For those folks interested in the history of the Catholic missions in Pickens County, what follows is a timeline that places our local history within the broader context of Georgia history. At the end of this timeline is a report of our summer seminarian’s search (so far futile) to pinpoint the location of the original mission church that once stood in or around Tate.
1848 Immaculate Conception is the 1st Catholic Church in Atlanta.
1850 The Diocese of Savannah is established.
1853 Henry T. Fitzsimmons, an Irish immigrant, starts the first marble company in the Long Swamp valley, Marble Hill.
1864 Battle of Atlanta occurs.
1870-71 Father Thomas O’Reilly is assigned as pastor of St. Joseph in Dalton.
1878 Work on the rail line from Marietta to Tennessee begins, and that September, the line reaches Jasper.
1880 Sts. Peter and Paul is established as the 2nd Catholic Church in Atlanta (on the site which is now the Omni Hotel). This was run by the Marists and included Tate in its parish boundaries.
1884 Georgia Marble Company is established.
1896 First Catholic Church in Tate is under construction (see photo above).
1897 The Church of Sts. Peter and Paul relocates and is renamed Sacred Heart (now the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).
1897 Fr. Edward McGrath, SM, and family members arrive in Tate from Troy, NY.
1902 Catholic population in cities of Marietta, Woodstock, Acworth, Adairsville, Rome, Dalton, Canton, Tate, Ellijay, and Blairsville totals 220. Tate has a total of five Catholics living there at this time, which was a number that tended to fluctuate depending on when the marble quarries were operated.
1912 Edward McGrath is ordained a priest. He most likely celebrated a Mass in Tate where he grew up.
1923 Msgr. Joseph G. Cassidy is ordained.
1928 Samuel Tate begins Tate Mountain Estates development.
1930’s Mass is celebrated in Tate Mountain Estates lodge.
1936 Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta is established.
1938 Msgr. Cassidy begins his trailer ministry in the rural parts of Georgia at the request of Bishop Gerald P. O’Hara, ordinary for the Diocese of Savannah.
1942 Redemptorists arrive in Georgia and serve from St. Joseph in Dalton and Sacred Heart in Griffin.
1946 Tate Mountain Estates lodge burns down and is never replaced.
1956 Diocese of Atlanta is established.
1961 Father Kolb, a Redemptorist, begins his ministry in Jasper.
1962 Atlanta is made an archdiocese.
1969 St. Francis of Assisi in Cartersville is built and then staffed by the LaSalette priests.
1977 Our Lady of LaSalette in Canton is dedicated.
1984 First Mass is held at the rectory of the Jasper mission.
2004 Our Lady of the Mountains becomes a parish.
The Long Lost Mission
In the summer of 2015, Jonathan Eubanks, a seminarian assigned to us for the summer, spent a great deal of time trying to locate the “lost mission” in Marble Hill, Pickens County, which is said to have existed from 1895 to 1897. Herewith, his report:
I searched through the Pickens County deeds records located in the Office of the Clerk of the Court at the Pickens County courthouse. My search criteria included (1) searching for the mission by name and/or representation, (2) by name of Andrew P. McElroy (known to be in close proximity to said mission), and (3) other family names having known to be in close proximity to the McElroy family, based on census records around the year 1900. I could find no information.
I searched the Imerys (Georgia) Marble records, located in the main office on Highway 53. This recording system deals solely in lot numbers. Lot numbers 85, 86, 105, and 125 have all been exhausted as possible locations for the mission. Other lots may be available as possible solutions. However, the lots would have had to be in the possession of the Georgia Marble Company (GMC) at the time of the mission’s established existence. It has been logically assumed that, due to the lack of information contained within the county deeds records, the mission was located on land owned by GMC, and therefore, would need no specific deeding of the property.
I met with local historian Ms. Mary Jane Griffith. Ms. Mary Jane is the sister of Mr. Steve Griffith, the now deceased historian and writer of The Many Facets of Tate, Georgia. While meeting with her, she could recall no specific information concerning any lot number that was owned or being developed at or around the dates in question. At her suggestion, I read a book of the history of Marble Hill Baptist Church for possible information, but to no avail. However, I did not have time to contact that Baptist church directly to ask them about any possible information concerning the location of the “lost mission”. Lastly, Ms. Mary Jane recommended that the GMC documents that have been stored in the old jail, located somewhere off highway 515 in the Jasper area, might yield positive results. I did not pursue this route, as I found I would have to obtain permission from the County Commissioner to do so.
I did some scouting around myself. A photo (see above) of the McElroy property exists, showing a ridgeline in the background, so I thoroughly scouted the area around highway 53 in Marble Hill for what might be a possible location. Using the ridgeline as a point of reference, I inspected the hills for possible matches, but I could make only partial and imaginative matches.