Corinth is a member of what is broadly known as the Wiregrass Primitive Baptist sect that is concentrated in a few counties in south Georgia in what is known as the Wiregrass Region. The churches are easily recognizable by the common architecture and the fact that they are all unpainted. These Primitive Baptists share a common belief that decorative embellishments detract from the purpose of worship and therefore are not part of the sanctuary in any form. The movement began in the early 1800’s and continues through today, although still concentrated in the same geographical region. We are grateful to Elder Jason Deal for providing so much information about this little known religious grouping and the vernacular that they use. All direct quotes are attributable to him.
The Wiregrass Primitives are organized by Associations and are further delineated by Factions which generally come about over different interpretations of the Primitive Baptist theology. During the 1870’s the churches of the Alabaha River Association underwent a split over the Georgia Homestead Act, passed during Reconstruction. Part of the members, led by Elder Reuben Crawford, supported the Act, and the remainder, led by Elder Richard Bennett, did not. The members who followed Reuben Crawford became known as Crawfordites. Due to the austerity of Crawfordites we have a few of their meeting houses that survive very much as they were, in the case of Corinth, in the 1880’s. Further spits occurred over time and eventually Corinth Primitive Baptist Church became part of the Elder Sammy Hendrix faction that broke away from the Crawford line in 1952.
Corinth Primitive Baptist Church was Elder Hendrix’s home church. Elder Hendrix ‘took off’ Corinth, Emmaus and Mount Olive (Ware) Primitive Baptist Churches with him. When he died in 1987, the faction basically folded. He was the only Elder all of the time they were ‘apart’ (from the other churches they had been in fellowship before the split). “Without a pastor, no one was able to go into the stand” (the pulpit). At his funeral his casket was placed on the stoop of the church and the congregation sang hymns. The lack of a more formal service was prevented by the lack of an Elder, Brother Hendrix having been the only one. An Elder from a church outside the Hendrix faction was not acceptable as they were not in fellowship with any other churches. “There was a viewing (which is a standard for old line funerals) and at the end he was taken to the church yard cemetery for burial.” When the faction ‘folded’ the churches disbanded. They could not go on without an Elder to administer the ordinances of the church. Even though Mt. Olive was ‘taken up’ again by the Alabaha River Association (Crawford), it disbanded first. “Most of the remaining members of the Hendrix faction eventually reunited with the Crawford faction. The Crawford faction then took back up Mount Olive in Ware County and it was restored to fellowship. That has only happened since 1996.”
Here we see a corner of the church in which the men sat. Notice the two boards suspended from the rafters. These were equipped with partially driven nails to provide a rack for hanging hats. “The older men, Elders and Deacons would sit along the front as a practical matter for getting to the stand and for serving. The younger men would generally sit on the rows behind them. The women would sit in the pews directly across from them on the other side of the stand.” (the other side of the stand would be the opposite end of the church). The area out in front of the pulpit would be for the general congregation. Across the entire country in earlier days tobacco chewing was wide-spread and was socially acceptable in public, even in church. Many early churches were provided with holes drilled into the floor in the men’s section and some in the guest’s section for the expectoration of tobacco juice. Providing holes ceased as churches began to “modernize” but the Crawfordites staunchly rejected modernization and the holes, in most instances, remain.
Here we see the communion table and the pulpit, known as the stand. Beneath the table a rectangular hole has been cut into the floor which was utilized for disposal of water that had been used in the foot washing ritual, observed as an ordinance of the old-line Primitive Baptist Churches. This hole has had a wooden collar fabricated to fit the hole and to serve as a funnel. All of the Crawfordite Churches have this feature, though some do not have the funnel. Placement of the hole is consistent among the churches but the placement seems to be a matter of convenience and has no ritualistic significance. The short bench or pew in front of the stand is where the clerk and moderator were seated, the stand being reserved exclusively for the use of Elders.
The roughness of the saw kerfs of the circular saw blade used to mill the floor boards has been somewhat smoothed by the passing of many feet and the abrasive action of the sand used to scrub the pews and floors. Generally, these churches held an annual cemetery cleanup day and on that day the interior of the meeting house and the pews were scrubbed with brushes using lye soap, sand and water. The hat racks and long heart-pine pews carry your eye toward the cemetery just beyond the door.
Corinth Church appears very much as it did in 1882 when it was organized. It is doubtful if these steps are original to the building but they have been there for many years and are true to form. On some of the buildings in this area of expansive swamps, cypress boards have been used for siding, as is the case here. Cypress apparently weathers to black with extended exposure to sun and rain. The beautifully contrasted reds are of heartwood that are more resinous than the surrounding wood.
The cover for this well is a latter day replacement and is somewhat atypical in that seating is provided. Most covers consist of a simple pole shed. The bright red pitcher pump is recent, still being manufactured just as they were in the last century. The containers on the table contain water left by the last user for the next so that water is available to prime the pump. The seating provided is likely for the comfort of those attending funerals or reunions, or simply to provide a place for family members visiting the cemetery to sit, reflect and enjoy a cool drink of well water.
This view of Corinth Primitive Baptist Church is over the graves of two of its charter members, Henry Prescott and his wife Jane. Henry was a Confederate veteran, serving in Company I of the 27th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. The inscription on Henry’s headstone reads “Sacred to the memory of Henry Prescott. Borned June 31, 1839 and Died March 12, 1903 age 63 Years 8 Monts 21 Days. In Wisdom Ways We Spent Our Days Mutch Comfort We Did Find But They Are Gone Their Glass Is Run And We Are Left Behind”. Notice the spelling – Borned – Monts – and Mutch. The use of these spellings probably reflects the dialect of the area at the time in which Henry and Jane lived. The glass is run is a reference to sand through an hourglass. Jane’s epitaph reads “Sacred to the memory of a dear loving Wife and Mother Jane Wife of Henry Prescott. Born March 14, 1842 Died Feb 12, 1902 age 59 years, 11 months and 18 days. My Loving Wife My Bosom Friend The Object of My Love The Times Have Been Sweet I Have Spent With You My Sweet and Harmless Dove.”
Upon seeing this photo, one of our researchers commented “you can just sense a presence in that photograph – it is as if the history of the place weighs heavily around it”. We agree.
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