Historic Rural Churches of Georgia

Sonny Seals and George S. Hart
Foreword by President Jimmy Carter
Introduction by John Thomas Scott

Some of Georgia’s earliest churches offer unique insights into the state’s past


“Times are changing, both culturally and demographically, but many Georgians still have a strong—almost visceral—affection for the rural church. Sonny Seals and George S. Hart understand the charm and importance of the rural church. With the assistance of an outstanding troupe of volunteer photographers, Seals and Hart have done a magnificent job in bringing to us a beautiful selection of rural churches in all their glory—or, as is sometimes the case, faded glory. Open, view, read, and enjoy.”
—Dan Roper, editor, Georgia Backroads Magazine

“The sight of an old church strikes a chord deep within us, as if the hymns and prayers that rose in them transformed the structures themselves into sanctums. Surely we have entered sacred ground with this rich and lovely book of photographs of Georgia’s historic rural churches. . . . In many ways this splendid book is a pilgrimage into the heart and soul of Georgia’s history and culture. It is deserving of a mighty mighty praise.”
—Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Drifting into Darien

"Rural churches offer a unique window on the soul of Georgia. Through them we gain insight into the architecture, culture, history, and geography of our state. This beautifully illustrated and engagingly written book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in this vanishing part of Georgia’s landscape and a must-read for anyone seeking to understand what it means to be a Georgian and an American."
—W. Todd Groce, president and CEO, Georgia Historical Society

"To understand the history of Georgia, it is essential to understand the role that religion played in the lives of the people. . . . I am proud to be associated with the book and the movement to preserve the historic rural churches of Georgia."
—President Jimmy Carter

"Historic Rural Churches of Georgia has a foreword by President Jimmy Carter, a preface by Seals and Hart telling why they did it and an informative introduction about early religion in Georgia by Mercer University historian John Thomas Scott. It also has some cool old maps of Georgia and excellent, evocative photography by a group of volunteers. . . . Erin Kirk New’s elegant design uses the large format well and enhances the plethora of pictures with just enough text of sufficient size to tell this multilayered story without keeping the congregation overlong. . . . This big, beautiful, informative book is well worth its price . . . and is a fine gift for anybody interested in Georgia and how it came to be."
—Pete McCommons, Flagpole

“A superb tapestry of scholarship and camera work, Historic Rural Churches of Georgia is a handsomely crafted introduction to the beauty and plainness, simplicity and complexity of a fading and haunted religious past.”
—Bruce T. Gourley, American Baptist Quarterly

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Aspects of Georgia’s unique history can only be told through its extant rural churches. As the Georgia backcountry rapidly expanded in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the churches erected on this newly parceled land became the center of community life. These early structures ranged from primitive outbuildings to those with more elaborate designs and were often constructed with local, hand-hewn materials to serve the residents who lived nearby. From these rural communities sprang the villages, towns, counties, and cities that informed the way Georgia was organized and governed and that continue to influence the way we live today.

Historic Rural Churches of Georgia presents forty-seven early houses of worship from all areas of the state. Nearly three hundred stunning color photographs capture the simple elegance of these sanctuaries and their surrounding grounds and cemeteries. Of the historic churches that have survived, many are now in various states of distress and neglect and require restoration to ensure that they will continue to stand. This book is a project of the Historic Rural Churches of Georgia organization, whose mission is the preservation of historic rural churches across the state and the documentation of their history since their founding. If proper care is taken, these endangered and important landmarks can continue to represent the state’s earliest examples of rural sacred architecture and the communities and traditions they housed.

A Wormsloe Foundation Publication

Page count: 432 pp.
286 color photos, 18 b&w photos, 5 maps
Trim size: 10 x 12


List price: $39.95

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Sonny Seals and George S. Hart, both of Atlanta, are the founders of Historic Rural Churches of Georgia, a nonprofit formed in 2013 with the purpose of researching and documenting some of Georgia’s most historic and architecturally significant rural churches. Historic Rural Churches of Georgia was awarded the 2016 National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Medal. www.hrcga.org

John Thomas Scott is a professor of history and director of the Honors Program at Mercer University.