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The Campaign to Save Mahalia Chapel AME Church: Mahalia Jackson Sings for Mahalia Chapel—Mahalia at Mahalia

Buena Vista and Marion County, GA 2023

Calling All Descendants of Webster Joshua Hartage (c.1851-1887)

and Manerva Mathis-Butts Hartage (c.1853-1927), and Interested Others


Clarence D. White, Coordinator and Committee Chairperson

50 Belmonte Circle, SW

AtlantaGA 30311-2771



March 6, 2023


Dear Family and Friends,

Plans are now set for this very important event which, as previously announced, will occur on Saturday and Sunday, July 22 and 23, 2023, at our ancestral seat: the town of Buena Vista and rural Marion County, Georgia. This reunion has two purposes: to discover and celebrate our heritage and history and to raise funds to enable the survival of our ancestral church, Mahalia Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As reported earlier, Mahalia Chapel is in danger of being closed by the Southwest Georgia Conference of the AMEC because of insufficient membership and inability to pay church expenses and Conference assessments. The goal is to raise $5,000 or more for the church.

Regarding our heritage, I shall present Chapter Two of my A Hartage Family History: From Slavery to the 1950s. (The Introduction and Chapter One are attached at the end.) This next chapter will focus on the marriages, household formations, and offspring of all the children of Manerva Mathis-Butts Hartage and Webster Hartage. There will be an account of the families created by Jonas Butts and Fannie Brown Butts, Bris Hartage and Leila DuPree Hartage, George Washington Hartage and Laura Battle Hartage, Martha “Babe” Hartage Dupree and Washington Dupree, Robert “Dank” Hartage and Mary Battle Hartage, Nannie Hartage Wooden and Oliver Wooden, Lucy Hartage Terry and Robert Terry, Lilly Hartage Terry and (another) Robert Terry. and Leticia “Lett” “Tissie” Hartage and whomever I can discover she may have married. We, the Committee, hope to have descendants of all these marriage unions at the reunion. 

On Saturday, July 22, we shall gather at 12 noon for a family potluck dinner—and a short program before—at Mt Pleasant Baptist Church, 121 East Bridges Street, Buena Vista, Georgia 31803. Mt Pleasant and Mahalia Chapel have historically been neighboring churches in the Doyle district of Marion County, and several members of the Hartage family have been and still are members of the Mt Pleasant congregation. A few years ago, Mt Pleasant moved into a new spacious facility that includes a large fellowship hall and that is sited on a large, landscaped campus with plenty of parking. Everyone is asked to share and help to make this day one of family love and warm fellowship. Let’s celebrate our culinary heritage and our contemporary cooking styles with varied food of the old, the new and the revised. Dishes made from handed- down heirloom recipes, which were brought by our ancestors to church in cardboard boxes, are welcome.  May the wide variety of dishes long linger in our memories! 

On Sunday, July 23, we will gather at Mahalia Chapel AME Church, 16 Mahalia Chapel Road, Buena Vista, Georgia 31803 to celebrate Homecoming. Now more than 150 years old, the church was named for Mahalia Harvey Butts, a white woman who helped the freed people establish it during Reconstruction. The current pastor is our own Rev. Gerald Harris, grandson of Nannie Hartage Wooden and Oliver Wooden. I have written several articles on Mahalia’s history over the last two decades which are posted on the Marion County history website. See Mahalia Chapel AME, Marion County, GA ( at 1 PM, we have planned a self-guided tour of the cemetery. All Hartage family graves will be marked for easy locating. In 2007, a team of family members surveyed all known graves in the cemetery and the survey data collected were posted on the Marion County history website. Attendees are reminded to bring appropriate shoes for navigating the rough terrain of the cemetery. 

Homecoming worship service will begin at the church at 2:30 PM, which time, we hope, will allow congregants from other churches in Marion County, Schley County, Macon County, Sumter County, and beyond to come to Mahalia Chapel. I plan to invite the public to attend through a short article about the church, its history, and the campaign to save it, to be published in the church news section of The Journal, local weekly newspaper published from Buena Vista. I’ll request that the article be run in three issues before Homecoming Sunday. Our Cousin Rev. Norris Harris, pastor of the Oglethorpe Circuit of the AMEC, will preach. Music during the service will be provided by the Oglethorpe Circuit Choir. During the offertory, we shall report all funds collected and hope to announce that the $5,000 goal has been attained or exceeded. After the service, a catered, boxed dinner will be served on the church yard.

On both days we shall be uplifted, blessed, and inspired through the gospel singing of the incomparable Miss Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972). We shall endeavor to find and present her entire discography—everything that she recorded—during the two days. The theme song is “How I Got Over” How I Got Over - YouTube , which she sang at the March on Washington in 1963.

(13) March on Washington - MAHALIA JACKSON sings two hymns - YouTube.

We hope Mahalia at Mahalia will abide with you in mind and spirit long after the Reunion and Homecoming are over.

Remember that this event is both a family reunion and a fundraiser for the church. The registration fee is $50 per person for adults and $15 per person for children ages 6-17; no fee for children under 6. Donations above these amounts are very welcome. If you cannot attend, donations in the same amounts or in any amount will be much appreciated. If you’d like to attend but cannot afford the registration fee, pay what you can and come join us. We have begun a tally of all amounts received toward the goal of $5,000. It is attached. We shall update it from time to time and report it out by email to everyone. The only expenditure that we anticipate will be the cost of Sunday’s boxed dinner for everyone. If someone wishes to underwrite this cost, we’ll be grateful to you forever. If you plan to attend, please complete the attached registration form and return it by June 30, 2023. If you cannot attend, please send a donation by the same date using the same form. The Committee thanks you very much. If you have questions, please contact the Coordinator and Chairperson; contact information above.

If you need lodging, consider these possibilities in Americus in a range of prices:

Econo Lodge in Americus, GA - ReservationCounter.comHampton Inn Americus Americus |;

Days Inn by Wyndham Americus in Americus, GA - ReservationCounter.comWindsor Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection Americus, Georgia, US - Reservations.comWe recommend that you make your reservation without delay.

Clarence D. White, Committee Chairperson

Wilhelmina Hicks, Member

Ella Leach, Member

Online registration is not offered at this time:

Click Here for the Mail-in Registration Form

THE SEVENTEENTH HARTAGE FAMILY REUNION and The Campaign to Save Mahalia Chapel AME Church: Mahalia Jackson Sings for Mahalia Chapel—Mahalia at Mahalia

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