Washington County, Georgia Churches
1790 Bethlehem Baptist Church
Bethlehem Church is the oldest Baptist Church, and perhaps the oldest existing church of any denomination, in Washington County. It was constituted on October 3, 1790, by Jephtha Vining and John Henderson, ordained ministers. It was first located on Keg (Cag) Creek and was called “Church of Christ on Keg Creek”. It became a member of the Georgia Association in October, 1792. The meeting house was moved to a location at Williamson’s Swamp Place, called Williamson Swamp meeting house. The church was moved to Warthen in 1795, and Paley Church members joined with Cag Creek Church, thus uniting the two churches, and was named Bethlehem. A wooden church building was built which later burned. The building in use today was built in 1890. On June 19, 1824, 21 members were dismissed by letter to form what is now Sisters Church.
On March 15, 1828 the first meeting to form the Washington Association was held at Jackson’s Meeting House. Bethlehem was one of the churches which helped to form this new body.
Until June 15, 1833, Antioch was under Bethlehem Baptist Church as an arm, and those who were received were considered members of Bethlehem. Early preachers ordained by this church were Joseph Baker, Alexander Armstrong, Benjamin Manning, John Whittle, Offie Hardy, Asa Duggan, W.D. Jordan, J.M. Fulghum, T.J. Cummings, G.W. Sparks, and T.J. Anderson. (p. 239)
1824 Sisters Baptist Church
The 1880 minutes of the Washington Baptist Association state: “In 1820, at the suggestion of Brother Benjamin Manning, then pastor of the Bethlehem Church, for the convenience of the sisters, members of Bethlehem, a meeting house was built on Fenn’s Bridge Road, on the lands of Jacob Morris, two and one half miles from Sandersville. Being built for the special convenience of the sisters, who usually walked from that neighborhood to Bethlehem, a distance of ten miles, it received the name of Sisters Meeting House.” The sisters were the three Manning sisters, and probably others. The church was constituted August 7, 1824. In the first meeting house they sat on benches without backs and sang God’s songs as the preacher gave out the hymns line by line.
Sisters has always been a missionary and evangelistic Baptist Church. The Washington Domestic Missionary Society met at Sisters Church in 1837, and before the Association was 20 years old, offerings were being made for home and foreign missions.(p. 243)
1834 Antioch Baptist Church
The Church of Christ at Antioch is situated on Stephen's Creek in Washington County on land donated by David Curry and William May. It was constituted on January 17, 1834, by Elders Jess Moon and Guthridge Ivy. The church had 10 charter members: Thomas Jordan, Catherine Jordan, Sylvaneous Knight, Sarah Knight, Catherine May, Liviniah Thigpen, Collin's Lucy, May's Judy, Curry's Lucy and Rachael Starling. Elder Guthridge Ivy was the first pastor, Lewis Knight was the first clerk, and William May and Elisha Jordan were the first two deacons. These members came from Bethlehem Baptist Church. (p. 245)
1839 Friendship Baptist Church
Friendship Baptist Church, which was first called Zoar Baptist Church, was constituted December 15, 1839 by William Jordan and Asa Duggan acting as presbytery. Its constituting members had withdrawn from Poplar Springs Baptist Church because that church was anti-missionary, as stated by the minutes of the organization of Zoar Church. Members who withdrew from Poplar Springs to constitute Zoar Baptist Church were Joel P. Leverette, an ordained minister; Lewis Parker, a deacon and licentiate; William Robinson, a deacon; Green Wood, Henry B. Parker, James C. Whitaker, Mary Whitaker, Eunice Armstrong, Mary Coley, and Martha H. Parker. The name Zoar was changed to Friendship in 1843. The first building at Zoar was said to be a log house. (p. 245)
Mary Alice Jordan, editor, Cotton to Kaolin: A History of Washington County, Georgia 1784-1989 (Sandersville, GA: Washington County Historical Society, 1989). Our Manning, Mayo and Jordan ancestors were active in these churches.