The Pleasant Grove AME Church celebrated its annual camp meeting Oct. 26 at the original site of the church, formerly known as Taylors Creek, on Fort Stewart.
The Pleasant Grove camp meeting, one of Liberty County’s oldest religious celebrations, serves as the reunion site for the former African-American residents of Taylors Creek, Willie, Cypress Slash, Strum Bay, Steward Town and other communities disbanded when the U.S. government purchased the land to establish Fort Stewart in 1941. A historical marker on the church grounds references the camp meeting as the “tie that binds.”
During the church family’s most recent biennial visit to its original site on Fort Stewart, a memorial marker honoring the contributions of church patriots and commemorating the numerous unmarked graves at the cemetery was placed.
The ceremony was coordinated by Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, a descendant of former residents of the Taylors Creek community. The ceremony included songs, prayers and reflections from church members. Chaplain Capt. Russell D. Woody of Fort Stewart extended a greeting. He spoke about the necessity of remembering the heritage supported by the story of Joshua and the 12 stones.
Liberty County Historical Society Vice President Randy Branch highlighted the importance of remembering history and passing it on to present and future generations. On behalf of the historical society, he expressed its appreciation for being allowed to co-sponsor the marker.
After the brief ceremony, Pastor John E. Morse Jr. led the congregation to the graves of the church’s first pastor, the Rev. Piner Martin, and his wife, Cilla. A prayer was offered, and Lula Hendry Nelson and the Rev. Henry Frasier Sr. conducted a wreath-laying ceremony.
Following the wreath laying, church members who are former residents of Taylors Creek unveiled the memorial marker. The top of the marker is inscribed with “Lest We Forget.” The left panel is inscribed with the church’s date of establishment, its first pastor and trustees. The right panel is inscribed with “dedicated to the memory of those whose graves may be unmarked but whose work is recorded in heaven. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
The final highlight was the activation of the old hand pump at the site of the church’s former one-room school. Larry Baker, the designated pump operator, received a loud cheer when water flowed once again from the original well at Taylors Creek. Afterward, attendees were given a tour of the cemetery and had refreshments.
Members dressed in clothing from yesteryear for the Oct. 27 old-fashion day service. The camp meeting continued with a week of revival, ending with a Nov. 3 closing service and a dinner served on the meeting grounds.