Greenwood Baptist is the 6th oldest Baptist Congregation in the state. It was one of the very early churches that came out of Daniel Marshall’s Kiokee Baptist, the oldest congregation in the state, organized in 1772. Greenwood was originally constituted in 1784 in Wilkes County as Upton Creek Baptist Church, but then relocated to a pine forest about two miles east of its original site and renamed Greenwood. The third and final move took place in 1812 when the church found a permanent home in the Amity Community. The present church sanctuary was completed in 1816. According to the History of the Georgia Baptist Association, “It appears that the building is designed similar to Old Kiokee, erected in 1808. The lumber was hand hewn, 12 by 12 inches, from long leaf pine. The side wall studs and rafters are hand-peeled pine poles. The floor and ceiling joists were hand hewn, 4 by 12-inches thick and 36- feet long — as straight today as when erected. The walls and ceilings are of hand-planed boards — still as they originally were”.
The local history tells us that “Celia Shank, the church’s last black member, is granted a letter of dismissal at her request” in 1880. In 1886 a silver communion set was given by Mrs. Belknap Smith and is currently housed at the church in a place of special recognition as another piece of the history of Greenwood. That same year kerosene lamps replaced candles as the source of lighting. 1888 saw the purchase of the first church organ, and in 1946 “a porch, valued at $826.95, is given to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Boyd, Sr. in memory of their son, John (Jack) W. Boyd, who died fighting for his country”. In 1978, the old building was restored and the belfry and vestibule were added.
To sit in a service at Greenwood Baptist to re-live the history of the early 1800s. Special appreciation is due the two centuries of people dedicated to preserving the remarkably original rural Georgia architecture. Imagine the craftsmanship and workmanship, using hand tools, to construct a structure that is even more useful than it was two centuries ago. The cemetery and grounds are well kept and groomed, allowing visitors to meander among the many years of history. The congregation is still visionary and in 2009 incorporated the church. The wooden walls were once again scraped and painted as the church celebrated 225 years of life. Greenwood Baptist epitomizes the essence of many rural churches in the South. Well built, preserved, and still performing their original mission. A powerful legacy indeed.
Greenwood will be celebrating its 232nd anniversary this fall, 2016. Remarkably, this building itself will be celebrating its 200th anniversary at that time. Erected in 1816, this view of the main sanctuary from the rear and looking toward the chancel and apse encompasses the original, rectangular wood framed interior. Though much alteration has taken place in the past 200 years, the original, heart pine wooden ceiling boards remain sound and the original framing and configuration is maintained. In 1873 the large 12 over 12 windows were repaired. 1886 the candle- lit meeting house was upgraded to kerosene lighting. The Rayo kerosene lanterns were replaced with electric lighting in 1940. Throughout the 20th century, other modifications and creature comfort additions were made to insure the members would be comfortable and continue to come to and support their church. In 1978 a complete refurbishment and renovation produced the sanctuary you see above.
When air conditioning and central heat were added, the sanctuary became much more hospitable. The same was true when the old, hard pine pews were replaced by the lovely, simple but elegant, pews seen above. The addition of seat padding and lush carpeting brought this old meeting house to another, even higher level of comfort. The sanctuary today embraces the best of the old as well as the new. That is one of the reasons why this old church well outside the town of Lincolnton is thriving and remains active over 230 years after its founding date.
This view from the pulpit gives us a chance to appreciate all of the creative remodeling that has been undertaken to keep the church building effective and relevant to congregations for the last 200 years. From this perspective, we can see how the old rectangular structure was modified by adding a porch, vestibule and belfry. On the back wall you see the outlines of the two large windows that once served the front of the church. By building a new wall and structure to the front of the church, an entry vestibule was created upon which a belfry could be placed. The interior remains the same while the exterior becomes more attractive and functional. Hats off to this congregation whose stewardship and loving care have kept this old church alive and meaningful for so long.
Another example of the reverence for tradition and heritage at Greenwood is seen above. Nestled in a spot where all can view it is this lovely, sterling Communion set. It was given to the congregation 130 years ago by Mrs. Belknap Smith and has been in continuous use all these years. The dings and creases are quiet testimony to all of the thousands of times this congregation has enjoyed a Communion Service. Given the robustness of today’s congregation, many more are sure to come.
As in all the early church graveyards, there are an undetermined amount of unmarked graves lost to the ravages of time. Most were marked with a wooden marker or some kind of convenient fieldstone. Both tend to disappear over time. This headstone is obviously handmade and a labor of love for someone. It appears to be the grave of M.C. Thomas but there is no record on Findagrave.
This is William Pascal who died in 1856. He is listed in Findagrave as William Paschall III and he is buried close to his father who is listed as William II (1753 – 1831). These were the first Paschall’s in Wilkes County. The burial notes list Willam II as a Revolutionary War soldier from North Carolina. However, the designation of William II is suspect since his father was Samuel Paschal who died in Abbeville County SC in 1805. At any rate the Paschall’s were typical of European settlers who came into Georgia prior to the Revolution or just after, and started farming land between the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers. Note that William was a Mason as well.
Samuel Paschal is honored here as a Lieutenant in the Ga Militia. We did not see any military records but he was born in 1788 and would have been of prime military age during the War of 1812 or some of the later Indian conflicts. Samuel was too young for the Revolution and died a few years before the hostilities of the Civil War. The Georgia frontier was a dangerous place during the Revolution and for many years thereafter.
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Does anyone know where the original Upton Creek Baptist Church was located in Wilkes County?