From the History of Butts County, Georgia 1826-1976 “Old Bethel Church, the oldest Church in the county, was constituted in 1789 when Butts County was still Indian land. The first building was a log house built beside a path called by the Indians “The White Path”. On April 1, 1845 the heirs of Burwell Jinks sold to Henry Barron and William Underwood, trustees of the Baptist church at Bethel for five dollars, three and three fourths acres of land for an enlargement of Bethel’s property”. The church you see above is the fourth structure, built around 1885. The old church has some structural issues now that are being addressed in order to keep her standing. She was originally a Baptist church but chose to become a Primitive Baptist in the 1830s when much of the Baptist faith in the south rebelled against new fangled concepts such as missionaries. steeples and stained glass windows. Primitives stayed true to the old ways. In that sense, Primitive means “original” and their style of worship and the church architecture reflect that.
To put the formation of Old Bethel into historical perspective, she was organized just after the Revolutionary War during the time of the constitutional convention that formed our nation. George Washington had just been elected President. Conflict with the Creek Indian tribes was rampant due to the relentless push westward by the state and federal authorities to eliminate native Americans and acquire their land. Treaties were negotiated that relentlessly expanded the Georgia boarders westward – river basin by river basin. In 1790 a treaty was signed that acquired the land between The Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers. In 1804 another treaty ceded the land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers. In 1821, the first treaty of Indian Springs was negotiated by Chief William McIntosh that ceded the land between the Ocmulgee and the Flint Rivers.
The final push to the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama border was completed with the signing of the second Treaty of Indian Springs in 1825, when a Creek delegation led by McIntosh signed away the remaining Creek land between the Flint River and the Chattahoochee. The Creek leadership council maintained that McIntosh did not have the authority to sign such a treaty and condemned him to death. The sentence was swiftly enforced. On April 29, the Upper Creek chief Menewa took 200 warriors to attack McIntosh at his plantation (McIntosh Reserve) on the Chattahoochee River in present-day Carroll County, Georgia. They killed him and two other signatories, and set fire to the house. Now the only remaining native American land in Georgia was owned by the Cherokees in Northwest Georgia. The Cherokees desperately tried to hold on to their ancestral home but gold had been discovered in northwest Georgia and their fate was sealed by a combination of the New Echota treaty of 1835 and the Indian Removal Act of 1830, resulting in the infamous Trail of Tears.
The cemetery contains many of Butts County early pioneers. There are some fascinating stories that come out of the cemeteries and several of them are featured here. Tragic Civil War stories, Revolutionary War veterans, small pox and mule related deaths. It is all here in a beautiful rural setting and well worth a visit. The oldest known grave is that of Ora Bailey, “Consort of Dr. Charles Bailey” who died in 1829. Be sure to click and scan the gallery photos below to see more information about the church and Tales From The Crypt out of the old cemetery. Old Bethel Primitive Baptist is a great example of Georgia history and the early pioneers who settled this land. We are fortunate that she is still with us and hopefully will be maintained for future generations, thanks to a strong group of local members and supporters. We thank you for your service.
We are viewing the northwest corner and the back door of this old church founded in 1789. This building was the fourth and last home of the venerated Old Bethel Baptist and underwent a through refurbishment recently under the leadership of some dedicated supporters. We can thank them for seeing that this historic building and site remains standing and is one of the oldest symbol of our religious Baptist past history. It had fallen into dire straits in the late 20th century and was in danger of total collapse. When we first saw it we were doubtful of its chances to survive. As you can see, though it is not active, Old Bethel still stands proud.
In this shot from the pulpit, we have a complete view of the restored sanctuary and the rear double doors. There is an interesting story behind all the structural supports seen along the entire north wall. A decade ago, a swarm of bees decided to make Old Bethel its home and moved into the north wall. Their hive grew and began to buckle in against that wall and pushed it outward. The foundation was weakened, and the entire wall was in danger of collapse. That’s when the owner decided to stop its demise and repair the entire sanctuary. He began by clearing the interior of years of stored furniture and other items
Here we are looking from the back wall and into the sanctuary, chancel and front entryway. The handsome wood pews are not original but would be in keeping with authentic pews at Bethel at the time of its construction at the end of the 19th century. The original wooden walls and ceiling have been replaced by sheetrock and ceiling tiles as is the case in many, many of these old rescued, rural sanctuaries. In any case, the authenticity and appearance within Old Bethel creates an air of welcomeness no matter what service, wedding, funeral or other ceremony it serves in its community.
Here we have a closeup of the north wall pews. We can also see the handsome wooden wainscot that is present throughout the sanctuary. The large windows along the North and South walls allow a warm, ambient light to enter the church. We also have to call out the impeccably clean interior and carpets.
: In this shot we get to enjoy a photo of one of the original, authentic, hand hewn pews which serves as a remembrance of the church’s venerable past. We do not know when this style was placed within the church, but because there have been four sanctuaries in Old Bethel’s history, it could have been as early as the late 18th century. Whatever its date, we have to admire its craftsmanship
This primitive, out side outhouse is a reminder of the earlier days at Old Bethel. This was standard issue for many of these old treasures. Some are still in use.
Old Bethel's cemetery is both beautiful and educational. The stories that are buried here tell us where we came from and how we got here. The setting is bucolic and the grounds are well maintained.
Thomas H. Greer was born April 29, 1833 and died May 24, 1914. He served in Company B, 30th Georgia Regiment, CSA. He enlisted as a private August 22, 1862. His obituary in the Butts County Progress, May 29, 1914, states “He was injured recently by being thrown from a mule and this with other complications was the cause of death.” He never married and left his estate to a niece. In his will he requested a suitable monument be placed at the grave of his father, mother, five sisters and two brothers. All of these relatives have markers at Old Bethel Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery.
Lewis Moore was born in Clarke County, Georgia on February 17, 1801 and died November 21, 1862. His monument states he died of Small Pox. His monument also states he left a wife and five children. He married Nancy Hunter (1814-1850). According to the Federal Mortality Schedule, Nancy died of Consumption. Francis Moore, (1843-1862) son of Lewis and Nancy, also died of Small Pox. In 1860, Lewis Moore’s estate records show he owned more than 20 slaves and more than 800 acres of land.
Mary Isabella Moore Barkley was born April 7, 1835 and died December 10, 1877. She was the wife of John Nutt Barkley. He served in Company B, 30th Georgia Regiment. He left camp on 15 days furlough on October 16, 1862 and was quarantined in Butts County. He died of small pox December 31, 1862. Mary was the daughter of Willis Moore (1801-1838) and Rebecca Conger. Willis Moore is also buried at Old Bethel Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. His marker reads “Lo where this silent Marble stand, rest the remains of Willis Moore … leaving a wife and three children.”
John Phillips was born in 1774 in North Carolina and died February 13, 1874. His wife, Jane Phillips, was born in 1788 and died November 15, 1876. The 1850 Butts County, Georgia census shows John Philips, age 75, Jane Philips, age 61, William Philips, age 43 and two other household members. Estate records show E. A. Bankston and William Phillips as legatees. John and Jane Phillips had 202 ½ acres of land sold after their death.
James Gales Jinks was born February 20, 1841 and died December 14, 1862. He enlisted in Company I, 14th Georgia Regiment, CSA on July 12, 1861. He was killed at Fredericksburg, Virginia on December 13, 1862. His brother, William Fred S. Jinks served in the same company and died at Rockbridge, Virginia on January 18, 1862. The parents of James and William, Gales Jabez Jinks (1810-1868) and Ann Bowling Jinks (1818-1855) are also buried at Old Bethel Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. The grandparents of James and William, Burwell Jinks (1782-1844) and Elizabeth Griffis Jinks (1783-1840) are also buried there. A nearby marker reads “Donors of land for Bethel Church and Cemetery Apr. 13, 1825”.
John Greer was born September 26, 1792 in Hancock County and died January 6, 1845. He was married to Elizabeth Hughen Greer (1794-1857). Several of their children are buried at Old Bethel Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. Johnson Greer, son of John and Elizabeth enlisted in Company B, 30th Georgia Regiment, on September 25, 1861. Nine children are named in the will of John Greer.
William Burford was born in 1757 and died November 22, 1841. His tombstone reads “Georgia Troops, Revolutionary War”. He was the father of three sons, Thomas B. Burford, John B. Burford and Samuel P. B. Burford. Records concerning his property show he owned Land Lot 215, which was his residence, and also land in Cherokee. In his will he named eleven slaves and their value was recorded in the appraisement of his property. In his will he also attempted to free three of his slaves, Alsey/Alsa/Elsa/Elsey who was valued at $00.00; Pat who was valued at $100; and Milly who was valued at $150. His three sons were instructed to care for these freed slaves. An ad in the Macon Telegraph December 8, 1840 by Thos. B. Burford, Qualified Exr. for William Burford advertised for sale Alsey about age 50, Pat, 50 and Milley, 45. An estate sale for the property of William Burford on January 21, 1842 shows Thos. B. Burford bought Elsey for $1.00 and Milly for $23.00. Samuel P. Burford bought Patty for $82.00.
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Looking at the Old Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, I see they have an original bench still. Sometime in the early 80s, their pastor and my father, Elder Clyde D. Meek and the congregation helped restore the church to modern times, such as heat and air, sturdier foundation, and we eventually got new pews. Up until then, this little 6-7 yr old had to sit on those pinchy benches. We also put that out building. Up until then, baptisms took place in the lake/pond near by. I was the first person baptized in the new font, ie small square pool). I was 7 then. The foundation there, when dad was elected pastor, was just heavy stones and bricks holding the corners and center up. The full brick enclosed bottom part did not exist. I used to dig up doddle bugs ( ant lions ) under the church. Crazy when you think about it now. When I think of old churches, this is the one I picture.
Thanks for sharing this, Darrell.
Darrell, thank you. I was looking up something on Dad and this popped up. Love you Sherrie
Those broken headstones are fixable.
They’ve done a commendable job shoring up the building.
Wondering if there are existing membership records from the first 35 years? firstname.lastname@example.org
If the church is no longer active, who owns it and maintains it now?
There is a small group of local folks who take care of it.