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Historic Georgia church looks to reignite roots with new grant

Chubb Chapel was built in 1870 and is one of two Georgia churches that received a $4 million grant

CHUBBTOWN, Ga. — Along a rural stretch of Floyd County, a creek runs strong and roots run deep for one family. 

Chubb Chapel United Methodist Church, built in 1870, stands as a cornerstone for the Chubbtown Community and remains the only building left from the original area.

Clemmie Whatley, a member of the church and the Chubb family, shared the town's rich history and why the chapel remains a pillar of resilience.

“I grew up in the church from a baby, so I’ve been part of this church since my early beginnings," Whatley said. "It's a view into history visually. A lot of times, we read about Black history, but nothing's there anymore, because it was destroyed."

Whatley said Chubbtown originally started in the 1850s after several freed Black siblings built a self-sustaining community. She wrote a book detailing the history of her ancestors and other families who had a hand in building the historic town.

Chubb Chapel is one of two churches in Georgia to receive a $4 million grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservations' African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The other church is in Savannah. Church staff says the money will go toward repairing windows, preventing erosion, installing handicap-accessible ramps, and cleaning and painting. 

"We want to make sure this structure continues to stand as a testament to what history was about," Whatley said. “This grant allows us to tell the story of the Chubbs and of the other surrounding people in the community because otherwise, it’s not going to be told."

The church currently sits on about an acre of land and is the only surviving structure of the original town. It's on the list of Historic Rural Churches and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Whatley said the church's improvements will help it stand the test of time and remind future generations of the history that has existed for centuries.

"This is a way to keep that history in the forefront of what’s going on and to make sure that the significance of what was done by Black people in the United States remains. That it’s there for us to see and to hear," she said.

Rev. Ruby Ford is in her second year as pastor of Chubb Chapel. 

She said she found a community that took her in when she took on the role of running the church. Services are held every second and fourth Sunday at 11 a.m. Ford said she finds herself walking in the footsteps of generations of giants who fought through the effects of slavery, Jim Crow America and the civil rights movement.

"As a people, we don't really have another history," Ford said. "We don't know our lineage. Most of us don't know where we're from; how we're connected. As I've gotten older, we've lost that connectivity. We're not a village anymore, and so here, at least I've found a village again."

What's left of that village is a church still standing. A nearby cemetery also honors the ancestors who bought acres of land to build a unique community. Whatley said the church still stands because of the faith and commitment to those roots that run deep.

"The faith that our ancestors had in God, the faith that they passed down to us, the strong commitment to serving God, and the strong commitment to one another," Whatley said. 

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