We are grateful to Richard Hillman for the following history of this very historic church.
Horeb Baptist was constituted as Folsom Creek Baptist on June 28, 1792 by Jeptha Vining and Adam Jones. Let’s use several facts to allow us to fully understand the time in American history. The United States had declared its independence only sixteen years earlier. George Washington was the President. The state of Georgia was only four years old. This was thirty years before the Georgia Baptist Convention was founded and fifty-three years before the Southern Baptist convention was founded.
The oldest Baptist church in Georgia, Kiokee, had been founded only 20 years earlier. Provision was made to hold monthly meetings on Saturday before the fourth Sunday every month. A committee was chosen to confer with Williams Creek Baptist (founded 1787) to request a change in their meeting date so that Jeptha Vining might also serve as pastor of Folsom Creek. In October of 1792 Pastor Vining began pastoring at Folsom Creek.
In October 1793 an arrangement was made “to build a house for a place of deposit and appoint a steward to superintend the receiving and selling of all the grain which is to be deposited in a fund for said church and sold out by said steward for cash and paid over to the minister or deacon as the church shall order”. Clearly they understood the “bringing of the tithe to the storehouse”.
In August 1795 Parris, a man of color was received on an experience of grace. He is the first colored person of record to be admitted. In May, 1798 a committee was assigned the task of “viewing a place to build a meeting house”. The size was to be 24 x 36 ft. The committee was favorable to the new location. The name was changed to Horeb and the building was constructed on the present church property, a little to the rear of the building now in use. The congregation moved into the new building in 1799. “Shiver’s Mill” in Warren County was the first post office near the new church. In 1840 the town name was changed to Mayfield. In 1824 the church built and moved in to the current building. Church records from 1858 show the pastor to receive an annual salary of $200. This is the first instance of a fixed sum being given to the pastor.
The Civil War became a part of the life at Horeb. In 1861 it was resolved “that we spend a few minutes at each sunrise during the Civil Wars in America in invoking God’s protective care and divine aid to our soldiers and armies.” The cemetery at Horeb holds the graves of five men who served in this war. In April 1862, “Bro. Holmes disposed of all the Testaments in our Sabbath School library for the benefit of our soldiers.” In the same year the church raised $75 Hymn books that had been purchased a few years earlier were sent to the soldiers.
At the end of the war and the freeing of the slaves, Horeb was instrumental in the starting of and support for their new churches. In February 1882 it was agreed that the men would meet and remove the fallen trees from the church grounds, the indication being that a storm had caused much damage. Later each man of the church was asked to bring and plant three shade trees around the church. It is hard not to view the stately old trees remaining and wonder how many of these are from this time of planting. Horeb maintained a connection with Mercer University. In the mid 1880’s the congregation donated $150. In 1901 another $50 was donated. Another donation was noted in 1951.
The church had staunch Baptist principles. To minimize the temptation to strong drink in the community a committee was appointed in 1888 to secure the enactment of a law prohibiting the sale of “spirituous, intoxicating or malt liquor within three miles of Horeb church.” The regulation became effective shortly afterwards. In January, 1889, the Chorister was charged with playing the violin to dance by and Bro. Beckum was charged with dancing. They were cited to attend conference and made satisfactory amends for their indiscretion.
Continuing in their tradition of aiding in the establishment of other churches Horeb donated $36 to the new church in Deveraux in 1909. In 1913 a rumor surfaced that the pool and spring area had been sold. A committee discovered that the area was still for sale and purchased the land. A deed was made to the trustees to ensure the church maintained this needed property. History says there was a buggy path from the church to the pool used during baptisms.
In 1917, a Hobart M. Cable piano became the property of the church. It is believed that the piano that remains in the sanctuary is the same one. In June 1920 a committee was appointed “to see about getting an electric light plant for the church and have same installed.” The plant was promptly purchased and installed and was in use for a revival in August.
As with most of the country the year 1929 brought financial struggles to Horeb. However, this church had a long history of creativity beginning with the “store house” built in 1793. The plan for many churches income in these hard times was known as “God’s acre,” an idea support by Horeb. A member offered fertilizer to each person who would set aside the income from one acre for the church. In 1941 Horeb recorded it’s highest membership of 153.
In 1942 Horeb held a celebration to honor the thirteen men from their community serving in WWII. Clashes over political control in the area in the 1950’s and 1960’s were played out in the headlines, polarizing the community and causing potential investors to look elsewhere. Younger people moved away. The older generation of farmers died and the county went into decline. This affected the membership of Horeb as well.
There is great irony in the 200-year anniversary of Horeb Baptist, held in September of 1992. The church membership numbered only six people, their ages ranging from 75 to 81. There was no younger generation to take over. After the celebration the church closed it’s doors. However, Horeb seems to breed the spirit of longevity. In one of the main columns in the front of the church is a hive of honey bees. One former member, now in their seventies, says the hive has been there as long as they can remember. As with these bees, the church seems not ready to leave. You would suspect a church with a long and rich history of survival would not be felled by politics and hard times. Although the doors are closed, one can still enjoy a service at Horeb. In September, 2020 Horeb hosted their 227 year anniversary homecoming.
As you enter the sanctuary you see some updates, but are still enthralled with a sense of history and perseverance. As you climb the stairs to the balcony area you feel history surrounding you. Upon entering the rooms, you realize you are looking at areas unchanged, a salute to the past. It is easy to imagine time as it was long ago. A group of committed trustees maintains a fund for the upkeep and continued survival of this great piece of history. It’s been alive since George Washington was president and, with indomitable spirit, will continue to maintain a well-deserved place in history.