The Church of Christ at Antioch is situated on Stephen’s Creek on land donated by David Curry and William May. It was constituted on January 17, 1834 by Elders Jessie Moon and Guthridge Ivey with ten charter members, some of whom came from Bethlehem Baptist Church. The church served white and black congregants until 1868 when the black members withdrew to establish what would become Holly Springs Baptist Church. In January 1885, Antioch reported 53 male and 99 female members. In the aftermath of the Civil War, this disparity of the sexes would be commonplace all over the south.
Services were held once a month. By 1930, many people of the community were moving toward towns and away from the rural lifestyle, but the remaining members held on for as long as they could. By the mid 1940’s the church was no longer active but began holding homecoming and singing conventions. There is a wonderful Youtube video of the 2013 annual reunion held at Antioch. These reunions are held the 2nd Sunday in May each year and they enable the old church to stay alive. Hearing the sounds of these old hymns still ringing in the Georgia pines would be music for the soul.
The little Antioch Baptist church is located on a dirt road miles from the nearest civilization. It lost its congregation many years ago, like so many of the rural churches. And though it looks plain from the outside, the interior and and old cemetery give the place a quiet dignity that is hard to describe. The sanctuary speaks of the essence of these rural churches, especially one as remote as this one. The church was the center of everything for these early Georgia settlers and you can feel it here. All rural life, social contact, governance and spiritual sustenance came from the church. The original church founders and many of their descendents are located in the cemetery in a field of broom straw. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Since 1834 Antioch has served the local community of this remote section of Washington County. Through this door have walked hundreds of local residents seeking spiritual comfort, local news and social contact with their neighbors. Until 1868 the church served both white and black congregants, until Holly Springs was formed as one of the oldest African American congregations in the state.
The Church is located in a very remote location on a red dirt road. There has been some minimal maintenance performed in an attempt to stabilize the structure and most of the windows are boarded with plywood. You don’t know what to expect when you walk in but then there it is….” Glory to God in the Highest” written on the wall with a few letters missing. If one wants to view a historic rural Georgia church and enjoy the authentic experience of standing in and witnessing…almost totally unchanged… a 19th century meeting house, go to Antioch. The roof, walls and foundation appear to still be sound; we found no signs of leaks.
Here is a photo taken several years ago with only two letters missing. It is a simple and dramatic visual that takes you back in time when there was little money but much faith in this simple little sanctuary.
In this photo, the letters on the wall still attempt to give “Glory to God in the Highest”, but time and gravity have claimed some of the letters. The simplicity of this image is truly stunning.
Father time has taken its toll as well on the old piano in the corner, but it is not hard to visualize the sounds of Shall We Gather at the River emerging from the windows and drifting through the Georgia pines. How many hymns have been sung in this sacred spot?
The view from the pulpit reveals the simple construction techniques of an early 19th century rural church. It also reveals the dignity and durability of the old long leaf Georgia pines that served as the main construction material. The church has been kept dry by some of the faithful members and the rusty tin roof still is keeping Mother Nature at bay.
This shot reveals some of the remarkable building techniques that were so effective. We suspect the original footings would have been stacked fieldstones, now replace by bricks. But the half round log floor joists supported by a long length of hand-hewn heart pine support running down the middle of the church have stood the test of time.
These old original pews were built for strength and minimal hand labor, but not for comfort. One can only imagine the struggle to endure long sermons that were faced by all, particularly the children.
James Freeman Walker was born in 1829 and died June 1, 1889. The 1860 census shows his occupation as mechanic and the 1870 census lists his occupation as millwright. His brother, David B. Walker, died December 29, 1863 at Point Lookout, Maryland. His parents were David Walker and Thena Barron Walker.
William Harris Walker was born April 15, 1855 and died November 13, 1881, He was the son of William D. Walker and Eliza Ann Barnes Walker mentioned above. The 1860 census, Cato, Washington County shows Eliza Walker, age 41; Elizabeth Barnes, age 66; John F. Walker, age 18; William H. Walker, age 16; Robert Walker, age 12; and Mary E. Walker, age 8.
Edmond May was born September 23, 1804 and died June 30, 1869. He married Priscilla Parker (1811-1878) in Warren County, Georgia on June 8, 1830. Antioch Baptist Church was begun in 1834 and Edmund May’s name appears on the earliest Church records there. In 1860 he owned 13 slaves.
Eliza Ann Barnes Walker was born February 17, 1829 and died August 4, 1887. She was married to William D. Walker (1823-1863) on December 5, 1850 in Washington County. William D. Walker was the son of David Walker (1787-1870) who oowned 10 slaves in 1850 and 21 slaves in 1860.
Ellis Johnson was born May 4, 1834 and died July 6, 1895. He married Serana Vause (1847-1900) May 23, 1848 in Jefferson County, Georgia. Sterling Mills Johnson (brother of Ellis Johnson) was born 1838 and died August 1, 1862 at Savannah, Georgia. He was a private, Company F, 25th GA Infantry, CSA. The father of Ellis and Sterling, Ellis Johnson (1807-1863) is also buried at Antioch Cemetery.
This photo features the cemetery markers of two infants. Arus C. Cato born July 1, 1872, died July 7, 1874 and Clarence U. Cato born June 23, 1883, died July 24, 1884. Both of these infants were sons of James J. Cato (1834-1910) and Elizabeth Frances Arrington Cato (1846-1918). James J. Cato was 1st Sergeant, Company B, 59th Georgia Regiment, CSA.
William Edmund Curry was born December 20, 1873 and died February 26, 1901. He married Dora Downs December 15, 1896 and they had one child Ebbie Lee Curry (1901-1953). William Edmund Curry was the son of David Curry (1849-1894) and Temperance Eugenia May Curry (1851-1938). He was one of nine children. His parents David and T. E. Curry are also buried at Antioch Cemetery.
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Are Sylvanus and Sarah Knight buried there?
Not sure. You can access this information on Findagrave.com though.
I wonder if there any membership records of Antioch Baptist Church available. I have family members who were born in Washington County and wonder if they were members. The family name : WIGGINS.
I have an ancestor whose maiden name was Wiggins. Is there a church history showing who attended ir who is buried there?
Evie, the Hebron community is down below Oconee in Washington County. In the area of Olive Hill Baptist Church.
Thank you for your response to my request for information about churches in Deepstep area of Washington County. My grandfather, Charles Anderson Wood was a Baptist minister in the Hebron Community. I have not yet been able to pinpoint that area/location. My great grandfather, Anderson Wood was active in the Deepstep area however I am not sure if it was Baptist or Methodist in which he was involved. I have enjoyed reading the information you provide for the historic churches of Georgia.
Thank you for the message. We appreciate your inquiry and hope that you enjoyed reading about Antioch Baptist. It sounds like you have some very interesting family history to uncover and research!