GRADY COUNTY, GA (WALB) –A southwest Georgia church is celebrating being added to the National Register of Historic Places.
But the Ochlocknee Missionary Baptist Church in Grady County may not have received the national recognition if not for the work of two brothers.
They traced the church's roots back to the mid-1800s in the quest to preserve its future.
The Ochlocknee Missionary Baptist Church holds a special place in Richard and Jack Hadley's hearts.
"I was raised in this church," says Richard.
Jack adds, "They carry on the old traditions and songs. This is a unique church."
So two years ago, Richard set out to have the church added to the National Register of Historic Places.
"When it was approved by the state that was a high achievement," Jack recalls. "But then I said okay brother, hang in there."
"He helped me follow through and do it right," Richard says. "It's a long process, something that's not going to get done in a month or two or three or four."
But last week, on Richard's birthday, he received this certificate in the mail.
"I'm thrilled and excited for my brother," says a proud Jack. "Because to be honest, to do something like this without help from Thomasville Landmarks, which they offered, but he said he could do this himself."
The Ochlocknee Missionary Baptist Church was first built in 1848 by slaves. But when the church burned down in 1918, the congregation picked up and moved two miles away to this location, where the building still stands today.
"This church has a lot of my family history with it. I have a grandmother who sold the property in 1918 for $25," Richard explains.
Officials added the church to the register in part because its simple architecture is a significant example of rural African American churches of its time. Something they may have never known about if not for the Hadley brothers' archives.
"I feel great about it and I think it is an accomplishment that is appreciated by members and the community," Richard told us.
His brother adds, "It's important to keep up with the history for future generations."
And many more generations will be able to enjoy this church now under national protection.
The National Register of Historic Places is America's official list of buildings and places deemed worthy of protection and preservation. Structures must be at least 50 years old to qualify for the list.