In November 1835, a regular Baptist church was constituted in Newton County with 16 founding members from Jefferson Academy. It was called Carmel Baptist. In March 1836, the young church was admitted into the Baptist association, and for a short time, they gathered for worship in the homes of church members. In September of that year, a building committee was formed to build a permanent house of worship. A sanctuary was erected near Brick Store, just below the Forks of the Road leading from Brick Store to Mansfield. In the subsequent years, Carmel Baptist played a pivotal role in the community. The church history reports that by the early 1840s, the church had found much success, with a tri-weekly prayer meeting, Sabbath School, and Bible class.
In 1851, Carmel Baptist united with nearby Liberty Baptist Church (founded c. 1815) and a more centrally located site was selected for a new church building. Four acres were donated by John F. Jackson for the new church. At the time the two churches united, Carmel Baptist had 28 members and Liberty Baptist had 23. The new church kept the name Carmel Baptist. In the years before the Civil War, several enslaved people attended church here alongside white members, until Emancipation when it is believed that the formerly enslaved people formed another church nearby.
In 1901, several members were dismissed in order to form a new church at Hayston, and in 1911, the same thing happened when members left to form a new church at Mansfield. Subsequently, Carmel’s membership was reduced to 124 from its height of 460 members in its heyday. By the 1950s, membership had dwindled even more- causing the church to offer fewer services. By 1970, there were only 10 permanent members left at Carmel Baptist.
The known burials in the graveyard date back to 1854 and nearby in the woods is the old baptismal font. You can learn more about the cemetery and the baptismal pool in the photo gallery below.
Looking from the entryway towards the pulpit, you might notice that the sanctuary is showing its age, but if you look closely, you can see the beautiful simplicity of the space.
The building has undergone some changes over the years, including the addition of electricity-ceiling lamps and fans. The green carpeting was likely added in the 1960s or 70s, but on the left of this photo, you can see portions of the original wood floor underneath.
An old piano like this one likely provided many hours of enjoyment for its worshippers to sing along with.
These large windows, with the original nine over nine glass panes, allow in a soft, warm light. In the years before electricity, a sanctuary like this one would need to take advantage of daylight as much as possible and these windows helped them achieve that.
This sanctuary may be simple, but elegant details can be found in many places, including the beautiful woodwork in these pews.
Our adventurous photographer, Scott Farrar, was generous enough to peak under the foundation of Carmel Baptist to show us what it looked like. The presence of brick, stone, and wooden beams showcases the multitude of different materials that were used originally and over time to shore up the building.
This baptismal pool is located in the woods near the church where two small streams come together and according to locals, was used for baptisms up until the 1950s. In the 1960s, local children used it for swimming and would fill it up with a hand-cranked pump that was on the side the baptismal with the notch at the top. Unfortunately the pump is long gone.
Richard M. J. Lunsford was born December 23, 1843 and died June 16, 1910. He served in Company F, 42nd Regiment, Georgia Infantry, CSA. He was wounded in the thigh at Atlanta on July 22, 1864 and was permanently disabled. He apparently never married but spent his adult life living with two of his sisters.
Flavious J. Lazenby was born June 20, 1823 and died April 29, 1897. His wife, Elizabeth Bennett Lazenby was born October 28, 1804 and died December 8, 1895. They were married December 3, 1851 in Newton County, GA. He served in Company C, 66th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, CSA. His mother, Nancy Farr, married his father, Samuel Lazenby, March 19, 1817.
Sherrod Malone “Sherry” Smith was born February 18, 1891 and died September 12, 1949. He was a well known professional baseball player and was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. He was a pitcher and outfielder for the Pittsburg Pirates, Brooklyn Robins (later Dodgers) and the Cleveland Indians. In 1916, he pitched against Babe Ruth in a World Series game in which Ruth failed to get a hit. His wife Addilu Ozburn Smith was born in 1898 and died in 1978. She was an accomplished pianist and attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York City.
Jesse Armstrong was born in Warren County, March 22, 1787 and died February 13, 1870 of paralysis. His wife, Susan Marks Armstrong was born in Southampton, Virginia, May 3, 1800 and died May 26, 1877. They were married in 1827 in Warren County. The 1850 Newton County census shows 5 children ages 9 to 21 living in the household.
Frances America Glass Robertson was born July 8, 1814 and died May 22, 1890. She was the wife of William B. Robertson. They married February 1, 1844 in Newton County. He served in Company E, 22nd Regiment, Georgia Infantry, CSA. He was 78 years old in 1900.
A D. Janes Jr. was born August 30, 1898 and died February 6, 1914. The inscription on his tombstone reads “Our Darling Boy Killed by Elevator, No. 3, 3rd National Bank, Atlanta, GA. A. D. Janes Jr. was the son of Dr. Arthur David Janes who was born August 10, 1861 in Penfield, Georgia and Beulah M. Winburn from Conyers, Georgia. They married August 29, 1896 in Morgan County.
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