Materials belonging to historic Saint Paul’s Church, Augusta, Georgia’s oldest congregation, now freely available online

The Digital Library of Georgia has just released a collection of archival documents belonging to Saint Paul’s Church, the oldest church and institution in the city of Augusta and one of the oldest in Georgia. 

The collection, the St. Paul’s Church of Augusta Collection, is available at https://dlg.usg.edu/collection/spcag_spcagc.

Susan Yarborough, chair of the St. Paul’s Church history committee, outlines the church’s presence in Augusta: 

“Founded in 1750, St. Paul’s has a triple life as an active congregation, as a physical space encompassing buildings and a graveyard, and as a historic parish of the Episcopal Church. The oldest identified grave in its graveyard dates to 1783. Past parishioners of Saint Paul’s church include a signer of the U. S. Constitution, five governors of Georgia, six Confederate generals, the namesakes of several Georgia counties, two founding faculty of the Medical College of Georgia, several Augusta mayors, and an owner and an editor of The Augusta Chronicle newspaper.” 

Significant among the church’s materials are:

  • the church’s Vestry minutes for the years 1855-1923 encompass the 73-year period including the Civil War and Reconstruction, World War I, and the church’s destruction by fire in March 1916. The minutes record names of ministers and Vestry members, costs for the building and upkeep of the church and its furnishings, salaries of ministers, organists and sextons, pew rents, donations to charitable institutions, insurance policies, arrangements for special church services, eulogies to people important to the parish, and the efforts to rebuild the church after the fire.
  • With alphabetical indexes, three parish registers spanning the years 1820-1937, including records of marriages, baptisms, confirmations, communications, and burials, with a churchyard map, texts of grave markers, and statistics concerning the rites performed. The parish register from 1820-1868 records marriages, baptisms, confirmations, and burials for roughly 220 enslaved persons, beginning in 1823 and ending in 1865. The enslaved persons denoted in these records were largely house servants, often mixed race, who lived on close terms with their owners. In some cases, the actual houses in which these enslaved persons served their owners still exist, and the addresses are listed in extant city directories of the time. 

Yarborough adds: “The marriage records of these enslaved persons indicate names of the groom, bride, slave owners, minister, and date and location of the ceremony. These enslaved persons’ baptismal records indicate names of infant, mother, father (occasional), slave owner, minister, and baptismal sponsors (mother, slave owner or proxy, or other enslaved persons). Of particular note are multiple births recorded to enslaved mothers.”

Yarborough concludes that  “Information from such entries combined with Richmond County and surrounding counties’ slave inventories, appraisement, and sale records 1785-1865, probate records, and newspaper accounts of slave sales and freedom seekers can assist in tracing pre-Emancipation lines of kinship.”

There are many more materials, including marriage registers, historical extracts, print histories, articles, clippings, booklets, calling cards, and correspondence that account for the church’s early history, church conventions, centennial celebrations, and burials.   

Erick D. Montgomery, the executive director of Historic Augusta, Incorporated, who has regularly touched upon these materials in his work, notes:

“Having these historical materials available through digitization online will make valuable records available to anyone interested in the history of Georgia, Augusta, religion, societal trends, enslaved and free African Americans, genealogical connections, and countless other topics unforeseen.”

Featured images:

A page spread showing the grave marker of Commodore Oliver Bowen (ca. 1740–1800), a naval commander in the American Revolution, buried in Saint Paul’s Church’s graveyard. The image appears between pages 4 and 5 of The Story of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta – Georgia, A.D. 1750-1906, by the Rev. Chauncey Camp Williams, who was Rector of Saint Paul’s from 1877-1906. https://dlg.usg.edu/record/spcag_spcagc_spc10 

Page 122 from the Parish Register of Saint Paul’s Church for 1864, showing the baptismal records for Rose “(colored),” a daughter born to Cyrus and Mary, both persons enslaved by 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, Georgia, to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. https://dlg.usg.edu/record/spcag_spcagc_spc14 

About Saint Paul’s Church  

Saint Paul’s Church is a community of people committed to serving and worshiping Jesus Christ in their current location for over 250 years.  With their roots deeply embedded in the city of Augusta and the surrounding area, they “seek and serve Christ in all persons.”  They are also rooted in their Anglican (Church of England) heritage and are an integral part of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. Visit their web site at www.saintpauls.org/

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Historical aerial photography indexes that chronicle changing land use in all of Georgia’s 159 counties from the 1930s to 1990s are now available freely online.

Along with our partners at the University of Georgia Map and Government Information Library (MAGIL), the Digital Library of Georgia has made the Georgia Aerial Photography Index Collection available at https://dlg.usg.edu/collection/gyca_gaphind, now providing online access to more than 1200 indexes produced by U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). Indexes covering all 159 Georgia counties are available with coverage ranging from the 1930s to the 1990s. The Georgia Aerial Photograph Index Collection provides access to digital versions of all Georgia county indexes in MAGIL’s physical collection. Previously-digitized indexes of select counties in the State of Georgia, along with approximately 50,000 black and white photographs, are available in the Georgia Aerial Photographs database.

Aerial photography depicts the physical and cultural characteristics of land at a specific time. The images can provide insights into various fields from ecology and geography to history, archeology, and urban planning. In addition to aiding in the mapmaking process, aerial photographs can be used to settle legal issues such as property disputes and even identify ancestral sites for people researching genealogy, according to the National Archives website https://www.archives.gov/research/cartographic/aerial-photography.

“MAGIL’s aerial photography collection is heavily used by researchers looking for everything from the existence of the old family farm to the first appearance of a bridge to the development of an intersection over time,” said Valerie Glenn, the head of UGA’s Map and Government Information Library and Federal Regional Depository Librarian. “By making these indexes available through the Digital Library of Georgia, we are greatly improving access for those users interested in how Georgia land has or has not changed and providing them the ability to conduct preliminary research on an area without having to travel to Athens.”

Allison Haas has used these materials in her research, working for EDR/Lightbox. “Daily I use materials from the Map and Government Information Library for historical property research on commercial real estate sites as part of the environmental due diligence process,” Haas said. “Historical aerial photographs are key elements in the reports we provide to our clients. Quick turn around on these reports is very important. Online access to this collection has improved workflow and helps get the reports to our clients quickly.”


Selected Images: 

Dekalb County, 1938: Aerial photography index
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gyca_gaphind_dekalb-1938
[attachment: gyca_gaphind_dekalb-1938-00001.png (page 1)]

Dekalb County, 1938: Aerial photography index



Glynn County, 1981: Aerial photography index
https://dlg.usg.edu/record/gyca_gaphind_glynn-1981
[attachment: gyca_gaphind_glynn-1981-00001.png (page 1)]

Glynn County, 1981: Aerial photography index



About the University of Georgia Map and Government Information Library (MAGIL)

The Map and Government Information Library (MAGIL), a unit of the University of Georgia Libraries, acquires, organizes, and provides access to cartographic and government information. It is located in the sub-basement of the Main Library on North Campus.

The UGA Libraries serves as Georgia’s regional depository for documents published by the Federal government as well as the official depository for documents published by the State of Georgia. Its collections also include select international and United Nations documents. Cartographic resources include maps, aerial photography and remote sensed imagery, atlases, digital spatial data, and reference materials, with a particular emphasis on the state of Georgia. 

Maps and government documents have been an integral part of the University of Georgia Libraries for more than 100 years. For more information, read about the history of MAGIL. 

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