History of New Providence Baptist Church
"The Second Hundred Years of New Providence Baptist Church"
Three years after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Confederate survivors of this nation’s Civil War Founded a new church out of the defeat, dejection and ashes of that war in the rolling foothills of North Georgia, in Cobb County.
The same year, 1868, that Atlanta became Georgia’s third capital, this new church was named “The Baptist Church of Christ ant Providence”.
The dictionary defines Providence as “looking ahead to the future and the care and help of God.”
The idea for founding this church was conceived in the minds of these veterans and was given birth on Saturday before the fifth Sabbath, in August 1868, in a tavern situated on a small stream that crossed Providence Road a few hundred feet to the east of today’s present church.
Ironically, the tavern that had previously offered the “devil’s brew” -6 days per week- became God’s house on Sunday for 3 years as these veterans built a church on a “pay as you go” basis on 2 acres only a few hundred feet from the tavern.
In January 1871, the building committee of New Providence had completed its function and the congregation moved into its first church building. The stream that passed between the old tavern building and the new church building served as the church’s source of baptismal waters for several years. The church recorded its first baptism in 1869. That of N.E.C. Blackwell.
Like the churches of the old world and the churches of this evolving new nation of the “United States, New Providence Baptist Church set aside next to the church a plot of ground for their own cemetery.
On June 9, 1875, with the passing of Mary Johnston, New Providence’s cemetery received its first grave and tombstone.
Before the complete unrolling of the scrolls of history of “The Baptist Church of Christ at Providence,” it is important to fully understand what happened in the rolling foothills of North Georgia in Cobb County prior to the building of this new church---let’s look!
The North Georgia foothills were the home of the Cherokee Indian nation. In 1835, the Indians signed a treaty with the government to sell their land for 50 cents an acre in exchange for equal acreage west of the Mississippi river, to belong to the Indians “for as long as the rivers shall flow and the grass shall grow.”
Three years later in the fall of 1838, the Army rounded up over 13,000 Indians in Georgia and Alabama and moved them westward during the winter months on the brutal “Trail of Tears.” Over four thousand Indians died during the seven hundred mile trek.
1860 saw the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, elected President of the United States. The enigma of slavery versus states’ rights tore the nation asunder, turning brother against brother in a confused and divided South.
On April 12, 1861, the War Between the States began. The first shot was fired by the Confederates on the Federal Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. The start of the four year war that would be more costly to the nation in human lives than all the wars before or since, a total loss of 618,000 men.
Georgia had more men in the war than any other southern state and her losses were greater. Of her 125,000 men in service, over 25,000 were killed.
It wasn’t until the fall of 1863 that Georgia’s land experienced its first fighting in the Battle of Chickamauga! Georgia experienced many battle sites during the last year of the war – Pine Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain and the Battle of Atlanta.
The torch was applied to Atlanta on November 15, 1864 and most of the city’s buildings, factories and homes were burned ot the ground in an inferno that could be seen twenty miles away in Marietta and Roswell.
General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia on Sunday, April 9, 1865.
The economy of the South collapsed, its land destroyed, its railroads, twisted into “Sherman hairpins,” its people broken, destitute and defeated.
But after the first wane of hopeless resignation, the ravaged South found new strength in the determination to rise again.
The Civil War left America with a legend and a haunting memory.
The men who had marched gaily off in new uniforms and who had not come back; the buildings the war had wrecked, the countryside it had scarred, the whole network of habits and hopes and attitudes of mind, it had ground to fragment – these were remembered with proud devotion by a nation which had paid an unimaginable price for an experience compounded of suffering and loss and ending in stunned bewilderment.
There were cemeteries, quiet peaceful fields, where soldiers who had never cared about military formality lay in the last sleep precisely ranked in rows of white headstones which bespoke personal tragedies blunted at last by time. The men who fought in the Civil War, speaking for all Americans, had said something the country could never forget.
This crushing, devastating history was a crucible from which the very molds of the men and women were filled with the determination to survive and worship their God who had spared their lives. So was born The Baptist Church of Christ at Providence.
Only with this short flashback into the history of these rolling hills of North Georgia can a sincere appreciation of their passion, determination to survive, and overcome a haunting memory of defeat.
Seven years after moving into their new church, it was destroyed by fire. This was a vivid reminder of the consuming fires of the Civil War that had ended only 13 years before.
The members of this growing church were to be again tested, when on December 12, 1901, 23 years after their first church was destroyed by fire, their church was again consumed by fire!
Undaunted by this second disaster, these children of the Civil War veterans immediately held a conference to set about the task of rebuilding.
It was decided that a structure 30 x 40 feet would be erected on the site of the original building.
The church needed financial help with their building program and made application to the Mission Board of Georgia for assistance and received $50.00 for the building fund.
Although the desire to rebuild was immediate at the time of the fire, it took 3 years of financial struggle – pay as you go to complete their new church in 1904.
This third building was somewhat unique in that it had two front doors, each opening on its own aisle. In a sense, a divided sitting area enjoying a common alter. Thus allowing half of the church for the men and half for the women and children.
Men entered the left front door and women and all their children entered the right front door.
These were people of the land who had large families by necessity! It was not uncommon for each family to have 6 to 9 children.
From the pastor’s viewpoint in those years as he looked down from his pulpit, he saw a church divided, half with quiet, attentive all male audience and the other half with crying, restless children and mothers rocking back and forth to comfort their infants while desperately trying to be attentive. A sea of tranquility and a sea of motion under the same steeple.
A detailed review of the church’s record history revealed many memorable facts and “statements” characteristic of the 1800’s.
All the minutes of the deacons were uniformly structured and always included these statements that may have necessitated a response;
“Called for the Fellowship of the Church and found her in Peace”
“Called for Reference”
“Open the way for reception of members”
During the year of 1898, it was recorded in the church council notes that a prospective member had been accepted with a forged letter of transfer from another church. An obvious example of a person’s strong desire to become a member of New Providence Baptist Church.
The church’s history recorded that in 1918 the church was paying their pastor an annual salary of $101.88. Of this total, $11.88 was an over-payment, which he was allowed to keep.
During those early years after the turn of the century, it was a common practice for the Baptist churches in the same general areas to communicate on a regular basis and observe communion together.