In the printed Minutes of the Hephzibah Baptist Association for the year 1890, page 7, will be found the following:"Resolved, That as we are approaching the completion of one hundred years' continuous existence as an Association, brother W. L. Kilpatrick be requested to present next year, and the following four years, an historical sketch of this body by installments of twenty years each year." No further explanation is needed as to this writer's attempting the brief history here presented, though it will be apparent, as we proceed, that the party introducing this resolution was in error as to the time when the Association would complete a hundred years of its existence.
Material The material at our disposal, so far as appertains to the first twenty years, is meager in the extreme. The original printed matter consists of an incomplete file of the Minutes of the Georgia Association -- a still less complete file of the Minutes of the Hephzibah Association and John Asplund's Register, compiled in 1791. Then, in addition to this printed matter, is a Manuscript Diary of the Rev. John Newton extending from 1784 to 1790.
After this original matter we have Benedict's "History of the Baptists," Mercer's "History of the Georgia Baptist Association," Campbell's "Georgia Baptists," and "The Baptist Denomination in Georgia," compiled for the Christian Index Company.
But when we state that all four of these Histories were based upon the same original matter, together with some unpublished "Notes" by Rev. Adiel Sherwood, the reader will readily understand that an unpleasant sameness necessarily pervades them all. Indeed, we find occasionally whole paragraphs and even chapters which are the same, word for word; and that, too, without even the warning that would be furnished by quotations marks. The chief variety consists in the introduction by the one party or the other of reminiscences furnished by "the oldest inhabitant." It is needless for us to add that the memory of this worthy "inhabitant" is proverbially unreliable.
This unpleasant sameness will necessarily exist in what we shall present, increased perhaps by the unfortunate circumstance that a goodly portion of the above recited original matter has already been freely used by this writer while assisting in some humble way in the compilation of the last named history.
Location The Hephzibah Association is in the Eastern part of Middle Georgia, embracing in its territorial limits all of Richmond, Jefferson and Glascock Counties, nearly all of Burke County, together with small portions of Columbia, McDuffie, Warren and Washington Counties. At an earlier period, before the formation of the Ocmulgee, Ebenezer, Washington and Middle Associations, these limits were much more extended than at present, although the number of churches at this present time, as well as the number of members, is greater than at any former period.
Points of Entry Less than one hundred and fifty years ago what now constitutes the State of Georgia, so far as appertains to its domain, was in the undisputed possession of the Indians, with the exception of a very narrow strip bordering upon the Savannah river and upon the sea-coast. On this narrow strip were a few settlements near Savannah; also a few near a trading station, since developed into the City of Augusta. Immigrants were soon crowding in, entering the territory at these two points. A few years later immigrant parties were crossing the Savannah river, midway between Savannah and Augusta, thus making at an early period three points of entry into Georgia.
Those coming in by way of Savannah were mostly direct from the old world; those coming in by way of Augusta were chiefly from Virginia and North Carolina; those entering at the intermediate point had been citizens of South Carolina. These immigrants usually settled near the respective points of entry, and in a short time spread over the intervening space. Baptists were among these new comers; churches were planted, and it is not difficult, even at this distant day, to trace the existence of our churches in Eastern Georgia to the influences emanating from these different points respectively; indeed, we can almost say that these churches form three distinct groups.
Among those Baptists coming in by the upper route were the Marshalls, the Mercers and the Franklins; by the middle route were Botsford, McCall and others; by the lower were Screven, Dunham, Polhill and others.
As the Hephzibah Association, at the time of its formation, and for many years thereafter, covered the entire distance from Augusta to the seaboard, it will readily be understood that our churches at an earlier period, were the result of the labors of all of these men.
More recently the churches upon the lower border withdrew to form other Associations, leaving our churches as they at present stand, to consist chiefly of emanations from the Marshall settlements and from the Botsford settlements.
The Men It is but in accordance with human nature to be desirous of knowing something of those from whom we derived our being, especially if there is reason to believe that no dishonor attaches to their names, so it is but reasonable that we should wish to know something of those who were pioneers in disseminating Baptist principles where our churches now stand as the fruits of their labors. We deem it necessary to present the names of only three of these pioneers: Daniel Marshall, Abraham Marshall and Edmund Botsford.
Daniel Marshall was born at Windsor, Connecticut, in 1706. He was of a roving disposition, and after laboring as a self-appointed missionary to the Mohawk Indians, he found his way to Virginia and finally to Georgia. In 1771 he located upon Kiokee Creek in (now) Columbia County, some twenty miles from Augusta. He was not a learned man, but deeply pious, profoundly in earnest, and burning with zeal for the Master's cause. He died November 2d, 1784.
Abraham Marshall, son of the above named Daniel, was a native of the same town as his father, and was born April 3d, 1748. He was the companion of his father in his travels, and was associated with him in his ministerial labors. Upon the shoulders of Abram fell the mantle of Daniel. He died August 15th, 1819.
Edmumd Botsford was born at Woburn, Bedfordshire, England in 1745. He came to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1766, and was there baptised the same year. In May, 1774, he bought lands, locating upon Brier Creek, in Burke County, Georgia. In the early part of 1779 he fled from the State to escape from the hands of the British and Tories. He never returned to Georgia, but died in Georgetown, South Carolina, December 25, 1819.
Other men, good and true, labored successfully in planting that which has brought forth such a bountiful harvest, but, with rare exception, they became Baptists after reaching Georgia; and that, too, through the instrumentality of these three men, but these three were Baptists before coming into the State.
The Churches Kiokee -- sometimes called Green Brier -- of Columbia, is the first Baptist Church that was ever constituted in Georgia. This took place in the Spring of 1772, Daniel Marshall and his son Abraham officiating. The house stood where the town of Appling now is. This Church never belonged to the Hephzibah Association, but it may with propriety be styled the parent of a large number of those which do.
Botsford, in Burke County, is the second constituted in the State. This took place November, 1773. Oliver Hart, of Charleston, South Carolina, and Francis Pelot, of Eutaw, South Carolina, assisted Edmund Botsford in the services on that occasion. The Church at that time was located at New Savannah, some twenty miles below Augusta on the river, and bore the name of that now extinct; town. In 1788 the name was changed to "Brier Creek," so as to correspond to its changed location; still later, it was called "Lower Brier Creek," by way of distinguishing it from "The Head of Brier Creek." This is another parent church, and was brought into existence by influences in no way connected with the Kiokee Church.
Abilene, in Columbia County, is the fourth Church. It was constituted in 1774, and is an off-shoot from Kiokee. For many years it was called "Red's Creek."
Little Brier Creek, in Warren County, comes next, unless exception be made in favor of Big Buckhead. But as this will be considered when we come to speak more fully of the Churches of our Association, the question of priority as to age is dismissed for the present.
Fishing Creek comes next, in 1782, located in Wilkes County.
Upton's Creek (now Greenwood), was organized 1784; this was also in Wilkes.
The Georgia Association Formed
During the latter part of the Revolutionary War the State of Georgia was so completely in the hands of the British and Tories that armed resistance to the English crown by such forces as were here available was useless. The intolerance of the victors left no alternative but for men to take the oath of allegiance or flee from the State and unite with the Continental forces in some other parts. The aged Daniel Marshall alone of the Baptist ministers remained in the State. His age was his protection from violence. But now, as the war is over, all the ministers are back in their fields of labor, with the exception of Botsford. Silas Mercer, Sanders Walker, Matthew Talbot, William Davis, Peter Smith, William Franklin, Abraham Marshall, James Matthews and others traversed the country preaching the Gospel with all the zeal of Apostolic times.
The Churches were considering the propriety of being drawn more closely together by forming themselves into an Association. Botsford had united with the Charleston Association in South Carolina in 1774, its founder being personally connected by special ties with the leading men of that body. The others organized "The Georgia Baptist Association" in October, 1784. ===================
[W. L. Kilpatrick, The Hephzibah Baptist Association Centennial, From 1794 to 1894 , 1894, pp. 7-12. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]
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