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Members of local church work to get building on National Registry of Historical Places

    On a small rise on the banks of Lotts Creek, which forms the boundary between Bulloch and Candler counties, stands the Upper Lotts Creek Primitive Baptist Church. Built in 1881, the church has been a fixture in Portal for well over 100 years and traces its ownership to participants in the Revolutionary War.
    Lorine Hendricks is one of the longest standing members of the church. She is a member of the Bulloch County Historical Society, the Portal Heritage Society and has been the secretary of the Candler County Historical Society for many years. Much of the leg work was done by Hendricks in order to get the church nominated for the National Registry of Historical Places.
    “I’ve been there longer than anyone else,” said Hendricks. “The church is very old and we just found some old records that told us when it was built.”
    She said the former church clerk passed a few years back and the clerk’s husband had recently passed. When their children began going through their parents belongings, they discovered some of the old church records.
    “They started finding some books of church minutes last year,” said Hendricks. “We thought they had been burned in a house fire. Some of the records go back to 1850.”
    Richard Crotwell is a retired architect who lives in Metter and is a member of the Candler County Historical Society. He helped Hendricks put the application package together.
    “We did some sketches that you have to send off with the application — floor plans and site plans, primarily,” said Crotwell. “It was built in the classical style with the wood columns on the porch. I categorized it with a Greek influence. It’s a typical design used in many of the Baptist churches in southeast Georgia.”
    He said he was interested in the historic structure as well as the history of the ownership of the land.
    “I look at the church and see a nice, handsome building and I discover the people in the cemetery — that’s the history of our nation,” said Crotwell. “Right there in that one cemetery, and it’s not the only one in Bulloch County or this part of Georgia.”
    Two participants of the Revolutionary War are buried in the church cemetery.
    Henry E. Parrish served as a private in the Continental Army of North Carolina. After the war, he ended up moving to Bulloch County to pick up farming. He was the original owner of the property where the church now sits and was buried in the family cemetery — now the church cemetery — in 1800.
    John Tillman was originally from Maryland but served in the 10th North Carolina Regiment during the war — after he enlisted at age 46. After the war, he moved to Bulloch, where some of his descendants still reside.
     “I’m not sure people stop and pay attention to this kind of thing,” said Crotwell. “It’s a rural church but it has served the people in this area for many years — it’s important history that we need to maintain and pay attention to.”   

History
    According to the “History of the Primitive Baptist Church,” published by The Banner Herald in 1955, the exact date of the organization and constitution of this church is not definitely known. Since the old records were destroyed by fire in the early beginning of the church, the names of the charter members cannot be given. According to the minutes of the Canoochee Association, which convened at Hines meeting house Emanuel County, Ga., on the 22nd day of September, 1832, we find the following: “On motion arrangements were made for a general meeting to be held at Parrish’s meeting house, (Upper Lotts Creek Church) on Friday before the fifth Lord’s day in September, 1832.” The minutes of the Lake Church, another church located in Bulloch County, Ga., show that Parrish’s meeting house was in existence in the year 1829. It could be, that Upper Lotts Creek church was constituted in the year 1831, or thereabouts.
    This church was first known as Parrish’s meeting house for the first 10 years of its history. The meeting house was first located about one and a half miles east of its present location and very near the home of Absalom Parrish, for whom it was named. This church joined the Canoochee Association at the session held at Nevil’s Creek in 1833. At the same time of its reception into the Association it had 12 members, one of whom was J. Simmons - the sole messenger. The church sent 50 cents to help pay for the printing of the association minutes. In 1837, the messengers were M. Donaldson and J. Mercer, and there were only 12 members.
    In 1838 Wm. B. Miller and J. Mercer were the messengers to the association, and the church reported 48 members - 41 of whom had been received by baptism during the previous year. In 1841, the location of the meeting house was changed and the name became Upper Lotts Creek. It came about in this way, according to a very well established tradition. The log meeting house stood in the woods without any fence around it. The hogs slept underneath and raised so many fleas that no one could enjoy the solemn worship. A day was agreed upon and the brethren met to destroy the fleas. At this time Absalom Parrish was a member of the church and took the lead in the flea war. At his suggestion, a plentiful supply of pine straw was brought and scattered around and underneath the house, just enough to burn up the fleas  when set on fire but not damage the house. However, the result was that all the fleas and the house went up in flames.
    A new house was then built of logs on the east bank of Big Lotts Creek where the present meeting house now stands. It took its present name to distinguish itself from Lower Lotts Creek Church, which had been established in 1801, 30 years before this church began. The church has had its ups and downs; however, it has served God, and the community well, and is today honored and respected by all as the house of God, the planting of the Lord. In 1879, Elder J. L. Smith was chosen as pastor by the church and served faithfully until 1901.
    Fast forward to 2007, when church records were discovered in a deceased member’s home. Among them was found a memorial of David Erastus Bird, who died in 1937. The memorial speaks of Bird, as a young man, participating in the construction of the current church building in 1881. This is currently the only record as to the time the building was constructed.
    Thus is given a brief sketch of the founding of Upper Lotts Creek Church which began 123 years ago and is still of force and benefit in the same community.  


TIMELINE
1831 - Twelve members founded the church
1838 - 48 members were reported
1841 - Accidentally burnt down log meeting house trying to get rid of fleas
1842 - New log meeting house constructed
1881 - Current church building erected
1912 - Elder Walter Hendricks chosen to service - led for 36 years
1949 - Elder H.C. Stubbs appointed pastor
1959 - The Annex was added
1970 - Installed new light fixtures
1998 - Exterior of church was repainted
2000 - Refinished original pine flooring
2007 - Old church minutes were found, dating the church

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