by Ron Rollins
For the last few years, I have been spending what little spare time I have on recording historical data on old graveyards in Harris County. This of course lead me to also start to record data on the old churches, some of which no longer exist. Most of these churches, I find have been around longer than Harris County that was born by law in 1826, from lands part of then Muscogee and Troupe Counties. I find that Whitesville, Ga.; predated under the name of a settlement known as Mountain Creek. It was on the crossroads of two Indian Trails. One going east to west across the Chattahoochee River to Alabama; later known as Grays’ Trail a fork off of King’s Road. The second trail ran North and South from Cusseta /Coweta; the Creek Capital (now Ft. Benning / Ft. Mitchell area); along the river to villages and trails above the Fall Line (now West Point, Ga.).
As settlers moved in the area in the early 1800’s, the churches played a duel roll in the community. The Church was of course a house for spiritual worship, but also in early years served as the law and peacemakers of the community. Governments had not been formed on a local level at this time. The minutes of the church reflected the charges made and punishment done after the church elders looked into the charges made against a member. Members both male and female were open to church justice and could be brought up on charges for doing wrong in the community. Early on as settlements grew you had to be in church to have standing so others would do business with you or help you in any way. If you moved some other place you needed a letter of good standing from your old church before you could join another church in the new community. You stated your intentions to move and the congregation of the church would vote your dismissal and letter to go with you with their blessing. If minor charges were brought up on you, like speaking badly about someone or profanity, you could be forgiven by apologizing to the person and the church. If worse you could be barred from church a couple of meetings then be accepted back in the fold. Adultery, rape, theft, wife abuse, disrespecting your husband, drunk, or murder are charges that can punish by discharging you from church and /or tar and feathered and hauled out and banished from the community. Murder of course could cause your death! The Church was the Power!
Today of course, we have taken a view of Government can enforce the law and have removed the Church from welding the law. This is supposed to be better and fairer, we do know it is more costly to try and to punish the guilty. The basic 10 Laws of God and the 7 deadly sins don’t seem to go hand in hand much any more. We seem today, we live in a country that was started with a trust in God and majority rule; to one that will allow a minorities rights out weight the rights of many, to take Gods law and name out of public view. No pledge of allegiance to our flag in public schools or places and no prayer in public schools and places! What Next??? As I write this, I am listening to the news on TV. Guess what I just heard? In California, of all places, there has been a complaint filed against the Veterans Cemetery to remove the large Cross, can be seen for miles, that identifies it’s location. This isn’t a new cross, it has been there as long as the cemetery. Oh well; keep the faith!
Hope is not dead in the United States of America! As I have been collecting data as I said earlier, I have looked into a lot of these 200 year old churches and even have shown up on Sunday to go to the worship service. With the influx of families leaving the City for the Country, a lot of them are discovering what I have seen. All the old country churches, with their God loving members, will greet you with love and respect as they welcome you to worship with them. Most of the Old Churches had begun to die out in membership as the youth of the 40’s and 50’s left the farms for work and higher pay of the industrial job the City had to offer. Here in Harris County the mode has changed as families are moving back in areas that had suffered from population decay over 50 years before. Most are finding that in the Old Church in the Wildwood the singing is sweeter the message is purer and with all the new found friends inside the old meeting hall To God Be The Glory! Old Time Religion is back!
In concluding this article; I have given you facts, I have given you some insight, and now I give you my Easter Day Story. The research buddies: Sandra Doolittle, Jan Page, and myself Ron Rollins decided to visit an old church for Easter Services near my home in Whitesville. We choose to visit Beech Springs Church about four miles east of my home on Wright Road. The church was Chartered in 1826 as a Baptist Church of God. Its history tells of the original building being destroyed by fire, the second building destroyed by a tornado. The original Baptismal Pool is still on the spring at the base of several Beech trees. The third building has been added on to three times. The original graveyard is still in use today. Beech Springs community was a prominent settlement till its decline around 1930’s. Large farms and grist mill between Salem to the north, Whitesville to the west, and Hamilton to the south. Most is gone now, farmlands are now pine trees, the mill – only a foundation of rocks show the shape of the building. The church is still alive and well.
SUNRISE SERVICE: We arrive at the church, it is dark but cars are already in the parking lot. People are gathering inside the gate of the old cemetery. It’s a little foggy on the mountain this morning, but calming to the soul. The light is beginning to break, even though the fog is lifting light clouds will block the sunrise. Pastor Charles Hendrix began telling the Easter Story of Jesus Christ, as he was finishing the story a beam of sunlight pierced trough the clouds and shined brightly down from the mountaintop on the graveyard where we all stood. A hymn was sang being accompanied by guitars. It was a moving experience and a perfect setting. About 50 people attended.
BREAKFAST: After sunrise service ended the Pastor announced the ladies have prepared a big breakfast for all, so everyone moved inside. Everyone was really friendly and came by to talk to us as we ate a breakfast like no other. A big Country breakfast with all the trimmings. It made this fat boy’s day! We also learned the church choir was doing for the first time an Easter Cantata for the church service. We decided to stay for the service.
THE SERVICE: All move from outside into the church to be seated. The numbers are now around 80 in attendance. The pastor leads with prayer, then tells of all the hard work choir has done over the last 4 weeks to learn this Cantata. The Choir takes its place looking tense yet proud. Bubba and Jennifer Hendrix will lead the choir and Brother Charles will narrate. The Cantata begins! I have attended many large choir churches over the years, some with as many as 100 members singing. I have seen major productions be done in church with all the trimmings. But, I must say the 16 choir members at Beech Springs put on one of the best, heart moving presentations trough music of the Easter Story that I have ever heard. I was moved!
I was glad to see that Georgia will be allowing the bible to be taught as history in high school for those who wish to sign up. It can’t be taught at this time as religion but hopefully it might arouse a student to seek more knowledge on it at a church. They will be reading the Lords Word!
If you are new to Harris County or bored at your city church, give the old churches near you a try. You will find they need you and you need them. A 1 million-dollar church and a 500 thousand-dollar pipe organ are nice to man, but it doesn’t bring God to the house. What is in the hearts of man brings God to the house.
Thanks for reading. May God Bless You! Ron Rollins
Chiefnw1@peoplepc.com The Whitesville, Harris County group likes a good party!
Thanks Ron Rollins