Reverend James R. Miller came to the Georgia & South Carolina border area in order to spread the gospel. Miller's first pastorate was at the Mill Creek Primitive Baptist Church.
A Baptist, he soon formed a loose association amongst the churches and congregations across the Wiregrass. This group became known as the "Miller Baptist Association" in 1885.
As some of the church deacons refused to let him preach in the church, others set up benches underneath a nearby tree to hear him spread the word. This little group of followers soon organized the Macedonia Baptist Church in 1854.
Millers Association held its first "annual meeting" from Oct. 30 until Nov. 2, 1885 at the Fellowship Church. Reverend J.C. Brewton preached about the need for missions and the need for institutions to train young men for God's calling.
Over time, the Bulloch County newspaper "The Pioneer and Eagle" published some Miller Association meeting records. The association newsletter, "The Baptist Recorder" wrote of how the Miller Association churches were establishing "Sabbath Schools."
These educational groups sprang up in the Statesboro, Pembroke, Excelsior, Friendship, Fellowship, Hawhammock, Oak Grove, Blitchton, Macedonia and Polar Springs churches, using the Baptist "Kind Words" curriculum.
The Miller Association grew to 32 churches. On the advice of church elders W.C. Cone, W.H. Parker, and preachers Reverends T.J. Cobb and William Harvey, the Miller Association became the "Bulloch County Baptist Association" in 1898.
There were still many miles for these circuit-riding preachers to cover every week in order to serve their flocks. Reverend W.O. Darsey traveled 1,420 miles, preached 60 sermons, and was paid $120 for five-months of work.
Most churches met one Sunday a month, the Metter Church met every other Sunday, with only the Statesboro Church holding services every Sunday. The new Bulloch County Baptist Association added another fourteen churches by 1919.
Between 1923 and 1930, there was a move to rename the association the Ogeechee River Baptist Association. In 1953, the association added Missionary to their association name, in order to more clearly state their beliefs.
n 1972, an Ad Hoc Associational Assembly Committee was formed to consider its options as concerning establishing a church retreat. In 1978, Mrs. W.W. Mann decided to donate 50 acres to the Ogeechee River Missionary Baptist Association for this purpose.
Mrs. Sarah Mann also increased her donation by another 40 acres in 1978. The Association's Conference and Retreat Committee then put together a 10-20 year plan for building the association resort, which would be called the W.W. Mann Center.
In 2000, the Ogeechee's offices were moved from the retreat to Statesboro, so that the Association could focus on working with members of the Hispanic and African-American communities. Also, the term Missionary was dropped from the association's name.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger firstname.lastname@example.org