Little Ogeechee Baptist

Screven County
Org 1790
Photography by John Kirkland

Little Ogeechee Baptist church, in Oliver, was organized in 1790, on five acres of land donated by Hugh Graham in a ‘log meeting house’. It is also recorded that the church moved to a second log building in 1805 and another one in 1831. When the current building was erected in 1912 the older building was ‘sold to St Johns Colored Church for $125 and moved on logs by mules’. When the older building was eventually razed, the sills were said to be as good as when built in 1831. The 1831 church was described as ‘of sawed lumber and of spacious dimensions’. The 1912 building was built  facing the adjacent stagecoach road and still faithfully serves today.

According to the History of the Georgia Baptist Association, several of the early Baptist churches adopted foot washing as a ‘binding practice’ and in 1793, Phillips Mill Baptist in Wilkes County sent an inquiry to the Georgia Association for some guidance in the matter. “In response, the association declared that it was an ordinance instituted by Christ to be practiced by all orderly church members.  Members of Little Ogeechee unanimously agreed in 1797 that it was their duty to participate in the ceremony”. Early minutes of the church show strict church discipline such as this  brother and his wife who were “excommunicated from our union and communion for several causes such as horse racing, dancing, and frequently using spirituous lickors”. There were many potential sins available to the church members but dancing seems to be regarded as perhaps the most serious. The church began organizing other churches in the area as early as 1804, and by 1855 they had established four mission churches.

The cemetery is a place of history within itself. Revolutionary soldiers are buried there and many confederate flags adorn the graves of Civil War soldiers. It is a beautiful and scenic cemetery with very large cedar trees in abundance. This area of Georgia is replete with Civil War history and Little Ogeechee has its share. Oliver was directly in the path of Sherman’s march to the sea. Federal troops camped in the area and his men bivouacked in the church, while the fenced cemetery was used as a corral for horses confiscated from the Confederate army.

The church has an unusual steeple that is lower than the typical architecture of most churches. Local lore says that a tornado ripped off the original steeple and the replacement was lowered. The quaint steeple gives this building a unique feature and special appearance. The typical round “pie plate” in the ceiling recalls a time when men were assigned rounds of duty to bring wood and start the fires needed to warm the sanctuary. Wooden walls and original 1912 pews give a beautiful atmosphere to this historical church. The interior exudes a time gone by.

We salute the congregation of Little Ogeechee for their loving care and stewardship of the old church and cemetery. History has lived here for 226 years and seems destined to continue for many years to come.

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