Pilgrim’s Rest Primitive Baptist

Brantley County
Org 1904
Photography by Randall Davis

Pilgrims Rest Primitive Baptist Church was organized with 8 members in 1904 and was a member of the Alabaha River Association during its entire history. It was one of a group of churches to which we refer as Wiregrass Primitives. The Wiregrass Region of the southeastern United States is characterized by longleaf pine and scrub oak, extending from the coastal areas of southeast Georgia and northeast Florida inland to southeastern Alabama. Wiregrass is a type of coarse grass adapted to life in a sandy pine and scrub oak habitat.

In the 1830’s and 1840’s there was dissent among Baptists over missions and other issues not mentioned in the scriptures.  A schism occurred and by 1844 two distinct denominations had emerged, one known as the New School (pro-mission, later to become the Southern or Missionary Baptists) and the other known as the Old School (anti-mission, later to become the Primitive or Regular Baptists). Erroneous interpretation of the term Primitive in describing the denomination has been inflammatory over the years, and the term should be construed as meaning simply “of early times; of long ago; first of the kind; very simple; original.”

During Reconstruction, in 1868, the Georgia Homestead Act was passed that allowed restructuring of individuals’ debts. Among the Primitive Baptist in Southeastern Georgia, anti-homesteaders considered the “avoidance of debt” to be a breach of contract, even if legal. The controversy was divisive enough within the Alabaha River Association that it created a split, and two factions emerged.  The pro-homesteaders, led by Elder Reuben Crawford of Shiloh Church, became known as Crawfordites, and the anti-homesteaders, led by Elder Richard Bennett of Rome Church, became known as Bennettites.

Pilgrims Rest was a member of the Crawford faction. The Crawford faction had adherents in the area of southeastern Georgia including Brantley, Charlton, Ware, McIntosh, Pierce and perhaps other counties and in northern Florida. Only four Crawford faction churches remain active with three Elders among them. Pilgrims Rest disbanded in 1964.