Ways Baptist is in Jefferson County about three miles east of Wrens. It was organized in the Fall of 1817 in a log cabin with a membership that had been dismissed from Brushy Creek Baptist Church. The original congregation consisted of thirteen males, thirty three females and “eighteen unidentified blacks”. The church was named Ways meeting house in honor of Bill Way, who donated the land for the church. The closest community is named Stellaville, named after Stella Brinson, the daughter of John Brinson. The church you see above is the third church at this location. The original log church, which also served a school, was replaced with a frame structure that served for several years. It was replaced by the current one in 1851 and a large baptismal pool was added in 1877.
The history tells us that Ways Baptist has almost always had an associated school and as a consequence “its membership has been distinguished for liberality and intelligence. Also the cause of temperance has ever been dear to its leading spirits”. It also tells us that “the church suffered very severely by the war as a large company of soldiers was enlisted in the immediate vicinity and from its membership and but few of the members lived to return”. Eight deaths of congregants was recorded in 1862 alone. At the close of the war there were thirty five negro members who were granted letters to constitute the present Ways Grove Baptist church located nearby. Ways Grove was formally organized in 1867 with the assistance of several of the white members of Ways Baptist. A school was organized in Stellaville in 1868 by Ways Church as a two room schoolhouse and, at the time, was the only high school in Jefferson County outside of Louisville. The school burned in 1879 but was soon replaced by a new one with three rooms and an auditorium.
Stellaville had been a thriving community, judging from the size of the cemetery (678 recorded interments) but it is little more than a crossroads now. This is not unusual….all across Georgia, early villages disappeared leaving nothing but the churches and the cemeteries to remind us of days gone by. The July issue of the Sandersville Mercury tells us that Stellaville, “in 1884 had a principal street running through the town, which was very wide and in the center was a line of oaks of the original forest, giving the street a park-like appearance both beautiful and inviting”. The history further tells us that Stellaville prided itself on its baseball team and a festival in which young ladies participated. Further, “it enjoyed the being the only incorporated town of its size in Georgia whose Marshall never had to make an arrest”…..an interesting commentary on the peaceful village for sure.
When Ways needed room for their youth the membership came up with a novel idea to add space and yet preserve the historic appearance of the beautiful building. They dug a basement under the church for their Youth Department. This innovative idea allowed them to keep the original church appearance, but add the needed space. Ways will celebrate their 200 year anniversary in 2017. What a great tribute to perseverance and commitment by the many who made the history of this church.
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I grew up always hearing about Ways Baptist Church. My grandmothers maiden name was Way. She grew up in Wrens Ga and would always tell us the story of how it started and the families in the area. She was always so proud of the church and that town. I look forward to making a very long over due trip this weekend.
My husband’s grandparents are buried there, G. Absalom & Bell Smith. Also his grandfather’s footprints are in the cement of the baptismal pool. His father, George H. Smith attended Ways as often as he could as an adult. They loved going to Homecoming there.
Great history. Thanks for sharing.
Wonderful photographs of beautiful old Way’s Baptist Church, resting place of my great grandmother and great grandmother, Isaac Jackson Gay and Ellen Ponder Davis Gay and Ellen Ponder Davis Gay. My great great grandmother Mary Stewart Barrow And great grandmother Arminta (Mintie) Barrow Wright were residents of Stellaville.