Since Aug. 21, 1833, generations of souls have been saved at Liberty Baptist Church.
On Sunday, the congregation marked the century and three quarters milestone with an old timers day celebration, complete with period costumes, old-fashioned country dinner and special service.
One of the oldest constituted Baptist churches in the area, and the oldest in Dawson County, Liberty stands on the same land where the church was first organized in a log dwelling 175 years ago.
“We have a long history here at Liberty,” said member Gordon Pirkle.
Pirkle wore work overalls, a white button-up shirt and a black ribbon tied in a bow around his collar to commemorate those who set the foundation for Liberty.
Pastor Ruel Martin, who plans to retire later this month, said the congregation is the reason Liberty has thrived over the past 175 years.
“It’s these people,” Martin said. “They’re a family and they have the spirit in them.”
One of Liberty’s sister churches, Mt. Tabor Baptist in Forsyth County, was founded a day later on Aug. 22, 1833. Mt. Tabor will celebrate its 175th anniversary on Aug. 24.
Like any storied old country churches, Liberty and Mt. Tabor share a history that is as colorful and fascinating as a stained glass window.
Both Liberty Baptist and Mt. Tabor were established by the Revs. Jeremiah Reeves and William Manning, missionaries sent to north Georgia in the 1830s to form churches at a time when Cherokee Indians still occupied much of what was then considered frontier land.
Reeves and Manning also founded Ararat Baptist Church in Canton on Aug. 23,
1833. It later became known as First Baptist Church at Canton.
Liberty’s first pastor was the Rev. John Edwards Rives, who served for 49 years. Four men and two women were the first members.
The congregation now has close to 500 members, according to eighth generation member Hayley Garrett.
Liberty’s first church building, a small log house, was built near the back of the present cemetery.
The church, located off War Hill Park Road, was named Liberty because the church welcomed all who wished to worship, according to the Dawson County, Georgia Heritage book.
Liberty soon became a charter member of the Hightower Baptist Association, which was organized in Forsyth County in 1835. A second church was built of “hewed logs” about 1840.
Another church, known as Old Liberty, was built in 1855, but was destroyed by fire in 1895.
The congregation then worshipped at Liberty Academy until the church was rebuilt and dedicated a year later.
The present church, built in July 1961, is the fifth structure where Liberty’s congregation has worshipped.
Ben Holcombe of the DCN regional staff contributed to this report.
E-mail Michele Hester at email@example.com.