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.
This view of the little rural church in the community of Mayfield has not changed much in over 200 years. Many horses and wagons have trod this little dirt road leading to the sanctuary that was the center of the Mayfield community. Services were conducted, souls were saved, hymns were sung, marriages performed and eulogies for the interments in the little graveyard were given. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
This striking view from the pulpit reveals the full church with its center aisle flanked by side aisles as well as the impressive gallery with its double stairs. These stairs lead up to the gallery area pews as well as to the school rooms that are entered through the two open doors that you can see pictured in the photo.
Though the original building was erected in 1824, this view of the interior from the entryway reflects many interior changes that were made during its long history. The fact that the doors closed and the congregation disbanded in 1992 makes it difficult to discover the details of why this church is so pleasingly graceful and stylish. It certainly presents as an elegant and attractive sanctuary compared to most of the other, more crude rural Baptist churches we have seen that were constructed in the 19th century. We feel that much of its present appearance was created in the early to mid 20th Century when its congregation swelled to its high water mark.
Here we see one of the two school rooms that were cleverly tucked into the space above the vestibule that was created when the back wall of the sanctuary was installed, probably mid-1800’s. See the tops and capitals of the columns of the church that are visible through the windows. These rooms were reached by using one of the two sets of stairs that provided entry to the gallery.
In this photo, we are looking down from the gallery and given a full view of the chancel area at Horeb. We see the choir area to the left with the Hobart M. Cable piano believed to be the original instrument purchased in 1917. In the center is the chancel, pulpit, apse, chairs for the officiants and communion table. To the right are the “Amen Corner” pews. This entire sanctuary is in remarkable condition for one where no congregation remains. Credit for this goes to the trustees who have volunteered and maintain a fund for the upkeep.
William Marion Allen was born April 17, 1826 in Putnam County, Georgia and died November 16, 1906 in Hancock County, Georgia. The 1860 census slave schedules shows he had 4 slaves: Three females ages 13, 17, and 50 and one male age 6 months. His father, Parham Allen, was a plantation owner in Hancock County. Parham Allen and his wife, Elizabeth Reynolds Allen are also buried at Horeb Baptist Church.
Information about James H. Beddo is given at Findagrave website. He was born September 23, 1831 in Burke County, Georgia. He enlisted as a second sergeant in Company D, 5th Georgia Infantry on May 11, 1861 in Warren County, Georgia. He was killed five months later on October 9, 1861 in the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, Florida. His body was returned to Hancock County, Georgia. He was married to Mary Judson Whaley and they had three children.
John M. Jones was born in Georgia in 1843. On April 30, 1868 he married Rebecca E. Birdsong and they had two children. John M. Jones served in the 49th Georgia Infantry, Company I during the Civil War. He became 3d Corporal on March 4, 1862. He was discharged from service March 30, 1863 on account of having tuberculosis. He was sent home from General Hospital #21, Richmond, Virginia. He lived until December 25, 1919.
Joel Pound Reynolds was born November 10, 1846 and died September 28, 1929. Amanda Allen Reynolds, daughter of Parham Allen mentioned above, was born July 12, 1848 and died October 1, 1932. Joel and Amanda were marred November 27, 1870. They had four children, all girls. Three of the girls are buried at Horeb Baptist Church. Joel served in Company F, 27th Battalion Infantry during the Civil War.
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I’ve read that some African Americans were allowed to use Horeb as a place of worship. Where can I find the church’s membership and/or burial records? Would they happen to be digitized?
African Americans would have been admitted to church prior to emancipation but the church remained a white church after that. Your best bet on the burial records would be to access them on Findagrave.com.
Would love to attend a service here.
Can someone tell me more about Jephtha vining?
Miss Bowen, the Georgia Baptist History Repository at Mercer University in Macon has a biographical folder on Jeptha Vining. From our findings, he was known as one of the fathers of the Baptist faith in early Georgia and Vining’s Meeting House in Warren County (later Long Creek Baptist Church) was named for him. He came to Georgia from South Carolina (possibly the Camden area) and was a Calvinist Baptist as were many in that day. Baptist historian Jesse Harris Campbell said he “was instrumental in rearing up” several churches in SC before moving to GA where he located near Rocky Comfort Creek (12 miles from Louisville, Ga) either during or just after the Revolutionary War. Find A Grave says he was born 15 February 1738 in Massachusetts and the Long Creek BC Minutes say he died in October 1797. He was married twice and had several children. Ancestry.com family trees say he was born in Worcester to William and Anna (Nichols) Vining. He is buried at Long Creek church. I hope this helps! — Arlette Copeland, Mercer University Tarver Library Special Collections archival assistant.