Baptist Rest Primitive Baptist Church was constituted July 27, 1907. The church was constructed on land given by Mr. Jim Roundtree situated between what were then the towns of Graymont and Summit (to become Twin City in 1921). Interestingly and unexplained, the church building was constructed before the church was constituted. In the photo above, the building looks as if it may have lost one of the bell tower spires, but old photographs show the building as having been built this way. Once completed, a presbytery was formed consisting of Elder R.H. Barwick of Cordele and Elder T.E. Sikes of Vidalia who served as Moderator and Clerk respectively. Letters were called for and received of those wishing to be organized and former members of the Antioch Primitive Baptist Church (Emanuel Co.), Old Canoochee Church (Emanuel County) and Upper Lotts Creek Church (Bulloch Co.) became the founding congregation of Baptist Rest. The unusual name of Baptist Rest, suggested by Elder B.H. Pierson, was adopted.
As the original congregation was forming, Elder R.H. Barwick, owner and editor of the Pilgrim’s Banner (est. 1889), an admirer of the writing skills of Elder W.H. Crouse, invited Elder Crouse to visit Georgia. After accepting the invitation and having preached at some forty-odd churches, Elder Crouse settled in Cordele. Elder Crouse later became the owner and editor of the Pilgrim’s Banner and also became the first pastor of Baptist Rest Primitive Baptist Church in 1907. In 1918 Pilgrim’s Banner merged with the Primitive Herald and still exist today as the Banner Herald. Thanks to Elder Emerson Proctor, Curator of the Progressive Primitive Baptist Library and Archives, for his insights into the clerical beginnings of Baptist Rest and on the Georgia career of Elder Crouse.
Emanuel County has an interesting history that is rooted to the timber industry that flourished in this part of Georgia after the Civil War. In the 1901 publication The Story of Georgia and the Georgia People 1732 to 1860, Geo. Gillman Smith, D.D., tells us “There was much about Emanuel and all these pine-barren counties to attract men of small property who loved a free and independent life. The first settlers were mainly cattle-rangers. In the latter days they were timber-rangers, sending their fine timber to the Savannah market. They spent the summer in hewing logs for their rafts, and in the winter floated them to the Ogeechee canal and to Savannah.” (The Ohoopee River forms the southern boundary of Emanuel County and joins the Altamaha River further south in Tattnall County. Log rafters destined for Darien, the main timber port of Georgia in those days, used this watercourse. The Ogeechee River forms a portion of the northern boundary of Emanuel County and timber bound for the Savannah market went by this route.) “They (the settlers) had few wants, and the money they received for their timber was, much of it, laid aside for future use. Next to timber the main resource was cattle- and sheep-raising. There were a little corn and sugar-cane and some oats raised; but the agricultural value of the lands was overlooked until the (Civil) war ended and the commercial fertilizers were found suited to the land and cotton was cultivated to profit. The rail roads penetrated the county in search of timber for the mills, and the turpentine farmer leased the land and bled the trees and set up his still. Emanuel then began to improve in every way, and has gone steadily forward until there are several flourishing towns in the county.”
“Following the Civil War, there was a huge demand for wood to rebuild homes and buildings destroyed during the war. Before train lines began, lumbermen would cut the trees, haul the logs by wagon to the Altamaha, and float the logs to the final destination of Darien, GA, which was at that time the lumber center of Georgia’s coast. After dropping off their load, the lumbermen would have to walk back home, a distance of over 100 miles to what is now the Summit-Graymont area. This was very difficult and dangerous work that required much knowledge of the river courses and how to navigate them. See the gallery photo below to get an insight into the process. In 1867, because of the wealth of pine in the area, and because there were no major creeks or streams in the general vicinity of the present day Summit-Graymont area, Emanuel County erected a railroad from Swainsboro (about twelve miles distant) to some point on the Central Rail Road for the purpose of transporting logs to larger sawmills at Rogers, a town approximately 25 miles almost due north of Summit in Jenkins County, about halfway to Waynesboro.”
By 1920 the “trees near the sawmills had all been felled, larger stores in neighboring cities offered goods and supplies at better prices, economic conditions worsened” (Emanuel County at one point was the third largest cotton producer in the state. Cotton prices fell from 41 cents in April of 1920 to 14 cents in December)”, and new laws mandating and regulating city function (garbage, sanitation, etc. ) increased. Small townships like Canoochee, neighbor to Summit and Graymont, which had been incorporated by legislature, now were experiencing forfeiture by non-use. Not wanting to see their towns similarly abolished the leaders of Graymont and Summit pursued merger. In 1921 B. Lewis Brinson introduced a legislative act to abolish the cities of Graymont and Summit and incorporate them as one; thus Twin City was formed. According to the 1920 census, the population of Summit was 501, Graymont 429. At one point, Graymont was called Summit’s “twin city,” and is likely how the name of present day Twin City was chosen when the towns incorporated.” The quoted material in the previous paragraphs is from the Twin City website, Little City, Big History, text by Mayor Eilene Dudley.
As you saw in the opening, exterior photo, Baptist Rest is a handsome Victorian gothic edifice whose most notable architectural features are its twin towers. The east tower , seen above, is crowned by an ornate, spired , octagonal bell tower that is said to still house the church bell.
This photograph provides us a view of the sanctuary from the entry looking toward the pulpit. The tall Gothic, stained glass windows give a soft greenish light to the interior. Clearly, this sanctuary has undergone many decorative as well as several construction changes over its hundred plus years. The original bead board that likely covered the walls and ceiling has been replaced with drywall and ceiling tiles. 20th century pews have replaced the originals and the floors are carpeted throughout. Still, the original suspended truss ceiling with its tray shape rises cathedral-like over the congregation providing a lovely and spiritual atmosphere and house of worship.
This is a view of pews on the west side of the church. We can now better see the major changes in the ceiling and walls coverings as well as the addition of a back wall to the right which reduced the size of the sanctuary by 25%. That change provided space for the addition of an entry alcove, a kitchen and gathering places that are used to further the church’s missions. Drastic changes such as these are the by- product of a congregation’s needs to expand and are signs of a still vital church community at Baptist Rest.
This view from the pulpit further reveals the blank back wall and its truncation of the sanctuary. Though now a smaller space, the addition provides opportunities to serve within and outside the sanctuary. In this photo, we were also struck by how the stained glass windows of the apse provide a magenta glow throughout the chancel area.
This photo was taken in the entry alcove area that was created by the walling off of a portion of the sanctuary. Here we see that a bit of the past has been placed in this area. Baptist Rest was originally populated with slat-type wooden pews with escutcheons on the arm pieces. This is a photo of one of those original pews… a constant reminder of the historic nature of Baptist Rest
Here is a view of the church taken in 1916, only eight years after construction. It shows the loving care that has been bestowed on Baptist Rest for over 100 years. It also shows that the truncated bell tower on the right was, indeed, part of the original design.
Here is an 1890 photo of log rafting on the Oconee River. It was very difficult to raft up these logs and catch the river at just the right water levels in order make the journey all the way to Darien. And if you succeeded, you then got to walk all the way back home....over a hundred miles on foot. Whew!
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Pretty fancy for a Primitive Baptist church! Very different from those Wiregrass Primitive Baptists. But, did I notice in the description that this is a “progressive” Primitive Baptist church? 🙂
Yes. Very fancy. Not sure how many classifications there are for Primitive Baptists but there do seem to be quite a few.