Bark Camp Baptist is one of the oldest churches in the Georgia back country. As early as 1740, there were white men in this territory hunting and grazing on Indian land. The Creek Indian treaty of 1763, signed in Augusta, tripled the size of the state of Georgia and settlers began moving into the area in substantial numbers. Some of these were well to do planters who eventually developed large plantations. Bark Camp Baptist was organized in 1788 before George Washington was elected president. It was a center of worship, culture and hospitality and many wealthy plantation owners were among the early members.
The church began with 29 charter members on land that was donated by Zebulon Cock. Over the years, the congregation has built four houses of worship, the first being a rounded log structure. The present building was built by Moses Fuller in the spring of 1847 at a cost of $1,700. A large marker honoring Mr. Fuller is located in the cemetery. Charles A. Burton gave the church four acres and later sold an additional four acres for $25. Early records of the church go back to 1823. The earliest records of the church have been lost. The cemetery contains many prominent members of the community as well as Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans. It is known that some of Sherman’s raiders visited the church in Dec. of 1864.
Bark Camp closed its doors in 1958 as the community dwindled and the younger generation moved away. Gone are the sights and sounds of regular worship but the Bark Camp church building, in all its glory and dignity , still graces the Georgia woodlands surrounding it. A 501 (c) 3 not for profit organization was established and the old church has been given new life. Mr. Leonard Quick has been instrumental in the the restoration of the church. His family was a member of the church in the 40’s and 50’s and Mr. Quick was ordained as a Baptist Minister at Bark Camp in 1953. After his retirement, he moved back to Bark Camp and was the founder of the restoration movement. God love you sir. Thank you for your service.
Parishioners enter the double aisle church from the front with the choir seated on the left and right. A raised chancel presides over a simple but sturdily built sanctuary. The walls are made of the usual wide, horizontal pine boards. The ceiling is as well and moldings are as plain as possible. It is worthy of note that Bark Camp is one of the very few Baptist churches of this era that employes interior, structural decoration elements. Notice that there are two, thin pilasters that flank the pulpit. Topped by doric-like column decoration, they are rare examples of this kind of internal and external decoration.
The wide and sturdy horizontal wall boards, vertical pilasters, center window and double doors give a pleasant symmetry to the front of the church. The strategically placed 12 over 12 plain glass window behind the pulpit provides light behind the preacher and its attractively moulded frame adds another simple decorative element as well.
Wide planked floors, simple pews and high ceilings project the strength and simplicity of the old sanctuary. The clear kerosene lamps placed on wooden wall brackets, though not original, add another touch of authenticity within the sanctuary. For over 160 years, this site has provided a proper meeting place for some of the wealthiest citizens in the Georgia backcountry as well for visitors to Bark Camp Baptist in the 21st century.
The floor, the pews and the horizontal wall boards were all hand hewn from local, Georgia long leaf pine. Notice that the pew backs consist of only two wide boards while the seats are formed from only one. The ages of the pine trees that were predominant in this area in 1857 were measured in the hundreds of years. Most settlers had never even imagined trees could be as large as they were. They provided building material that will last forever if reasonably maintained… but, such material will never again be available in quantity.
These old organs are a visual feast and quite common in the rural churches. The Baptists loved to make a joyful noise with organ and piano. You can just hear the music pouring out of the open windows and meandering through the rural countryside.
Here lies Susan J. Burton who died in 1879 along with two of her sons killed in the Civil War. The Burtons were one of the prominent early pioneers and gravestones reflect the comfortable lives they carved out of the Georgia countryside.
Here lie the remains of a very prominent early Georgia family, the Inmans. The prosperity and success they enjoyed is obvious from the gravestones. We are particularly interested in Jeriamiah Shadrach Inman, whose father was Alfred and whose grandfather and g grandfather were Daniel and Shadrach Inman. The Inmans had migrated from North Carolina, into Tennessee and then into Georgia. The 'tale from the crypt' is that several of this generation of Inmans seemed to have died from some type of poisoning at almost the same time. Click here for some background. There may be more to this story somewhere.
What a majestic and simple sanctuary rising out of the Georgia sandy plains. Thank you wonderful residents of Midville and surrounds for the work you have done in preserving one of Georgia's most historic rural churches. We salute you.
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