A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST
DENOMINATION IN AMERICA, AND OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
By David Benedict
London: Printed by Lincoln & Edmands, No. 53, Cornhill, for the Author
The first settlements in Georgia were made in 1733. Mr. Edwards informs us, that among the first settlers were some Baptists, particularly William Calvert of Lincolnshire, William Slack of Ireland, Thomas Walker of Northampton, and one Polhill. [Polhill was the grandfather of the present Thomas Polhill, of Newington, who writes me, that it is doubtful in his mind whether he was a Baptist.] Calvert and Polhill were preachers, though not ordained. But the Baptist interest was very small in this State, for about forty years after its settlement. There were but four churches in the whole province when Mr. Edwards visited it, about 1772; these were not large, and most of them were newly formed. But a little before this period the zealous Separates began to emigrate hither: great success attended their labors; many churches were soon raised up; and from their introduction to the present time, the Baptist cause has had a gradual, and in many instances a rapid prevalence throughout most parts of the State; so that Georgia now contains more of our denomination than any of the southern States, Virginia excepted.
Although the Baptists in Georgia made their first appearance in the low countries, yet they never had much success there, until within about twenty years past; but they have been numerous in the upper country for about forty years, which makes it proper that we should relate their history first.
The Church on Kioka Creek is the oldest in Georgia; it belongs to the Georgia Association, and was gathered by that famous Baptist minister, Daniel Marshall. This church was organized in 1772; it is situated about 18 miles above Augusta, in the county of Columbia, in the neighborhood of the two Kioka Creeks, which empty into the Savannah river within one mile of each other. Mr. Daniel Marshall?s name has been often mentioned in the preceding part of our history, and in his biography the reader may find his character more fully delineated. After sojourning in many places in Virginia and the Carolinas, he, in 1771, removed from the neighboring part of South-Carolina, and settled on the largest of the Kioka Creeks, where he resided to the close of his useful life. It will be remembered by the reader, that Mr. Marshall was a Separate Baptist, and one of the principal founders of that extensive community. A number of his brethren had removed to Georgia before him; some he found in the neighborhood where he settled, and others were scattered in different parts of the country; and this dispersion of the brethren laid the foundation for a number of churches, which were raised up not long after.
The Kioka church has been an important establishment, having been the nursery of a number of useful ministers, and the mother of many churches. Samuel Newton, Abraham Marshall, Alexander Scott, Silas Mercer, Loveless Savage, Thomas Mercer, Samuel Cartlidge, John and James Saunders, John Stanford, and John Boyd, are among the ministerial sons, which she hath sent forth into the Lord?s vineyard. The founder of this church was remarkable for encouraging his brethren in the exercise of the gifts with which they were endowed. It was a common saying with him, "I would that all the Lord?s servants were prophets." During the troubles occasioned by the American war, many of the Baptists among others fled from the country; but Mr. Marshall maintained his post, and with very few exceptions held his meetings regularly through the whole of the war. On the return of peace, the refugees returned to their deserted homes and almost ruined possessions; and with them a flood of emigrants, many of whom were Baptists, poured into the country from many of the more northern States, and the Kioka church soon began to increase, and has generally been in a flourishing condition from that to the present time. This church has experienced a number of very precious revivals. In 1787, about one hundred were baptized by their present pastor, Reverend Abraham Marshall, the worthy son and successor of Daniel. The next remarkable ingathering here was about 1802, in the time of the great revival, which prevailed most powerfully at that time in many parts of Georgia. The religious attention at Kioka was very great; two or three camp-meetings were, from necessity, held in the neighborhood, in which some of the most affecting scenes of joy and sorrow, of depression and transport were exhibited. In this revival, Mr. Marshall baptized about 100 more.
This church had two temporary buildings for public worship, which had gone to decay before their present meeting house was erected, which is a commodious brick building, 60 feet by 40.
The aged Daniel Marshall died in 1784 and his son Abraham succeeded him in the pastoral office, in which be still continues. Mr. Marshall was born at Windsor, near the city of Hartford, in Connecticut, in 1750. He was only three years old, when his father, excited, as he supposed, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, literally left all, and went to preach to the Mohawk Indians. Here young Abraham, as he with much pleasantry informs his friends, received the rudiments of his education; for the first things he remembers, were smoking wigwams, and their tawny, untutored inhabitants. He remained with his pious parent in all his excursions, and was, when he settled in Georgia, about 21 years of age. He had begun to preach a short time before. He has now been in the ministry more than forty years, is extensively known and much respected; and more than this, the maxims we have adopted will not permit us to say. Some account of his visit to New-England in 1786, may be found in the biography of his kinsman Eliakim Marshall.
We have thus briefly related the history of the church, which the venerable Daniel Marshall, in his old age, founded in this State; and as we have obtained but a few scattering hints concerning the other churches, which were founded shortly after, we shall pass on to take some notice of the Associations, which have originated from these early establishments, and intersperse with their history whatever we may think proper to mention concerning the ministers or churches which they have or may now comprehend. These Associations are the Georgia, Hepzibah, Sarepta, and Oakmulgee, most of them are large and all of them respectable communities.
This being the oldest, demands our first attention. It was organized in 1784, thirteen years after Daniel Marshall settled at Kioka. As the Minutes of its first meetings were not printed, nor its records preserved, it cannot be ascertained of what number of churches it was at first composed. In 1786, two years after its formation, it contained the ten following, viz. Kioka, Fishing Creek, Upton?s Creek, Philip?s Mill, Whatley?s Mill, Long Creek, Long Creek of Ogechee, Providence on Rocky Comfort Creek, Powel?s Creeck, and Van?s Creek. The number of members was, at that time, only 518, and the principal ministers were Saunders Walker, Jephtha Vining, Dozier Thornton, Peter Smith, Abraham Marshall, Mark Cook, Silas Mercer, Thomas Mercer, and John Harvey. Jeremiah Walker, David Tinsley, and Matthew Talbot removed into the country soon after the date above mentioned. Most of the abovenamed preachers were eminent among the Baptists and extensively useful in their day, and with very few exceptions removed hither, as did most of their Baptist brethren from North-Carolina and Virginia. For an account of the famous Silas Mercer, see his biography. Thomas Mercer, his half brother, has gone to the Missisippi Territory, and belongs to the small Association which has there been formed. The mutable and spotted character of Jeremiah Walker is given in his biography, as is that of the meek and exemplary Saunders Walker, his natural brother. Peter Smith has removed to the State of Ohio, and belongs to the Miami Association. David Tinsley died in Georgia, and is well spoken of. He was one of the early Separate preachers in Virginia, where he was a number of times imprisoned, and once in company with Jeremiah Walker. Mr. Tinsley received four ordinations. The first was to the office of a deacon, the second to that of a ruling elder, his third ordination was to the office of preaching the gospel, and in the fourth place he was ordained an evangelist by Colonel Samuel Harris, while he officiated in the dignified character of the Apostle of Virginia.
The Georgia Association has abounded with ministers, who were either nurtured within its bounds, or received among them from other parts; but as so many have been dismissed to other Associations, its present number is not great; but among them are yet retained Abraham Marshall and Jesse Mercer. Something has been said of Mr. Marshall already. Jesse Mercer is a son of the late worthy Silas Mercer. He was born in Halifax county, North-Carolina, 1769. It was soon after his birth, that his father, as may be seen in his biography, got the church parson to dip two of his children in a barrel of water which he had prepared for the purpose. When he became a believer, he was baptized again; so that Mercer is truly an Anabaptist. He was ordained when he was about 20 years of age, and has now been in the ministry more than twenty years. He traveled considerably in his younger days, but for a number of years past, has been stationed in the care of four large churches, viz. Whatley?s Mill, Philip?s Mill, Pewelton, and Sardis, formerly called Hutton?s Fork; all of which were gathered by his father, and supplied by him during his life. There are other preachers belonging to these churches, but Mr. Mercer is considered their pastor, and preaches and administers the Lord?s Supper to them in rotation once in four weeks; and whenever a month has five Lord?s days in it, he leaves his circle, to visit some of the neighboring churches. All the above-mentioned churches are large and wealthy, and by their united efforts afford their circulating pastor only a moderate support. But either of them might well enough support him alone; and whether they continue this practice, so disadvantageous to themselves and so laborious to their pastor, because they are mutually unwilling to part with him or with a little more of their carnal things, is not our province to say. Mr. Mercer certainly merits their esteem; but they would find no difficulty in procuring acceptable pastors, if they would set about it properly. We observed something on the circumstance of one minister supplying a number of churches, in the close of our history of the Virginia Baptists, and there proposed to speak more definitely of the matter in the chapter of general observations.
But to return: The Association of which we are speaking, increased very fast for a number of years from the date last mentioned, so that, in 1790, it contained 34, churches and 2877 members.
In 1796, a number of churches were dismissed to form the Hephzibah Association. Only two years after, seven churches more were dismissed from this increasing establishment, which united under the name of the Sarepta Association. And in 1810, another detachment was taken off to form an Association by the name of Oakmulgee. But after all these dismissions, this flourishing body contains upwards of thirty churches, and more than two thousand communicants.
In 1794, eighteen churches were dismissed from the Georgia Association, and by them the Hephzibah was soon after formed. But little more can be said respecting it, than that it has moved on in harmony and order, and has experienced some refreshing seasons. Benjamin Davis, Thomas Mercer, John Stanford, William Franklin, John Harvey, Joseph Baker, George Granbury, William Cone, and David M?Cullers were its principal ministers at the time of constitution. Some of them have since died, some have removed to other parts, and others have succeeded them. This body contains but few preachers in proportion to the number of churches, and all we can say of them is, that they are a plain, laborious, and pious set of men, who labor six days in the week for the support of their families, and the seventh for the good of souls.
The churches which compose this Association are situated mostly in the counties of Washington, Burk, Warren, Laurens, Wilkinson, Jefferson, Bullash, Liberty, Tatnall, Effingfour, and Twiggs. They are on both sides of the Ogechee and Oconee rivers, and some of them are between the rivers Oconee and Oakmulgee, and extend down the country within 50 or 60 miles of the seacoast.
In 1798, seven churches were dismissed from the Georgia Association, and in due form were organized under the name of the Sarepta Association. The names of these churches were Shoal Creek, Van?s Creek, Dove?s Creek, Hollow Spring, Cabbin Creek, Nail?s Creek, Millstone, and Trail Creek. All of them then were in the upper settlements in the State. Dazier Thornton, John Cleaveland, William Davis, Thomas Johnson, and Thomas Gilbert were the ministers of the above-mentioned churches.
The Sarepta Association has enjoyed great prosperity and enlargement, and received large additions in the time of the great revival about 1802. The churches of this Association are situated along the south side of the Savannah river, and extend from the mouth of Broad-river of Georgia, which empties into the Savannah about fifty miles above Augusta, to the highest settlements in the State in that direction. They also extend out into the country as far as the river Oconee. They are scattered over many counties, but most of them are in those of Elbert, Oglethorpe, Jackson, and Franklin. Two of them are over the Savannah in South-Carolina.
A few years since, a large tract of land, high up in Georgia, was purchased of the Indians, and their claim to it forever extinguished. This tract is called by the Georgians the New Purchase. Being a healthy and fertile country, it was settled with great rapidity, and the seat of government has been removed from Louisville on the Ogechee to Milledgeville, which has here been erected.
Many Baptist churches were in a short time gathered in the New Purchase. They united with the Georgia Association; but many of them were very remote from the center of that body, which led them to think of forming an Association among themselves. Accordingly, in October 1810, about twenty churches petitioned the mother body for a dismission, which was granted. A number of newly constituted churches, which had not associated, united with them; and in November of the same year, they organized a body to which they gave the name of the Oakmulgee Association. The next year, six more newly established churches were added to this confederacy; so that now (1811) it contains thirty-four churches and 1885 communicants. The churches of this Association are situated between the Oconee and Oakmulgee rivers, and are scattered over an extent of country of from thirty to thirty-five miles wide, and from sixty to seventy miles in length, and are mostly in the counties of Randolph, Morgan, Putnam, Baldwins and Jones.
It is now about forty years since Daniel Marshall settled in Georgia; and in this time it appears that the Baptists, which proceeded directly or indirectly from the Separate connection, have increased to about a hundred and forty churches, and not far from eleven thousand members.
We shall now proceed to treat of our brethren in the low country, and also to give some account of the Savannah-river Association.
Unfortunately for this part of our history, Mr. Edwards?s sixth volume of Manuscript Materials, which related wholly to the Baptists in Georgia, has all been destroyed, except one leaf and part of another. This volume must have been small, as it was written about forty years ago, when the Baptists had never flourished much in the province. From the defaced and perishing remains of this volume, I find the following sketches. "About the year 1759, eight families of the Seventh-day Baptists settled near Tuckaseeking." More will be said respecting them in the history of that people.
"In the year 1757, Nicholas Bedgegood, of the Orphan-house, embraced the sentiments of the Baptists, and was soon after baptized by Oliver Hart, of Charleston. In 1763, he baptized Mr. Benjamin Stirk and wife, Thomas Dixon, and one Dupree; these, with a few other Baptists, had the Lord?s Supper administered to them at the Orphan house, by Mr. Bedgegood. But Mr. Stirk removing to Goshen, Dupree dying, and Dixon going to England, the society broke up, to the no small satisfaction of Mr. Whitefield, whose righteous soul had been so vexed with the matter, that he spake unadvisedly with his lips."
From the time of this dispersion, there always have been Baptists in this region, but no church was formed until a number of years after. According to Mr. Edwards, there were, in 1772, "about forty Baptist families, scattered over the southern parts of Georgia, and amongst them were about fifty baptized persons, most of whom were emigrants from other colonies, and some from the old country."
In the year 1771, Reverend Edmund Botsford, now of Georgetown, South-Carolina, who was then young, began to preach at Tuckaseeking, and continued to labor with much success in different parts of Georgia, for the space of about eight years; but the distractions of the American war obliged him to make a precipitate flight from the country, with the loss of about 300 pounds sterling, which he had but a little while before received from England.
When Mr. Botsford began his ministry in Georgia, Daniel Marshall was the only ordained minister in the State; but besides him, there were Abraham Marshall, Saunders Walker, and Solomon Thompson, who were not ordained. Between Mr. Botsford and these men, there was not, at first, a very intimate connection. The reason was, that they were of the Separate order, and he was a Regular Baptist; and besides, the scene of his labors was generally much lower down the country than theirs. But the suspicions of the Separates gradually subsided; Mr. Botsford was by degrees admitted to their fellowship and affection; and before he fled from the country, the hindrances to their union were so far removed, that they zealously and successfully cooperated in their evangelical exertions. During five years of Mr. Botsford?s residence in Georgia, that is, from 1773, when he was ordained, to 1779, he baptized 148 persons, and founded two churches; the first was called New Savannah, and was organized in 1773. This church now belongs to the Hephzibah Association, under the name of Botsford Old Meeting-House. Mr. Botsford preached here but a short time; for the next year after the church was formed, a war broke out with the Creek Indians, which obliged him to leave the place. He next settled on Briar Creek, at some distance, where another church was soon founded, which also belongs to the Hephzibah Association. A number of the constituent members of this church had previously united with the Ewhaw church, in South-Carolina, then under the pastoral care of Reverend Francis Pelot.
[The following anecdotes of Mr. Botsford, while he labored in Georgia, may not be unacceptable to the reader. Once on a journey up to the Kioka, where he had appointed to preach, he called at a Mr. Savidge?s to inquire the way. This Mr. Savidge was then a bigotted churchman, but was hopefully acquainted with the truth. After he had given the stranger proper directions, the following conversation ensued: "I suppose you are the Baptist minister, who is to preach today at the Kioka." "Yes, Sir; will you go?" "No, I am not fond of the Baptists; they think nobody is baptized but themselves." "Have you been baptized?" "Yes, to be sure." "How do you know?" "How do I know? Why, my parents have told me I was." "Then you do not know, only by information." On this Mr. Botsford left him, but "How do you know?" haunted him, till he became convinced of his duty; he was baptized by Mr. Marshall, and began to preach the same day he was baptized, and still continues a useful minister amongst the Georgia Baptists. Botsford?s "How do you know?" says Mr. Savidge, first set me to thinking about baptism. In the parts of Georgia where Mr. Botsford labored, the inhabitants were a mixed multitude of emigrants from many different places; most of them were destitute of any form of religion, and the few who paid any regard to it were zealous churchmen and Lutherans, and violently opposed to the Baptists. In the same journey in which he fell in with Mr. Savidge, he preached at the court-house in Burk county. The assembly at first paid a decent attention; but, towards the close of the sermon, one of them bawled out with a great oath, "The rum is come." Out he rushed, others followed, the assembly was soon left small, and by the time Mr. Botsford got out to his horse, he had the unhappiness to find many of his hearers intoxicate and fighting. An old gentleman came up to him, took his horse by the bridle, and in his profane dialect most highly extolled both him and his discourse, swore he must drink with him, and come and preach in his neighborhood. It was now no time to reason or reprove; and as preaching was Mr. Botsford?s business, he accepted the old man?s invitation, and made an appointment. His first sermon was blessed to the awakening of his wife; one of his sons also became religious, and others in the settlement, to the number of fifteen, were in a short time hopefully brought to the knowledge of the truth, and the old man himself became sober and attentive to religion, although he never made a public profession of it. Not long after, Mr. Botsford preached at Stephen?s Creek, a little over the Savannah-river, in South-Carolina, where he was called upon to baptize Sarah Clecker, the wife of an ignorant, wicked Dutchman. The woman observed, she did not know that her husband would consent to her being baptized. Being informed he was present, Mr. Botsford called him up to him, and addressed him as follows: "Mr. Clecker, I have reason to hope that your wife is a believer in Christ, and she wishes to be baptized; but she is unwilling to go forward, unless you give your consent. I suppose you do not object, Sir." "No, no, God forpit I shoult hinter my vive, she was one goot vive." [No, no, God forbid I should hinder my wife, she was one good wife."] While they were preparing for the water, the little man fell into a great rage, and cursed the preacher for "a -- goot for notting son of a -- . Vaut, to ax me pevore all de beble, if he may tip my vive." [a good for nothing son of a ---. What, to ask me before all the people, if he may dip my wife."] But this Mr. Botsford did not hear of till afterwards. Returning from the water, he saw Mr. Clecker leaning against a tree, apparently in great trouble; he stepped up to him, and asked him what was the matter? "Vaut [what] was de matter? why, Sir, my vive is going to hefen [heaven] and I am going to the tivel [devil]. I am a boor lost sinner: I can?t be forgiven: I fear de ground will open and let me down to de hell, for I cursed and swore vou vas [you was] one goot for notting - son of a - . Lort have mercy on me." This was in July; the miserable man found no comfort till he was brought into the liberty of the gospel; and the September following, Mr. Botsford baptized him.]
Before Mr. Bedgegood left the Orphan-house for South-Carolina, he baptized a number of persons besides those who have been named, and among them was the mother of Reverend Thomas Polhill, of Newington. There were about this time a few Baptist members at Goshen, Tuckaseeking, and other places; and Benjamin Stirk appear, to have been the most distinguished and active character among them. He was a native of Leeds, Yorkshire, England. Mr. Whitefield took him under his patronage, and settled him in his employment at the Orphan-house, about 1760, or perhaps earlier. He was brought up a Presbyterian, and continued in the belief of pedobaptism until 1763, when he became what he was wont to call a Bible Christian, and was baptized as before related. He remained at the Orphan-house about four years after his baptism, where he lost his first wife, and married for his second the widow of Nathaniel and the mother of the present Thomas Polhill, who possessed a plantation in the neighborhood of Goshen, about eighteen miles above Savannah on the Augusta road, to which he removed in 1767. As there was no Baptist church in that vicinity, and indeed not one at that time in Georgia, he united with the church at Ewhaw, South-Carolina, about twenty five miles from him. Mr. Stirk began to preach soon after he settled at Goshen. He set up a meeting at his own house, and another at Tuckaseeking, upwards of twenty miles still higher up the country. He also preached occasionally at the Ewhaw; and it was on his way to that church, that he fell from his horse into the water, and received an injury under which he languished for a time, and of which he died in 1770.
Mr. Stirk was a good English scholar, and possessed a small share of classical learning. He was endowed with good natural parts, and was eminent for piety and zeal. Having a desire to promote the interests of learning, he became a benefactor to Rhode-Island College.
As Mr. Stirk?s second wife was a woman honorable. and eminent in her day among the few Baptists who were then scattered in this part of Georgia, it may be proper to give a short account of her. This lady is remarkable for having been the wife of two Baptist ministers and the mother of a third. She was born in South-Carolina, in 1732, of pious and reputable parents, of the Presbyterian persuasion. Her name at first was Hannah Barkersdale. She was four times married. Her husbands? names were Miller, Polhill, Stirk, and Scott. The first was a merchant of Charleston, with whom she lived but about a year. The second was a preacher in Mr. Whitefield?s connection, a pious and worthy man. He embarked for England in 1761, to obtain Episcopal ordination. But before he left Charleston harbour, a violent whirlwind divided the river so that the channel was seen, and the ship and all on board were swallowed up by the returning waves. Mr. Stirk has been mentioned. Her fourth and last husband was Reverend Alexander Scott, for many years pastor of the church at Black Swamp, in South-Carolina. With him she lived about seven years; and then, after lingering some time, died in peace, March 10, 1780, in the 48th year of her age. Mr. Scott, about three years ago, removed to the Missisippi country, where he died shortly after.
Reverend Thomas Polhill, the only surviving child of this venerable woman, is of opinion that she was the first person who was baptized in Georgia. While the Baptists were but few in the parts where she lived, her house was a home for preachers, and her active benevolence was extended to all around her.
Besides the persons already mentioned, there were baptized in these times a Mr. Cox, and a Mr. Williams and his wife, and others whose names are not known.
Having thus prepared the way, we shall next proceed to relate the history of some of the churches in this part of Georgia.
Newington. -- This church appears to have been the oldest of white people which was formed in the region now under consideration. It took its name from that of a plantation on which the meeting-house was erected, in the neighborhood of Goshen, in the county of Effingham, eighteen miles from Savannah, and was constituted in 1793. But since that time the seat of the church has been removed to the adjoining county of Scriven. This church is small now, and has never been large, and no very remarkable things can be said respecting it. It was one of the three churches which formed the Savannah-river Association.
For the origin of this church, we must go back about fifty years; for it appears there have been scattered Baptist members in this vicinity ever since the dispersion of Mr. Bedgegood?s disciples from the Orphan-house. The first Baptist minister who preached here was Benjamin Stirk. After him were Mr. Botsford and Mr. Scott; but no special effects attended the ministry of either of these men. In 1789, a black man preached in the neighborhood in a negro yard under some peach trees. Curiosity led some white people to hear him, and among the rest was Major now Elder Thomas Polhill and his wife. They were both convicted by the discourse of this poor sable preacher, and in a short time were brought into the liberty of the gospel, and baptized by Mr. Scott. From the time of his conversion, Major Polhill became a patron of the Baptist cause, and a promoter of meetings in his neighhorhood. He invited Baptist ministers to preach in his house: God blessed their labors and in 1793, a sufficient number had been baptized to form a church, which, as soon as it was organized, chose Mr. John Goldwire for their pastor, who had been ordained two years before. Mr. Goldwire still continues the pastor of the church, although very aged and infirm. Mr. Polhill also became a preacher of the gospel, and is now an assistant to the aged and venerable Goldwire.
Savannah. -- This city contains three Baptist churches, one of white people, and two of Africans. The history of the African churches will be related in the account which we propose to give of that people. The church of white people was founded by its late pastor, Dr. Holcombe, now of Philadelphia. It was constituted in 1800, but was begun six years before that time, in the following manner. In 1794, Messrs. Jonathan Clark, George Morse, Thomas Polhill of Newington, and David Adams, one of the deacons of the church in Charleston, proposed the erection of a house of worship for the Baptists in this city. But as the Baptist members were few in number, and these generally poor, there appeared but little prospect of success. About this time, Mr. Rees from Wales, the same man who led out the company of Welsh people to the mountains in Pennsylvania, visited Savannah, and with much zeal and address encouraged the design of building the house, which had been proposed. A plan for it was drawn up by Dr. Furman of Charleston; aid was solicited by the above-named gentlemen and others; and so great was their success, that in 1795, a house fifty feet by sixty was erected. It was at first merely inclosed. The next year it was rented to the Presbyterians, who had lately lost their house by fire. They occupied it three years. Such was the posture of the affairs of the Baptists in Savannah, in 1799, when Mr. Holcombe, who was the pastor of the church at Ewhaw, but lived at Beaufort, by the invitation of the pew-holders in their meeting-house, came to reside in the city. So much success attended his ministry, that in 1800 it was judged proper to organize a church in the place. The constituent members were Henry Holcombe and wife, George Morse and wife, Elias Roberts and wife, Rachel Hamilton, Esther M?Kenzier, Elizabeth Story, Martha Stephens, Eunice Hogg, and Mary Jones, widow of the late Lieutenant-Governor of the State. Not long after the church was formed, Mr. Holcombe was invested with the pastoral care of it, and continued in that office about eleven years. Under him, the church was built up to a flourishing and respectable body, the meeting-house was well finished, and to it were added a bell, clock, baptistery, and other appendages of ornament and convenience. But Dr. Holcombe having resided a long time in a debilitating climate, found it necessary to retire to a more healthy situation. He accordingly announced to the church his intention of removing, and wished them to look out for a successor. He retired to Mount Enon, about fifteen miles from Augusta, where he intended to spend the remainder of his days in retirement, and in preaching as he was able to the neighboring churches. But by the affectionate importunity of the first church in Philadelphia, he consented to leave this retreat, and become its pastor.
The Savannah church, after remaining destitute of a pastor about a year, obtained William B. Johnson, who is now agreeably settled among them. Mr. Johnson had been a few years pastor of the church in Columbia, South-Carolina. He was bred to the law, but was constrained to leave that profession, and engage in the less lucrative one of preaching the gospel.
Sunbury. -- At this place, which is some distance below Savannah, there is a very respectable church under the care of Mr. Charles O. Scriven, a graduate of Rhode-Island College; but I have not obtained any particulars respecting its origin.
Of the remaining churches in this part of the State, I have not procured sufficient materials to form any interesting narratives; I shall, therefore, pass on to other matters.
This body was organized in Savannah in 1802. It was composed at first of only three churches, which were the two in Savannah and the one at Newington. But not long after, a number of churches belonging to the Charleston Association were dismissed from that body, and united with this. The new churches, which have been raised up in this part of Georgia and the neighboring parts of South-Carolina, have become members of this Association. It has progressed with harmony and prosperity, and has increased to almost thirty churches, and upwards of five thousand members.
THE GENERAL COMMITTEE OF THE GEORGIA BAPTISTS
This Committee was formed in 1803. Its plan and operations are much like the General Committees in the other southern States. It was intended to be composed of representatives from all the Associations in the State. But this representation was never full, which is not to be much wondered at. In the first place, many are prejudiced against the establishment. And again, but few ministers can find time, after attending their respective Associations, to travel from one end to the other of their wide State to attend a Committee, which has never had and cannot consistently find much business to do.
An account of the Mount Enon Academy will be given in the history of Literary Institutions.
From the preceding sketches it appears, that great success has attended the exertions of the Baptists in Georgia. And no embarrassments, worth mentioning, have been thrown in their way by the civil power. The Church of England was the established religion of Georgia before the war. But dissenters of every denomination have, from first to last, enjoyed as much liberty as they could desire. I do not find that any Baptist was ever molested in a legal way for preaching the gospel, excepting Daniel Marshall, and he was soon discharged, as is related in his biography. The Episcopal church does not appear to have flourished much in Georgia at any time, and it is now very small. And indeed there are but a few congregations of any denominations in the State, besides the Baptists and Methodists: both of these are very numerous; and we are sorry to say, that instead of striving to walk together as far as they are agreed, many of them on both sides spend too much time in disputing about Calvin and Wesley, perseverance and falling from grace.
The great increase of the Baptists in Georgia has been occasioned partly by the emigration of Baptist professors from other parts; but mostly by the great and precious revivals of religion, which have at different times been experienced in almost every part of the State.
In the year 1793, Mr. Abraham Marshall wrote as follows to Dr. Rippon of London. "In 1787 there was a glorious revival: thousands attended on the word. The Baptists have great influence, and are the most numerous of any denomination in this State. We are increased (that is the Georgia Association) to upwards of three thousand three hundred, in about twenty years past."
Some account of the share which Georgia had in the great revival in 1800 and onward, has already been given. Many thousands, during the progress of this revival, were added to the Baptist churches. Mr. Jesse Mercer, of the Georgia Association, in the course of two years baptized about three hundred persons. In 1809, another revival began in the upper part of the State, in the bounds of the Georgia and Sarepta Associations, and many hundreds were hopefully born into the kingdom of God, and united with the churches of his saints.
In 1812, there was a very extensive revival in many different parts of the State. By the four Associations of Oakmulgee, Saropta, Georgia, and Savannah, it appears that three thousand and eight hundred were added to them all, in the course of the year. To the Savannah were added about fifteen hundred, and to the Sarepta over twelve hundred and fifty.
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved