Heard County, in west central Georgia on the border with Alabama, is the state’s seventy-seventh county. Created in 1830 from 301 square miles of Carroll, Coweta, and Troup counties, it was named for Stephen Heard, an influential patriot of the American Revolution. The land now encompassed by Heard County was originally held by Creek Indians, who lost it at the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825. The first white inhabitants arrived soon after the signing of the treaty and acquired most of their property by state-run land lotteries. Bethel Primitive Baptist is one of the earliest congregations in the county and it may be the oldest. Very little information is available regarding the old church and, unfortunately, this is a common problem. The history associated with these rural churches is remarkable but we have let far too much of it get away from us. Scraps of old newspaper articles give us a clue as to the age of the church and life back in the day. It appears that the church was also used as a school from one of the articles below written in 1898. Another article, written in 1895 confirms that the pews were built in 1895.
Columbus Enquirer, Dec. 5, 1838 says a bill was passed “To incorporate Bethel Baptist Church in Heard County”.
Carroll Free Press, Aug. 20, 1886 “Tax collector, Rev. W. D. Jones spent last Sunday night with us. He was on his way from Bethel, Heard County where he had been to attend a general meeting”.
Herald and Advertiser, July 8, 1898 “Miss Ona Herndon, who has been attending the Girls Normal and Industrial College at Milledgeville, has returned home. Miss Ona will teach a school at Bethel, Heard county, beginning next Monday”.
Herald and Advertiser, May 17, 1895 “Prof. Wm. Wells of your city, worshipped with the church at Bethel, Heard County…..and presided at the organ with his accustomed ease and ability……Bethel has instructed her building committee to have new pews built, and we expect to have them in place when the general meeting convenes in August”.
Carroll Free Press, July 6, 1888 “Bro. Ripples of Coweta visited Roopville last Saturday night……they were attending a two days singing at Bethel, Heard County”.
Of course the most important history of all is in the old cemetery, where the early settlers who created a life in this new land are buried. Several Confederate veterans who survived the war are resting there as well as a Revolutionary War veteran, Thomas Hilley, who died in 1838. The old church suffered a fire in 1925 but it looks like most of the interior survived. Simple Georgia Heart Pine and handmade pews are the order of the day. Bethel still has an active, though small, congregation and we applaud their stewardship of this important part of Georgia history.