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.
Few of Georgia’s Historic Rural Churches can come near to matching the venerable provenance of Little Ogeechee Baptist, located in what is today’s Screven County. The church was founded in 1790, three years before that county was created on December 14th, 1793. Its first “log meeting house” was built in 1790 but replaced in 1805 when the church moved to a second log building. In 1832 its third home “of sawed lumber and of spacious dimensions” was erected that would serve the congregation for 80 years until the present structure was built in 1912. This view from the gallery has now been constant for over 100 years. As you can see, the sanctuary style is typical of many rural, wood frame churches built in the early 20th century. Spacious and with wide aisles, the suspended truss ceiling rises above the floor creating a no-columns, cathedral-like atmosphere within. The facility has obviously been well maintained and loved by its congregation which still thrives over 225 years after its founding date.
This is a view of the gallery floor and steps that, on both sides, lead to the small gallery itself. We also get a close up view of one of the matching, tall gothic windows that illuminate the stair case on each side.
Here we have a detailed photograph of the back right side of the apse where a Christian Flag is displayed. Note the stained glass windows that are present in this raised portion of the apse. These provide ambient light to illuminate the area and cast a colorful glow. In the flooring boards, crown molding, window frame, perfectly affixed, narrow ceiling boards and wall boards, we can also see and appreciate the attention to fine detail, fit, finish and quality construction often found in these early 20th century church structures.
This view from the apse to the rear of the sanctuary exhibits the very plain, simple architectural design and decoration one would expect to encounter within the sanctuary of a 100 year old Baptist church. Other than the trefoil pews, we see very few decorative items/displays or decorative architectural elements other than the Gothic windows and frames, simple crown molding and apse arch framing. The all-white semi-gloss paint enhances the ambient lighting flooding through the numerous windows and transom and helps generate a clean and pure atmosphere within.
Here lies H. M. Lufburrow (1820 -1874) and his wife Carloline (1824 – 1905). H.M. served in the 5th Ga Cavalry during the war. He and Caroline had five children and one of them, John Foscure Lufburrow, died as result of the yellow fever epidemic according to A study of the yellow fever epidemic of 1876, as it affected the state of Georgia. It seems that the Georgia Central Railroad ran a daily train to Oliver Station in order to get its employees and other citizens out of Savannah forty miles away. The train made a daily run, remained in Oliver overnight, and returned the next day. According to the report “On the night of September 10, a man named Lufburrow slept on board this train, and on the 16th was suddenly taken with yellow fever, of which he died on the 21st. This man had not been to the city, and the only contact which he had had with the contagium was on the night that he slept in the cars”. This apparently added to the body of medical knowledge required to combat the deadly fever.
Here lies Thomas A. Brewer, who enlisted on Sept. 1, 1862 with the 54th Ga Infantry and served until April 26, 1865 when his unit under General Joseph Johnston surrendered at Greensboro, NC. Thomas had at least two brothers that served and one of these, William Temple Brewer, served in the same unit and surrendered in Greensboro as well. Another brother, Joseph W. Brewer, served as a 1st Lt. with the 54th but died of an unspecified disease on February 27, 1863 according to Findagrave.
The federal census of 1860 shows Noel Lanier (1811 – 1890) and his wife, Sarah (1824 – 1902) living with eight children in the Halcyondale district of Screven County. His oldest son Thomas was nineteen years old and listed as a ‘Student of Divinity’. Sarah was aged 33, meaning she had Thomas at the age of fourteen. Noel has the title of Captain but there is interesting correspondence from him to Governor Joseph Brown relating to the Governor’s proclamation of July 29, 1864 that indicates that he was part of the desperate call up of older men and young boys to defend the homeland from the impending doom that was on the horizon after the fall of Atlanta. He would have been 53 at the time. Little Ogeechee church was directly in the path of Sherman’s march to the sea, and the proliferation of Confederate flags in the cemetery will attest to that. Captain Lanier’s father, Maj. Lewis Lanier (1756 – 1839), was a famous Revolutionary War patriot with a long and distinguished record of service.
This is an old photo of the Little Ogeechee Baptist Church building used by the congregation from 1832 until the present church was built in 1912. It was a handsome, Greek Revival structure whose octagonal steeple was topped by a shake roof and spire. We are told that, “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 raised, the sills were said to still be as good as when built in 1831.
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Thanks for sharing these pictures..
Sad news indeed Ken. She is a classic. This is an ongoing problem. We are hopeful that some local community members may find a use for this beauty.