Sugar Valley Baptist

Gordon County
Org 1831
Photography by Tom Reed

According to a local history, settlers began moving into what was then Murray County in 1831 in anticipation of the Cherokee removal act that would expel the last of the Cherokees from this part of Georgia and open it to settlement. The first church was known as Snake Creek since it was in that militia district. In 1842, the church had thirty members according to records from the Coosa Baptist Association. It was also the year that the name of the church was changed to New Providence Baptist. In 1868, Joseph Barrett deeded “4 acres and 35 rods to the New Providence Baptist Church” for a financial consideration of sixty dollars. And in 1870 it had a final name change to Sugar Valley Baptist. The congregation prospered and in 1879 money was raised for the new church that you see here.

The churches conference (business meeting) in the 1880’s was held on Saturday mornings.  A look at some of the conference by-laws from the 1880’s will quickly show the role of the church in maintaining a strict social code of conduct. “(1) during conference no member shall be allowed to whisper while another brother is speaking, (2) no one shall leave the conference without permission, (3) it is the duty of each male member to attend conference conference and if he failed to do do , he must render a good excuse (4) any member guilty of the work of the flesh as recorded in Gal. 5:19, 21 shall be excluded from the fellowship of the church unless proper penitence be shown and finally (5) no woman could speak during the business meeting. Some times conference was almost like court trial.One such meeting charges of fighting among 2 men came to the church’s attention. Another charge by one of the male members said his wife mistreated him by neglecting him when he was sick and he had to leave home to find proper care. Fellowship withdrawn from the wife in 1879.

As the Valley grew in wealth and population, some of the citizens agreed that the community needed a new schoolhouse. The role of the church was an important one in public education in the late 19th century and remained so for well into the 20th. “Mr. B. Abbott gave a half-acre land for the school, to be located just north of the church. The Sugar Valley Academy, as it was called was completed and ready for students before 1890. The school opened in January 1892 and accommodated 159 students. The seat of learning became a part of the Baptist system and schools and colleges and under the directions of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Students came from all over to attend the school , which was regarded as a leading high school and flourished for nine years. The school continued to operate until 1927. The buildings were later torn down and the lumber sold.

In the fall of 2001 Sugar Valley Baptist Church voted to build a new sanctuary requiring more space, and it was decided that the old church had to be removed.  Attempts were made to give or donate the building to other churches but the attempts were not successful and funds were set aside to demolish the building. However, we are told that Mrs. Zeta Brown wrote an article to the local paper in a plea to save the church building, pointing out that it stood as one of Sugar Valley’s cornerstones for 125 years. Apparently, the response to this article resulted in the decision to save it and move it just a quarter mile away where it stands now. We are so thankful that it was saved and preserved at the new location, where it will be used for a variety of special occasions.

The story of Sugar Valley Baptist, from the Cherokee removal until today, is quite a story and we are grateful to the congregations who have worshiped at this church now for over 175 years. Your stewardship is important to keep telling this story for generations to come. Thank you for your service.

+ Read More