Born in 1845 probably on a plantation in Meriwether County, Georgia, son of a white man and a slave woman. He may have been afforded some sort of an education when he was growing up. He was 20 years of age when the Civil War ended in 1865. He went to Andersonville, Georgia, and enrolled in a recently organized school operated by the American Missionary Association. He married a woman whose name was Nancy, probably in 1865, and she, too, was a mulatto. Their children, all born in Andersonville, were Floyd Grant Snelson, born in 1866, Seaborn C. Snelson, born in 1867, and Mary Snelson, born in 1869.
The General Assembly in 1867 granted a charter for Atlanta University, but it was not until 1869 that the school opened for classes. Floyd Snelson and his family relocated in Atlanta where he enrolled in the first theological class at Atlanta University. He graduated in 1871 and was ordained a Congregational minister. He then became pastor of the Andersonville Congregational Church. A year later he enrolled as a missionary for the American Missionary Association. He asked for and got permission to establish Congregational churches for black persons in and around Liberty County. Reverend Snelson and his family were residing in Liberty County by early 1872. He engaged in civic, political, religious, and educational affairs in the county, including the reinstitution of a school for black persons established at Goldens Grove in 1868 (see William A. Golden in this appendix).
John B. Mallard, ordinary for Liberty County, named him one of the first three members of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners, probably because he was more able than anyone else to represent the black majority in the coastal section of Liberty County. He was a grand juror during the November 1873 session of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts at Savannah, Georgia. In July 1874 he organized what was called the “Second Dorchester Midway Congregational Church,’ whose congregation worshipped in a brush arbor adjacent to the school established by William A. Golding in 1866. The cornerstone of a building for the church, on site of the brush arbor, was laid in 1875. During this period of time, Reverend Snelson and members of his congregation contributed food to be given to destitute black persons in the area by the Savannah Benevolent Association. In September 1876, he wrote a letter to J .H. Estill of the organization saying: “I have collected about ten sacks of corn and am turning it into meal and grists. I am shipping them tomorrow together with a barrel of potatoes.” Reverend Snelson spent 1877 building structures to house a continuation of Golding’s school, which he called “Dorchester Academy.” He was its first principal, while all of the other teachers were white and from the North.
His second mission for the American Missionary Association was in the Republic of Liberia, which was instituted in 1847 by repatriated U.S. slaves under the aegis of the American Colonization Society. He spent a year there and then returned to Liberty County. In November 1879 he made a report on his African mission to the Georgia Congregational Confederence in Savannah, Georgia. He said that “colored immigrants could do well if they had enough money to support them for several years ,” but that “it is no place for a poor man, as work is scarce, wages very low, and provisions dear.” Reverend Snelson’s affiliation with the American Missionary Association continued during the period 1879-1889. He continued to reside in Liberty County, and established other Congregational churches, none of which survived.
The 1880 U.S. Census of Liberty County says that Seaborn Snelson, 30, probably a brother of Reverend Snelson, was residing in Liberty County that year with his children, Julia M. Snelson, born in 1875, and Charles A. Snelson, born in 1878. On August 22, 1888, Reverend Snelson was chairman of the Republican Convention of the First Congressional District in Savannah, Georgia. He was named a candidate for the U.S. Congress, but nothing came of that action.
He ended his affiliation with the American Missionary Association in 1889 and relocated with his wife in Waycross, Georgia. They operated a boarding house on Reedsville Street, and in 1900 had five lodgers. He established an elementary school for black children on Reedsville Street with funds supplied by the Plant Railroad System. Center High School evolved from that effort. Snelson Street in Waycross was named in his honor. Reverend Snelson and his wife died during the early years of the twentieth century. Both were buried in Red Hill Cemetery, which later became a residential section of Waycross known as Cherokee Heights. Reverend Snelson’s son, Floyd Grant Snelson, became a newspaper publisher and entertainment and sports promoter in New York, New York. Reverend Snelson’s daughter, Mary Snelson, married a Liberty County man and resided there the rest of her life.