggested that he be buried in the newly formed cemetery.
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Holly Grove Baptist Church in 2011.
In 1948, the old wood church was torn down and a brick building was built. In the years since, many additions and remodels have taken place and the church is still a significant part of the community. Now, 126 years after that first group began meeting in the school house in the grove of holly trees, many of their ancestors are still meeting there each Sunday for church.
Sources: A Journey Into Yesteryears by Martha Jones, A History of Holly Grove Baptist Church and Holly Grove Baptist Church 125th Anniversary Program