Locust Grove Catholic 1

Photography courtesy of Scott Farrar

Locust Grove Catholic  

Org 1792

You are looking at the oldest Catholic church in the state of Georgia, the Church of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, referred to in one history as the ‘Cradle of Catholicity in Georgia’.  Most people are surprised that the oldest Catholic church in Georgia was not organized in Savannah, but here in the little farm town of Sharon.  We have to remember that until well after the Revolutionary War, Catholics were not welcome in British circles.  The first Catholic sanctuary in Savannah was organized in 1802.  However, in 1790, several Catholic families of English decent made their way to this Georgia frontier location from Maryland, and the first Roman Catholic Church in Georgia was established in 1792.

A fellow Maryland native, Father John LeMoin, was sent from Baltimore to run the church and administer to the growing community.  According to the Locust Grove Academy’s historical marker, several French families left their homeland due to the revolution and made their way to a new life in this agricultural Eden.  Later they were joined by several Irish families and they all became part of the Locust Grove church.  Early church records that include names such as O’Sullivan, Villabonteau, Semmes, and O’Donohoe show that both the French and Irish descendants had a presence in Locust Grove.  In 1818, the first Roman Catholic school in Georgia, Locust Grove Academy, was established.

In 1877, the decision was made to move the church a short distance to the thriving town of Sharon, and they relocated the wood frame church originally built in 1821.  The church prospered, even in a difficult post Civil War and Reconstruction environment, and in 1883 the present church was built…complete with a proper bell to summon the parishioners for Mass.  A year later, in 1884, Locust Grove Academy was also moved to Sharon, into a large frame structure next to the new church and renamed Sacred Heart School for Boys.  Other than the old cemetery, the community that was Locust Grove slowly disappeared, which is not unusual in the backcountry.  Villages come and go but the churches survive as reminder of the glory that was.  We see it all the time.

The old Locust Grove cemetery is a must see and is located at the original location of the church.  Several photos of it are part of this series, along with a complete listing of interments.  The sanctuary is now getting updated through the efforts of some Atlanta based supporters.  After restoration efforts are complete the church will function as a Catholic Cultural center as well as a church.  Support for their restoration efforts is encouraged, more information can be accessed below.

To learn more about the restoration efforts click here.

To learn more about the establishment of Catholicism in Georgia click here.

For church location and directions click here.

 

19 Thoughts

  1. Virgil C Wolter · August 9, 2017 Reply

    The maps for this location are incorrect.
    The church is located on the South side of Sharon on Hwy 269, Barnett Road SE.
    The cemetery is located SE of Sharon on the Davidson Road.

  2. Josh Wilmoth · April 14, 2016 Reply

    I’ve been out to the cemetery many times. It’s a beautiful location and have done some research to find out who owns it. I’m glad I saw this posting. We were interested in doing some community service to help clean up the cemetery and grounds. If this something your organization might be interested please contact me back. We do community service for a good lot of locations that are historically significant.

    • churchadmin · April 15, 2016 Reply

      Hi Josh. Thanks for your post and your interest in this part of our history. Would you send us an email at info@hrcga.org? We can discuss the possibilities.

  3. Samuel M. (Sammy) Young · February 17, 2016 Reply

    Visited this beautiful church today. I hope that restoration efforts are successful.

  4. Adam · January 14, 2016 Reply

    Being Catholic, and living near Georgia (I live in South Carolina) I find this fascinating. Thank you VERY much for putting this here!

  5. Georgia Luckett Champion · November 24, 2015 Reply

    My Luckett and Semmes families are buried at the old cemetery. This is such a special place to me.

    • Charlotte Bassett- Wyckoff · August 19, 2017 Reply

      I am a decendant of the Luckett – Semmes family that moved from
      Locust Grove to the Canton , Yazoo , Sharon Mississippi. I would love to visit.

  6. Kate Messer · January 8, 2015 Reply

    My first cousin, Mike Orr and his wife Patti Darden were married in this church. I was one of their flower girls and about six years old, so that was around 1972. The church at that time was still active, and Patti and her family were members as her ancestors had been for some time. Patti’s mother is still alive and still lives in the same home in Sharon.

  7. Carmen Linares Young · July 30, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for publishing the picture and the information. I live in Wilkes Co. and I am extremely proud to know that there is people
    who cares for historical places such as this church and others. I am looking forward to see the information for our historical churches here, and we have plenty of those here too. Sometimes. I think there is more churches than people in our sweet Washington, Georgia, and I am not kidding when I say that. I believe that is great blessing. Again thank you, and please keep up the great work. By the way, I work at the Washington Wilkes Chamber Commerce, as a Social Media Specialist. Please let me know if I can be of help when you are here. Thanks, Carmen

  8. Nancy Beazley Hutto · July 30, 2014 Reply

    Sharon, being close to Crawfordville, was a place we went to visit friends quite often. I always loved going there!

  9. Lee Huggins · June 24, 2013 Reply

    Very nice. Henry County.

    • admin · June 24, 2013 Reply

      Thanks everyone for the accolades. This is a great find and a good story. Keep in mind that there are two other featured churches in Sharon as well as three in Crawfordville if you decide to take a look around. See the Taliaferro County map.

      • admin · June 29, 2013 Reply

        We will soon be doing some more work in Greene and Wilkes County over the next couple of weeks and after that we will be working in Jasper County for awhile. All the field work takes time but these are rich counties for historic churches. Our subscription base is growing and we appreciate all the support.

  10. Leonie Hardie · June 24, 2013 Reply

    Such an exceptional site.. One could learn a lot of history here.
    Thanks for making it available to all.

  11. Michael M. Cass · June 24, 2013 Reply

    A fine addition to the other churches at this site.

  12. David Preston · June 24, 2013 Reply

    Beautiful photography!

  13. admin · June 7, 2013 Reply

    Locust Grove is a huge historical story in that is the first Catholic Church in Georgia. More research coming on this. Be sure to visit the original cemetery located not far away on what was the original location of the church. Also remember that this is one of three historical churches located in the small farming town of Sharon.

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