Whooping Creek Primitive Baptist, founded in 1852, has been lovingly maintained by private owners, Benjamin and Joyce Merrell since the 1980’s. The church had been closed and inactive since the late 1960’s and the Merrell’s intervention not only saved this treasure from further deterioration, they were able to make it serviceable again to the community. The church is now active and has services the first Sunday of every month. This is fitting in that these old mid 19th century churches were usually pastored by a Circuit Rider preacher who took care of a number of churches on a regular basis. No one travels by horseback any more but the system is the same. The little sanctuary is very unassuming, which is typical of Primitive Baptist structures – no embellishments to distract from the business at hand. Also worth noting is the absence of a piano or organ. Singing was an important part of the Primitive services, but it was all acapella. Some of the interior furnishings you see in the gallery photos below were salvaged from the old wooden Carroll County Courthouse in Carrollton after it burned in 1927.
Much can be learned of these early settlements from the little graveyards associated with the churches, and this is certainly true of Whooping Creek. The quality of the gravestones reveal a prosperous 19th century farming community and the family plot interments indicate several generations of early Georgians who were raised and worshiped in the little church you see here. There are a number of Confederate veterans in the graveyard and some research into their service quickly takes us back in time to the dark days when all their lives were torn asunder by the war…. almost all of them were privates and lower ranks. Those that survived came home, had lots of children and resumed the only life they knew. We have no way of knowing how many didn’t return.
Click on the gallery photos below for more insight into the church interior as well as visit some of the early graveyard residents. We are all grateful to the Merrells for their stewardship of this historical treasure. She has faithfully served this farming community for over 175 years and is still going strong.
This is the view of the church from across the road (barely visible in the photo as the small white line seen from left to right). It was moved, we think, in the early 20th century. As you can see, the cemetery is still active though the church’s congregation has dwindled to a small group.
The church is furnished with two sets of pews. We are told that the ones we see here are some of the hand made originals. Though quite primitive in design, they are charming and relics of a bygone era. They clearly would become uncomfortable during long sermons but are true to the Primitive Baptist’s tenants of rigorous simplicity and no unnecessary decorations within their sanctuaries.
Here we see two more of the original pews sitting in front of one of the larger, later pews. This view allows us to see and appreciate the pine floors now found throughout the church. These floors were repaired about 50 years ago when the Merrell’s and others took on the task of bringing the church back to life. They overlay the original heart pine floors which still remain beneath the present boards.
This view from the pulpit reveals the remarkably successful, mid to late 20th century restoration of the sanctuary’s entire interior. It presents as small, very simple and plain with no decorative architectural elements or unnecessary embellishments… but quite inviting. The photo also provides us with a look at the larger pews in the church that were taken from the original courthouse when it burned in the early 20th century.
Looking toward the chancel and pulpit, we see the backs of the large, very old pews that were originally in the courthouse. The chancel is very plain and in keeping with tenets of the Primitive Baptist’s. The area is sparsely populated and includes a pulpit cleverly repurposed from an old judges desk once used in the courthouse. We see no pictures, flags, crosses, icons, flower vases or other decorative elements to disturb the scene. The three windows on the back wall allow ambient light to flow into Whooping Creek and produce a warm and spiritual atmosphere within this sacred space.
Much of the eclectic story of Whooping Creek Primitive Baptist is revealed in the scene presented in this photo taken from the chancel into the sanctuary. First are the three pews from the 1850’s that are original to the church (center background). To their left and right within the sanctuary proper, we see the equally ancient pews that began their existence in the original Carroll County Courthouse but were rescued by the congregation for their use after that building burned. In the middle is the former courthouse Judge’s desk now serving as the pulpit. In the background, we see the late 20th century restoration walls, doors, flooring and electric fan representing the rebirth period of the church (we also see the surprising pew cushions which offer a nod to 21st century comfort needs!). Whooping Creek has been a significant landmark and religious site in Carroll County since its earliest days.
As we leave the sanctuary of this wonderful old church, we stop to view the historic pews rescued from the wooden county court house which burned in 1927. These pews were hand hewed from local long leaf pines in the 19th century. The boards are from 18 to 24 inches wide (impossible to find these days) and joined primarily by mortise and tenon. They represent a bygone era and provide a look into our past that needs to be preserved for generations to come. We salute the efforts of the Merrell’s and other congregants at Whooping Creek who took on the mission to save the church and its historic contents over 50 years ago.
Joseph Cash is shown as a private in Company K, 56 Georgia Infantry on April 1, 1865; surrendered April 26, 1865. Wiley Joseph Cash was born in 1818 and died March 8, 1892. He married Elizabeth Griffin on January12, 1845 in Carroll County and Nancy Green on November 14, 1861 in Carroll County. He is buried at Whooping Creek Primitive Baptist Church. Other family members buried there include Elizabeth Cash (his first wife) with 3 unmarked graves between him and Elizabeth, Liza T. Cash – his daughter, Nancy Cash (2nd wife buried in a different part of the cemetery, and Thomas Alton Vines – his great grandchild.
Robert Wesley Gray was born March 4, 1844 and died October 4 (or 14), 1912. He was a PVT in Beall’s Battalion, Tallapoosa Rangers during the Civil War. He married Sarah Caroline “Carey” Gibbs on December 22, 1865 and they had at least 9 children. His wife is also buried at Whooping Creek Primitive Baptist Church.
Henry Wesley Holloway was born January 10, 1848 and died December 6, 1910. His Confederate service record shows he was a private in 1864 in Company F, 19th Georgia Infantry and surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina April 26, 1865. These dates indicate he was just 16 years old when he joined the Confederate Army in 1864 and just 17 at the surrender. The tombstone for his wife Sarah A. Davis born October 17, 1842, died May 13, 1898 is shown next to his marker. His second wife, M. Alice Barker is also buried near him at Whooping Creek PBC.
Wyley Hiram Nail was born May 10, 1832 in Henry County, Georgia. He joined the Confederate Army May 5, 1862. He was a private with Company B, 56th Georgia Infantry. His pension application states he was furloughed from Macon, Georgia hospital in 1864. Never returned. The Carroll Free Press reported July 29, 1887 he was “confined to his house and most of the time to his bed for the last 8 months caused by a cut on one of his knees is getting so he can hop on crutches”. He was a miller by occupation. He married Mary Elizabeth Jones on November 10, 1854. She was the daughter of Richard Jones, founder of the church. They had 7 children. He died March 28, 1911.
Richard Jones was born December 13, 1812 in Columbia County, Georgia and died April 7, 1898 in Carroll County, Georgia. He is credited with being the founder of Whooping Creek PBC. His wife, Caroline Matilda Jarrett Jones was a deaconess in the church. She was born February 22, 1819 in Wilkes County, Georgia and died at Clem June 30, 1893. They were married September 20, 1835. Richard moved to Carroll County in 1840 and raised his family of 10 children. Richard was the son of Nimrod Jones, a revolutionary war soldier. Richard had two sons, Alonzo and James wounded at Vicksburg. Both of them died of their wounds. Another son William Thomas Jones was also wounded at Vicksburg and permanently disabled but survived. He is listed as the oldest survivor of Richard Jones who attended a family reunion on August 15, 1911. William Thomas Jones is also buried at Whooping Creek PBC.
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!
I have 16ancesters in this cemetery. Is there a area where you can locate their burial plots. I will be in the area November 5th and 6th. One of the relative is Nathan j Jones Richard Jones and many more Joneses.
Here is a link to Find A Grave where more details about the cemetery can be found: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/37739/whooping-creek-primitive-baptist-church-cemetery. We wish you luck on your trip!
I might be kin to the Wiley Joseph Cash buried in the cemetery. My mother’s maiden name is Cash. She was born in Haralson Co. I need to do more research.
I have a question. Does it mean that the property is open to explore by the public if you have featured the property in an email or on the website?
Yes. The church will be locked but feel free to walk the grounds and explore the graveyard.
This is a beautiful church. I look forward to the next book.