Phillips Mill Baptist

Wilkes County
Org 1785
Photography by Scott Farrar

Click HERE  to take an interior tour of Phillips Mill Baptist Church

Phillips Mill Baptist Church is certainly one of the most historic, seminal and prominent Baptist Churches in Wilkes County. It was near this site in 1785 that 16 people met in Joel Phillips’ grist mill and agreed to organize a church. The principal organizer was Silas Mercer.  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 and would serve in that capacity for 37 years. 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 our research on Phillips Mill Baptist, we discovered that some of the information relating to Historical Markers etc. did not seem to be correct – most of it relating to the original location and subsequent relocation of the church.  Therefore, we thought it proper to address these issues using the original minutes as the source.  The original location of the church was on the Phillips Mill property donated in 1785.  However, in 1848 the church authorized the purchase of the Salem Presbyterian Church building and property located approximately four miles away.  The purchase price was $350. The minutes reveal quite a bit of improvement was made to the church building and it served the congregation well until the church you see here was built in 1907. 

The cemetery records are also somewhat confusing.  There are a few older marked graves dating back to Presbyterian ownership but only four of the headstones in the cemetery exist from 1848 to 1900.  However, as we have frequently discovered, the old cemeteries usually bring more questions than answers. We think one of the primary reasons for this historical confusion is the lack of good record keeping certainly, but also the presence of so many unmarked graves in the old graveyards.  

Slowly, these old graveyards will begin to reveal more answers with the aid of today’s mapping technology and digital sharing of information.  Meanwhile, we have many of these old rural church treasures remaining to remind us of Georgia’s wonderful history and the people who made that history.   

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