Phillips Mill Baptist Church is certainly one of the most historic, seminal and prominent Baptist Churches in Wilkes County. It was on this site in 1785 that the first 16 people met in Joel Phillips’ grist mill and agreed to organize a church. The principal organizer was Silas Mercer. Being raised in the Church of England, as a young man Silas had been vocally and violently opposed to Baptist doctrine. He later changed his mind. Though the very first Georgia Baptist Association had been organized at Kiokee Church in 1784, its first regular meeting was held at Phillips Mill on October 15, 1786. Thus began Phillips Mill’s long and storied affiliation with the Baptist hierarchy. It is fitting that Silas’ son, Jesse Mercer, was ordained to the ministry by the church in 1789 and, upon the death of his father in 1796, he assumed the duties as pastor. In the 19th century, Jesse Mercer became the architect and most significant voice of an ever-growing and powerful Baptist institution in Georgia. Mercer University, originally in Penfield, now Macon, was named in his honor.
In 1848, the church purchased the Old Salem Presbyterian Church building and land where the present church building, above, is located. This site is about four miles from where the original structure stood.
During a period of relative prosperity after the recovery from the Civil War, Reconstruction and other setbacks common in the South at the end of the 19th Century, the congregants of the church decided to erect a new and more grand structure. The new sanctuary is pictured above. From the “History of Wilkes County”: In December, 1905 a building committee had been appointed by Philips Mill Church. A legacy of $107.00 from Jesse Asbury formed the seed money for that building program. The Committee at the church’s completion was Chaired by W.H. Griffin. At the dedication on May 12, 1907, Rev. D.W. Key presented the sermon and Mr. Griffin gave a historical sketch of the church. Following a dinner of “toothsome viands”, another sermon was given by Rev. A.L.Hillman. Pastor of Phillips Mill at the time was Rev. W.C. Ivey. Compared to other nearby, rural churches of the time, Philips Mill had been transformed into an airy, resplendent temple.
The soaring stained glass windows on each wall allows a lovely glow of warm light to enter the sanctuary and be spread throughout.
The wooden coffered ceiling treatment was popular in the late Victorian era and is found in many churches built in the 1900’s. This photo also provides an example of the very enchanting light diffusion the arched windows bring into the sanctuary.
This view from the burial grounds provides an excellent vantage point from which we can appreciate and better understand the corner steeple design of Phillips Mill. It also allows us a quiet inviting view of the old grave yard. We are sure you would enjoy and be welcome to attend a service there.
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Until I joined Ancestry.com, I had no idea Phillips Mill Baptist Church existed. I’m so grateful to find this out. Joel Phillips Sr. was my 5th great grandfather.
Such a delight to find this website. Joel Phillips Sr. was my 4th Great Grandfather
Is there more information on the early years of Silas Mercer? Also, was Nancy Hart and her family a part of the congregation?
Where are the original church records kept? I’m looking for early marriages of Ragans/Reagans and Callaways.
We do not know anything about the original records. You might contact someone at the church.
Are there any pictures of the old baptism pool?
No. We don’t have any. Sorry.
I am a descendant of Joel Phillips. Very interesting. Thank you ancestry.com
Where is original Phillips mill church site
Seeking information where Silas Mercer home place is today
Who owns property to get permission to visit
Aware of Silas Mercer road near ficklin
James Mercer buried on property
Great great grandson to James mercer
L West, please email me. I believe to have a section of Silas Mercers Land. I am currently researching the area and would be interested in speaking with you. email@example.com. Please put Silas Mercer as subject line so I don’t delete or overlook. Thank you!
Doing genealogy research and believe we may have an ancestor buried there; John Flynt.
Who may I communicate with about historic graves?
We are not sure Eli. Your best resource would probably be Findagrave. Or you can reach out to the Wilkes County Historical Society. Good luck.
On a tour with the Georgia Baptist Historical Commission, I heard Rev. John King, former pastor of Philip’s Mill, tell this story. The grave of Silas Mercer was discovered out in a wooded area and the church wanted to move the grave of Mercer and his wife to a prominent place in front of the church. The church brought in state forensic officials, received the necessary paper work to move the remains, etc. When the body of Silas Mercer was exhumed, the folks gathered were immediately taken aback and surprised that there was a round hole in his skull. Some in the group that day thought: preacher shot! As it turned out, Silas was kicked by a mule or horse and a drilled hole was the remedy for the swelling of the brain.
Brantly, thanks for passing this along. What a story.
Some of my ancestors are from Wilkes Co. Georgia. Would be curious about their congregation records from 1785-1900.
The largest archive for these records would be in the Tarver Library at Mercer University.