Mount Enon Baptist
Mt. Enon Baptist Church was organized in 1856 in the Gum Pond community of Mitchell County, south of Albany and a few miles east of present day Baconton. It was built next to Stage Coach Road, which runs from Albany to Thomasville. There were seven charter members and, other than the Rev. Curtis Nelms, all were ladies. The congregation grew quickly and within a few months there were 30 members, four of whom were black servants of Rev. Nelms. Both the white and black congregations quickly expanded. By 1863 there were 113 black worshipers, enough that the pastor preached to the white congregation on Sunday mornings and to the blacks on Sunday afternoons. After the Civil War, Mt. Enon gave its black congregation an acre of adjoining land for a church building and another acre for a cemetery, and the Salem Missionary Baptist Church for Blacks was built.
The original Mt. Enon (it was later replaced by the larger building that stands today) was a one-room structure made of unpeeled logs. It served as church, meeting house, and as a theater for plays and tableaux . And, because it was the only place of worship in the area, it was used by several denominations. In 1864 Dr. Shaler Hillyer, a noted educator and minister, established an academy at the church named Ravenwood with 50 students. The curriculum for the little school was extensive. It included rhetoric, Latin, Greek, higher mathematics, and elocution. There was also botany, French, and history. There were piano lessons and, not unexpectedly, students studied the Blue Back Speller and McGuffey’s Reader.
The present day structure came to be in 1889. In 1928, after many of the older members had died and others had moved out of the area, the congregation voted to disband. But Mt. Enon was not ready to die. In 1950, Baconton participated in the Georgia Power Company’s annual Better Hometown Contest, an effort to enhance the identity and heritage and stabilize the economy of small towns. Baconton’s first focus was on Mt. Enon. The decision was made because of the age of the church, the fact that Ravenwood Academy had been located there and because of the church’s central location on Stage Coach Road. Much needed repairs were made and the church enjoyed a brief revival. Sadly, however, the new life was not long lasting and in 1967 the congregation again voted to close, though the decision was that the pulpit, heaters, fans, hymnals, and piano were to remain in the building…and they remain there today.
Alongside Mt. Enon is a cemetery that has served as the burial ground for the town of Baconton since the 1860s. Like the church, over time it fell into disrepair and, as many of the markers on the oldest graves were lost, grave diggers often struck an unexpected coffin and had to change locations. However, in 1956 on its 100th birthday, the church set up a savings account for the perpetual care of the cemetery. Several other improvements were also made such as a new fence, donated iron work and brick masonry. For additional information about Mt. Enon read From Stage Coaches to Train Whistles: History of Gum Pond, Mt. Enon, Baconton in Mitchell County, Georgia; 1856-1976; Including Biographical Sketches and Genealogies of Pioneer Families by Mildred Jackson Cole. Her book was the basis for the brief historical summary above.