New Ford Baptist Church

Wilkes County
Org 1795
Photography by John Kirkland

The roots of New Ford Baptist, one of the oldest congregations in Georgia, go back to 1795 when George Washington was still in office.  The church was originally located on the banks of Newford Creek, located not far away from the present location.  One of the first pastors of Newford was James Mathews, Sr. who moved into Georgia in 1782. His first wife had died but Rev. Mathews remarried in 1786 and had twelve children as a result of this union.  According to a church history written in 1882, his pastorage was very successful and he Baptized over 100 new church members.  He was a close associate of Jesse Mercer, who preached at his funeral in 1822.  In 1832, the current church was built on land donated by William McLendon and over the years, the name evolved from Newford Baptist to New Ford Baptist.   

The first Federal Census in 1790, reveals that African Americans made up 19% of Wilkes County population.  However, Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin in 1794, and the resulting boom in Wilkes County cotton production greatly increased the black population.  By 1860, it was 69%.  Since the 1830’s, people of color had been allowed to unite as members of the church but worshiped in separate services.  Church minutes reveal that in 1857, New Ford had a membership of 125 members and that 86 of these were black. 

After the war, in November of 1866, a specific request was made that the colored members of the congregation be allowed to have separate worship services at New Ford and the church was shared in that fashion with the white members. Later, in the 1870s, the white congregation decided to build a new church a short distance away in Danburg and discussions were held to transfer ownership of the original 1832 church to the black members.  In 1879, the African American congregation of New Ford purchased the old church and approximately six acres of land on which it stands.

New Ford has an active congregation and a proud history that goes back over 200 years.  We are indebted to the membership for being such wonderful stewards of this important part of Georgia history.  We are especially indebted to the Rev. Ed Anderson, Sr. who has long been a student of Wilkes County African American history.  He is also a fifth generation member of New Ford and serves as the Church Assistant Pastor and Adult Sunday School Teacher.  More of his historical coverage of New Ford Baptist can be found HERE


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