Fort Creek Baptist Church has spanned many generations of people from McDuffie County and surrounding areas during its 150-year history.
The church was established in 1860, according to Joyce Garner, a longtime church member, who read a brief summary of the church's history during the 150th homecoming anniversary celebrated by an estimated 650 people Sunday.
Back on April 10, 1860, David McGahee deeded a tract of land, which was estimated to be about 15 acres, to the board of trustees of Fort Creek Baptist Church who wanted to build a church on the site, said Mrs. Garner.
Those church trustees included F.M. Hobbs, Samuel McGahee and William Printup, Mrs. Garner said.
"Even before 1860, the people of the community had a desire to meet the needs of their residents," she said. "A school was located west of the church, probably where the pastorium is now. Sunday School classes met in the building prior to the construction of the church."
At the time, the land where the church was being built actually was situated in Columbia County. That area later became part of McDuffie County.
"Originally, Fort Creek Baptist Church was a member of the Hephzibah Association, but when the Kilpatrick Association was organized in 1914, Fort Creek became a member of it and remains such today," said Mrs. Garner.
She pointed out that when the church building first was constructed it was described as "a comfortable one-room building, valued at $600. Additions were made as the congregation grew.
"Fortunately, through God's blessing, in 2007 the church needed more space for continued growth," said Mrs. Garner. "Our Easter Sunday, 2010, the first service was held in the new sanctuary; 433 people attended. Official dedication service was May 2, 2010 and the sanctuary will comfortably seat approximately 585 people."
Some of the support beams and foundation stones were saved for use in the new construction when the old building was torn down, she added.
Located in the front foyer is a large wooden cross, which hangs over the entry doors to the center aisle and a smaller cross in the Baptistery area.
"Both were constructed from the old support beams," said Mrs. Garner. "Some of the foundation stones have been incorporated into the new landscape."
Baptizing used to occur once a year at a pond owned by George Arrington. It was held on the Sunday following revival services. Prior to the baptistery being built in 1977, other baptizing ceremonies were held at First Baptist Church in Thomson, First Baptist Church of Dearing; McDuffie County Public Fishing Ponds; and Ruben Huff's pond.
"Because the records of the church were either lost or destroyed, very little is known about our church history until Jan. 3, 1891," said Mrs. Garner. "As far back as can be determined, Sunday School has been a weekly part of the church ministries. Preaching services were scheduled to fit the preachers' schedules. In 1958, the church voted to have weekly Sunday mornings and evening services."
Jonothan Huff served as the first pastor of Fort Creek Baptist Church. The Rev. Phil Bray, who has served as pastor of the rapidly growing church since 2003, is the church's 38th pastor. The Rev. Willis Howard served the longest tenure of any preacher -- about 19 years.
"Up until 1940, the business of the church was conducted on Saturdays," said Mrs. Garner. "If a male member was absent from three conferences in succession, a committee was appointed to see him to find out the reason for his absences. If he did not have a valid reason and failed to come after that his name was taken from the church roll for non-attendance. This rule did not apply to female members."
She listed some of the reasons for dismissing church members as being: drinking, gambling, cursing, fighting and conduct unbecoming a Christian.
"If the accused member would come before the church in conference and state that he or she was sorry and wanted forgiveness, his or her name would not be taken off the roll," said Mrs. Garner.
The church's first pastorium wasn't built until 1960. It was as a result of land deeded by John Wood. In 2003, a seven-room brick home replaced it. Tragedy struck the church family when fire destroyed the beautiful home of the Rev. Bray and his wife, Harriett. The Nov. 22, 2009 fire burned the home to the ground.
"God rallied his Saints and on Jan. 13, 2010, a new brick pastorium was finished, costing approximately $149,000," added Mrs. Garner.
In closing comments, she said, "God has so richly blessed the vision of those original 55 members in 1860 and as they say: 'You ain't seen nothing yet.'"
She believes God's riches will be even bigger in the next 150 years.