My Georgia History

Springfield Baptist Church

Over the years, here in Augusta, a lot of notable history comes from our African- Americans.  Like, Springfield Baptist Church.  It goes back to 1773.

In 1773, three years before the “Declaration of Independence,”  David George, Jesse Peters Galphin and six other men, formed the first permanent African-American church at Silver Bluff, South Carolina.  In 1778, the British invaded Silver Bluff.  The masters and their slaves fled across the Savannah River into Georgia. In 1787, Springfield Baptist Church was organized on the site where it stands today.   Where did Springfield get its name?  The area between Campbell’s Gully and Hawks Gully was divided into six, 50 acre grants under Oglethorpe’s 1736  plan for Augusta.  It was settled during the colonial period. The name Springfield first appeared on a plot of land west of Campbell’s Gully in 1759. In time, the locals applied the name to the low-lying area between the two gullies.

As to the question, which church was here first, the African-American church in Savannah, or Springfield Baptist.  It was Springfield Baptist.  In 1788, Jesse Peters Galphin and white, Abraham Marshall, from Kiokee Baptist Church, ordained Andrew Bryan, founder of the first African-American church in Savannah.  Meanwhile, Rev. Seth Mead, pastor of St. John’s Methodist Church, was building a wooden building on Greene Street, not too far from the horse racing track.  The building was finished in 1801.  The Methodists used the building until 1844, when they built the new brick building.  In 1844, they sold the wooden building to Springfield Baptist.  They rolled the building, on logs from Greene Street, to where the brick building of Springfield Baptist stands today.  The 1801, wooden building sets besides the brick building.

The old wooden building was used until 1897.  That’s when the church built a new brick edifice.  The old wooden building was moved back to its present location.  Now let me give you some interesting facts about Springfield Baptist.  In 1859 they established the first Negro Baptist Sunday School in Georgia and the US.   In 1866, the Georgia Equal Rights Association was organized here.  In the year 1867, Morehouse College was founded in Springfield Baptist Church.  It was first known as Augusta Baptist Institute.  It started with 37 students in the basement of the 1801 church building, when it was sitting where the brick building sits today.  It started opening doors to an education once closed to blacks. Key in education, were William J. White and Simon Beard. A few years later the school moved to Atlanta, and in 1913 changed the name to Morehouse College.

Cedar Grove Cemetery was the first black cemetery in Augusta. It was started by Springfield Baptist Church.  The name Cedar Grove was because of all the cedar trees.  The trees were all cut down and sold.  In 1888 the church was declared free from all debts.  In 1982, the 1801 building was officially listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.  In 1989, the brick building was listed also.  Springfield Baptist Church is a great part of Augusta’s history.  The building built in 1801, is the oldest standing church building in Augusta.  Be sure to go by and see the church, located on the corner of Reynolds and12th Street.

Written by Mark Woodard

Research resources:

  • The Story of Augusta. Cashin, Edward J. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Company Publishing. (1996)
  • Augusta, A Pictorial History. Callahan, Helen. Richmond County Historical Society Publisher. (1980)
  • Confederate City, Augusta Georgia 1860-1865. Corley, Florence Fleming. (1995)
  • Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia. Jones, Charles C. Spartanburg, SC. The Reprint Publishers. (1890)
  • From City to Countryside. Haltermann, Bryan M. (1997)

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