Breaking News
More () »

From Sherman's March to a fire in '94, Elam Baptist has remained a resilient sacred space

The story goes General Sherman used the wooden boards from the church as troughs to feed his horses.

JONES COUNTY, Ga. — Elam Baptist Church had a humble beginning.

Henry Hooten bought 200 acres and put up a few logs.

Marianne Bivens and Cecil Ethridge Junior are cousins with deep roots in this congregation.

"He started a bush arbor here, and he had about eight members that would attend, Marianne said.

"It was called Hooten's Meeting House, and then it was changed to Elam Baptist, Cecil said.

"This was holy ground for us and for our family," Marianne said.

This holy ground is full of history.

When Sherman made his march to the sea, he stopped in Elam
Marianne saved a pew from the dump.

The story goes Sherman used the wooden boards as troughs to feed his horses.

The real gut punch came in 1994.

A group of men broke into the church and burned it to the ground.

"I came down, and my Dad was down here just watching it smolder along with other church members," Cecil said.

"We all just cried, the whole church family just cried, but the whole church building came together to restore this beautiful building," Marianne said.

People bought wooden plaques as fundraisers, and this sanctuary hosted its first service two years later.

Call it grit, call it tenacity but the congregation at Elam Baptist has refused to let the struggle of hard times pull them apart.

"I think the coolest thing is that it survived all the things it's been through. Whether Sherman was marching through whether a church fire completely destroyed it, you could walk away, but they continued to pull together to serve God and this community," Cecil said.

Before You Leave, Check This Out