One of the phrases I see repeatedly when I review the history of a church is the section regarding the donation of land for a church building and a burial ground by some good and faithful citizen -- a practice that was repeated across the country and right here in Douglas County.
Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on Lower River Road was known for many years simply as Jack Smith's Church due to the fact Mr. Smith had donated the land for the church and cemetery. Jack Smith was an African American who owned a large amount of land in the area following the Civil War. Occasionally, I run across a mention of "Jack Smith's Church" in old newspapers.
Beulah Baptist Church formed as early as 1869. It received a donation of two acres from William Pierce Mozley "for church and school purposes." In those days the location was known as the corner of Old Atlanta and Church Roads but is now referred to as Bankhead Highway and Riley Road.
In September 1891, John James donated eight acres in Salt Springs (Lithia Springs) along with "other substantial aid in the structure of a white frame building" for a place of worship for the combined congregations of Salt Springs Baptist Church and Oak Grove Church. It is said Mrs. James suggested the new name -- Union Grove -- which the two congregations would form. They are still worshipping today at 6715 Union Grove Road in Lithia Springs.
New River Community Church on Fairburn Road is another such church with a benefactor. The congregation there began meeting as a "brush arbor" church, which in pioneer days was generally set up in a grove of trees on someone's property. At some point Nesbitt Harper gave the congregation land to set up Community Grove Missionary Baptist Church. The paperwork states, "for the consideration of one dollar" and had a provision the land would return to Harper if the church every ceased operation, another common requirement regarding gifts of land. The congregation at Berea Christian Church received their land in 1915 but had to return their church property to their benefactor, Hilliard Morrow, when they ceased meeting in the 1930s.
I was unable to find much on the history of Union Grove Church of Christ which sits near the intersection of Post Road and Highway 166, but it exists today due to a donation of land by Joe McWhorter.
Liberty Grove Methodist Church once stood in the curve on Mack Road near Deer Lick Park. All that remains of the African American church is the burial ground located across the street from location of the church. The land for a church and burial ground was donated by Caleb Perry Bowen soon after the Civil War. He was a large landowner in the area and prominent citizen involved in local government and politics. The old church was torn down in the 1950s, but I've yet to find out why and would welcome any information.
Central Baptist Church began with "five acres of donated land, an offering of $5.10, and thirteen charter members." The donation included enough acreage for a church building and burial ground and was donated by Benjamin Franklin Camp (1857-1907) who was a local farmer and member of a family with deep roots in the area going back to Campbell County days as his great-great-great grandfather was Joseph Camp (1777-1854), an early Campbell County settler and justice of the inferior court.
While I don't know for certain the names of the original charter members of Central Baptist, I must assume Mr. Camp was right up at the top due to the land donation and due to the fact he helped to build the original building. Today, a marker can be found on campus of Central Baptist which memorializes the exact location of the first sanctuary stating, "Land donated by B.F. Camp dedicated to the glory of God and to honor our past and future saints."
It was at the end of September 1907 when Camp helped finish the original meeting house when he was struck with what is described in his obituary as meningitis. He grew steadily worse until the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 1907 when he died. Camp left behind a wife, five children, and a host of relatives.
The irony lies in the death and burial of Mr. Camp as the land he donated became his final resting place just a few days later as Douglasville and Atlanta newspaper accounts verify.
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her books can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art, The Farmer's Table and Lithia Springs Pharmacy.