Serving as a symbol of hope and progress, a new steeple was installed on top of the historic Euharlee Presbyterian Church July 23. The original spire, which was destroyed by a severe storm in January, could not be salvaged.
“It looks great on the church and we are grateful for the community’s help the night of the storm that helped us locate the bell and original steeple,” Euharlee City Manager James Stephens said. “The steeple was damaged to the point that it was more practical to replace the entire steeple while keeping the original bell.
“The replacement of the steeple is a stepping stone to the survival of Euharlee both through the storm and the COVID-19 pandemic. I think the steeple looks great on the church.”
Now operated by the city of Euharlee — as a special events venue and home to the Euharlee Welcome Center & History Museum — the mid-19th century church building, its cemetery and the Black Pioneers Cemetery sustained substantial storm damage. Due to debris and wind gusts, nearly 20 trees fell to the ground and 26 monuments were impaired.
The Black Pioneers Cemetery was established in the 1850s and features more than 300 burials. The 1-acre cemetery initially served as the burial site for area slaves and is situated on Covered Bridge Road, between the former Euharlee Presbyterian Church and Euharlee Baptist.
“The repairs to the inside of the church have been delayed because of complications related to bringing the historic inside up to current building codes because of the extent of the damage,” Stephens said. “We remain hopeful that all of those repairs will be completed before the 2020 holiday season. Damage that the city sustained at Joe Cowan Park and city hall have all been repaired.”
He shared, the cleanup process is an “ongoing process” at the Euharlee Presbyterian Church cemetery and Black Pioneers Cemetery.
To generate additional funds to repair the historic cemeteries, the city of Euharlee created a GoFundMe account. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Euharlee Presbyterian & Pioneer Cemeteries Fund has raised $1,240 of its $10,000 goal.
“I am so thankful for the response we received on the GoFundMe account,” Stephens said. “Our insurance policy ultimately did not cover the damage to the headstones because technically the city did not own the headstones. We received just over $1,200 from the account and the repairs to the headstones were close to $1,200.”
Like Stephens, Katie Gobbi — director of the Euharlee Welcome Center & History Museum — is “grateful” to the GoFundMe donors.
“Many with family members — recent or from a century ago — buried in the cemeteries have reached out to provide support,” she said. “The storm damage highlighted the importance of this church and these cemeteries to so many in our community.
“The funds raised have covered the cost of the headstone repairs. Fortunately, all of the stones could be repaired rather than replaced. That cuts down on costs, but it also means we are able to retain the historic cemetery monuments.”
According to Gobbi, closures due to COVID-19 have hampered the cemeteries’ cleanup efforts.
“City offices were closed for several weeks along with our partners – volunteers from Georgia Power,” she said. “We hope to begin the cleaning process again and soon finish the trail system with Bartow County.
“Driving by right now, you can see the fallen trees’ stumps remaining all over the Black Pioneers Cemetery. This is a unique situation and it still takes time to get the work done. Georgia Power has generously offered assistance with the equipment needed to finish the work with the stumps and get the cemetery closer to the condition it was in prior to the storm.”
For more information about the GoFundMe page, visit www.gofundme.com/f/euharlee-presbyterian-amp-pioneer-cemeteries-fund. Further details also can be obtained by contacting Gobbi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We are still fundraising, but we paused our active campaign push due to COVID,” Gobbi said. “We knew that our residents had other health and economic concerns.
“We are still raising money because we will continue to see the impact in the cemeteries for years to come. We hope to be proactive in the coming years to prevent further damage as the ground settles.”