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Tours of 2 historic black cemeteries Saturday
The Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, pictured, will be the first of two cemeteries at Brooklet to be toured Saturday. The other is the St. Mary’s Cemetery.

The tours of the 34 known, historic African American cemeteries in Bulloch County will continue on Saturday, Nov. 16, with visits to the 11th and 12th cemeteries in the series.

Saturday’s tours of the Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and St. Mary’s Independent Methodist Church cemeteries will be the final stops of 2019 in the series organized by the Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center. However, the tours will resume in January to continue through 2020.

Participants will meet Saturday at Luetta Moore Park, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Statesboro, at 8 a.m. to travel first to Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, 327 Railroad St., Brooklet, for a 9 a.m. tour led by Dr. Alvin D. Jackson. Group transportation will be provided.

After completing that tour, participants will travel to St. Mary’s Independent Methodist Church Cemetery. Jackson, a medical doctor and president of the Willow Hill Center’s board, leads the tours as oral historian after decades of work in his spare time collecting stories and documentation of African American history in Bulloch County and the surrounding area.


A brief history

The history of Little Bethel Missionary Baptist Church mirrors the growth of Nellwood, Georgia, which is now Brooklet, and the growth of the turpentine and pine rosin, also known as naval stores, and lumber industries, Jackson reports.

A group of African American families from North Carolina migrated to the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s to work in these industries. They organized the church on March 30, 1893, meeting under a grape arbor.

St. Mary’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, now St. Mary’s Independent Church, was organized in Booklet in 1907. During the early 1900s, a school, attended by African American children from the area, operated out of the church.

After these tours, the next planned in the series will be a tour of Brown Chapel Cemetery on Jan. 18.

Free and open to the public, these tours are part of the Commemoration of 400 Years of African-American History, 1619-2019.  For more information, contact Dr. Gayle Jackson at (912) 800-1467.