We are pleased to report that Shady Grove Baptist has been saved and is now thriving with a new, but still local, congregation. Please take a moment and look at the photo below of Ms. Rebecca Wynn, whose family had been keeping up the cemetery and trying to find a new life for the church for many years. Shady Grove now has a new pastor and a new life. Unfortunately Ms. Rebecca recently passed away but her family is still involved and her niece now plays the piano at services in the old sanctuary. She must be smiling down, and we are too. Shady Grove is a good example of how to breathe new life into a historic property and we are pleased to have played a small part in her re-birth. If you are in the area, please drop by and attend a service. Rev. Jamie Snider and his wife would be pleased to see you. The original write up of the history and some of the old photos are below.
Shady Grove is one of those nondescript rural churches churches that are ubiquitous in our Georgia landscape. We were intrigued by this one since it had a sign in the front yard stating the church was organized in 1832. This means the church dates back to the very earliest days of Harris County, formed in 1826 right after the Second Treaty of Indian Springs, ceding all the Creek land between the Flint River and the Chattahoochee. The treaty was signed by William McIntosh, who had no tribal authority to do so, and he was executed by a group of his tribesmen as a result. The Creeks were then forcibly removed across the Chattahoochee and the general assembly began the lottery system to distribute the land. Every church has a story and this is the historical context for old Shady Grove.
William McIntosh Jr. was the offspring of Captain William McIntosh of Savannah. He was a member of the McIntosh clan that had been recruited by James Oglethorpe to migrate from Inverness, Scotland to found the town of Darien. The Highlanders of Scotland were famed as “Warrior Farmers” and were brought in to protect the southern flank of Savannah from Spanish intrusion from the south. Many of the Scots became fur traders and established extensive trading relationships with the Indians. William Jr.’s mother was a Creek Indian named Senoya, of the Wind Clan. He was raised in the Creek culture, but spent enough time in Savannah in his formative years to become comfortable in both environments. The American “melting pot” was beginning to assert itself and William subsequently became related to a number of prominent Georgians including George Troup, who was a first cousin. Senoia, Georgia is said to be named for William’s mother.
According to the History of Harris County, Shady Grove was a community founded in the late 1820’s. The Baptist church was established there in a small log sanctuary along with a cemetery. It also states that “The church baptized its members in Mountain Oak Creek below Hargett’s grist mill”. Rebecca Wynn, the present owner of the church, is a 6th generation descendant of David Laney, one of the original founders of the church. According to Rebecca the original log church, was located close to the road in the center of the cemetery. It burned in 1907 and the members replaced it with the present church located across the road from the cemetery. The church has been inactive for many years but Ms. Wynn, who was raised in the church, has been trying to keep the church and the cemetery maintained. As far as we know, she is the last living link to the church. We applaud her efforts but she could use some assistance, and we hope some is forthcoming.
The most well known member of the church was Jesse Mercer Callaway. According to a History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia – Volume 2, he was a deacon of Shady Grove Baptist from 1853 – 1866. During the war he served as an officer in Co D. 3rd Georgia Cavalry. After the war Rev. Callaway was called to the ministry and served as pastor of Shady Grove for eight consecutive years. He was then chosen to serve as pastor of both Antioch and Shady Grove Baptist before moving to Troup County in 1872 to enter the mercantile business. However, he was called back to the ministry and returned to serve Antioch and Shady Grove for several years before returning to Troup County.The Callaway family has been an important one in Georgia since before the revolutionary war and many members of the family have served as Baptist ministers. Fuller Callaway, the patriarch of the textile empire that arose in Troup County was descended from two generations of Baptist ministers.
Contrast this new sign with the old one that had been put up many years ago. Note that the church has new life, new sign, Sunday School, two Sunday Services and Wednesday evening prayer meetings. What a wonderful devlelopment.
Compare this photo to the main one above. Many improvements have been made, and not just the cosmetics. Some structural improvements have been made as well.
We don't know how long ago this sign was put up but it was several decades for sure. It is very heart warming to compare the two signs as well as the before and after photos of the church. A thriving congregation now that still serves the local community.
The church has not been in regular service for many years, although an African American congregation did use the sanctuary for a time and made some improvements. The structure seems to be sound but the stained ceiling indicates that the roof has issues. Fixing those leaks is critical to the church’s chances of survival and the ladder is evidence of some repairs. All of the interior fixtures and furnishings have been scavenged from other churches and none seen are original. However, the sanctuary’s interior, walls and ceilings are original. The trussed rafter construction which allows for a higher, vaulted-like ceiling was typical for the era. Of course, the wood used throughout the building is our long leaf, lovely heart pine. Lets hope that these present attempts to restore Rebecca’s church are effective.
We found this Krell Piano near the pulpit. It was not in good shape but no doubt accompanied hundreds of services, weddings, baptisms, funerals and homecomings throughout the active years of the church. Krell had been established in 1889, so this instrument was certainly on hand during the glory days at Shady Grove. We discovered that Krell had an excellent reputation and, “… made a higher grade piano than average”. Having a high-end piano in the church was a sign of the relative prosperity within the Shady Grove congregation.
Here is a lovely photo of George and the owner of the church, Rebecca Wynn. This has been her spiritual church home for over 80 years now! It is unusual for us to include personal photos but it was a touching moment and we wanted to share it. After many attempts to find someone who could give us access to the church and some knowledge of its history, we connected with Ms. Wynn and she agreed to meet us there. When we arrived, she apologized for being “weepy” but all the old memories of being raised in the church and the fact that someone out there really cared about it were a bit overwhelming. We understand.
The bathroom facilities at Shady Grove are limited to a single outhouse. Adding a modern facility with running water, basins and toilets is a very expensive proposition. Lack of such creature comforts is a real drawback and hastens such a church’s demise.
The large headstone above is that of Lt. Col. Flynn Hargett (1811 – 1896), who served in the 5th Ga Infantry, and his wife Nancy Laney Hargett (1812 – 1896). There are 123 recorded interments in the cemetery and thirteen of them are Hargetts. A local newspaper article refers to him as Major Flynn Hargett and says that “He has held many positions of trust and honor in his county, having served several terms in the legislature, and is held in high esteem by his fellow citizens”. The smaller headstone in the foreground is that of George M. McKinney (1841 – 1882). According to the History of Harris County, he served in the 37th Ga Infantry and survived the war only to suffer “an accident at a gin at Hargett’s Mill and lost his arm, causing his death”.
We began the story of Shady Grove with a discussion of Indian cessions and new counties being created and settled by the lottery system immediately after the treaty of Indian Springs in 1826. In 1832 Shady Grove Baptist was now on the western frontier of Georgia and the last of the Creeks had been relocated to the western side of the Chattahoochee River. In less than thirty years, the Civil War will sweep across the south with death and destruction. But life goes on and Shady Grove was a spiritual home to these early settlers for over 150 years. Sacred ground in these old cemeteries for sure.
Your tax-deductible donation to Historic Rural Churches will help keep history alive through digital and physical preservation efforts for Georgia’s rural churches, their history and the communities that support them.
Full Name *
Sign me up for the newsletter!
AS A MEMBER OF SHADY GROVE INDEPENDANT BAPTIST CHURCH AND A RETIRED CARPENTER, IT WAS GREAT TO SEE THIS CHURCH COME BACK TO LIFE. OUR PASTOR IS JAMIE SNIDER, A TRUE MAN OF GOD WHO PREACHES THE BIBLE AS IT IS TO PEOPLE AS WE ARE.AN OLD CHURCH WITH A NEW BEGINNING.
GERALD B. LANTON firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes we agree. A very uplifting outcome led by Rev. Snider, and a good role model for other local groups.
Lovely old church, enjoyed reading some of my family’s history…. have very much enjoyed the HRCGA and commend your efforts!
So nice to read of the progress made at this historic church. Prayers and best wishes to all
It’s wonderful that ‘Becky Winn continued to work and get the old church restored for it to be presently used. More than 40 years ago, my husband and I stopped there to see where some of my ancestors are buried. The old church was unlocked and we went inde. We left a note on the pulpit asking anyone who found it to please get in touch with us because we were interested in doing something to preserve the church and the cemetery. My mother, Louise Calhoun Barfield wrote History of Harris County 1827-1961 (3 editions sold out), in which there is information about Shady Grove. I’d known Becky Winn for years, but she did not get in touch with us about the Shady Grove. —- I am the person who has also asked you about “Liberty Church” and have thanked you for the information that you sent to me. I will be happy to share what Kettle Creek Frends has pubished if you will send me your email address.- “Biddy” Hammett
Thanks Biddy. Great outcome indeed.
What a great outcome for a beautiful church!
Is there anyway this church can be sold??
Trying to find a charter for this church and where this info would be stored or if it was registered.