Making an Active Historic Church’s History Available Online

The Digital Library of Georgia recently worked with Susan Yarborough to add a collection of documents from Saint Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia. Founded in 1750, Saint Paul’s is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia and the first church and formal institution established in Augusta. The DLG collection includes church registers from 1820 to 1937, minutes of the Vestry from 1855-1923, early church histories, and miscellaneous documents related to the church and diocese history.

Yarborough, chair of the church’s History Committee, notes that Saint Paul’s is still an active church. “Our archives are part of the church’s daily life and play a role in our governance, building maintenance, and even our worship. At the same time, we have a responsibility to the larger community to make available those resources with historical significance.”

“The earliest entries in the oldest Saint Paul’s register are more than two centuries old. Our historic materials are valuable but also fragile. They’ve held up beautifully because they are not regularly handled. Digitization is the best way to make it possible for historians to examine these precious records.”

“The early church registers record baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals of church members, including enslaved and free people of color. Many history queries we get at Saint Paul’s have to do with genealogy. So having the registers hosted by DLG allows genealogists and family historians to go directly to the source. They can also explore more than one family name at a time. Plus, they have almost unlimited access, which would not be possible otherwise.”

“At Saint Paul’s, we are so pleased that DLG saw the potential of this material and awarded us the subgrant to digitize and host it.  Many local institutions do not have the expertise or funding to make their historical documents widely available. I really appreciate the way DLG simplifies the sub-grant application process. They provide guidance with model applications and on-line coaching, and DLG staff are happy to answer questions by phone or email.”

“Best of all is the satisfaction of knowing that Saint Paul’s materials are now freely available to teachers, students, and public library users. DLG helps bridge the digital divide for those who rely on schools and public libraries for their research needs. It is so important for people’s understanding of their lives and worlds to have access to information about their family and community histories.”

Parish register, 1820-1868 (page 50 of PDF)
St. Paul’s Church of Augusta Collection
Holding Institution: St. Paul’s Church (Augusta, Ga.)
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/spcag_spcagc_spc14

Yarborough has selected Page 122 from the Parish Register of Saint Paul’s Church for 1864 (this is page 50 of the PDF available for Parish register, 1820-1868), which shows the baptismal records for Rose, a daughter born to Cyrus and Mary, the slaves of Mrs. Elizabeth Bowen, who is serving as baptismal sponsor. Two rows below is the baptismal record for Elisa Jane Beard (colored), daughter of Thomas P. and Carolina Beard, who were free persons of color. In 1868, Thomas P. Beard would become the first African American from Augusta to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives.

Further down the same page is the baptismal record of Col. Archibald Willingham Butt (1864-1912), a military aide to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft, who died on the Titanic when it sank. He is recorded as having threatened to kill any man who tried to board the lifeboats before the women and children were rescued. Yarborough adds: “That’s probably folklore, but it is a thrilling story.” Circumstantial evidence suggests that Col. Butt was gay. Augusta’s Butt Memorial Bridge, which routes 15th Street over the Augusta Canal, is dedicated to his memory.

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Architectural records documenting segregated health care facilities in Baldwin, Richmond, Treutlen, Ware, and Wayne counties in Georgia now available online

In partnership with Kennesaw State University’s Department of Museums, Archives & Rare Books, the Digital Library of Georgia has just added a collection of oversized technical drawings from the Gregson and Ellis Architectural Drawings Collection that document the experiences of “living and receiving medical and mental health care in the mid-20th century segregated South,” according to Helen Thomas, the outreach archivist at Kennesaw State University Archives.

The collection, available at https://dlg.usg.edu/collection/gkj_gead, features facilities located across Baldwin, Richmond, Treutlen, Ware, and Wayne counties in Georgia. The digitized drawings will also be made available through KSU’s Scholarly Online Access Repository (SOAR) at https://soar.kennesaw.edu/handle/11360/5132.

Some images from the collection include:

Title: Treutlen County Hospital. Details of nurses station
Collection: Gregson and Ellis Architectural Drawings
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gkj_gead_treutlen-020
Title: Augusta State Hospital Complex. [Floor plan – first floor]
Collection: Gregson and Ellis Architectural Drawings
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gkj_gead_augusta-005

Thomas, who works regularly with these materials, adds: “Architectural records demonstrate not only trends in construction and design, but also reflect the society in which the buildings exist…The materials we proposed to digitize depict public facilities, from small rural hospitals to large medical complexes, representing the medical services available to all Georgians regardless of their level of income.”

She concludes: “Since each set of drawings shows public facilities built in Georgia before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, these drawings demonstrate how buildings were constructed to segregate not only by the facility but also within facilities. While some of the drawings in this collection reveal separate buildings constructed for the same purpose, but each restricted to white or African-American citizens (such as separate psychiatric buildings in the Milledgeville complex for white and African-American patients), some show how individual buildings were segregated. An example of the latter is the Augusta State Hospital, which shows separate entrances, waiting areas, restrooms, cafeterias, pharmacies, pediatric wings, and locker rooms for white and African-American patients and employees.”

Barbara Berney, Ph.D., MPH, used the Gregson and Ellis materials in her documentary Power to Heal: Medicare and the Civil Rights Revolution, and says:

“This documentary examines the history of inequality in Americans’ access to health care, and specifically how Medicare was used to desegregate thousands of hospitals across the country. As a scholar of public health and the U. S. health care system, I was inspired to produce the film by hearing eyewitness accounts from physicians, nurses, and government staffers involved in the integration effort and those who struggled to provide health services in rural areas lacking the most basic medical care. The Gregson and Ellis collection provided context for these firsthand accounts by illustrating the physical space in which these health care professionals were working…In addition to providing multiple examples of public hospitals of this era, these drawings show that the public medical facilities available to African Americans were not only separate but could also be limited in size and capabilities.”

About the Kennesaw State University Archives

The Kennesaw State University Archives is a destination for university and community members to research the history of Kennesaw State University and people and organizations in north and northwest Georgia. The mission of the KSU Archives is to identify, collect and make accessible records of enduring value to preserve institutional and community memory into the future. For more information, visit archives.kennesaw.edu.

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