Piney Grove Baptist

Oglethorpe County
Org 1872
Photography by Scott Farrar

The photo you see above is the present meeting house of Piney Grove Baptist and was completed in 1913. The church was founded in 1872 and the congregation will celebrate its 145 anniversary this year. Piney Grove Baptist’s history makes it a particularly significant, rural black Baptist church. It is located at the north end of Oglethorpe County off Highway 22 south of Comer. The church was birthed out of nearby Cloud’s Creek Baptist. Cloud’s Creek was constituted within the walls of Anthony Olive’s Fort in 1788 and slaves were congregation members from the church’s beginning. Throughout the next 75 years or so, those slaves worshiped at Cloud’s Creek,  were registered/named members of its congregation, and they are well documented in the Cloud’s Creek minutes.

In August of 1865, the first references were made to the colored members as free man or free woman. According to Cloud’s Creek Historian Jeanette Berryman, “In the fall of 1872, the black members asked to have a separate conference and be governed by the same rules.  This request was recorded in Cloud’s Creek’s minutes of November 1872 continuing until April 1873. In 1873 the black members asked to be granted the privilege of withdrawing from Cloud’s Creek for the purpose of starting their own church. One member, George Glenn, asked to remain because he was “…too old to move.” In June 1873, the pastor and deacons helped 18 black brethren and sisters organize a church to be called Piney Grove. They adopted the same constitution, rules of decorum and bylaws that governed at Cloud’s Creek. Thus began a close and cordial  relationship between the freed slaves of Piney Grove and  Cloud’s Creek which has lasted for 145 years to date.

This story was played out again and again throughout the south as black and white tried to peacefully adjust to the new world that had to be faced at the end of the Civil War. The black church formal/governing organizations that were created during those years for the most part mirrored the white denominations. However, they bore the unmistakable stamp of the unique culture and customs of the African American people. This story of how these black churches emerged and thrived after the Civil War is one of courage, persistence and triumph. The churches became the bedrock upon which a new African American culture was built. They provided a mighty bulwark as the race faced trying times into the 20th century. They also became the center of the battle for equal rights which emerged in the mid-20th Century and still goes on today.

Piney Grove remains active though it does face many of the same problems rural churches encounter today due to the “hollowing out” of rural America, particularly in Georgia.

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