There is not much available on the early history of Abba Baptist. We are grateful to Brian Brown and his excellent work on Vanishing Georgia for the history below. We are also grateful to Mike Kitchens for the vintage photograph below that shows the original architecture that was modified around 1970.
The church began as Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in 1889, with M. L. Stone as first pastor, and O. D. Mulky as his assistant. Soon thereafter, Reverend Mulky changed the name to New Mt. Zion at Abba. In 1904, the original structure, a simple frame building, was moved across the road toward the railroad track and used as the Abba School for some time. In 1907, the present structure was built during the pastorate of J. R. Ballenger on land donated by J. M. Bussell. In 1955, the name of the church was changed to Abba Missionary Baptist Church. By this time, the village of Abba was in danger of disappearing from the map, so the new name was christened to ensure it would live through the ages. At some point, Missionary was dropped and it became simply Abba Baptist Church. (This history was compiled by longtime church secretary Mrs. J. W. C. Brown.)
I’ve always been told the name Abba originates from the Atlanta Birmingham & Atlantic, or A. B. & A Railroad, which ran through the area and made whistlestops there in the late 1800s, though an interesting alternative would be the biblical term abba, which was a transliteration of the old Aramaic for father. I’d love to know for sure…
We are grateful to the Abba congregation for their stewardship of this Georgia treasure for well over 100 years now. Be sure to click and scroll on the gallery photos below to see the interior of the church and experience the history of some of the early church pioneers in the adjacent graveyard.
This lovely old church presents as an excellent example of rural Georgia Churches built in the late 19th and early 20th century. The architectural designs in that period were more sophisticated than in the early days. The single large gable is flanked by two towers as was fairly common at both black and white churches raised in that era. A covered porch sits between the two towers providing an area where people can enter without having to get wet on rainy days. As you will see in the next photo, the original church façade was quite different.
The original façade is presented in the photo above just before it was modified in 1970. We are grateful to Mike Kitchens for allowing us to use this photo thus giving us a chance to present a very rare “before and after”. Note that the façade was heavily modified. The double entry doors at the base of each tower were closed off. The large gothic window at the center of the façade was removed and replaced with the weather protecting porch and double doors. This costly undertaking is an improvement on the original design as well as a sign of the prosperity of the congregation in that era.
As you enter the church today, you can see that the interior underwent many changes in the 1970’s as did the exterior. Some might bridle at the modernization of an early 19th century sanctuary. The fact is, that to stay relevant, many of the older churches were forced to provide creature comforts and other amenities to maintain the support of the congregation. This was often true throughout Georgia. The present Abba Baptist sanctuary is an example of those needs fulfilled. From new pews, walnut wood paneled walls, new wood ceilings, electric chandeliers, wall to wall carpet and unseen necessities such as heating, air conditioning and interior bathrooms… these improvements met the needs of their congregation and insured its survival.
Here is a close up of the chancel and pulpit at Abba Baptist. This reveals more of the details of the interior improvements particularly the striking walnut paneling and wainscot throughout the church.
Here we see the paneling close up again as well as one of several lovely stained glass windows found throughout the sanctuary. We also can see that there are comfortable padded pews throughout .
To the right of the pulpit sits the choir area. This black and white photo is of a music book resting on a lectern that looks out upon the center aisle and over the entire sanctuary. A peaceful moment
Abba Baptist is a lovely survivor of the hard times that have caused the demise of so many of our Georgia rural churches. It is an active, welcoming and flourishing church with regular services. The view of its flower festooned communion table and the inviting chancel and apse area above brings us hope of a similar revival and continuing future at other such rural churches throughout Georgia.
The architecture of Abba Baptist is striking with a variation of the asymmetrical towers that are fairly common in rural Georgia churches. This sanctuary has served the community for over 115 years now and is still going strong.
Selemnaty Jordan Raffield was born January 15, 1835 and died January 7, 1904. She married John Henry Raffield October 7, 1851. They had nine children. John Henry Raffield served in Company G, 60th Georgia Infantry, CSA. He was wounded at Spotsylvania and hospitalized at Richmond. He was captured and again wounded March 25, 1865 at Fort Stedman. He was hospitalized at Lincoln General Hospital. His place of burial is unknown.
Aaron Bright Lester was born in August, 1835. He married Rebecca Rawlings on September 19, 1876 in Laurens County, Georgia. He joined Company F, 31st Georgia Infantry on May 5, 1862. He was wounded and captured at Fredericksburg, Virginia on December 13, 1862. He was exchanged and rejoined his unit and surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. He had two brothers in the same company. Cornelius L. Lester was wounded and captured at Gettysburg. James Lester died near Lynchburg, Virginia on January 1, 1863.
John Hiram Newsom was born April 10, 1840 in Morgan County, Georgia. By 1860 he was living in Wood, Texas. The 1870 census shows him living in Stone Mountain, Georgia working as a section hand on the railroad. The 1900 census shows him farming in Social Circle, Georgia. He and his wife, Precious Hardage, had been married 35 years and had three children. By 1910 he is widowed, living with his brother Daniel C. Newsom in Abba, Georgia.
William Alexander Bussell was born July 18, 1844 in Dooly County, Georgia. He enlisted in Company G, 60th Georgia Regiment on August 27, 1862. He was wounded and captured at Monocacy, Maryland July 9, 1864. He was married to Edith Young and had 8 children. He died June 3, 1920.
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Oh, that’s a beauty. Such a dramatic picture of the front with that wonderful sky.