County Line Baptist

Butts County
Org 1861
Photography by Tony Cantrell

History tells us that the church you see above was built in 1886, however the congregation was formed in August of 1861 in an old school house at this site. One of the elders at the dedication ceremony was John T. Kimball.  Rev. Kimball had been a member of Towliga Baptist church where he was licensed to preach in August of 1845.  His obituary in the Jackson Argus dated July 21, 1899 included “A sketch of his long and useful career”, while another Argus article dated June 5, 1885 stated “There is not a living man who could command a larger congregation and control it better than he”.

The County Line cemetery is very large with graves dating back to the early 1860s.  In these old cemeteries, we find many stories of the early history of this part of middle Georgia – stories that remind us of the legacies of the past. For instance, one of the headstones is that of Francis Edalgo (b. 1835 – d. 1872).  In the course of doing some research for this little non-descript church, we found that his original name was Francisco Hidalgo and that he was born in Mexico.

Interesting but not particularly extraordinary…….until you look deeper.  It turns out that Francisco Hidalgo was the adopted son of Major Henry Burroughs Holliday, a man with strong military and public service credentials.  Henry Burroughs Holliday was born in Laurens County, SC and migrated to Georgia at an early age.  His first military service was as a sergeant under Capt. John D Stell’s Company, 1st Georgia Militia out of Fayette County in what is referred to as the Cherokee War. This took place in the late 1830s after the Indian Removal Act, when the Cherokees were rounded up and sent to Oklahoma on the infamous Trail of Tears.

Henry Holliday’s next military service was in the Mexican War of 1846, where he served as a Lieutenant in a company of volunteers organized in Griffin, calling themselves “The Fannin Avengers”.  They marched to Columbus where the company became part of a regiment commanded by Col. Henry R. Jackson of Savannah. They were sent to Mexico and performed gallant service in the field.  The history tells us that while serving in Mexico, he somehow became attached to a twelve-year-old boy named Francisco Hidalgo, who had been recently orphaned.  Lieutenant Holliday brought him home to Griffin after the war to be adopted and raised as his own son.

His next military service was in the Civil War.  He enlisted as a Captain in the 27th Georgia Regiment Quartermaster Corps in December of 1861, stationed in Augusta.  He was soon promoted to Major but resigned his commission in August of 1862 for ongoing medical issues.  Major Holliday then lived in Augusta for a time where he served as Mayor, Secretary of the County Agricultural Society, a Member of the Masonic Lodge and the Secretary of the Confederate Veterans Camp.  However, he soon moved to Valdosta where he died in 1893 at the age of 73.

Now back to Francisco.  He apparently acclimated well to his new country and changed his name to the American version i.e. Francis Edalgo and then married a lady named Martha Freeman and started a farm near Jenkinsburg in Butts County.  When the Civil War broke out, Francis and Martha had two children but, even so, he joined the Confederacy in September of 1861 and fought until his unit surrendered in Greensboro.  He came home from the war to his farm in Jenkinsburg (Butts County), and he and Martha had two more children. 

Unfortunately, he died at an early age of tuberculosis in 1873 – as did his stepmother, Alice, who also died at the age of 37 in 1866.  It turns out that his much younger adopted step-brother, John Henry Holliday, also died of tuberculosis in Glenwood, Colorado at the age of 36.  John Henry is known in the history books as “Doc Holliday”, the gunfighter.  Here is more information about the legendary Doc.

The last bit of the story, according to some internet links, is that Francis’ funeral was attended his brother Doc and Doc’s cousin Martha Holliday.  She was the daughter of Captain and Mrs. Robert Holliday of Jonesboro and was reputedly Doc’s long lost love.  Martha elected to become a nun and she became Sister Mary Melanie Holliday of the Sisters of Mercy – entering the convent in 1883 and serving faithfully for 56 years before her death in 1939.  According to Findagrave, “she was a beloved cousin of John Henry ” Doc” Holliday of Western lore.  Theirs was reportedly a frustrated romance which in part contributed to her decision to join the convent. Sister Melanie was also a second cousin of the author Margaret Mitchell, and she is said to have inspired the character Melanie Wilkes in Mitchell’s classic novel, “Gone With The Wind.”

What a story!  These old cemeteries are full of them and we are proud to present a few with each church posting.

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