Union Primitive Baptist was established in what was then Monroe County in 1837, on land donated by Benjamin Dumas and two of his sons in the village of Coggans, named for John F. Coggins, a successful planter and businessman. The first structure was a log building, soon to be replaced by a larger frame building in 1856. The present structure you see here was built in 1890.
The church, organized in 1837, is a wonderful trip back into the past. To better understand that past, we have to go back to the early 19th century and the history of the conflicts between the emerging state of Georgia and the Creek Indians. In 1805, Georgia had acquired the land between the Oconee and Ocmulgee rivers in the Treaty of Washington. The state now sought to acquire the land between the Ocmulgee and Flint rivers, and managed to so do at the Treaty of Indian Springs in 1821. The Creek delegation was led by Chief William McIntosh, who was assassinated shortly afterwards on orders of the Creek Council who felt he had no authority to sign such a treaty. Monroe County was formed as a result, and much later, Lamar County was authorized in 1920..
Union Primitive Baptist is one of the earliest Primitive Baptist churches in Georgia, having split from Shiloh Baptist located not far away. Shiloh was organized in Monroe County in 1826, shortly after the treaty. The Primitive Baptist denomination began in the 1830s when some members of the Baptist faith felt that the church had become too progressive by embracing new concepts such as missions, Sunday schools, musical instruments etc. You will see from the photos below that the furnishings are compatible with the faith…..no frills, no musical instruments or other distractions from the original worship traditions they wished to uphold.
The cemetery is well maintained in a beautiful setting, and within its grounds lie some of the earliest Georgia settlers. We are grateful to the congregants of Union Primitive Baptist and their stewardship of the church sanctuary for the last 125 years. The church will now be enjoyed by generations to come, who love and respect the history of these old treasures. Be sure to click and scroll the photos below for more history of the church and the early pioneers in the graveyard.
This jewel of a church has been well maintained over the last 125 years. The exterior and interior architecture has been faithfully maintained. A true glimpse of the past.
Built of local material by local craftsmen, these heart pine structures are built to last, and they have.
The original construction features have been lovingly cared for by generations of Union Primitive Congregants. Only the ceiling fans and the carpet runner have been added......a true glimpse of a rural backroads Georgia church in 1890.
Churches like this that have been truly preserved over the generations are heartwarming, and they give us a visual image of life in the Georgia backcountry in days gone by. It is not hard to imagine a full congregation with the sounds of Saving Grace in beautiful acapella harmony. It is important to preserve this glimpse back into our history for future generations.
These old churches can be very cold in the winter. This gas heater has replaced the old wood burning stove that was located in the front of the sanctuary and provided the only heat. Clearly an incentive to arrive early for a good seat up front.
The Georgia heart pine woodwork us just remarkable. This wood would have been harvested and worked at a local timber mill and built by local craftsmen. Wood like this is virtually unavailable today.
The acoustics in the Union sanctuary must be remarkable, and you will notice the absence of a piano or organ. In the true spirit of the original Primitive Baptist faith, all singing was done acapella, without musical accompaniment. This gave rise to the more formal form of what is known as Shape Note or Sacred Harp singing, a rousing method of delivering spiritual songs.
The absence of accoutrements and overt visual distractions reflect the Primitive Baptist belief in simplicity and focus on the worship service without distraction.
Moses Lee Dumas was born September 2, 1866 and died May 25, 1890. He was married to Elizabeth “Lizzie” McCommon (born 1869) on October 22, 1888. They had one child, Julius Lee Dumas (1890-1898). The 1880 Monroe County census shows Moses Lee Dumas, age 14, living with his parents Rev. Moses Dumas and Lucy A. Hunt Dumas and two sisters.
Benjamin Franklin Dumas was born August 24, 1783 in North Carolina and died March 1, 1853. He married Martha Ussery in 1803. They had twelve children. His marker says “Donator of five acres for this cemetery and Union Church”.
Frances “Fannie” Dumas Adams was born May 21, 1828 and died March 1, 1885. She was married to William Lucas Adams (1827-1881) and he is also buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church cemetery. He served in Company D, 13th Georgia Infantry, CSA. He was discharged at Gordonsville, Virginia because of disability June 20, 1862. Fannie and William had six children.
Rev. Moses Dumas was born June 15, 1823 and died May 12, 1896. He was married twice, first to Augusta Safronia Thornton (1826-1865) and second to Lucy Ann Hunt (1840-1890). He pastored the Union Primitive Baptist Church. His obituary referred to him as Uncle Mose Dumas and stated he was “held in high esteem among his host of friends”.
William Milton Williams was born May 4, 1834 and died August 13, 1893. His parents William Williams (died 1880) and Jane Williams (1802-1873) and his wife Nancy Jane Perdue Williams (1838-1903) are also buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church cemetery. William M. and Nancy J. were married in Monroe County on July 7, 1856. Nancy Jane died at the home of her daughter in Gainesville, Georgia and her remains were shipped to Monroe County. The 1880 Monroe County census shows both of the parents of William M. born in South Carolina. The 1880 census shows William M. and Nancy J. with 3 children, age 10 t0 20.
Benjamin F. Littleton was born in 1814 in Monroe County, Georgia and died February 2, 1907 in Baldwin County, Georgia. He was a farmer. He was married to Mary C. Fackler (1830-1910) and they had eleven children. Mary is also buried at Union Primitive Baptist Church cemetery.
Herbert Hubbard Willis was born February 1, 1870 and died November 20, 1908 of tuberculosis. He was engaged in the cotton business. His parents Henry Franklin Willis (1846-1943) and Mary Ann Caroline Dumas Willis (1847-1919) are also buried at Union PBC cemetery. Herbert’s father enlisted in Company C, 30th Georgia Infantry, CSA but was discharged for being underage. Herbert Hubbard Willis is shown in the 1880 Monroe County census at the age of nine living with his parents and four siblings.
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