By ANGELIQUE RICHARDSON, Commentary | Published July 18, 2013
The Archdiocese of Atlanta’ s Archives team recently went on its first exploratory road trip, uncovering history in the process.
In June, I traveled with archivist Carolyn Denton (director of the Office of Archives and Records) and Archives intern Amber Smith to the tiny Georgia town of Washington. We
made the trip at the invitation of Father Vincent Sullivan, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Washington. Father Sullivan is currently working with a committee of parishioners to preserve and restore the site of the first Catholic parish and cemetery in Georgia. He invited us out to meet the committee and to explore the historic sites.
Originally established as a mission under the Diocese of Baltimore in 1790, Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary was the first Catholic parish in Georgia and is now a station of St. Joseph.
Father Sullivan is concerned for the future of the church. The current structure, built in 1883, is in dire need of repair.
Another concern is the state of Locust Grove Cemetery, located near the site of the original Purification Church. While the cemetery had restoration work done in the 1980s, a lot of upkeep still needs to be completed.
We spent our first day exploring Purification Church under the guidance of its lone parishioner, Virginia Hinderlider. She gave us the grand tour and shared her history with the parish as we snapped photos of everything and checked in every nook and cranny for anything that looked remotely original to the parish.
After several hours in the church (not air-conditioned, I might add), we were in dire need of refreshments and headed into historic downtown Washington for cool drinks. The square is lovely, with lots of interesting shops and cafes, including an old-school soda shop with amazing chocolate malts.
Our group had plans to meet up with Father Sullivan before Mass and dinner that night, so we couldn’t explore too long. However, we had just enough time to stop by St. Patrick Cemetery in Washington and photograph the historic burial grounds there. The cemetery holds the remains of approximately 50 Sisters of St. Joseph and seven orphans from St. Joseph Orphanage, which was located there and staffed by the sisters beginning in 1876.
After Mass, parishioners treated us to a potluck dinner before we headed off to our accommodations that evening. Three families graciously offered to host each one of us for the night and made our visit a delightful experience.
We met at Father Sullivan’s home for a conference call committee meeting where we discussed the future of Purification Church and Locust Grove Cemetery. Father Sullivan and the committee of St. Joseph parishioners have applied to the Georgia Trust to have Purification Church and Locust Grove Cemetery placed on their Places in Peril list for 2014. While awaiting news of the status of their application, the group is planning fundraisers and awareness events to promote their cause.
Plans to visit Locust Grove Cemetery before we returned to the Chancery were foiled by rain. Heavy rains had made the dirt road virtually impassable, so we will have to make a return trip, which we will do gladly.
Angelique Richardson is an archivist for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. The Archives team offers its appreciation to Father Vincent Sullivan, Roger and Jennifer McAvoy, Fred and Jean Andrews, and Virginia Hinderlider for their hospitality. For more photos from the trip, please visit the Office of Archives and Records’ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/archatlarchives.