Salem Missionary Baptist church was founded in 1875 by members who met “on the dam of the mill pond owned by BW Lee on the bank of Fifteen Mile Creek”. The church you see above was built in 1879 and is in remarkable condition. Improvements have been made over the years but the sanctuary reflects the historical simplicity of earlier times.
The church was formed in Candler County by members from two nearby churches i.e. Poplar Springs Baptist and Lake Primitive Baptist. Members left the Poplar Springs church because the location was closer to Metter and more convenient, while some congregants left Lake Primitive Baptist because they strongly believed in Missions. Salem was the mother church of the Metter First Baptist church which was organized in 1900.
This part of Southeast Georgia is very strong Primitive Baptist country. 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.” By 1848 almost all Baptist bodies in the state had aligned themselves with one side or the other.
Salem is a jewel of a church located on Salem Church Road in rural Candler County. We are grateful to the congregants of Salem Missionary Baptist for their stewardship over the years of this historical sanctuary. Be sure to click and scroll the photos below for more history and cemetery genealogy.
What a beautiful way to welcome visitors to the old Salem Church.
This is the entrance into the main sanctuary. The bones of the church have been intact since 1879 and the historical simplicity of the structure reflects that.
We are not sure when the front porch was added, but it was done with great care. The elaborate wood work is a nice welcoming touch.
As you enter the sanctuary, the difference in the ambiance is rather striking. Extensive use of stained wood paneling sets the tone for the tasteful touches of the design, as do the beautiful offset pews.
From this spot many souls have been saved, marriages performed and eulogies for past parishioners have been given. Yet the basic, no-frills approach to the scriptures is very apparent and unwavering.
This is an unusual approach to the construction of the apse. It embraces the spiritual and elegant rural Georgia countryside containing the graves of many members of years past.
Another view of the pulpit and apse reflecting both the simplicity of design and the wonderful flood of light that streams in from the cemetery.
Here is a view from the pulpit to the front entrance of the church. Total simplicity.
James Edward Johnson was born August 15, 1858 in S. C. and died December 10, 1922. His wife, Avis Leticia Grandy Johnson was born May 9, 1860 in S. C. and died June 21, 1928. James Edward Johnson’s obituary states “had been a resident of this county since its creation, being a native of Aiken County, S. C.” One of their sons was Rev. Hansford D. Johnson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Valdosta. The 1900, Aiken County, S. C. census shows J. E. Johnson, age 41; A. L. Johnson, age 40; and six children ages 2 to 12.
DeGraw Lee was born July 23, 1912 and died December 1, 1931. The 1930 Candler County census shows Degraw Lee, age 17 in the household with his parents William R. Lee, age 58 and Lula Lee, age 49 and four more children ages 8 to 12. DeGraw Lee’s death certificate shows he died of Typhoid Fever in Clearwater, Florida. He was working at a filling station.
Benjamin E. Cassedy was born February 14, 1859 and died July 25, 1911. His wife, Polly Lanier Cassedy was born May 29, 1862 and died August 3, 1922. The 1900 Bulloch County census shows Benjamin Cassedy, age 41; Polly, age 38; and four children ages 3 to 20. Polly was the daughter of James Augustus Lanier (1826-1873) and his wife, Nancy Kirkland Lanier (1832-1912). James and Nancy are also buried at this Salem Baptist Church Cemetery.
George Washington Lee was born in Bulloch County, Georgia September 9, 1842 and died December 15, 1928. He served in Company C, 11th Georgia Infantry, CSA then transferred to Company C, 47th Georgia Infantry, CSA. On June 8, 1865, he married Adeline Myrtle Johnson. They had nine children.
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