Cool Springs Primitive Baptist

Wilkinson County
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Org 1809
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Photography by Tony Cantrell

We have seen many of these old abandoned churches out in the Georgia backcountry that have been reclaimed by the pine trees and briars .  We even created a category for them on the website we call Almost Gone But Not Forgotten.  We think it is important to honor these old abandoned places of worship, even though the history of most of them has been lost to time.  When we discovered Cool Springs Primitive Baptist in Wilkinson County, we thought this would be another example of a poor, rural church that had been abandoned long ago.  Since it had no cemetery, it would be that much more difficult to dig into its past.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that, not only did the church have some history, it was significant history, involving the Georgia Supreme Court and the founding of the Stuckeys retail chain.  It took a while to unravel since there were ultimately three churches involved in the story.

Allentown, located not far away, was founded in the early 1800s shortly after the Creek Indians ceded the land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers.  The first church, organized in 1809, was named Cool Springs Primitive Baptist located in Allentown, where the Allentown Cemetery is now. Allentown, founded in the early 1800s, was a thriving community and there is book about it written by Edward A. Cunard – A Book About Allentown … Georgia That is.  There is another book,  Cool Springs Primitive Baptist Church History and Cemetery Genealogy, Twiggs County, Georgia that gives us further insight.  

So far so good, but then the story gets a bit confusing when we find that the original congregation left the Allentown location to create two other churches, one several miles to the west and one further east. Apparently some of congregation found the western location more convenient and some favored the eastern alternative. The western location was founded in November of 1876 when Henry Lamb deeded some land in nearby Twiggs County . This is still an active Primitive Baptist church. About the same time, a Wilkinson County deed book (page 209) tells us Nelson Stuckey, on October 10, 1878, gave 2 acres of land to the Elders of New Cool Springs Church located on “lot No 392, 22nd district of Wilkinson County”.  This is the church you see above, which then became a Holiness church in the early 1900s and was abandoned in the 1970s.  If the surname Stuckey seems familiar to you there is a reason for that.  Nelson Stuckey had a brother named John who moved from Wilkinson to Dodge County. John had a grandson named W.S. Stuckey who founded the Stuckey’s chain of retail locations across the southeast and midwest.  At its peak, Stuckey’s had over 350 roadside locations.

While doing research for the church history we also discovered some interesting legal history, in the will of John W. Allen, the son of the original Allentown founder, who died in 1837.  John W. was a wealthy planter and slave owner in the days when Cotton was King. When he died in 1856, his will directed that some slaves were to be sold and others passed on to his family and close friends – with one big exception.  His will stated that “I hereby manumit and forever release from involuntary servitude…Eliza, a woman about thirty five years old” and her three children. He further directed his executors to give Eliza two hundred dollars in cash and “carry or transport her to any place whatsoever she may wish to go, together with her children”.  The will was contested and went to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1860.  The court ruled the manumission aspect of the will was invalid since it was illegal to manumit slaves via this manner i.e. by last will and testament.  Therefore the the manumission was declared null and void, ownership of the slaves reverted to John W.’s heirs and were subsequently sold. John’s headstone photo is below……..another Tale from the Crypt that gives us a window into our past.

Be sure to click and scan the photos below for more Cool Springs history.  Note the first three photos represent a time sequence.  The first photo looks like it might have been taken in the 1970s when the Holiness Church may still have been active.  Note the front porch, the air conditioning unit and the trimmed hedges.  The next photo taken in 2019 show the encroachment of the forest and the porch is gone.  The final photo was taken by our photographer, Tony Cantrell, very recently.  The old church and land is now for sale and the land has been cleared. In 2023, we were notified that the building was no longer standing.

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