“Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling,”
Formation of the Church and Early History
The state of Georgia was showing a time of growth after the Revolution, and many people were turning to God. The first Baptist Church in Georgia was constituted in 1772 under the leadership of the Separate Baptist preacher, Daniel Marshall. It was Kiokee Church near present-day Appling in Columbia County. In 1784, the year after the Revolutionary War was formally ended, the Georgia Association was organized. According to early records, the five original churches in this association were Kiokee, Red Creek (Aberleen), Little Brier Creek, Fishing Creek, and Greenwood (Upton’s Creek). By 1794, the number had expanded to fifty –two, and the necessity to divide the association became apparent.
On September 27, 1794, a meeting of the churches for the lower section of the state was held at Big Buckhead Church, Burke County. The name Hephzibah which means “my delight is in her” was chosen for the association.
In W. L. Kilpatrick’s book, The Hephzibah Baptist Association Centennial, 1798-1894, the churches which became a part of the Hephzibah Association were Botsford, Brushy Creek, Buffalo, Buckeye (Laurens County), Bark Camp, Bethlehem (Washington County), Little Brier Creek, Sweet Water, Buckhead, Rocky Creek, Nelson’s, Providence (Jefferson County), Little Ogeechee, Nevill’s Creek, Darien (Washington County), McBean (not the church of that name existing in 1894), Ohoopie, Sandy Hill, and Beaver Dam. There were no records kept at the time of organization, but these churches are recorded in Kilpatrick’s history. These are the names of the churches in 1804.
Waynesboro Baptist Church joined the association in 1880, and W. L. Kilpatrick was the organizer and first pastor.
The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia in May 1845.
In recording the history of Millen Baptist Church, facts concerning Big Buckhead Church are vital. This church is located in Jenkins County, eight miles northeast of Millen on the east bank of the creek from which it derives its name.
Big Buckhead Church was probably organized before the Revolution by Matthew Moore, a Baptist minister. It is believed to be the third oldest Baptist church in the state. The church was reconstituted on September 11, 1787. Rev. John Newton recorded in his manuscript diary an account of a meeting of the Georgia Association at Kiokee and entered the fact that there were 46 members at Buckhead on May 16, 1789.
Four houses of worship, including the building now standing, were on the present site or very near this site.
Important transactions occurred at Big Buckhead Church which have greatly influenced Baptist history. The Hephzibah Association was organized here on Saturday “before the fourth Lord’s Day” in September, 1794. The Georgia Baptist Convention at its annual session in spring of 1831, at Big Buckhead Church, adopted a resolution to establish a classical and theological school whose main object would be the improvement of the rising ministry. This school developed into Mercer University. An informal conference held by some of the church members on the front steps resulted in the formation of the Hephzibah High School. The year of this conference was 1860.
In the records of Big Buckhead Church, January 5, 1828, these words are found, “Resolved that there be an arm of this church at the school house on little Buckhead.” The first baptism administered under this action was on March 22, of the same year and the subject was “Millie,” a colored woman.
The next recorded entry is July 4, 1835, “Dismissed to form a church at the school house on Little Buckhead.” The same year the church joined the Association with a membership of twenty-one. The first mention of a pastor was in 1837, W. S. Moore who says he withdrew from the Hephzibah Association in 1842 to unite with Middle Association. The membership was now seventy-one.
The Millen Baptist Church was organized in 1885. The town of Millen was growing, and many people who lived in Millen drove horses out to Little Buckhead Church on Sunday for services. This was a distance of five miles, and the members decided it would be more convenient to have a church in Millen. Little Buckhead Church was formed from the membership of Big Buckhead Church who did not want to travel so far to attend church. Dr. William Kilpatrick has written a book describing these developments and he became the first pastor of the Millen Church. There were services once a month, and Sunday School every Sunday.
The first church in Millen was a small white wood building with beautiful oak trees around it. This building stood in the middle of the lot where the present church now stands. There were two small Sunday School rooms for the smaller children. The others met in the church and divided into groups.
The church had a baptistery and a bell in the steeple which rang as a reminder to come to church, Sunday School, and prayer meeting.
Only a few in the present church remember this little church but to some, these are happy memories; of seeing families all sitting together, of Sunday School picnics where our mothers went with us, of the times when ice cream was churned for missionary meetings. Some remember when they gave their lives to Jesus and were baptized.
By 1910, we had outgrown that church building. It was moved down the street and the present building was constructed. The moving of a building was very slow at that time, so where ever that building was when Sunday came, we had church in it. The small building was used until the present structure was completed in 1911.
After we no longer needed the building, it was sold to the Presbyterians. When they no longer had enough members to support the church, it was sold to Mr. M. G. McComb and he made two houses out of the material. Those houses still stand in Millen today.
The furniture in the pulpit and the table in the front vestibule were used in the little church.
Mrs. Merrill Johnson, Sr., and Mrs. Z. E. Neal remember attending Sunday School in the little white church building while it was being moved to the north end of Gray Street before the present structure was completed. They attended service wherever the church was on that particular Sunday. They remember the date to be around 1910.
Mr. W. L. Kilpatrick states that in 1835 Little Buckhead Church joined the Asociation. In 1886, the church moved to the town of Millen, according to Mr. Kilpatrick, but the cornerstone on the present church building records the year of 1885. In 1889, a number took letters of dismission and constituted second little Buckhead, occupying by permission the same house formally used, and the lumber from that first church was used to build two houses which still stand on North Gray Street. Those entering into the constitution of the little Buckhead Church were:
Males – S. A. Perkins, G. W. Reynolds, W. E. Burke, F. L. Murrow, and W. D. Renolds; females – Mrs. Mittie Perkins, Mrs. Sue Reynolds, Mrs. Sallie Burke, Mrs. Tallulah Reynolds, Mrs. Mary S. Murrow, Mrs. Susanna Brinson, Mrs. Nancy Brinson, Mrs. Emma Winham, Mrs. Mary Caughlin, and Mrs. Josephine Reynolds.
Mr. F. L. Murrow of the “Second Little Buckhead” Church united with the church at Millen. In 1904, the church was incorporated as Millen Baptist Church.
The early minutes of the church reveal that it was a missionary church.
July 8, 1908 – “It is recommended that we have three special mission sermons during the remainder of this year, and the special collections follow each sermon; July, Foreign Missions; September, State Missions; November, Home Missions. After this year we are to take up the regular work laid out by the Mission Board.”
It was a witnessing church.
August 5 1908 – “The pastor was empowered to appoint a committee to invite strangers to the regular service, and he appointed J. R. Applewhite and S. E. Attaway.”
The Millen Baptist Church was endeavoring to do God’s work.
November 18, 1908 – “Note that at the recent state convention at Griffin it was mentioned that the W. M.U. of the Middle Association led the state in the number of new societies organized during the year, and that our Young Woman’s Auxiliary was placed on the gold star roll, and that our Sunbeam Band reached third place in the state in contributions.”
The church continued to be interested in missions.
January 7, 1913 – “The church recommended that we raise for missions during the year 1913: $225 for Home Missions; $275 for State Missions; $300.” (we suppose that meant for Foreign Missions). It is interesting to compare this with 1984-85, when the Lottie Moon goal for Foreign Missions was $6,600.00 and offering received was $7,600.00. The Annie Armstrong Easter offering for Home Missions was $3,000.00.
“The last note given for the church building having been destroyed at a recent conference.”
In the minutes there are recorded statements through the years which show the loving concern of this church for needy children. Support has been given to the Children’s Home in Baxley on a yearly basis. In 1930, the records show that $140.15 was the amount donated. In 1942, $406.00 in funds and $200.81 in commodities were sent. The amount was $390.91 in cash and $225.00 in produce in 1949. Produce in the amount of $500.00 was sent in 1953. In 1954, over and above the regular donation, a freezer was given and dairy barn was completed on the Baxley campus. A freight car was loaded with produce, 6,410 pounds, in 1956. The record shows that in December 1960, 250 bushels of corn 4 tons of hay and pecans, and 7,089 pounds of sugar were sent. This support continues until the present time. The women of the church collect items of clothing several times a year, and the generosity of the church fellowship is outstanding.
Just a few years it took to build and to pay the present church building. It was recorded that his was possible because they had the guidance and the direction of the Holy Spirit in their witness of God’s love.
The second building to be built for Sunday School work was completed in January 1949. The next addition included the chapel, Sunday School classrooms, social hall and kitchen and was built in March 1963.
God’s blessings have been abundant in making possible the 100 years of growth in Millen Baptist Church.
(The above text was taken from The Footsteps of Jesus—A walk Together in Christian Love, as an account of the first 100 years of Millen Baptist Church.)
We believe that God continues to write the story of Millen Baptist Church!