SANDY CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH

Sandy Creek church from the Southwest

Sandy Creek church from the Southwest

Liberty Township; east side Ramseur-Julian Road.

[Sandy Creek Baptist Church was this month approved to be designated as a county Landmark; the description below was written years ago, but I updated it to take note of the recent loving improvements done by members of its congregation.  It is not yet listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not only deserving of that designation, it should by all rights become Randolph County's first National Historic Landmark.  For a a look at the complete Landmark application, check it out on the Landmark Commission page on the county website.]

Sandy Creek Baptist Church is both the oldest organized church and the oldest surviving religious structure in Randolph County. A recognized landmark in religious history, it is noted by the nearby state historic marker as the “Mother of Southern Baptist Churches.” The congregation at Sandy Creek was founded by the “Separate Baptist” minister Shubal Stearns (1706-1771), a Boston native who led a group of eight families into the area in 1755. Most colonial or “Particular” Baptists were members of the Philadelphia Association and advocated a strict Calvinist theology of “what will be, will be.” Separate or “New Light” Baptists broke with this practice and proposed active campaigns to win converts with Sunday Schools, revivals and missionary work. Stearns’ efforts to awaken the religious impulses of the back country were wildly successful, with his original congregation of eight families mushrooming into 606 members by 1770.

In June 1758 Stearns formed the Sandy Creek Association, an organization including not only the original church but three nearby offshoot congregations. The association soon grew to include members all over the South, and as far west as the Mississippi. Baptist historian Morgan Edwards noted in 1772 that “It, in 17 years, is become mother, grandmother and great grandmother to 42 churches, from which sprang 125 ministers, many of which are ordained and support the sacred character as well as any set of clergy in America.” In 1830 the Sandy Creek Association backed the creation of the new Southern Baptist Convention, and the two organizations soon combined. Sandy Creek Church itself, centered in the area of most active opposition to the colonial government, suffered greatly during the War of the Regulation. Edwards estimated that 1,500 families left the region after the battle of Alamance in 1771. This combined with the death of Rev. Stearns in November of the same year, soon caused the membership of the church to dwindle to a mere fourteen.

Nationally, the Separate Baptists combined with the Regular Baptists in the early 19th century, but the merger was not popular. In 1836 discontent was so profound at Sandy Creek that part of the congregation broke away and formed the nearby Shady Grove Baptist Church, leaving the old building to the ‘Primitive’ (or anti-missionary) Baptists who maintain it today.

The existing Sandy Creek Church is the third building to house the congregation. The first building burned about 1785, and the second, built across the road, was blown down by a storm. The third, according to strong local tradition, was built in 1826. The log building is approximately 20 by 25 feet in size.

Interior looking west toward Bible rail

Interior looking west toward Bible rail

The church is one of the best examples of antebellum meeting houses left in North Carolina.  It still features the original pulpit, or “Bible Rail,” and some original benches.

Interior looking northwest

Interior looking northwest

Raked “galleries” or balconies around three sides of the interior were removed in 1936, but have recently been expertly reconstructed.

Detail of Corner Notching

Detail of Corner Notching

The log church was weatherboarded in 1870 and covered with asphalt siding in 1953; both coverings were removed in 2007 when several rotten structural timbers were replaced.   It is good to see one of the county’s most important historic landmarks is being well maintained by its congregation.

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28 Responses to “SANDY CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH”

  1. william h. jones Says:

    Mygreat great grandfather William Wilbourn was born in the Sandy Creek region in1766 and was married to Susannah Gibbs.he died in 1822.If anyone has any information please contact me by email or phone 940 6910240.many thanks,William H Jones

    • Bonnie Harrison Says:

      Hi William,

      I saw your query on the “Sandy Creek Baptist Church” website. I am a Jones through my mother. My 4th g. grandfather was probably the Thomas Jones who was probably a member of the Sandy Creek Church. He fled the area in 1771 at the battle of Alamance with 29 other heads of households who settled in the Taylorsville area. Thomas’s Jones son, John Marley Jones is my third g. grandfather. I would love to hear from you and how you are related to the Jones family.

      • william h.jones Says:

        Bonnie,I grew up in Woodruff,S.C.the son of Walter h.Jones,son of John W jjones LAURENS COUNTY-b7-31-1847 d9-29-1923,son of William Jones b 1801I live in Texas and Colorado. My cell phone is 940 7040616 or e mail me ,Bill

      • william h. jones 940 7040616 Says:

        Bonnie,did you receive my reply?My e-mail is whjones@clearwire.net cELOL PHONE 94O 7040616

  2. Dennis Ward Says:

    What are the names of the 16 founders of Sandy Creek Church in 1755 or family names if full names not known. Does William Ward appear as one of them? His grandson Thomas Ward joined the Primitive Baptist Church in Madison Co TN in 1834

  3. Michael Says:

    I’d like to use your photo of Sandy Creek Baptist Church on a Web site. Could you email me to discuss if I could have permission and how I should list the credit for the photo? I’ll be glad to send you more details. Thanks.

  4. Don Christian Says:

    The Lawler (aka Lawley / Lollar) family of Madison County, Alabama were among the early founding families of the Flint River Primitive Baptist Church here (first Baptist Church chartered in what would become Alabama -1808 I think it was) , and are descended from John Lollar (Lawler) of Randolph County who was active in the Sandy Creek Church.

    It seems the Lawler family may have moved to this part of what became Alabama before 1805 along with other families from the same areas of North Carolina and that they joined together to form what became the Flint River Primitive Baptist Church here in Madison Co., Alabama.

  5. Beth Bridges Says:

    My grandmother 6-times removed, was Sarah Stearns, a first-cousin to Shubal Stearns. She married Micajah Paulk, Sr. and moved to Georgia. Her son, Micajah Paulk, Jr. was a Primitive Baptist minister here in south Georgia. If anyone knows the location of the first Sandy Creek Association church to be established in Georgia, please contact me.
    Beth Bridges
    Douglas, Ga.

    • Dr. James Willingham Says:

      The first Sandy Creek Association church was Kiokee Baptist Church founded by Elder Daniel Marshall, circa 1771. He died about 1781-3. One of my ancestors according to some materials posted on the internet, (later an Elder) Holland Middleton (noted in H. Holcombe’s History of Alabama Baptists) was one of the two officials appointed by the court to execute the will of Daniel Marshall.

  6. Mickey Paulk Says:

    Shubal Stearns was the father in law of Jonathan Paulk, Rebecca was the daughter of Shubael Stearns and Rebecca (Sanford) Lariby. They traveled with Daniel Marshall family and Joseph Breed and others leaving Connecticut in 1754. They brought their possessions and traveled through the wildersness and traveled via Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. They arrived at Cacapon Creek and and chose a site in Hampshire County west of present day Winchester twp. The indians were so hostile, they decided to move on and traveled to North Carolina to Pittsylvania County. At Sandy Creek in Guilford County ( now Randolph). The Paulk family was a part of this magnificent history of ours.
    There is much to read on these five families all related to each other , their travels and accomplishments.

    • Bonnie Harrison Says:

      Hello Mickey,

      You are blessed to be a part of our spiritual heritage in North Carolina. Do you know which families came with Stubal to Randolph County?

  7. Dr. James Willingham Says:

    The Sandy Creek Church and Association grew out of the labors of Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall who ere cnvrted in the First Great Awakening. The Assn. apparently experienced the Second Great Awakning in 1801. There are legends of 500 conersions, but the records are absent, having been destroyed. In 1816 the Assn under the ledership of Luther Rice adopted a Confession of Faith and enlisted in the effort to launch the Great Century of Missions. The origin of the Sothern Baptist Convention occurred in 1845 in Augusta, Ga. Among particpants in that effort and the launching of the first Seminary were Basil Manly, Sr., who was clerk of the Assn. in 1816 and served on the Committee to draw up the Confession of Faith. Manly would suggest the founing of the seminary in 1836 in the Southern Intelligencer. He would serve as President of the three educational conventions of the Southern Baptists in 1857,58, and 59 that would create the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship seminary of the SBC, and he would serve as first pressident of the Board of Trustees, his son Basil, jr., would draw up the Abstract of Principles for the Seminary with the help of A.M. Poindexter, and would serve as one of the first faculty members. The first President of Southern, Dr. James Petigru Boyce, grew up under the ministry of Dr. Basil Manly, Sr., who served as pastor fo the FBC of Charleston from 1825-1835. The theology of the Confession of 1816 and that of the Abstract of Principles of Southern Seminary were in full agreement on what is called Sovereign Grace, especially with regards to Unconditional Election and irresistible Grace or effectual calling. This was a reflection of the theology that had produced the Great Awakenings, launched the Great Century of Missions, the educational institutions of Southern Baptists, and created the calvinistic Republic of the United States with more freedoms based on a checks and balances system of government. More could be said, but three things are outstanding, namely, the theology, the Heavenly Presence, and humility. Interestingly enough the theology was actually evangelistic, something hard to imagine in light of the Primitive/Missionary split, circa 1820-1840, apparently a plannedeffort to blunt the theology that bid fair to win the whole earth then and will yet do it, when its ingenuity is better understood along wit the other factors involved.

  8. Dr. James Willingham Says:

    The Sandy Creek Church and Association grew out of the labors of Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall who were converted in the First Great Awakening. The Assn. apparently experienced the Second Great Awakning in 1801. There are legends of 500 conersions, but the records are absent, having been destroyed. In 1816 the Assn under the ledership of Luther Rice adopted a Confession of Faith and enlisted in the effort to launch the Great Century of Missions. The origin of the Southern Baptist Convention occurred in 1845 in Augusta, Ga. Among particpants in that effort and the launching of the first Seminary were Basil Manly, Sr., who was clerk of the Assn. in 1816 and served on the Committee to draw up the Confession of Faith. Manly would suggest the founing of the seminary in 1836 in the Southern Intelligencer. He would serve as President of the three educational conventions of the Southern Baptists in 1857,58, and 59 that would create the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship seminary of the SBC, and he would serve as first president of the Board of Trustees, his son Basil, jr., would draw up the Abstract of Principles for the Seminary with the help of A.M. Poindexter, and would serve as one of the first faculty members. The first President of Southern, Dr. James Petigru Boyce, grew up under the ministry of Dr. Basil Manly, Sr., who served as pastor fo the FBC of Charleston from 1825-1835. The theology of the Confession of 1816 and that of the Abstract of Principles of Southern Seminary were in full agreement on what is called Sovereign Grace, especially with regards to Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace or effectual calling. This was a reflection of the theology that had produced the Great Awakenings, launched the Great Century of Missions, the educational institutions of Southern Baptists, and created the Calvinistic Republic of the United States with more freedoms based on a checks and balances system of government. More could be said, but three things are outstanding, namely, the theology, the Heavenly Presence, and humility. Interestingly enough the theology was actually evangelistic, something hard to imagine in light of the Primitive/Missionary split, circa 1820-1840, apparently a plannedeffort to blunt the theology that bid fair to win the whole earth then and will yet do it, when its ingenuity is better understood along wit the other factors involved.

  9. Stephen Lynn King Says:

    I’m reading John Sparks book, ” The Roots of Appalachian Christianity, The Life &
    Legacy of Shubal Stearns.” It is a great book!!! We are going to North Carolina
    on our vacation in September. Our plans are to visit the old Sandy Creek
    Church and Shubal Stearns Grave.

  10. Mike Helton Says:

    I found a Hilton family who came down from VA. This family was touched by the ministry of Shubal Stearns and returned to plant churches From VA into Tennessee. I think this is probably the family group with the Hilton name that my Native American family adopted. I wonder if there are records of the first membership showing the Helton / Hilton family. The Spirit of Sandy Creek has never stopped. God is helping us here in Mexico to continue the work. Sandy Creek showed what happens when lay people get on fire for God and reach out to others. We call this principle cell groups today.

  11. CYNDEE Says:

    I am looking for info on Joseph Willis, first Baptist preacher west of the Mississippi River. I understand he came from NC in the late 1700’s to preach in Louisiana about the time of the Louisiana Purchase.

  12. Billy King Says:

    We are researching Obediah Dodson, one of the first Baptist ministers in West Tennessee and later the first appointed missionary of Louisiana Baptist…does anyone have any info on him…he came from Halafax, VA.

  13. SBrinkley Says:

    For those interested in the foundations of the Sandy Creek Baptist … and what they were all about prior to 1750 —- here is a bit of early history of God’s work among the first Bible Believers that would eventually help establish the New Light Movement and go on to effect the “Spirit of 1776″ – which was in reality an under-current Holy Spirit Revival spreading across the rural farm commuities of the Southland and New England.

    What God hath begun – He will finish !!!

    The Spirit of Revival exists not in a denomination —> but in the hearts of a Repentive People that are willling to embrace the Word of God above the Intelllect and Institutions of meer men.

    May GOD send these United States of America a Revival before Ezekiel 38 & 39 are played out on the World’s Cable Networks!

    BTW — My family is part of “Brinkley’s” that were involved as founders to the “First Company of Baptist” moving into Southern VA and Northern NC … he pre-event New Light Baptist …

    95% of that Family (My line) is still heritage-intact and serving the Lord Jesus Christ in Bible Preaching Churches.

    _________________________________________________________

    History of the Baptists in North Carolina [Extracts]
    Benedict, David, 1779-1874
    1813
    Volume 05, Pages 1163-1192
    ________________________________________
    [From Benedict's History of the Baptist Denomination in America. p. 681.]
    EARLY BAPTIST SETTLEMENTS IN NORTH CAROLINA.
    Section I.
    Early History of the Baptists in the State—The first company, in 1727—Second company, in 1742—Third company, in 1756—The early movements of the New England New-Lights, or Separates—Sandy Creek Church—Do. Association.
    The increase of our denomination in the North State by periods, was as follows: About the middle of the 18th century, there were sixteen churches of General Baptists; the amount of membership is not named; these original institutions, as we shall see, in process of time, either became extinct or were moulded to the Particular plan.
    In 1790, according to Asplund’s Register, the number of churches was 94; the preachers, ord., 77; lic., 45; and members, a little over 7,000.
    In 1812, according to my tables, the churches amounted to about two hundred, and the membership to thirteen thousand. At that time, there were eleven Associations; the number of these bodies at present is a little over thirty, and the churches of both the missionary and antimissionary parties are about six hundred.
    ——————– page 1164 ——————–
    The Associations I shall describe in my usual manner, after I have given an account of the early movement of our denomination in this State.
    FIRST COMPANY IN THE LOW COUNTRY.
    According to Morgan Edwards’ account, there were some individual Baptists in this State as early as 1695; but it appears that the first church which ever existed within its bounds, was gathered by one Paul Palmer, about the year 1727, at a place called Perquimans, on Chowan river, towards the northeast corner of the State. Mr. Palmer is said to have been a native of Maryland, was baptized at Welsh Tract, in Delaware, by Owen Thomas, the pastor of the church in that place; was ordained in Connecticut, but was some time in New Jersey, and then in Maryland; he at last moved to North Carolina, where he gathered the church above mentioned, with which he continued, not, however, without some difficulties, until his death. He appears to have been the instrument of doing some good, but was not so happy as to leave a good character behind him. Mr. John Comer, of Newport, R. I., maintained a correspondence with him for a number of years, and frequently makes mention of him in his MS. Journal, in respectful terms.1
    Not long after Palmer settled in North Carolina, one Joseph Parker,2 who was probably one of his disciples, began to preach in the same region, and though Palmer died before, yet Parker lived and continued on his old plan till after the formation, and also the renovation of the Kehukee Association, which will soon be described.
    1 I found one of Mr. Palmer’s letters to Mr. Comer, dated 1729, among Mr. Backus’s papers, which, with Mr. Comer’s journal, have helped me to a number of dates and articles, which I could not find elsewhere.
    2 I find, in Mr. Comer’s journal, mention made of one of Mr. Palmer’s letters, which was dated 1729; which stated that the church which was gathered there two years before, at that time consisted of thirty-two members. This letter was signed by twelve brethren, by the names of Parker, Copeland, Brinkley, Parke, Darker, Welch, Evans, and Jordan. There were three Parkers at this time, two by the name of John, and one of Joseph, who were probably the men above referred to.

  14. dorothy spring Says:

    I love your new site, found it by accident, while I was searching for information about my ancestor,James Billingsley. He was a minister of the church before the Revolutionary War. As you probably know he was hung in 1776 by the Tories because he refused to give them money. I have found several books that mention him and am very proud of the work he did in the very short years he was on earth. He was my 5th great grandfather. I’m a member of the DAR and have his son Walter Billingsley as my supplemental.
    My great great grandfather was John Billingsley, he was a soldier in the Civil War. Mary Elizabeth Billingsley was my great grandmother, she was married to William Capps, they were from Springfield MO.

    Dorothy

  15. Robert Bertrand Says:

    I am a bookseller who has recently acquired a book of handwritten minutes and notes of the Sandy River Council in South Carolina. It covers purchases, meetings, vows, etc of attending members from 1811-1827. The first recorder’s name was Hilliard Judge P.E. There are hundreds of names in the book. Can someone tell me if this might be associated with the church mentioned on this page?

    • macwhatley Says:

      It sounds like a Baptist group, so it may be part of the Sandy Creek Baptist diaspora, which included many churches all over the South.
      You might try asking the good people at the Southern Historical Collection if they know anything more about this group.
      The SHC might be interested in purchasing it, too. As would Duke U. and perhaps Wake Forest.

  16. Louise Creasman Says:

    Hope Baptist Church of Sophia, NC would love to bring our Saint’s Alive senior group for a day trip to this area and to visit this church. Pastor Steve could preach and have prayer time. Can you tell me when a good time or day would be to come for a visit. Also, are there other places close by to see and are there any homestyle family restaurants where we might could have lunch? Are restroom facilities available close by? Thank you!

  17. Jackie Preston Ayo Says:

    I a looking for the location of the Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church that was started in 1700’s in Monroe Georgia. My ancestors were part of the founders, Gilliam and Sarah Preston. Thank you.

  18. Carolyn Ward Says:

    How wonderful to have such a historical church saved. I am researching my ggggrandfather Jacob Ward who was an Itinerant Primitive Baptist Missionary from the Stokes Co. NC area said to have moved to Ohio about 1820 where he ministered the Providence Church in Gallia County. Wondered if he was involved in this church in the early 1800’s.

    • Bonnie Harrison Says:

      Interesting, my fathers family, John Buckle, is from Gallipolis, Ohio. I think that is Galia County.

  19. Richard Blair Says:

    I find it interesting that the people of Sandy Creek baptist Church, claims to be the on going work of Elder Stearns. The only tie they have with the founding members of Sandy Creek is the location, because the truth is it was a takeover by arminium theology, which claims people save themselves by making a decision on their on accord to follow Christ. Elder Stearns would have stood vehemently against such doctrine and claimed God has his chosen elect family which God Saves based on his doing not ours. Absilutely nothing in common.

  20. Armand Christopher Hayes Says:

    Are there any books on Sandy Creek Church? I have been told this is where Phillip Mulkey, the Breeds, the Gist, the Thompson’s, and the Howards came out of before going to Fairforest Baptist Church in what is now Fairforest Co., SC. I also am wondering if there are any roll records from the 1750’s and 1760’s. Not only is my 5 great grandfather Obadiah Howard -grandmother Priscilla Breed, but it is apparent that a Jesse Hays (my direct line grandfather) also may have been at Sandy Creek. What I have learned so far, of this Association is quite a special story !

  21. Kari Says:

    I am researching the York family and on Seamour Yorks grave it states that he gave the land to them so the church could be built? Is there any other connections that the Yorks have to the church?

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