This photograph dates to 2000. The church, located off Five Bridge Road, was razed by 2007. There is still a cemetery at the site.
Tag Archives: Churches of Irwin County GA
Karen Phillips writes: For most of its history this was known as the Free Will Baptist Church, located on 7th Street between Oak Street and Maple Street. It was probably built in the early 1900s. It was moved to its present location in the mid-2000s and is now occupied by an African-American congregation. To me, it’s the most unique church building in Ocilla. I hope it can be preserved in its present appearance.
In his History of Irwin County (Atlanta, Foote & Davies, 1932), J. B. Clements writes: The Methodists must have been in Irwin County as early as the Baptists, if not earlier. He notes that the first known Methodist circuit rider in the area was John W. Yarborough, a young man just from the mountains and his first appointment was the Irwin Mission in Irwin County. This was in 1832. In 1866, another Methodist circuit rider noted he rode seventeen miles through Irwin County without seeing a single dwelling or a living thing save a deer leaping through the woods. Methodists were fairly sparse in Irwin County throughout most of the 19th-century. Unfortunately, Clements does not give any account of the history of the Ocilla Methodist Church in his work, though he does include a photograph of the building. It’s likely that it dates to the first decade of Ocilla’s incorporation, between 1897-1907.
This enigmatic building, the only remaining symbol of Waterloo’s past, was used as a Masonic lodge and a church, at least through the 1940s. I’ve not been able to determine a date of construction.
Regarding the Masonic lodge, Jerry Camp writes: This building was on property sold by Waterloo Lodge, Number 506 of Free and Accepted Masons, According to deed dated March 7, 1936.
Roy Holsenbeck recalls its time as a school: I attended this school about 1943-1945. It originally sat by highway 32 across street from Looney Layton’s general store. The name I remember best is Mr. Widner, the Principal. He did all corporal punishment and had a paddle with holes drilled in it. (at least I heard) One of the most memorable things I remember was there were no indoor restrooms. The Girls and boys out houses were about 100 yards up the red Georgia Clay hill to the east. The grounds were all clay and rocks. Believe me we had no “school nurse to fix our hurts when we fell out of swings or off slides. I lived with my Grandparents Archie and Maggie Clements who farmed Mr. Layton’s farm just south of Waterloo.
UPDATE: I’ve learned that as of 25 July 2018 the building is in the process of being torn down.
Before it was known as Arp, this community on the Irwin-Ben Hill County line was known as Isaac. The name was changed sometime between 1910 and 1915, and judging by the burial dates in the adjoining cemetery, I would estimate that this church dates to about 1910.
Since there was already an Isaac Baptist Church, the small African-American community here named their church Mount Isaac, to distinguish it from the the white church. And though Arp is located in Irwin County, the church and cemetery are just over the county line in Ben Hill.
Many thanks to Laura Wiggins Norris for bringing it to my attention, and to Dale Bledsoe for the history.
Abba has been one of my favorite places since I began rambling the backroads near my hometown twenty years ago. I have always loved this church, with its asymmetrical steeples, and its place at the edge of some of the most beautiful farmland in South Georgia. Its cemetery is one of the most peaceful places I know. A few of my ancestors are buried here. (An interesting geographical note- though the congregation is exclusively associated with Irwin County, the church building itself is actually located in Ben Hill County, due to boundary changes in 1906).
This shows Abba Church when there were two doorways at the base of each steeple and a Gothic window in the center.
This shows Abba Church in 1970, around the time it was modified. Notice that the doorways at the base of the steeples have been closed off, and the Gothic window in the center has been replaced by a new entryway. The church looks the same today, as you can see in my own photographs, with one exception: the bell tower on the left has been closed.
I was grateful to get these vintage photographs and a great history of the church from Mike Kitchens. His father, Howard, served as pastor of Abba for 40 years.
The church began as Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in 1889, with M. L. Stone as first pastor, and O. D. Mulky as his assistant. Soon thereafter, Reverend Mulky changed the name to New Mt. Zion at Abba. In 1904, the original structure, a simple frame building, was moved across the road toward the railroad track and used as the Abba School for some time. In 1907, the present structure was built during the pastorate of J. R. Ballenger on land donated by J. M. Bussell. In 1955, the name of the church was changed to Abba Missionary Baptist Church. By this time, the village of Abba was in danger of disappearing from the map, so the new name was christened to ensure it would live through the ages. At some point, Missionary was dropped and it became simply Abba Baptist Church. (This history was compiled by longtime church secretary Mrs. J. W. C. Brown.)
I’ve always been told the name Abba originates from the Atlanta Birmingham & Atlantic, or A. B. & A Railroad, which ran through the area and made whistlestops there in the late 1800s, though an interesting alternative would be the biblical term abba, which was a transliteration of the old Aramaic for father. I’d love to know for sure…
Many thanks again to Mike Kitchens for sharing this fascinating story.