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Bulloch History by Roger Allen

Black Baptists start churches in Bulloch

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This is the second in a series of articles about the origins of the Baptist faith in Georgia and Bulloch County.
    In 1619 the first black arrived in the colony of Georgia with the designation of “permanently indentured servants.” As the economy of Georgia was changed to plantation-based tobacco, rice, indigo, and then cotton crops, there was a need for much more cheap labor. Therefore, the black status was changed to simply that of “slaves.”
    The first recorded gathering of blacks for religious services in Georgia took place in 1773 at George Galphin’s Plantation near Silver Bluff, South Carolina, some 14 miles northwest of savannah. Reverend Wait Palmer, the founder of the First Baptist Church in Stonington, Connecticut led the services for 20 slaves, until black preacher David George could be ordained.
    The first black church actually chartered was the First Colored Baptist Church, established at Brampton’s Barn on January 20, 1788. Traveling Baptist minister Abraham Marshall ordained as their pastor George Lisle (or Liele), who was a slave freed by Henry Sharp of Burke County, Georgia. Aided by Andrew Bryan and David George, the church grew rapidly.
    Two more black churches were established by Galphin’s slaves: the Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta was started by Jesse Peters Galphin in 1773; and the Beaverdams Baptist Church in Burke County (where David George was from) organized shortly thereafter.
    The Second Colored Baptist Church was formed in Savannah on December 26, 1802, and then the Ogeechee Colored Baptist Church was formed on November 2, 1803. In 1822 (one document said in 1792), the First and Second Colored Baptist Churches merged, and formed the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia.
    The Zion Baptist Association was established by black Primitive Baptist churches from Georgia and South Carolina. The Association was organized at a meeting held on July 15, 1865 at the First African Baptist Church in the black community of Mitchellville on the island of Hilton Head, South Carolina.
    As black “Progressives” pulled away from the “Hard-Shells’, they decided to choose to follow the Philadelphia Confessions doctrine (in reality a modified version of the Second London Confession of Faith of 1689) instead of the doctrine espoused by the Back Rock Address of September 28, 1832.
    By 1867 there were eighteen black Primitive Baptist congregations that chose to follow the “Progressive” path instead. Within the year, 12 black “Progressive” churches formed the Antioch Baptist Association at Guildfield Church near Macon, the first such “Progressive” Association.
    On May 13, 1870, in Augusta, Georgia at the Central Baptist Church a state-wide black Baptist Association was founded: the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia.  A second Association was formed: in 1895: the General State Baptist Convention. These two groups reunited in 1915 as the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia.
    During this time, these “Progressive” Associations established several institutions of higher learning: an Industrial and Theological Seminary in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a Seminary in Tallahassee, Florida, and an Academy in Thomaston, Alabama.
    By 1910, there were more than fourteen black Primitive Baptist Associations across the area, which held some 810 churches with nearly 4500 members. In 2000, there were 12 “Old-Line” or “Hard-Shell” black Primitive Baptist Associations across the state of Georgia with 106 churches and 942 members, while there were three Associations of “Progressive” Primitive Baptist across the state with 19 churches and some 1,250 members.
    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger
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