Old Bethel Primitive Baptist

Butts County
Org 1789
Photography by Tony Cantrell

From the History of Butts County, Georgia 1826-1976Old 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.


+ Read More