Friendship Baptist and its picturesque, intriguing , 19th century grave yard rests alone on a grassy knoll set back from a winding country road. The church and cemetery rise alone out of the field with no nearby neighbors. There is no paved drive or dirt tracks to this gaunt but still proud church. There are no signs of visitors, no dead flowers on graves, no outside signs of painting or maintenance of any kind in recent years. But, the structure is still sound, the grounds clear of weeds and debris, the cemetery in remarkably though well-worn condition, and one gets the feeling it is still loved by someone.
Friendship Church is listed as “presently inactive.” The interior is in relatively good shape, has its original lovely primitive pews, the windows and doors are sound, there are obvious signs of cleaning and attention and, clearly, the church, grounds and cemetery are being cared for by someone.
Because it has been inactive for some time, records concerning its past are sketchy. We know that the church began as an arm of Clark’s Station Baptist in January, 1826 and that on May 7, 1831 it was constituted with 33 members, 12 of whom were black. So, clearly it was a very early church. The size and quality of the present structure indicate that it did at one time prosper. The last known Deacon from the mid 1970’s was Lonnie C. Moon.
We hope to be able to expand our commentary on Friendship Baptist in the future. It is certainly worth time and attention as an incredibly preserved historic rural church.
Friendship Baptist is an excellent example of a southern, 19th century “gable end” wooden frame church. “Gable end” means that the church’s roof is an unadorned, single gable style whose face and entryways are always on the front and symmetrically located beneath the gable; no steeple, no other towers or ornamentation. Earlier gable ends often had two entrances, one for men and one for women. Also typical is a diamond motif vent at the upper center of the gable. A small, orderly nearby burying ground finishes off the package.
We are told that ownership of the sanctuary is unknown. We hope to solve that mystery at a later date. We are also told that the graveyard belongs to a trust composed of relatives and interested parties of those buried here. In the foreground above are examples of three traditional, 19th century markers. On the left is a brick based false crypt with a marble top and finial bearing an inscription. This is a late 18th to early 19th century style. In the middle is a single large flush marble ledger marker with inscriptions. This has been a popular style in granite, marble or other stone for centuries… still is. On the right is a handsome, marble false crypt topped by a graduated ledger with inscriptions. These are substantial and attractive markers confirming that Friendship’s congregation was at one time numerous and prosperous.
This interior window view detail shows off the handsome hand made pews, traditional wide, horizontal wall boards and a simple 6 over 6 window treatment. The view when looking out the window and onto the cemetery grounds causes one’s mind to wander… you can almost feel the spirits that may be moving about.
The interior is filled with sights that comfort the senses. The bright six over six windows, the light patterns on the worn aisle carpet, the dramatic grain of the original heart pine pews, the table at the chancel in the center with a fresh bowl of flowers. The view above is without a doubt almost identical to the one a parishioner would have experienced upon enter this old meeting house in the 1830’s. We are looking into the past. This church is inactive but still loved by someone. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for insuring that this special relic is here for us to still see and enjoy.
Above we see an elaborate and expensive wrought iron enclosure. This belonged to the Adams family and contains a number of graves from the 19th century. The prominent stone behind the gate, a vaulted pedestal style is, made of granite. This was one of the most popular memorial marker designs in the late 19th and early 20th century. The cemetery has 172 documented interments. The oldest grave is dated 1847. It is obvious from the style and design of the headstones above and throughout the cemetery that this was a prosperous congregation. King Cotton had begun to create a lot of wealth for the citizens of Wilkes County.
Above you see the ruins of an early 19th Century “Box Tomb”, also called a “False Crypt”. They are structures that resemble a rectangular box with a flat top supporting a “ledger stone”. The box or crypt is constructed to sit over an in-ground burial thus marking the burial site. It is a “false crypt” since it doesn’t actually contain a body. The tomb’s original, fine wrought iron fence enclosure is in bad repair. And, one of the sides has completely collapsed allowing you to peer into the interior. Of course you won’t see a body, bones or coffin remnants… they remain safely buried and undisturbed six feet below.
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My great-grandfather is buried there
I am among the many descendants of Peter Curry and his wife Lucy Pope Curry who attended this church until their deaths. Their names and death dates were written on the church roll which is now housed at Duke University. Peter was a patriot of the American Revolution (He previously lived in South Carolina) and fought for the State of Georgia, and I joined the Daughter’s of the American Revolution through proving my lineage to Peter and Lucy. I would love to know more stories about their lives and see any portraits that might be out there. This church has some famous names of pastors known in the history of the Southern Baptist Church and names known in Georgia politics and government. This shows how they respected higher theological education and excellent teaching within their churches and within government.