There are four churches who date back to 1826/1829: Fayetteville Baptist, Fayetteville Methodist, Flat Creek Baptist and Antioch Baptist.
The first African-American church was Flat Rock Baptist in 1854.
I’m pleased to state that these churches are still viable congregations.
Ten years or so ago, I was asked by the University of Georgia to write the history of Fayette County for its web site. I did so, writing, in part, the above information.
Now, I will be honest that I’m not used to having to prove any information I might give you. Writing this history for UGA however, pushed my patience quite a bit. I realize they felt obligated to double-check every word, but so much of history is handed down through the generations and is not physically written down anywhere.
When the school called telling me they couldn’t “prove” what I had stated about the churches, I was at my wits end, and simply replied: “ I wrote they were still viable congregations so just call them up and ask them.” I never heard from UGA again.
By the end of the 1800s there were about 25 churches, most of whom are indeed, take my word for it here, still viable congregations.
In the first decade of the 1900s, over 50 additional churches were constructed, bringing approximately 75 to 80 churches that had a permanent building/sanctuary and were in business to stay.
Toward the end of that decade, there were perhaps two dozen or so that were considered to be “store front” churches.
Several of these later built a permanent building on land they purchased and are still holding services each Sunday morning.
I have never understood the need to create a store front church. If you can’t find a congregation you like out of the 75 or so already established in the county, it boggles my mind as to why you feel your beliefs constitute trying to start another type of congregation. But I digress …
About 15 years ago this newspaper published a paper on Sunday’s and I traveled to just about every church in the county to do an interview. Only 3 churches initially stood me up – and I left my card each time.
Two of them had simply forgotten, called me up to apologize and invite me back, and I went.
The third one never called and I have to be honest, I’ve never forgotten that.
Though one of the first churches I visited was located in its own brick building, it was a difficult story to write.
The minister only was interested in getting people into his church. He had no plans for them or for the church after getting people to join.
That congregation only lasted three years and I surely understood why.
Members at New Hope Baptist Church will find this difficult to believe.
When I first visited that congregation it was in its only building, the little white clapboard building which it thankfully still maintains near where it originally sat. Their total membership at that time was 80 folks.
More next week.