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Baird's Baptist Church

File contributed for use in USGenWeb Archives by:
Denise Murphy denisemurphy13@msn.com March 13, 2004, 12:29 pm
Source: Personal visit to church
(Posted with permission from Denise Murphy)
 

HISTORY OF BAIRDS BAPTIST CHURCH
(Originally called Fishing Creek Church)
Georgia, Greene County
July 22, 1952

 
The Baptist Church at this place was constituted June 24, 1802.  Unfortunately the records for the first fifty years (from 1802 to 1853) cannot be found.  It is supposed that they were destroyed when the house of our former Clerk, Brother R. L. McWhorter, was burned.  It is indeed a serious misfortune to lose this part of our church’s history, for much of its richest experience must be contained in those first fifty years.  How very interesting to us would be the minutes of its first conference.

It is also impossible to obtain from tradition everything regarding our first history because all those valiant soldiers of the cross who lived at that time and made history have long since passed to their reward from church militant to church triumphant.

So you can see the difficulties of gathering a complete record.  We do not know who first served the church as pastor, nor are we able to state with certainty the dates of service of those who are known to have been pastors during those first years of our existence as a church.

We find the following as it was transcribed from the old record to that beginning with January, 1853:

Baptist Church of Christ at Bairds, “Whereas we, a people called Baptist, think it our duty to unite into a church, we have for that purpose called our brethren Jesse Mercer, Miller Bledsole, William Berry, and John Milner to see whether we are ripe or not for constitution, and having found us in full fellowship and holding the doctrines of free and sovereign grace and the final
perseverance of the saints, they having proceeded to set us apart as a church of Christ no more to be our own but giving ourselves to the Lord and to each other to be ruled and governed by the discipline of the Gospel of Christ, this
24th day of June, 1802.”

Jesse Mercer – Miller Bledsole – William Berry – John Milner

This church was constituted under the name of Fishing Creek, not on the present site but about one mile down the little stream known as Hurricane Branch, and even the post office here was as late as 1817 called Hurricane Branch.

The church retained the name Fishing Creek until the year 1807 when it was called Bairds Meeting House, probably from Jonathan Baird, who lived here and was a member of this church and represented it in the Association in the years 1806 – 07.

A short sketch of the church published in the Georgia Associational Minutes of 1884 states that Reverend Jack Lumpkin was its first pastor.  This statement was based merely on supposition and we find that the supposition must be false, as the Reverend Jack Lumpkin was not ordained until 1812.

The minutes of the Association do no indicate who the pastors were previous to 1845; hence, we can only surmise who first occupied the pulpit, perhaps one of the Mercers.

The following known men have served the church as pastors, but we have no way of determining the dates of their pastorates or their succession in office:
Enoch Callaway, Jack Lumpkin, Nevil Lumpkin, V. R. Thornton, N. M. Crawford,
Ivenson L. Brooks was pastor in 1845, how long previous I cannot discern.
Noah Hill was pastor in 1846.
A. Y. N. Vandiver served the church during 1847- 48.

During the year 1848 the church became seriously divided into factions on the question of pastor.  The contention was so strong as to almost threaten the existence of the church.  At an opportune moment “Uncle” James Devant, who was a member at Penfield and here as a visitor, arose and advised the church to drop both names over whom they were contending, which names were (Crawford and Vandiver), and harmonize on a third party.  He stated that there was a young man over at Penfield who bid fair to make a good preacher whose name was Mell.  He suggestd that they try him.  Both factions agreed to this and P. H. Mell was called to serve the church in 1849, so we will leave to these who will deal in reminiscences to speak more fully of this great and good man and how wonderfully prosperous the church was under his administration.  He continued to serve as pastor until September, 1871, when while in the pulpit in this house he was stricken with nervous prostration.

John S. Callaway was called as a supply and served four years from 1872-75, inclusive.  Dr. Mell was again pastor in 1866-67.

In 1878 H. D. D. Straton was called and served six years through 1883.  Again Dr. Mell was called and served during 1884-85.

John F. Cheney became the pastor here in 1886 and continued until his death in January, 1901.  After his death, J. M. Brittain was called and continued until  November, 1901, he having resigned the church.

On the fourth Sunday of November, 1901, the church called to ordination Dr. John D. Mell.

Previous to the War Between the States, Bairds Church had more than 100 colored members and the church adopted a plan to hold conference for the colored on the second Sunday of each month after service.  This plan was to prepare them for future leadership in their own churches.  At these colored conferences the pastor and clerk presided, but the business features of the
meeting were conducted by the colored brethren.  Several of the white brethren would generally remain to instruct, giving dictation to affairs; hence this was a training school for the colored members, which no doubt has been of great benefit to them after the war when they withdrew and formed churched of their own.

At that time the church was provided with two large galleries for the benefit of the colored members.  At communion services the colored deacons would meet their brother white deacons at the gallery doors and proudly hand the elements to their brethren and sisters upstairs.

The names of some of the colored deacons that served were as follows:  Alex Swanson, Anthony Geer, Lewis Edmondson.  These deacons remained members as long as they lived.  They refused to move their membership to a colored church, stating that they did not want to mix up too much with Niggers in religion.

Bairds Church has had many gracious out-pourings of the Holy Spirit, and how often have His people been conscious of His presence.  Among some of these experiences was one in 1886 when more than 60 being received by experience were baptized.

Bairds previous to 1885 was numerically the strongest church of the Georgia Association.  During that year our sister church at Woodville was constituted, when we lost from our membership 57 members.

The Georgia Association has convened with this church only five times, the dates being as follows:  1816, 1836, 1865, 1908, and 1950.  The meeting of 1865 was just after the close of the war and the good sisters wondered how they would entertain when it was impossible to obtain luxuries—even sugar and coffee could not be had.  But they were equal to the occasion and we are told that no Association was ever more bountifully entertained, although they used granulated sorghum for sugar and okra seed for coffee.

During the war one of the notable features of Baird’s Church was its woman’s prayer meetings.  All the men were at the front, but these noble women of Bairds were faithful workers for the Master.  They, like the disciples in the upper room, had one mind and prayed with one accord.  They prayed for their loved ones who were fighting for their homes and country.

They also prayed that they themselves might be protected from a ruthless and incendiary enemy who were laying waste the fair fields and homes of Georgia, an enemy who delighted especially when there were none to offer resistance except helpless women and children.

Although it may seem strange to tell you that although the neighboring counties and villages suffered from these cruel and destructive hands, that never a Yankee soldier trod the streets of Bairdstown until after the close of the war.  The prayers of the righteous availeth much.

According to the minutes of 1853, the church on motion sent its messengers to the general meeting which met at Bethesda, its ordained ministers, P. H. Mell, George Lumpkin, and J. R. Young being the only church of the ten in the fourth district to contain the membership of an ordained minister.

In point of wealth Bairds was once without a rival.  Her membership consisted largely of men who were extensive land and slave owners, but changed conditions of affairs wrought a radical change.

The exception was after the war to find a man who owned his own house. Everything was in constant turmoil, and there was a constant fluctuation.

But the true church was not discouraged.  They were firm in the faith, remembering that they had a glorious past, and with faith in God and a willingness to sacrifice there lay before them a brighter future; trusting the God of our fathers, the same omnipotent benign one who one hundred years before planted them a glorious church without spot or blemish or any such
thing, one who had ever guided and sustained them.

Oh God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.

Reproduced from a previous record of Bairds Baptist Church, from its founding in 1802 to 1902.

By its present pastor, the Rev. Owen Lewis Duvall, this the 25th day of July, in the year of our Lord, Nineteen Hundred and Fifty-Two.
 
 

HISTORY OF BAIRDS BAPTIST CHURCH FROM 1902 to 1952

Upon the resignation of J. M. Brittain, Rev. H. R. Benard was called as a supply and served the remainder of the year, and on October 19, 1902, Dr. John D. Mell began his first pastorate and served the church continually for eighteen years, and the church grew and prospered under his able leadership.

Upon the resignation of Dr. John D. Mell on June 27, 1920, Rev. M. S. Weaver was called to the pastorate in September of that year and served the church faithfully and well until God called him to his heavenly reward in the early part of 1923, serving the church a little less than three years.

On September 1, after the death of Brother Weaver, the Rev. R. L. Robison, who was the pastor of Woodville church, agreed to supply for the church until such time as they could call a pastor, and served in that capacity for about a year, after which Rev. Thomas Greer was called to the pastorate of the church and served until October 2, 1927.

On December 4, 1927, Rev. W. M. Coil was called to the pastorate and served as its pastor until December 10, 1934.

On April 21 the church called to its pastorate the Rev. John Griffith, who served in a very able manner until September 20, 1942, when he resigned the pastorate to answer the call as a chaplain in the armed services of World War II.

The church was without a pastor from September 20, 1942, until March 18, 1943, and during this period various pastors supplied the church.  During this period was another dark hour in the church’s history.  On November 29, 1942, the church was severely damaged by fire; the church being weak from the standpoint of membership and finances, it was quite an undertaking to repair
the church, but the same faith prevailed as had in the years gone, and the people said, “Let us rise up and rebuild.”  They did, for they had a mind to work, and on March 30, 1943, the church was completed and rededicated with a touch of beauty that it had never had before.

And being without a pastor, and seeing the struggle of the church and their faith to hold out and to hold o, the Rev. John D. Mell in his gracious manner and out of a heart of love for the church, even though in declining health, offered to serve the church as supply without pay until such time as the church could call a pastor.  On February 16, 1946, his health would no longer permit his serving the church and the present pastor was called, Owen L. Duvall, and has served the church to the present date, this the 25th day of July, 1952.

By O. L. Duvall
 
 


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