The church was first constituted on the 16th of November, 1831 by Peter Eldridge and James S. Lunsford. It consisted of nine members, and was called Mount Paran. Three years after this the church withdrew from the Columbus Association, and was one of the original fourteen churches in 1833 that constituted the Bethel Association. In the year 1839 the name of the church was changed from Mount Paran to Walnut Grove. In the year 1840 the church agreed, by a bare majority, to withdraw from the Bethel Association as a Home Mission Society had been formed by it. As a matter of zeal and triumph of principle they named their newly organized church Benevolence. Thomas Coram, the first settler in the area donated five acres of land for the church and the cemetery.
Benevolence Church began with fourteen members, under the pastoral care of James Mathews. By the time of his death in 1847, there had been two hundred and fifty members added. By 1887, 700 members were added and nearly 500 persons baptized. According to William Norton, a former pastor, in 1879, “The church called its pastors annually after 1852, and had during nearly fifty years, fifteen different ones, and only one (W. L. Crawford) ever served it again after leaving. Only about six months during the war was the church without a pastor. A strict discipline has been maintained at all times with dancing, drunkenness, billiards, etc. condemned. In that year, the church had “…a little over one hundred members; and though the times are changed, yet they purpose to never be unmindful of the struggles of the past and the principles then so dear. The very name “Benevolence” shall ever be the watchword to rouse their fagging zeal and stir to faithfulness in filling the Master’s last command. Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
The present sanctuary was built at the turn of the century and its design and appearance is unique and quite noteworthy. The basic style is that of a corner steeple meeting house. However, its incorporation of eclectic elements reflects the rising popularity of the Victorian Chapel/Carpenter Gothic school during that era. The fanciful corner steeple is topped by four capped, steeply sloped, matching towers that surround a similar but larger steeple structure in the middle. That apex rises to its peak adorned with a globe and spire. This may be where the phrase “over the top” originated. Benevolence Baptist Church is a monument to the congregations prosperity, enthusiasm and high hopes for its future.
Yes indeed. A very proud history that has witnessed great changes in this remote part of Georgia for over 150 years and they are still doing Sunday services. Visitors always welcome. Thank you for supporting Historic Rural Churches of Georgia and helping us spread the word. Please be sure to sign up to receive new postings on featured churches.