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BRANTLEY COUNTY HISTORICAL AND PRESERVATION SOCIETY,

P.O. BOX 1096, Nahunta, Georgia 31553

This page was updated April 16, 2014

SMYRNA PRIMITIVE BAPTIST CHURCH

Lulaton



smyrnaprimitivebaptistchurch

Founded in 1824, the original Smyrna Baptist Church is believed to have been first located near where the first Strickland School was built. At this time, there is no evidence of a cemetery. Then the church was moved approximately one mile east to the Jesse Lewis property, in the area across the creek from where the Smyrna Church is now located. In the mid to late 1950s, there was evidence of several graves in the cemetery in this location. One grave had a fence around it. It is believed that Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Lewis, their child, and Joseph Heirs Strickland are buried in this cemetery. The grave markers could be seen from the road..

 

Today the church and cemetery are located north of Satilla Station, or what is now known as Lulaton. This property is made up of four land lots, numbered 228, 229, 261, and 262. The deed of record was dated December 2, 1889, and donated by the James Highsmith estate. This is the third and final resting place of the Smyrna Church and cemetery, founded in 1824. Smyrna is recorded as being the centerpiece of the community in Martha M. Puckett's book about Brantley County entitled, "Snow White Sands."

 

The church was a member of the Crawfordite division, but left the Alabaha Association for the Satilla River Association in 1969.

 

The church split circa 1927 when two Primitive Baptist preachers, who were brothers, Joseph (Joe) and Ephrim Thomas had a dispute over church doctrine. Elder Joe Thomas continued to preach at Smyrna and Elder Ephrim Thomas went to preach at Macedonia.

 

Smyrna had the distinction of producing no less than nine ministers. Ministers ordained by Smyrna Church include, Elders John Strickland, Levi Strickland, Jr., James Henry Strickland, Henry Clay Highsmith, Jasper Willis, Jasper Mizell, B. Frank Jones, Matthew Strickland and Jasper Highsmith. Two of Smyrna's better known ministers were the Elders Henry Clay Highsmith and John Strickland. Elder Highsmith was very staunch in adherence to obeying rules of the church and school. He always went to school on the first day. The Principal opened the ceremony by reading from the Bible and commented about the scriptures. Elder Highsmith told the Principal to read the Bible and make no comment. Elder John Strickland's reception was with the old Smyrna Church in 1875. The church was a branch of the Alabaha River Primitive Association. He was looked on as a leader, was elected moderator in 1886 and served until his death on August 13, 1896.

 

The church disbanded circa 1990. Elder Ben Johnson was the last pastor of the church. The church building remains intact. Some families associated with the church include the Highsmiths, Mizells, Purdoms, Stricklands, Willis, and Jones. Gabriel L. Strickland built the benches and tables for the church.

 

A large cemetery by the church is the burial place of many of Brantley County's prominent citizens and pioneer families. The oldest grave recorded is that of John T. Highsmith, born 1807, and died Nov. 12, 1877, the son of Jacob and Roxie Wainwright Highsmith.

Submitted by, Kenneth "Bozo" Willis. Sources: Minutes of the Alabaha Association, Minutes of the Satilla River Association, "Snow White Sands," Bozo Willis, and Ann Lawson.

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