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          Reverend Wilkes B. Flagg                   Old Flagg Chapel Baptist Church
Photos from Georgia Archives

Reverend Wilkes B. Flagg and Flagg Chapel Baptist Church

      Born in Virginia in 1802,  Wilkes Flagg was the slave of Dr. Tomlinson Fort who was purchased, along with his mother Sabina, from the Lamar plantation on Little River. A skilled blacksmith, he was allowed to work in the blacksmith shop after his normal working day and was taught to read and write and to keep accounts by the Fort children. The blacksmith shop was located in the first block of N. Wayne St., on the west side,  in the middle as shown on the 1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.

      According to an article in The Union-Recorder Nov 10, 1938 by Mrs. Nellie Womack Hines, " the church was originally called the First African Baptist Church, and was organized by Rev Milus Wilburn, a white pastor. Names of pastors that have served the church: Sylvanus Carter, Wilkes Flagg, Edmen Pace, C H. Brightharp, J. C. Bryan, E. F. Martin, J. C. Jones, A. W. Hawkins, R. W. Walker, W. L. Wilder, H. Blackshear, M. F. Laster, J. H. Godson, J. L. Lomax, M. Moreland, J. O. Mitchell, G. W. Harvey, J. W. Smoot, N. B. Wight (1936-1939). "

The original Flagg Chapel Baptist Church on Franklin St. (pictured), was built during reconstruction on his land. It stood here until 1973 when a fire destroyed it during an extensive renovation.

According to Sandra Woolfork Jones, in Bicentennial 2003 published by the Union-Recorder  "Reverend Flagg was also instrumental in establishing El Bethel and Shiloh Baptist churches and was one of the early moderators of the Middle Georgia Missionary Baptist Association headquartered in Macon."

     Earning money from his extra work, he was allowed to purchase his freedom and the freedom of his wife Lavinia and their son Wilkes, Jr. who born around 1830. The family,  listed as free in the 1850 Federal Census, consisted of  Rev. Flagg, his wife Lavinia and son Wilkes B. age 19. Rev. Flagg  is listed having $400 personal property.  He and his family are not listed in the 1860 census.

     In addition to his blacksmith shop on Wayne St. , Rev. Flagg was a polished, proficient  head waiter for the governors (Lumpkin to Brown) at state dinners.

       After the civil war, Rev. Flagg and Levinia Robinson Flagg "legitimized"  their marriage  on September 16, 1865 in Milledgeville. A  very active leader during reconstruction, Rev. Flagg helped the destitute blacks in the community.  Sandra Woolfork Jones, in Bicentennial 2003 published by the Union-Recorder writes "he acquired a  sharecropping lease on an 1,100+ acre plantation at Camp Creek on which he established a colony and grew cotton. He amassed a considerable fortune including several animals and equipment. Unfortunately, most of his wealth was lots to creditors after his death in 1878." Katherine Bowen Walters, in Oconee River, Tales to Tell, writes "The Baldwin County Tax Digest of May 1866 indicates that Flagg held twenty-three hundred dollars  in taxable land and eight hundred dollars worth of farm equipment." The Southern Recorder states that in April 1868, Wilkes Flagg as well as Ham. Brown, were appointed as two of the six vice-presidents of the newly established Democratic Club of Baldwin County.

       Rev. Flagg established a school for the black school at Flagg Baptist Church. According to Reflections, a newsletter of the Historic Preservation Division, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,  "the educational accomplishments at Flagg Chapel soon came to the attention of  Reverend Hiram Eddy of the American Missionary Society AMA. This philanthropic society provided teachers and equipment for schools built by the Freedman's Bureau. By 1868, Milledgeville was selected by the AMA and the Freedmen's Bureau as the site of the Eddy School. The AMA sent five white teachers to instruct 350 African American students until a school building was completed. In 1869, students moved from classes previously held at Flagg Chapel Baptist Church to the Eddy School, the only educational institution for African Americans in Milledgeville."

  Rev. Flagg died at the age of 78 on November 13, 1878 and is buried on the grounds of his beloved Flagg Chapel Baptist Church. Lavinia Flagg died in June 1901 in Milledgeville and is buried beside her husband.

     More details of the life of Wilkes Flagg can be found in Rev. Wilkes Flagg, A Remarkable Man by Tomlinlinson Fort;  Milledgeville, Georgia's Antebellum Captial, James C. Bonner, and Oconee River, Tales to Tell, Katherine Bowman Walters.

Obituary of  Rev. Wilkes Flagg

photos - Georgia Archives

Eileen B. McAdams copyright 2004