Supplemental Header


The Pew from Ruth Forrester

Last edit 2019-06-11.
Note: As mentioned in the banner, this area of Southern Matters is private; if you are not a family member, friend, or invited guest, please enjoy the public areas of Southern Matters or exit. Thank you for following our Honor System. This file may contain copyrighted material; the authority to grant permission for its use does not rest with us. Otherwise--for our original material--the following citation format is suggested: "Southern Matters, accessed yyyy/mm/dd."

The path for white settlement in inland South Georgia began with the creation of the original counties of Appling, Early, and Irwin in December, 1818, which followed the forced surrender of land by the indigenous population in the Treaty of Fort Jackson (1814) and the followed-up by the Treaty of Creek Agency (1818). Most of the land in these original counties was distributed in the 1820 Lottery, with drawings toward the end of the year. Surveys took some more time. For example, this map of the Tenth Land District of original Irwin, dated Jul 23d, 1821, includes Lots 193, 222 & 223, parts of which form the present-day W.H. Outlaw Farm, three miles east of Nashville, Georgia. Charles McKennon's notes as he surveyed one of these lot lines through our farm are seen here. Our farm--comprising land from both sides of my family--will be the point of reference in this essay, which ties the religiosity of early settlers to a valued, albeit not valuable, family heirloom.

The settlers, as alluded to, brought their religion with them. For example, in the early 1830s John Murdock and Daniel McIntosh and other Scots founded the First Presbyterian Church--later Bethany--in Boston, Georgia1. As another example, Murray Cemetery, near Alapaha, Georgia , was founded in 18402 and was affiliated with the existing Murray Church, one of several Catholic churches in the area. These and other locations I mention below lie within a few miles of the Old Coffee Road (1823), north and south of our farm, and from 2-45 miles from it, the one exception being North Thompson Baptist Church near Vidalia, Georgia.

Essentially all my ancestors who populated inland South Georgia early (and whom I know of) were Primitive Baptists. There, this intensely conservative denomination was predominant and remained an important force until the early Twentieth Century3. Thus, Henry Crawford Tucker Sr. and Sarah Tucker, my 5thgreat grandparents, were charter members (1826) of Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, near Pavo, Georgia. James E. Connell Jr. and Sarah Connell, my 4th greatgrandparents were charter members (1835) at Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church , cf. historical image, south of Nashville, Georgia). Markers for four generations of my Sutton line and three generations of my Watson line and more are found at the cemetery of Empire Primitive Baptist Church4 (a few miles south of the farm in an area previously known as Watson Grade), where my greatgrandfather Outlaw preached. Members of my Boykin and Tucker lines are buried at Mount Paran Primitive Baptist Church cemetery (just north of Alapaha, Georgia, 3d and present building, earlier building). My 3d greatgrandmother Mullis (nee Austin) is buried at Red Bluff Primitive Baptist Church (south of Pearson, Georgia). Finally, mention must be made of New Hope Primitive Baptist Church, which was located at this site. Not a trace remains. My greatgrandfather Outlaw also preached here and my 2d greatgrandfather Boykin and greatgrandfather Watson were secretaries. Wouldn't it be fun to be a little bird when the preacher is in trouble for tattling on his wife? Whereas the cemetery at Empire sticks out in my mind as a place to visit deceased relatives, bring them up on the news, and clean around the graves, my connection with New Hope Church was more visceral (involving living people), immersive, and deeply personal, like the humbling ritual of washing another's feet, cleaning the building between the infrequent services, having dinner on the grounds, and being bored when one after another preacher performed. In the end, my greatgrandmother Watson was one of four members and when they died, so did the church. Anyhow these connections do not comprise an exhaustive list, but the list soon becomes exhausting.

Time passed and my ancestors drifted away from the hardshell tradition over a period of several decades. Thus, my 3d greatgrandfather Moses G. Sutton donated land for Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church (east of our farm). And, my 2d greatgrandfather Berry C. Thompson donated the land for North Thompson Baptist Church5 (near Vidalia, Georgia). Berry Thompson's daughter accompanied her husband when he moved back to Berrien County, and one of their daughters, Addie Fountain (my grandmother), became a long-time sustaining member6 of Ruth Forrester Church (sign)

The Ruth Forrester Church of my childhood was much different than the modern version; it is the older version to which I have an emotional tie. It was the venue for my grandfather Watson's funeral, one of the saddest days of my life. The gravity of the moment was driven home when my mother's sister, Lucille, wailed, passed out, and was administered smelling salts. Things in my life were never the same after that.

The church was founded by Noah Tyler, the minister mentioned above in the article on the Poplar Springs MBC. Oral history passed to me indicated that the church had been named after the daughter Ruth of a Mr. Forrester with the understanding that he would contribute substantially to its construction. After a small contribution, the story goes, he gave nothing more. I did find a Rev. Graham Forrester who was associated with Noah Tyler during this period. Reverend Forrester lived in nearby Lakeland, Georgia, in 1908 (recall the church was founded in 1907 and built in 1909). Before the end of 1909, Rev. Graham had moved to another area of the state. I could not confirm that he had a daughter named Ruth. I cannot exclude that he might have had a daughter Ruth who lived between extant census enumerations and who was not listed in a mortality schedule. More likely, however, the naming was inspired by Ruth (1886-1889), his sister.

Fortunately, we have a record of the inside of the church in 1970, three years before it was replaced. Note especially the old pews. At this time, my mother obtained one of the pews (lower left) and it remained at our farm for forty years, providing no more service than as a stand for my smoker. Yet, it meant a lot to Nedra and me, and we were able to find a restorer7 to shore it up structurally and refinish it. He honored our wishes to leave the character unaltered (e.g. original nail holes and hammer marks remain). The pew is in a happy place now and I hope is the witness to giggles of our grandchildren when they visit.


Footnotes and References

1 MacIntyre, W. 1923  History of Thomas County.  Compliled and published privately. Please note that the date, 1826, is not the same as given elsewhere, 1836, though the difference is unimportant for our purposes. Also, note the the name was changed to Boston Presbyterian Church but retains the name Bethany in glass. Front of church, side of church. Thanks to Officer Barbour for his assistance.

2 Davis, B., Roberts, J. 2015 Footprints of Early Alapaha Settlers. Published privately.

3 Crowley, J.G. 1998 Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South. University of Florida Press. Gainesville.

4 This photograph was made in 2013. The church has been torn down.

5 This fact comes from a now-broken link on the Historic Village at Brewton-Parker College. Berry C. Thompson's home has been relocated to The Historic Village of this small Baptist College, which was founded by my 2d greatgrandfather Fountain's brother David and his spouse, Eliza. (This material no longer has a working link, either.)

6 The statement that Granny Watson was a charter member of the church does not accord with its founding in 1907-1909 and her moving to Berrien County when she was 13. Small error.

7 Many thanks to First Impressions, Tallahassee, for the restoration and structural enhancement.


Return to Documentation for this page.
Return to Image Workshop home.
Return to Southern Matters home.