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The First Baptists in Georgia
A History of the Baptists
By John T. Christian, 1926

     The Whitefield revival was the occasion of introducing Baptists into Georgia. The first account of the appearance of Baptists in Georgia was in the year 1757. Mr. Nicholas Bedgewood, who was employed in the capacity of agent to the Orphanage of Whitefield, near Savannah, had several years previously been convinced of Baptist sentiments. In that year he went to Charleston, and was baptized by Oliver Hart, the pastor of the Baptist church in that city. He was soon licensed to preach, and his ordination to the ministry took place in 1759. In 1763, he baptized several persons in and about the Orphan House, among whom was Benjamin Stirk, who afterwards became a minister of the gospel. To these persons, who probably joined a branch of the Charleston church, Bedgewood administered the Lord's Supper, the first Baptist communion ever held in the province. Stirk appears to have been a man of good learning, fine natural parts, and eminent for piety and zeal. As there was no Baptist church in Georgia, he united with the Baptist church at Euhaw, South Carolina. He soon began to preach, and set up places of meeting, at his house, and at Tuckaseeking, twenty miles higher up in the country, where there were a few Baptists, who constituted a branch of the Euhaw church. But of the useful labors of this servant of Christ they were soon deprived, as he was called to his reward in the year 1770. This is the second sign of a Baptist church in the State; indeed, it is not certain that it ever became a regular church.

     In the meantime Botsford, a young licentiate of the Charleston church, while on a visit to the Euhaw church, received an invitation to come over and help this feeble church and destitute field. Encouraged by the mother church, and accompanied by the pastor, he came and preached to them his first sermon, June 27, 1771. His labors were highly acceptable, he yielded to their solicitations and remained with them for more than a year. His anxious spirit would not permit him to remain in one place. He traveled extensively, preached in all the surrounding country; and toward the close of the next year, he went still higher up the river and commenced an establishment at what was first called New Savannah, but now Botsford's Old Meeting House, about twenty-five miles below Augusta. Here he had the pleasure of seeing the work of the Lord prosper in his hands.

     The following incident, which is characteristic of the times, is related of Botsford: In parts of Georgia where he labored the inhabitants were a mixed multitude of emigrants from many different places; most of whom were destitute of any form of religion, and the few who paid any regard to it were zealous Churchmen and Lutherans, and violently opposed to the Baptists. He preached in the court house in Burk county. The assembly at first paid decent attention; but, toward the close of the sermon, one of them bawled out with a great oath, "The rum has come." Out he rushed; others followed; the assembly was soon left small; and, by the time Botsford got out to his horse, he had the unhappiness to find many of his hearers intoxicated and fighting. An old gentleman came up to him, took his horse by the bridle, and in a profane dialect most highly extolling him and his discourse, swore he must drink with him, and come and preach in his neighborhood. It was now no time to reason or reprove; and as preaching was Botsford's business, he accepted the old man's invitation, and made an appointment. His first sermon was blessed in the awakening of his host's wife; one of his sons also became religious, and others in the settlement, to the number of fifteen, were in a short time brought to the knowledge of the truth, and the old man himself became sober and attentive to religion, although he never made a profession of it.

     A little previous to the coming of Botsford to Tuckaseeking, Daniel Marshall, with other Baptist emigrants, arrived and settled at Kiokee Creek, about twenty miles above Augusta. He began forthwith to preach in the surrounding country. His principal establishment was on the Big Kiokee, and from this circumstance it received the name of the Kiokee Meeting House. It was located on the site now occupied by the public buildings of Columbia county, called Applington.

     The following record is given of one of his services: "The scene is in a sylvan grove, and Daniel Marshall is on his knees making the opening prayer. While he beseeches the Throne of Grace, a hand is laid on his shoulders, and he hears a voice say: 'You are my prisoner.'

     "Rising, the sedate, earnest minded man of God, whose sober mien and silvery locks indicate the sixty-five years which have passed since his birth, finds himself confronted by the officer of the law. He is astonished at being arrested, under such circumstances, 'according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.' Rev. Abraham Marshall, in his sketch of his father, published in the Analytical Repository, 1802, says that the arrested preacher was made to give security for his appearance in Augusta on the following Monday to answer for this violation of the law, adding: 'Accordingly, he stood trial, and after his meekness and patience were sufficiently exercised, he was ordered to come no more to Georgia.' The reply of Daniel Marshall was similar to that of the Apostles under similar circumstances, 'Whether it be right to obey God or man, judge ye'; and, 'consistently with this just and spirited replication, he pursued his luminous course'" (History of the Baptists in Georgia, 13, 14. Atlanta, 1881).

     Daniel Marshall was born at Winsor, Connecticut, in 1706, of Presbyterian parents. He was a man of great natural ardor and holy zeal. Becoming convinced that it was his duty to assist in converting the heathen, he went, with his wife and three children, and preached for three years to the Mohawk Indians, near the headwaters of the Susquehannah river, at a town called Onnaquaggy. War among the savage tribes compelled his removal, first to Connogogig in Pennsylvania, and then to Winchester, Virginia, where he became a convert to Baptist views, and was immersed at the age of forty-eight. His wife also submitted to the ordinance at the same time. He was soon licensed by the church with which he united and, having removed to North Carolina, he built up a flourishing church, of which he was ordained pastor by his two brothers-in-law, Rev. Henry Ledbetter and Shubeal Stearns. From North Carolina he removed to South Carolina, and from South Carolina to Georgia, in each State constituting new and flourishing churches. On January 1, 1771, he settled in what is now Columbia county, Georgia, on Kiokee Creek. He was a man of pure life, unbounded faith, fervent spirit, holy zeal, indefatigable in religious labors, and possessing the highest moral courage.

     Although Marshall was neither profoundly learned nor very eloquent as a preacher, yet he was fervent, the Lord was with him, and he soon had the happiness of seeing many converts baptized. These with the emigrant Baptists were constituted into a church, in the year 1772. This was the first church constituted in Georgia. At this time he was the only ordained Baptist preacher in the State; but there were several licentiates including Abraham Marshall. By these the word was proclaimed in all the upper country, and many were in the remote forests.

     The following is the act of incorporation of this ancient church at Kiokee:

The Act of incorporating the Anabaptist church on the Kioka, in the county of Richmond.
WHEREAS, a religious society has, for many years, been established on the Kioka, in the county of Richmond, called and known by the name of "The Anabaptist church of Kioka";
Be it enacted, That Abraham Marshall, William Willingham, Edmund Cartledge, John Landers, James Simms, Joseph Ray and Lewis Gardener be, and they are hereby, declared to be a body corporate, by the name and style of "The Trustees of the Anabaptist church of Kioka."
And be it further enacted, That the Trustees (the same names are here given) of the said Anabaptist church, shall hold their office for the term of three years; and, on the third Saturday of November, in every third year, after the passing of this Act, the supporters of the Gospel in said church shall convene at the meeting house of the said church, and there, between the hours of ten and four, elect from among the supporters of the Gospel in said church seven discreet persons as Trustees, &c.
Seaborn Jones, Speaker.
Edward Telfair, Governor.
Nathan Brownson, President Senate.
December 23d, 1789.

[From John T. Christian, A History of the Baptists, Volume 2, 1926; reprint, pp. 209-212. The title is supplied by this editor. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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