Old Anderson Primitive Baptist is a good role model and an inspiration for us here at HRCGA because it is thriving in a remote part of Tattnall County with a very active congregation that holds services every Sunday. Granted there are many instances of rural decline, disrepair and ultimate destruction but Old Anderson is alive and well. The church was organized and founded by Peter Anderson, who came into Tattnall County from South Carolina at the age of nineteen we are told, sometime around 1818. Interestingly, the cemetery is very large for a rural community with over one thousand interments and 99 of them are Andersons. This is the second structure on the property, the first being a log meeting house that was built the same year as the 1847 founding. We are not sure when the present church was built but it is older than it looks. There exists a warranty deed from Charles D. Anderson to Anderson Primitive Baptist Church for 5.7 acres of land that is dated August 14, 1885. We think the present sanctuary was built shortly after that.
The beginning of Old Anderson is an interesting story. According to a Tattnall County history by Charles Edward Wildes, Peter Anderson first joined the Mt. Carmel Methodist Church in 1825. In 1831 he married Mary Lynn Anderson and settled down on a farm near where the church is located today. We are told that about two years into the marriage, he became dissatisfied and withdrew from the Methodist church, choosing to live “out in the world, a member of no church”. His mind became burdened and he had some experience with strong drink, which gave him no relief. However, in 1846 Peter came up with the idea of building a church near where the present one now stands. His reason was “so those old sisters they saw walking past their home each month going to Cedar Creek Church could have a place nearer home to hear the gospel preached”, and so he did. In the early years it was called Anderson’s Meeting House. Of the fifteen charter members, five were males and ten were females. The oldest grave in the cemetery is that of charter member William Hodges who died in 1849. Peter Anderson, who died in 1884, is also in the cemetery.
Sometime in the mid 1900’s, the church was down to four members and became inactive. We are told that one of the last elderly members wanted to have a service at the inactive church and this triggered a resurgence of Old Anderson resulting in the well kept sanctuary you see today and a very active congregation. We are grateful to them for saving this old treasure and hopefully, for generations to come.
This is the view from the south end of the church toward the north, pulpit, end. The main entrance is not visible but its frame can be seen on the right side just south of the lectern. We are told that this configuration is somewhat different from the usual Crawfordite Primitive Baptist Churches in the area. However, this does appear to be the original layout of the sanctuary, since an elderly church member confirmed that the double front door arrangement has not been modified since the construction of this meeting house. Though the aisle carpeting obscures the view of the floor, please notice the unusual herringbone pattern of the three inch wide heart pine floor boards. This diagonal flooring pattern is another unusual feature of Old Anderson.
We are told that the pulpit, rail and slatted pews are original and were placed in the sanctuary when it was constructed c. 1885. The presence of the short pew along the north wall behind the pulpit was traditional in early Primitive Baptist churches as was the placement of the short pew in front of the pulpit. Traditionally the pew in front of the pulpit was for the seating of the clerk and the mediator. The table was used in communion services as well as in collection of the offering. We were told that in this church, and perhaps others, offerings were placed directly on the table and that no baskets or plates were used.
Despite the modern touches added to provide a welcoming, comfortable and inviting chapel for its flourishing congregation, this church retains and exhibits a feel of originality. The wooden, slatted 19th Century pews add a warm glow to the interior well lit by the ambient natural lighting flowing in through its large clear paned windows. The present congregation is providing the loving care and stewardship that will insure Old Anderson’s continued existence for decades to come.
This old piano has provided accompaniment for thousands of hymns in its lifetime. We found that the flag was draped over the piano because “…they were waiting for one of the church members to build the promised staff , at which time it will be placed in its usual position along the wall.” This church lives because of the dedication of its congregation, and it is this kind of commitment that brought Old Anderson back to life. We hope to encourage and help other congregants generate a similar dedication as they try to save their “historic rural church homes” in other parts of Georgia.
We are looking at the first burial monument in Old Anderson Cemetery. William Hodges and his wife, Hannah, were founders of and charter members of Anderson Primitive Baptist Church. He died in 1849 and Hannah, who is buried alongside William, died 21 years later in 1870. Imagine the turmoil and change Hannah experienced after the death of her husband as the entire culture and lifestyle within Georgia was radically altered by the war.
Here lies Margaret J. Lewis, a child who died in 1864. Her original marker was wooden, heart pine and doomed to rot away over time. Over the years, those who loved her placed a more elaborate, less vulnerable to decay, concrete memorial next to the original. Though the replacement of a wood marker with a more permanent one was not uncommon, it is unusual to find both still standing beside each other over a century later.
John Green was the oldest of eight children consisting of three boys and five girls. All three brothers enlisted early in the war. John, Company G of the 47th Georgia Volunteers (The Tattnall Invincibles) served until he contracted pneumonia early in 1864 and was sent to the hospital in Cassville, Ga. where he died. The middle brother, Thomas, served with the 61st Georgia Volunteer Infantry (The Tattnall Rangers), contracted Pneumonia Typhoid and died in a hospital in Virginia in January of 1863. The youngest brother, Daniel, also enlisted with the 61st GVI. According to the family history and the service records he was “discharged for necrosis of the lower jaw on Feb. 18, 1862”. He somehow recovered and rejoined his unit in time to be wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg in Dec. of 1862. He was wounded again at the Battle of Salem Church in May of 1863 and then captured at Gettysburg until he was exchanged with Union prisoners in December of 1863. He rejoined the 61st and suffered a severe leg wound at Battle of the Wilderness in May of 1864. According to the family history, he died of blood letting in 1882 at the age of forty five. This a tragic family story but not unusual. Sad stories of service and family sacrifices were repeated often throughout Georgia and the south.
With over 1,000 interments, Old Anderson Cemetery is unusually large for an old church in a remote location in Tattnall County. We can only guess that other congregations and/or residents were allowed to share this burial ground during the past 150+ years. The fact that this church still remains active today suggests that the congregation is devoted to and dedicated to this old church and cemetery where so much of their history and so many of their ancestors reside.
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