Phillippi Primitive Baptist

Schley County
Org 1835
Photography by Steve Robinson

Almost Gone But Not Forgotten

On a lonely and remote dirt road in rural Schley County stands Phillippi Primitive Baptist church. Time and neglect have taken their toll, but she still stands proud and reminds us of another time that seems so close and yet so far away. Phillippi was organized in 1835 and her history is preserved in the old minutes that still exist and remind us of this other time. According to the history, Phillippi was once the largest church in the Upatoi Association with 125 members and 5 ordained elders in the body. The last elder to serve the church was Elder John Mangham. He served from 1958 to 1974. The next 4 years the church was maintained by other churches in the Association. The last service held there was November 1978. The last member of the church was Mrs. Tom (Forrest McMickle) Cook. She died January 13, 1975 at age 84.

These excerpts from “The History of Schley County,” by Mrs. H.J. Williams, written and published in the 1930’s.

“Phillippi Primitive Baptist Church was constituted the twenty-eighth of February, 1835 in what was then Marion County. The presbytery was formed by Elders Joseph J. Battle and Andrew Hood. After the Principles of Faith had been adopted, the following males and females were received into the full fellowship of the church: In a copy of the minutes of the church dated March 1, 1835, is the statement that when the door of the church was opened for the reception of members, ‘Randall Stewart and Lotty, a black sister, were received into the full fellowship of the church, by letter’.”

It is interesting to note in the minutes of September 30, 1837, that a church division took place. The following is a copy verbatim of the action of Phillippi church on that occasion: “Wheras, there are certain characters who call themselves Missionaries, arisen in the Baptist denomination, and are forming Institutions, which we believe to be contrary to the word of God, viz. Missionary, Bible, Tract and Temperance Societies, Theological Seminaries, and Baptist Colleges. Resolved therefore that we declare a non fellowship with said institutions and with all engaged in them. We further resolve that we do not invite or suffer a Baptist preacher, known to be friendly to, or engaged in said institutions, to preach in our meeting house.”

The Primitive Baptists have always been very strict in regard to the behavior of their members. A copy of the minutes, of 1837, discloses that a certain brother was excommunicated for getting drunk. Another was brought up for trial before the church for visiting a Masonic lodge. Others were excommunicated for taking a homestead to avoid payment of honest debts. A question always asked at church conferences was: “Are the brethren and sisters at peace with each other?”, and if they were not, the offenders were tried before the church conference. The minutes also reveal the fact that the doors of the church were opened at each monthly meeting for the reception of members, both white and colored. Phillippi is the only church in Schley county which has continued the custom of hold services on Saturdays. Attendance at the church conferences were obligatory to male members.”

The durability of these old handmade structures is remarkable. The combination of a good tin roof and Georgia Heart Pine makes them endure the years with strength and dignity if given just a minimum of maintenance. Unfortunately, Phillippi has been deserted now for decades. She is in remarkably good shape and could still be saved with a strong local effort, but the local community has faded along with the church. We think it is important to document these wonderful old sanctuaries while we still can. She is almost gone but not forgotten.

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