Springfield Community Center, Inc.
1935 picture courtesy of the Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Rd. Morrow, Georgia 30260
The story of Springfield (modified 9/18/2022)
From its humble beginning, Springfield Community consisted of Plantation owners and the enslaved. We were plowing the fields, working the cotton gins and cutting machines, laboring in the Sawmills, thrashing floors, stills, and mills, and raising crops and families. We worked.
Formed in 1825 from Hancock, Greene, Oglethorpe, Wilkes, and Warren County, Taliaferro is 60 miles from Augusta, home of James Brown, 46.1 miles from Athens, Georgia's "Bull Dawg Nation" 47.6 miles from Milledgeville, Georgia, and Georgia Military College, and 94 miles from the Great city of Atlanta, Georgia. It is 194.6 square miles of forest, lakes, trails, hunting, and fishing. Picturesque, to say the least.
Lying on the borders of Greene County is the Area called Springfield Community. The predominately Black Area was home to many enslaved individuals and descendants of the Atkinson Plantation. Until 1865 they were as other persons who belonged as property except that their owner, Armistead Atkinson, passed in 1832, and the Mistress never remarried, leaving her Blacks to care for her and the 1500 acres in which she and their families lived. Not having a male heir, Atkinson would have to run the plantation with the help of her enslaved hands and two married daughters. (Taliaferro County Deed Book A, 1833)
the Blacks began to build homes, and a church, join in marriage, join clubs such as masons and Odd Fellows, start their own business, and build their first school, which was on the three-acre Springfield Churchyard. The building was the Society Hall, the upstairs meeting was held, and the students and teachers met downstairs using a mobile partition to separate the classes.
The adults from the community who wanted a higher education would have to drive to Augusta, Georgia, and attend the Augusta Institution, which would later become Morehouse College (Brawley, 1917). Several of the citizens of Springfield attended the theological classes, but only one would graduate and move to Alabama to teach at the Tuskegee Institute. (Victor C. Turner). Rev. Aaron B. Murden would graduate from the Atlanta Seminary and follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Rev. D.P. Murden, as Chairman of the Baptist Convention and become a prominent pastor in Athens, Georgia (Murden, 1916)
The Area known as Springfield would have its first Jeanes Supervisor in Mildred Turner, a graduate of Spelman College and a community member. She accepted the Jeanes Supervisor position for the State of Georgia beginning in 1934. (Georgia Archives Record Group 12-2-53 and 12-6-71, 2020)
This same year the board of Trustees consisted of Miles Hackney ( spokesman and demonstrator for the Agricultural Adjustment, (AAA) soil conservation Live-at-Home Program) (Dobbs, 2020), George Chapman ( farmer); Casper Evans (Carpenter), Stelustus Evans, (Cotton Farmer), Joseph Turner, (mixed farmer); Spence Turner,(farmer); and Clark Turner, (General store owner), would purchase four-acres of land from a Springfield Citizen (Mitchell Chapman Jr.) at 12.50 an acre and begin collecting the materials needed to build a five-teacher Rosenwald type school-Springfield Log Cabin.
The school would operate as a public school from 1937 until 1955 when the state consolidated the school, and the Black students were bused to the all-Black Murden High School, named after an African American, D.P. Murden. During this time, the Log Cabin would be used by the Masons and other groups,
In 1964 at the end of the school year, five teachers were fired as the superintendent refused to renew their contract, including the principal, Evan Harris, and his wife, Ann. The disgruntled employees believed the firing was due to their participation in voter registration. One of the dismissed teachers, a member of the Springfield community and graduate of the Log Cabin School, Calvin Turner, and his appointed student leader, Frank Bates, would be instrumental in leading the bus boycott the following school year (Hartford, 1965).
Calvin Turner worked with Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Willie Bolden in coordinating the marches from Friendship church to the Crawfordville Courthouse. They were working with the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE), a voter registration program using college students who used the Log Cabin as their headquarters when the bus boycott began. Calvin traveled to Atlanta, met with Rev. Andrew Young, and received training from Septima Clark in the Citizenship Program.
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, this structure was used as a Freedom School for those students wishing to integrate into the public school system. The student Bus Boycott bought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the Area to address the crowd at Friendship Baptist Church and offered his help to improve the living and working conditions for Blacks in Taliaferro County (Bates, 2014).
After the marches, sit-ins, arrests, and threats from the KKK, students were finally able to return to school. Still, the economic and political problems of Taliaferro County were far from over. In steps, Randolph T. Blackwell who took a leave from the SCLC and formed the Southern Rural Agency Project. He would work with Calvin Turner and Robert Billingsley with Crawfordville Enterprises. They restructured the Log Cabin for the silk-screening and sewing plant and hired and trained locals and others to operate in the plant.
After finding a larger building to house the plant, the Log Cabin was used as a Day Care for the children of the plant workers. SCLC leader Andrew Young helped to find funding to equip the Day Care and training for the workers.
On April 27, 1968, Crawfordville Enterprises celebrated its first anniversary as community cooperation, a combined program with Friendship Baptist Church Emancipation Proclamation Celebration. Guest speakers were Dorothy F Cotton; Educational Director, Rev. Oscar McCloud: Crawfordville Enterprise Board of Directors, Philip Weightman: Office of Economic Opportunity, Jacob Henderson: Economic Development Administration, Norman Kurland: Citizens Crusade Against Poverty, George Small: Shirley of Atlanta, Randolph T. Blackwell: Directors Southern Rural Action Project, Rural Development A Coalition. The Rev. Dr. Ralph D. Abernathy, President Southern Christian Leadership Conference, gave the address.
The open House prayer was given by Father Joseph Cooney, and the Ribbon Cutting and Address: Miss Dorothy Height, President National Council of Negro women. Crawfordville Enterprises, board of directors: Robert Billingsley: Chairman, Calvin Turner, Mrs. Mabel Heath, Mrs. Mary Emma Barcus, Randolph T. Blackwell, Joseph Morris Turner, Curry Van Bible, Rev. Oscar McCloud, and Jesse Andrews.
Two federal court cases resulted from the school protests. In Turner v. Goolsby, the court ruled that it was illegal to use public funds to bus white students to adjoining counties while refusing to bus Black students. Legally, the schools consolidated in 1966-67, but all the white students attended a private church school.
The U.S. Supreme Court case Turner v. Fouche argued on October 20, 1966, and decided on January 19, 1970, changed the method used for selecting jurors and, subsequently, school board members. Thus, allowing Blacks to be on the School Board (Turner v Fouche, 1970).
The Log Cabin was used for recreation and social events until 1993 when a dispute over the land led to a court case that ended with the board of trustees owning the building. Calvin Turner selected Michael Bowman, Sr. as president of the board, and in 1998, they became a 501(c) 3 non-profit. The building never recovered after the prolonged inactivity and has several issues, including ridgeway separating, water damage, etc.
In 2016 the community fought to stop the Area's rezoning from agriculture to business, not allowing a company to store two silos of ammonia nitrate, detonator, etc.
That same year the National Trust for Historic Preservation sent a letter stating," the (log cabin) property appears to meet the criteria for listing in the National Register under National Register Criterion A in the areas of Ethnic Heritage-Black and Education, and Criterion C in the Area of Architecture. Having this nomination encouraged us to continue our efforts to restore the building.
In August 2018, we asked Emmy award-winning producer, author, and motivational speaker from Springfield Community, Taliaferro County, Angela Harrington Rice, to have a Book signing and dinner here and donate a portion of her new Book to the Log Cabin. She agreed, and we raised $10,000.00 that year. Unfortunately, Covid-19 delayed our fundraising effort while we learned new methods to proceed.
2019, we were selected by the Georgia Trust Historic Preservation as a Places in Peril (Places in Perils, 2019).
2021, Springfield Community Center was the recipient of the Georgia Humanities and National Endowment for the Humanities grant fund for $10,000 (Georgia Humanities, 2021).
March 2022 The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Telling the Full History Preservation Fund announced Springfield Community Center, Inc as a recipient of a $25,000.00 grant to complete the architectural design (National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2022).
For many of us today, it is evident that, more than ever, we need to recognize and celebrate our cultural heritage, not just part of it. For too long, needs have gone unfulfilled, and this letter offers a way to help remedy that. The Springfield Log Cabin is a jewel of African American history, full of memories and opportunities to bolster our community.
We are collecting stories and artifacts from the era the school operated, but we need funds to research the best way to store the recorded and written interviews. We are collaborating with several preservations groups: Greg Jacobs of Landmark Preservation, Savannah, Georgia, Ethos Preservation, and Arc Collaborative for condition assessments and practices to stabilize the building.
We have teamed with Purification Historical Center to assist with landscaping ideas and designs and with the Taliaferro County Historical Society to provide information on Black History. The county is rich in its Caucasian history but limited in the history of its Black citizens, and TCHS wants to change that as much as we do.
Our Mission is to provide educational and social development for residents of Taliaferro County by preserving and using the Springfield Log Cabin as a community center and repository for African American History and Culture.
Gifts and resources will revitalize a part of history by providing the necessary resources to rebuild a rare log cabin schoolhouse. Formerly enslaved people and their descendants originally built this log cabin.
We can honor their legacy by giving today and ensuring lessons on African American history continue for generations.
We added a community garden to the property to offer fresh vegetables and exercise to the community. Taliaferro County lacks a grocery store, and one must travel to the neighboring county. To compensate and save on travel and gas, we offer a way to grow and harvest fresh produce.
We also plan to add a walking trail and be a part of the Civil Rights Trail.
We have applied for and will continue to apply for grants, but we hope you partner with us to restore this legacy as a repository and community center. Your help is greatly appreciated. Would you please commit yourself to help us obtain our goal
Terry V Howard, CEO
- Wyleena Harris, Secretary
- Merolyn Stewart McGadney
- George Turner
- Geoffrey Turner
- Aaron Bowman, Sr., Treasurer
- Michael S Bowman, Sr., Chairman of the Board of Trustees
- Terry Howard, CEO