First Baptist Church of Marshallville

Macon County
Org 1848
Photography by Tony Cantrell

This area, once part of Houston County and now in Macon County Georgia, was originally inhabited by the Creek Indians before they ceded the land in the early 1820s. Parcels in this part of Georgia near the Flint River were acquired through the land lotteries of the 1820s. By the end of the decade, white settlers from North Carolina had arrived in what would become the town of Marshallville. The following decade, they were joined by more settlers, mostly of German descent, who came in from Orangeburg South Carolina.

Many of these early families brought enslaved people with them and when they arrived, cleared the forestland and planted cotton, establishing large plantations here. As the cotton economy and surrounding community grew, both Baptist and Methodist congregations had been established near their plantations.

By the 1840s, Marshallville was at the crossroads of north-south and east-west travel routes, bringing business to the small town. In 1850, the Southwest Railroad laid tracks through here, helping to establish the emerging community, and by 1854, Marshallville was officially incorporated. Multiple stores, a blacksmith’s shop, a public well, and a depot were built in the following years and soon, the community recognized the need for more centralized worship locations.

A hardshell church was built in the town where three denominations originally worshipped: the Hardshell Baptists, the Primitive Baptists, and the Methodists. The earlier congregations, which had been established near the plantations that surrounded Marshallville, merged congregations and moved into town where they would meet in this universal church until they built their own structures.

In early 1861, the Primitive Baptists completed their own wooden frame building on the site of the current brick structure that stands today. This congregation was formed from the union of three earlier churches, Greenwood Baptist (org. 1848), Gloris Hope Church, and Mount Vernon Primitive Baptist.

But change was coming quickly for this congregation and its town as the Civil War broke out the same year. Many left to fight and many didn’t return. The town of Marshallville, like the rest of the country, would face many shifts over the coming decades.

In the years immediately following the war, cotton continued as the premier crop for a short time, until the town and greater region began to make a shift towards fruit-based commercial agriculture. This shift would help to bring Marshallville out of the post-war years in relatively good condition, as evidenced by the impressive structures they were able to build in the early 1900s.

The original wooden church that the Baptists built in 1861 burned in 1911, but the congregation was determined to build a new, much more impressive place to worship. By 1920, this significant brick church was completed and is still in use today by an active congregation.

The people of the community of Marshallville have left an indelible mark in more ways than just their buildings. Samuel Rumph, regarded as the father of the Georgia Peach, planted and studied different varietals of peaches at his orchard in Marshallville that earned Georgia its reputation for the fruit. Today, the oak trees and camellia bushes the early settlers planted still flourish, the latter of which are 10-12 feet high and 18+ feet across. Today, the American Camellia Society continues an almost 80-year tradition, hosting the Camellia Festival here in Marshallville every year.

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