Archive for the ‘Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church Vidette Georgia’ Tag

Vidette, Georgia   1 comment

Above:  Burke County, Georgia, U.S.A., 1951

Scanned from Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

“37” indicates the Georgia and Florida Railway, which ran between Madison, Florida, and Greenwood, South Carolina.

“24” indicates the Central of Georgia Railway, now Railroad.

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My father was a minister in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church from 1980 until 2014, when he died.  He served–and we lived–mostly in rural places, plentiful in southern Georgia.  The first of those, from June 1980 to June 1982, when I was 7-9 years old, in the Second and Third Grades, was Vidette, in Burke County.  The charge had three congregations:  Vidette, Greens Cut, and Friendship.  The parsonage, a run-down old house probably about the age of the town, was next to the Vidette Church.

Vidette was one of the small towns that developed at crossroads in western Burke County in the first decade of the twentieth century.  When the old Georgia and Florida Railway (built mostly from 1906 to 1911) built lines in that part of the county, new towns came into being.  The town existed by 1909, when a wedding, a record of which I found via Google, occurred there.  Vidette reached its peak population of about 600 in the 1920s.  Various factors led to the decline of population in that part of rural Burke County.  Many African Americans left the Jim Crow South as part of the Great Migration, starting in 1915.  In the South, where cotton was king, the boll weevil, an insect introduced into Georgia in 1915, devastated the cotton crop, reducing yields by half by 1923.  The decline in the population in many rural counties in Georgia was evident in the comparison of the results of the federal censuses of 1920 and 1930.

When my family and I lived in Vidette the population was close to 100.  Our mailing address contained the words “Louisville, Georgia.”  (Now the mailing addresses for residents of Vidette contain “Midville, Georgia.”)  The worship space of the Vidette United Methodist Church obviously dated to a time when the population was closer to 600.  The other congregation in town of which I have retained memories was the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which dissolved in 2015.  Its property has transferred to the new Bethel Mennonite Church.  Most Presbyterians in Vidette have been worshiping in either Louisville or Waynesboro, I suppose.

Above:  A Map of the Georgia and Florida Railway, 1918

Image Source = http://phumyvungtaurental.com/map-of-georgia-and-florida/georgia-florida-railway-1918-system-map-map-of-georgia-and-florida-908-x-713-pixels/

By law images produced in the United States of America prior to 1923 are in the public domain.

By 1980 the railroad no longer came to Vidette.  One source I consulted indicated that the Hepzibah-Midville line of the Georgia and Florida Railroad closed in 1966.  Yet the Rand McNally World Atlas (1968) still showed the Georgia and Florida Railroad passing through western Burke County.  Perhaps someone forgot or neglected to update a map.  In 1980-1982 evidence of the railroad was visible on the eastern edge of town, near and parallel to Railroad Avenue and across from only store in town as well as the abandoned storefronts.  Two of the abandoned storefronts have survived; there used to be five of them.  By 1980 Vidette High School, on North College Avenue, next to Rose Dhu Cemetery, had closed.  Only the gymnasium has survived.

Above:  Vidette, Georgia, October 2016

From Google Earth

Last year the population of Vidette was 109.  A few moments ago, when last I checked the listing for Vidette United Methodist Church at the Find-a-Church feature of the denominational website, I read “Congregation:  12.”  Whether that was a reference to total membership, active membership, or average Sunday attendance, the implication for the continued existence of the congregation has not changed from destined to close sooner rather than later.

As of August 17, 2018, Vidette United Methodist Church, once a station church served by a retired minister, is half of a charge with Mount Moriah United Methodist Church, north of Matthews, in neighboring Jefferson County.  There is almost nothing left of Matthews either.  The minister lives in the Mount Moriah parsonage.  Friendship United Methodist Church, once on a charge with First United Methodist Church, Waynesboro, is on a charge with Greens Cut United Methodist Church, formerly a station church.  The current Friendship-Greens Cut arrangement makes much sense.

These rural areas are depopulating for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that most of those young people who can get away from them do.  Economic disadvantages of rural areas compound each other, so these vast territories spiral downward into deeper structural poverty.  Improvement is difficult, not impossible.  However, it will require a long time, for the entrenched problems are long-standing.

In the meantime, why would a young person with an education and professional prospects choose to live in Vidette?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

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Memories of Vidette, Georgia   7 comments

Vidette UMC 01

Vidette United Methodist Church 1980-1982

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I have been spending much time using Google Earth recently.  In particular I have been examining satellite and street view images of Vidette, Georgia, in western Burke County, where my family and I lived from June 1980 to June 1982.   My father was the pastor of the Vidette-Friendship-Greens Cut United Methodist Charge.  I was seven, eight, and nine years old at the time, so I did not pay attention to most of the local ecclesiastical matters.  (Battle of the Planets, a dreadful  and frequently nonsensical American dubbing of a superior Japanese cartoon series, was much more interesting to me.)  I have learned, however, that the responsibility for the move in 1982 was a joint matter shared by my father and certain lay members.  Moving away was also a blessing.

Vidette Parsonage 01

The Parsonage, 1980-1982. My sister’s bedroom was on the right. The front room was in the center, off the porch. My bedroom was to the left, behind the twin windows at the porch.

The parsonage, located next to Vidette United Methodist Church, was in need of repair.  It was an old structure with one bathroom, no corridors, and no central air or heating.  The den was a narrow room in the middle-back section of the house, located between the master bedroom and the bathroom on one side and the kitchen and the dining room on the other.

Vidette Parsonage 02

I come from a bookish family.

Vidette Parsonage 04

The den. The dining room was to the left and the bathroom as to the right. My sister’s bedroom was to the left, through the front room. My bedroom was to the right, through the front room.

Vidette Parsonage 03

Look at me!

How many parishioners would have chosen to live in a house in that condition?  But the structure was good enough for the pastor and his family, right?  No!

The front room, just off the front porch, separated my sister’s bedroom from mine.  My bedroom, facing onto the front porch, was obviously supposed to be the pastor’s study, for it had a built-in closet and lacked a closet.  It had to be my bedroom, however, for there was no other room.  It was good to have the use of a built-in bookcase, however.  The large heater provided heat during the winter.  I dressed in front of it on cold mornings.

Much of life during the main part of the week during the school year occurred in Waynesboro, the county seat.  There we visited the bakery some Mennonites owned.  In that town my mother worked in the city hall and my sister and I attended school.

Vidette UMC 02

Me

1980-1982 were not good years for me.  I was struggling with life.  Certainly moving every few years did not help with regard to that matter.  I was not very sociable, and not just because of my introversion.  So I was possibly the worst Cub Scout ever.  At least I tried to be sociable, I suppose.  When we moved away, I terminated my involvement in the Cub Scouts.  Also, my physical awkwardness (evident in P.E.) contributed to my social awkwardness, as some of my classmates took the opportunity to mock me.  When my third grade class received Honorable Mention in the dodgeball tournament at Waynesboro Elementary School, many classmates blamed me.  Also, when (not by my doing) classmates learned of my middle name (Randolph), I became “Randolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  My friend was Ola Mae Bailey, the kindly elderly woman who lived next door.  She did more for me than perhaps she knew.

Did I mention that I have never really wanted to have children?  My childhood experiences contributed to this decision.

The South Georgia Conference has broken up the Vidette-Friendship-Green’s Cut Charge.  As of last week, when the most recent round of ministerial appointments took effect:

  1. Vidette went onto a charge with Mt. Moriah, north of Matthews, in Jefferson County.  (By the way, I recall a pulpit exchange that took my father to Mt. Moriah one Sunday in 1980-1982.)
  2. Friendship was on a charge with First United Methodist Church, Waynesboro.
  3. Green’s Cut was a station church.

There have been changes to structures since 1982:

  1. Vidette U.M.C. has expanded its fellowship hall and covered the gap between the back of the church and the front of the fellowship hall.
  2. Eventually Vidette U.M.C. ceased to use its deteriorating parsonage.

The Google Earth street view image (dated August 2012) of the house shows a decrepit, abandoned building.  Plywood covers one half of the front windows of my sister’s former bedroom.  In the satellite view (dated October 30, 2016), however, the parsonage is absent.  I get the impression that the demolition of the house must have been fairly recent, based on the obviousness of where the parsonage had been.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I recall events, scenes, and routines.  I think of (God help me!) The Lawrence Welk Show.  I recall the church hayride through the local cemetery one Halloween.  I also remember that, one Halloween (I suppose), some people bobbed for apples outside the front of the fellowship hall.  I recall the Sunday morning that Buddy the dog went to church.  I also remember watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Greatest American Hero, and Pink Panther cartoons.  I recall my sister watching the Fame series, before it went into syndication.  I also remember the town park and the only store in town.  I recall ecumenical engagements with the Bethel Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (disbanded a few years ago), whose pastor had an obsession with the Book of Revelation.  One of their vacation Bible schools sticks in my memory.

As I examine satellite images of Vidette, I realize how fortunate I am not to live there any longer and to live in Athens-Clarke County.  I thank God in real time for what I have.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2017 COMMON ERA

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