Crawfordville Baptist Church has the distinction of being the first protestant church in the Taliaferro County area. This church was originally called Bethel Baptist, named for the neighboring Bethel Springs. The church organization was established in 1802 by Rev. Jesse Mercer and James Matthews – well before the creation of Taliaferro County in 1825, or Crawfordville, in 1826. According to records, there were twenty one original members. The first Bethel church building was first located about two miles south of what is now Crawfordville. After voting, the church decided to move to the newly created Crawfordville in 1828.
The land for the new church was given by William Janes, a local planter who was one of the largest land holders in the state. The historical marker points out that the Crawfordville Baptist congregation was known for its liberality, as it allowed other denominations to meet in the church building while being organized. In an interesting closing statement, the marker also alludes to fiery political speeches given in the church. The church’s land increased over the years. William Janes donated a few more acres and in 1873 Alexander Stephens deeded an additional 2.5 acres. A visit to the church is worthwhile due to the fact that Crawfordville itself is very picturesque and has, in fact, been the location of several movies over the year. But the primary attraction is the history of Alexander Stephens and his home, Liberty Hall, located next to the church.
Taliaferro County is noted as the birthplace of Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America. Stephens was born outside Crawfordville in 1812. Despite being orphaned at the age of fourteen, he went on to attend Franklin College (today’s University of Georgia) and was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1843. Two years later he purchased his beloved Liberty Hall plantation at Crawfordville. Although he opposed Georgia’s secession from the Union, Stephens was named Vice President of the Confederacy in February of 1862. He often disagreed with Confederate President Jefferson Davis, but served until the end of the Civil War. Sent to a Northern prison for five months after the war concluded, Stephens ultimately returned home to Crawfordville where he lived out the rest of his life, spending his time writing, serving again in the U.S. Congress and finally being elected to a term as Governor of Georgia. He is buried at Liberty Hall.
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