Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist

Ware County
Org 1875
Photography by Randall Davis

Mt. Olive is another of member of the Wiregrass Primitive Baptist sect that is concentrated in a few counties in south Georgia in what is known as the Wiregrass Region. The churches are easily recognizable by the common architecture and the fact that they are all unpainted. These Primitive Baptists share a common belief that decorative embellishments detract from the purpose of worship and therefore are not part of the sanctuary in any form. The Baptist denomination began developing in the wiregrass country in 1819 when Elder Isham Peacock established High Bluff Church in Brantley County in 1819. In the 1830’s, a theological split within the Baptist Church then resulted in the Primitive Baptists going one way and Missionary Baptists going another.

The Wiregrass Primitives are organized by Associations and are further delineated by Factions which generally come about over different interpretations of the Primitive Baptist theology. During the 1870’s the churches of the Alabaha River Association underwent a split over the Georgia Homestead Act, passed during Reconstruction. Part of the members, led by Elder Reuben Crawford, supported the Act, and the remainder, led by Elder Richard Bennett, did not. The members who followed Reuben Crawford became known as Crawfordites. Due to the austerity of Crawfordites we have a few of their meeting houses that survive very much as they were, as in the case of Mt. Olive, in the 1870’s.

Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church is a small and attractive church that has undergone some changes over time, but has maintained the austere appearance associated with Crawfordite meeting houses. The building behind the church is a modern, government mandated sanitary facility, but the covered well and the old outhouse remain. The Alabaha River Association, organized in 1842, “took up” or accepted into fellowship, Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church in 1875 with 8 members. This church was moved from its original location but it must have been done long ago as the cemetery contains graves from the 1880’s. Sashes and glass panes have been added to the windows and the heart pine log sections on which the church originally rested have been replaced by concrete supports, but this old meeting house appears much as it did in the 1870’s.

More recent history tells us that Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church remained in fellowship with other Crawfordite Alabaha River Association churches until 1952, when, as a result of doctrinal disagreement, it was “taken off” by Elder Sammy Hendrix and was no longer in fellowship with any churches except those that followed Elder Hendrix. The Crawfordites of the Alabaha River Association were already isolated from other Primitive Baptist churches over disagreements concerning the Georgia Homestead Act, and the creation of another faction isolated them further. Three churches were “taken off” by Elder Hendrix, Mt. Olive, Corinth and Emmaus, and after Elder Hendrix’s death in 1987 the churches in the Hendrix faction disbanded. Two of the churches, Corinth and Emmaus, ceased to exist, but Mt. Olive re-organized and was constituted or “taken back up” into the Alabaha River Assn. in 1996. After 140 years of service this church remains active today (2015).

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