The Greek Revival style church building above is the second church structure on this site and was constructed in 1835. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The Shiloh-Marion Church is the most significant extant physical link with the history of the once substantial community of Church Hill. It is the only remaining church of the five churches that gave the crossroads town of Church Hill its name. Church Hill was quite a community in the mid 1850’s although little is left of it now.
The history of Shiloh-Marion Baptist Church began in 1812 when a Methodist and Baptist missions station was established at a point between Kinchafoonee Creek and the west fork of Lanahassee Creek along a major trading path. This trade route went from the Chattahoochee River to the town of St Marys on the coast. With the Creek cessions of 1826-1827, white settlers began to come into the southwest and south central Georgia. This influx of settlers was accompanied by the improvement of the old trading paths and the creation of a network of new roads. Where these roads crossed new communities were established. Such was the case with the missions point that became the site of Shiloh-Marion Baptist Church.
The Methodist and Baptist churches, were the leading religious denominations in this county. In the earliest days, churches were constructed of pine logs which in later years were reconstructed into neat frame buildings. The large open fireplaces were discarded and pot-bellied stoves installed. According to some local history, “Brush arbor” or camp meetings were popular in certain areas. Candles were first used to light the church, then kerosene lamps. All denominations participated with each other and the congregations would be greatly moved with religious fervor. The “Social” affairs of the church were all day meetings with “Dinner on the Ground”. Members would bring a big basket lunch, and spread delicious food in the table outside under shady trees. Water was brought from the spring which is still present below Shiloh Church in the woods.
This church was founded during the administration of President James Monroe and at the outbreak of the War of 1812. This modest wood frame meeting house was erected in 1835 during the administration of President Andrew Jackson. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places when Ronald Reagan, was in the White House in 1984. In 2014, this simple meeting house still serves the spiritual and social needs of its congregations just as it has for over 175 years. The interior has been modernized to insure that the 21st century congregation can remain comfortable within its old, early 19th century walls. But, the original heart pine floors and walls, the handmade pews of 1835 and the intimate sanctuary remain intact. We love this building because it is an authentic monument from the past. It is a place where any Georgian would be reminded from whence we came.
From the preceding photograph and this one, we see that the basic interior of the church remains true to the 1835 plan. The six high windows that light the sanctuary remain as nine over nine clear glass sashes just as in the beginning. The chancel, pulpit and apse are simple but adequate with little or no ornamentation. Though perhaps refinished and repaired, the original woodwork remains in place. The doctrine of simplicity and lack of ostentation that ruled in 1835 still shines through. Shiloh Baptist remains as it was. Its authenticity is its significance.
He was a Baptist. This may be the shortest epitaph we have ever seen. Here lies Reason Alexander Bell, Sr. who died in 1845 in the prime of life at the age 0f 35. RIP Mr. Bell. Mr. Bell’s tombstone is a perfect example of a mid-19th century ‘tablet’ marker. It is thicker than early 19th century markers and made of marble, an increasingly popular material in the mid-1850’s. It is also deeply incised indicating that it is of that period but probably carved locally. These markers began to drop out of fashion later in the 19th century when more elaborate (but thinner and less carefully inscribed) ‘store bought’ tombstones became available.
The cemetery at Shiloh Baptist in Marion County is quite old and is a hodge podge of gravestones, stone walls, crypts and various markers from different periods of time. As examples, we see a primitive “cairn” type false crypt in the right foreground. A mid-19th century simple, marble tablet is left-center from the cairn. In the left background is an 1850’s false crypt behind which we see a 21st center granite memorial. The cemeteries associated with older rural churches are often as interesting, revealing and thought-provoking as the old meeting houses themselves. We feel certain that there are many unmarked graves in the cemetery as well. For a complete documentation of what is known click here.
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Some are trying to get help in the work and funding of materials for some badly needed repairs on historic Shiloh-Marion Baptist Church, some of its property is in Webster County while the church is in Marion County. I have been told the county line separates the church and cemetery. I only know that the county line runs diagonally and not in a straight line and I also know that a deed is in Stewart County attesting to the sale of 25 acres to the church by one David Sears. The Stewart County line ran up a little past Union Methodist Church to the county road in front of the two story house. The line changed in 1845 when part of Stewart became Marion, then Kinchafoonee was formed from a portion of Stewart in 1853, then it was renamed Webster in 1856. We shall continue working!
An idea came to me a few years ago after the doors of this historic old church closed once more. The thought occurred due to attention to the history of our great state and the desire of promoting that history. The idea is to have a park with hookups for campers so that tourists could come, stay a while, attend a worship service in this historic church and walk to the spring (baptizing hole) where men and horses, who were in the War of 1812 and the War Between States, refreshed them selves with that cool spring water and probably slept beneath the stars. There is much more history surrounding this place where, on May 8, 1848 a record, found in 2005 by Angela Covington in Stewart County and posted to Rootsweb, tells of twenty-five acres of land deeded to the church by David C. Sears for $20.