Written by Kelly Gomez | Posted on 13 October 2021
Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist in Thomas County is a unique example of a Wiregrass Baptist (or Hardshell) Church. Once scattered across the Wiregrass Region of south Georgia, only a handful of these churches still stand and Mt. Zion is one of them. But after years of disuse, this church has been looking for a savior and luckily, a group of interested locals has stepped up!
Founded in the 1840s, this Primitive Baptist congregation likely built this church house in 1842 or 1845. Constructed on-site of native materials, the understated style of the church reflected the spartan beliefs of this faith. You’ll notice it has no steeple, no window adornments, and a simple entryway. The interior is just as simple and would’ve never entertained a musical instrument, although singing was an important part of their faith.
The accompanying graveyard is thought to have at least 200 burials, some unmarked, with the earliest dating to 1851.
It is unclear when services ended here but the final burial in the graveyard was in 2002. By 2004, the building had fallen into disuse and in the subsequent years, it fell victim to vandalism and suffered damage from rainstorms and hurricanes. For a long time, it appeared that the old church, one of the oldest still standing in the county, wouldn’t last another generation. Until 2019 when a group of interested locals stepped up to make emergency repairs on the building.
Unfortunately, their plans for completing the project were temporarily halted due to an ownership dispute over the building, but these folks didn’t let that stop them. In 2021, the group resumed efforts to save the church and has already made great strides to that aim. They formed a non-profit, Friends of Mt. Zion Thomas County, began fundraising, and have hosted 2 gatherings in the building to offer a chance to the community to enjoy the building. They have also completed a cemetery clean-up, brought electricity into the building, and enlisted the help of two noted historic architects to complete a survey and proposal for fixing the church up.
Their intention is to bring the building back to its original historic condition so that it can be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For that to happen, they will need to hire house movers to level the building, remove some updates that were made in the 1950s, fix some foundational issues, and replace exterior boards.
According to group member, Juanita Carnline, “we hope to save the church for the enjoyment of future generations, just as it has been faithful to the community for past generations. Once their work is done, they hope to open it for weddings, bring a regular service back to the church, possible acapella shows, and genealogical research and presentations.
Donate via Check:
Make checks payable to:Friends of Mt. Zion Church of Thomas County1800 Highway 202Meigs, GA 31765