New Hebron Baptist is a visual treasure located in the beautiful rural countryside of Pike County close to the little village of Concord. The churches roots go back to 1833 when Concord Primitive Baptist was formed in the village of Hard Head. Hard Head was the original name of what became Concord, chartered in 1887 by the Georgia Assembly under the governorship of John B. Gordon. After the railroad was established, Concord thrived on the cotton trade until the arrival of the Boll Weevil in the early 1920’s.
In the 1890’s, a school was established in the community of Piney Woods on land donated by the Madden family who had acquired it in the land lottery of 1803. With the assistance of the preachers at Old Hebron Baptist in Concord, the school began to house worship services for the local farmers. Old Hebron had been chartered in 1838. New Hebron Baptist was formally organized in 1907 with 31 charter members and by 1929, the church had grown to 99 members. The church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. This charming sanctuary in the backwoods of Pike County has served the local community for over 100 years now.
The church has been under the able stewardship of Vicar Dwain Penn since 1998. Vicar Penn is responsible for the physical preservation of the church since then and has compiled a complete history of the church, resulting in placement on the National Register in 2017. We are all indebted to him for this beautiful example of early 20th century architecture. Vicar Penn’s historical background for the National Register can be accessed here.
Be sure to click and scan the gallery photos below for more of the visual beauty and the architectural commentary of this remarkable example of Georgia’s early 20th century history.
New Hebron's rural location is almost like a movie set....and indeed she has been used in several movies with stars such as Cicely Tison and Faye Dunaway. Travel down the little dirt road and come inside for a tour. You are in for a visual feast of early 20th century rural church architecture.
In this interior view from the southeast entry we are presented a perfectly authentic (with the exception of the electric fans/lighting, carpet runners, venetian blinds), early 20th century rural country church sanctuary. This single room (originally), rectangular building was built within 30 days in 1908 by congregants using local materials. Though very little has changed since that time, additions and modifications have taken place since then. But, the original feel and simple atmosphere of the interior remains the same.
This is a close up view of the chancel, pulpit and choir area. As described in New Hebron’s National Register application, “The handcrafted pulpit is a classic example of economy and thrift. Made entirely of lumber scraps and finish wood pieces, the artisan attempted to fancy up the piece with scroll-work, modified frieze trim, lathed posts and decorative panels. As a crowning piece, the portable lectern atop the pulpit was made from a ‘Gold Dust Twins Snuff’, wooden shipping crate.”
The entire sanctuary is very adequately lighted during daylight hours by the eight, four over four, sashed windows with clear glass panes. There are four of these windows on the east and west walls (this one on the west) which catch the maximum light possible from the sun’s transit each day.
This view of the west side of the sanctuary provides us with a good look at the interior ceiling, walls and floors at New Hebron. The walls and ceilings are finished with beaded tongue and groove, heart pine boards. The floors are also finished with 1x6, long leaf, heart pine boards.
The section seen here flanks the west side of the chancel and was known as the “Church Choir” area. We are told that the church enjoyed the use of a foot pump organ for fifty years or so. The piano seen here was purchased in the 1950’s and delivered to the church on a log truck. Though it has seen better days, it still serves as adequate accompaniment for services or events.
This is a wide-angle photo from the North wall toward the chancel/ pulpit. Here we can see, enjoy and appreciate the rustic authenticity of the New Hebron sanctuary in its full flower. The ambient sunlight streams into the building, the original heart pine, slatted pews sit on the original pine floors and the room is alive and awaiting the next activity. Were it not for Vicar Penn, this building would probably have moldered away by now. Dwain W. Penn stepped into the pulpit in September 1998. The congregation had dropped to two, both of whom had died by the end of the year. Through his efforts and the efforts of others who loved New Hebron, the sanctuary was restored and the church placed on the National Register.
Here, on the west wall, we see one of the two gas heaters that were installed in the sanctuary in the 1950’s. They replaced the old wood stove that had served the church from its beginnings. We also see some of the historic items that Vicar Penn has strategically placed throughout the church as a reminder of its historic past. We enjoyed looking at the hand-made fly swatter seen above the heater, pretty clever.
Here we see, behind the pulpit, two arched alcoves four feet across that are set into the north wall of the sanctuary. These were fashioned in the 20th century along with the simple cross crafted from rough hewn wood. They are some of the few architectural design elements found in this simple, unostentatious church.
The sanctuary was originally illuminated by oil lamps. It was electrified in 1940 when the Federal REA brought electricity into the rural areas. The oil lamp you see here is one of six replica lamps that were installed in 1991, two on each of the North, East and South walls by the producers of the movie, “Mama Flora’s Family” filmed at New Hebron that year.
In this view, we see the entry porch which was not installed until 1959. It is a concrete floored portico covered by a gabled, cantilevered extension of the main building’s south gable. The four square support columns bring an air of majesty and dignity to this charming old church.
Vicar Penn dug out this old picture of the congregation assembled in front of the church. Though faded and murky, we can still make out the thirty or so church members present that day – men, women and children dressed in their Sunday Best clothing. The building façade then was a flat, unpainted clapboard and the two entry doors are clearly seen. Vicar Penn feels it could have been taken just after the building was completed in the 1908.
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