Jones Creek Baptist was constituted on April 22, 1810 by Reverends John Goldwire and Moses Westberry and thirteen members from Beard’s Creek Baptist Church. The Reverend Moses Westberry became the first pastor of the church and served in that capacity for 35 hears. The congregation originally met in a brush arbor until they were able to erect a log meetinghouse on land given by William Walthour in 1817. In 1832 the log meeting house was replaced by a larger frame building , onto which a shed was added for the slaves. In 1852, the wood frame building that is standing on the grounds now was designed by Hendley Foxworth Horne. His home still stands not far from the church. The building was completed in 1856 and remains today much as it was built. The slave gallery, accessed by the stairway, has since been modified to accommodate Sunday School classes and now displays church memorabilia.
Selections from the local history – The present building replaced a log meetinghouse that was located to the immediate east to the current structure. That building replaced a brush arbor. Notes indicate that in 1823 a move was made to repair the meetinghouse and make seats. In 1833 Richard Horne (designer and builder of the 1856 church) built a shed on the end of the meetinghouse. On April 20 of 1839 a committee devised a plan for an addition to the meeting house for the comfort of black people. Two committees later a plan was approved to floor the existing shed at the end of the meetinghouse for black people. That building was sold upon completion of the current structure in 1856. The porch and steps were protected by a ground shed added in 1869. In 1881 shutters were added (now removed) to help lessen the intensity of the summer sun.
The history of Jones Creek is deep and well documented. We are fortunate that she has been lovingly cared for over the years and this history is there for subsequent generations. Part of this history resides in some of the old minutes of the church and they make for very interesting reading. For instance:
1822 “Conference opened by prayer. Brother Morgan stated that he had through anger done that he ought not to have done and had brought a disgrace upon the church and cause of God. Brother Bohannon stated that he had got drunk and that Brother Morgan struck or slapped him five or six times and every time calling him a damned raskel. The Church this day lay under a censure Brother Morgan, BrotherBohannon and Sister Morgan“.
1824 “Brother William H. Parker charged Sister Sarah Keaton with lying and cheating, and when difficulties could not be resolved (by church itercedence) both were expelled on Nov. 24?
1844 “Wm. H. Parker was ordained a minister of the gospel”
1856 “Resolved to have two dozen spit boxes made“
1861 “So many members are in Confederate States service that the business of dealing is postponed until they return and a majority at least is present“
1865 “Colored members who went over to the enemy to be dealt with by the church”
1867 “Committee appointed to secure a piece of ground between the church and the baptistery for the use of the colored people as a burying ground”
Note that Brother William H. Parker had an interesting transition from 1824 to 1844. For more minutes of Jones Creek Baptist Church click here.
Jones Creek presently occupies one of the most historic, remarkably authentic and well preserved church sanctuaries located in Southeast Georgia. The church was founded in 1810 when James Madison was serving as President. The congregation prospered and was able to raise a substantial sanctuary completed in 1856 when Franklin Pierce was President. That slightly modified building still stands today during the Presidency of Barak Obama! The view you see above is quite similar to what would have been seen 160 years ago. With the exception of the smaller pews in the center, first three rows, the original pews are in place. Of course, throughout their 160 years, these pews have rested on on the usual, wide heart pine floorboards that are common to the region.
The chancel and raised pulpit area at Jones Creek clearly adheres to the rural Baptist tradition of insuring an austere sanctuary interior. This is accomplished by keeping furnishing and decorations within as simple as possible. Above we see hard pews, hard straight chairs, no decorations or icons, no bright paint colors… nothing to distract anyone present from the pastors message.
Here we have a side view of some of the original mid-19th century hand made pews. We also have a good view of the high, 18 pane, pivot windows. They clearly succeed in providing ample, natural light to enter the sanctuary. There is some wall board patching above each of these windows that suggests the original windows were actually taller than these replacements. In any case, this sanctuary provides a wonderful and authentic example of what the interior of a mid 19th century rural church looked like.
You may remember from the first photo, we pointed out the non-original, three center rows of smaller, more ornate, pews. That mystery was recently solved when a parishioner told us they came from a nearby Methodist Church known as Wesley Chapel constructed in 1892. Seems that when that church was razed in the 1950’s, a number of their original pews found a new home at Jones Chapel! “Waste not want not”. This one sits in a portion of the old slave gallery that can be seen in the first photo.
The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is that of Neoma Shaw who died in 1824. “Neoma Shaw Consort of John Shaw Departed this life the 9th day of August 1824. Age 22 years.” Today the term consort is most often taken to mean “to be habitually associated with someone, typically without the approval of others,” but in older times it simply meant wife.
R. H. Peacock – Murdered by a rude hand near his own residence. Always great stories in the old cemeteries. There are 658 interments in the cemetery with the oldest dated 1824. The largest single extended family represented are the Chapmans. Frances Chapman, who died in 1852, and his wife Mary were original founders who transferred their letter from the Beard’s Creek Primitive Baptist church.
From Findagrave – Hampton Cling Parker was a distinguished member of the Georgia Senate, a justice of the inferior court, a member of Jones Creek Baptist Church for fifty-three years, and a deacon for over forty-eight. Early in the war, Hampton joined the “Altamaha Scouts,” 25th Georgia Infantry, and served about six months as quartermaster before being discharged for disability. However, when Sherman crossed into Georgia in May ’64, Hampton and his brother-in-law, Hendley Horne, responded to Governor Joe Brown’s call to arms and joined the Georgia Militia in time to participate in the Battle of New Hope Church. Both were hospitalized at Marietta, then managed to get to Macon where they bought a boat and floated down the rivers to Beard’s Bluff. Hampton walked on home, and sent back for Horne who was suffering with fever.
An old shot of Jones Creek taken around 1900
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I went to church up there until the new church was built. I loved going up those steps to my Sunday School room. After church was over everyone use to stand around and talk after church. My Mama and Daddy is Joseph Parker Dunham Sr. And Evelyn Smith Dunham im there youngest daughter Barbara Gayle Dunham. Jones Creek will always be my home church. Some of my dearest friends are still going to church there. My mama and daddy are buried in the old cemetery and my oldest brother and wife are buried in the new one. Joseph Parker Dunham Jr. And Christie Dunham.
What a beautiful story and memories. Jones Creek is very special.
My ancestors, James and Sarah Thomas were founders. Sarah died before 1818.
My father is buried there.
Mitchel G. Baxter
My grandmother, Lula Mae Westberry was the granddaughter of Moses Westberry
Very interested in this. My great great great great grandfather was Moses Wesyberry. Our son is doing the ancesstry of our families. He did covered this last night. I Martha Wesyberry Tyre am also very interested in this.