Vann's Valley Baptist Church - History

Roman History

Reference: Vann's Valley Baptist Church
By: Brad Butler 1981

The Georgia Legislature divided this territory known as Cherokee, Georgia into ten large counties. One of the counties was named after General John Floyd, in 1832. The town of Livingston was named as the county seat of Floyd County. In the spring of 1834, five men worked together in founding another city in this northwest Georgia county. Each man placed a name in a hat, and Colonel Daniel Mitchell's nomination, Rome, was drawn. Rome was named Floyd's county seat on December 20, 1834. The Cherokee Indians were removed by a pact signed December 29, 1835.

The city of Rome began to grow in population and in other ways. By 1837, the city had a newspaper and a bank, and a post office had been established by 1861. The Rome Railroad (originally the Memphis Branch Railroad and Steamboat Company of Georgia) was chartered on December 21, 1839, and according to George Battey, "the whole town turned out years later when the first train puffed in from Kingston, sixteen miles away." This gave the city a connection to the main line from Chattanooga to Atlanta.

The oldest religious institution of its type in the county is the Pisgah Baptist Church at Coosa, organized in the spring of 1833 by Rev. Hugh Quinn and associates. The oldest religious agency of any kind was the mission at Coosa (then known as Missionary Station), established in 1821 by Elisha Butler. First Baptist is the oldest church in Rome, founded May 16, 1835.

Vann's Valley, named after David Vann, a Cherokee sub-chief, extends southwestward from Six-Mile Station to Cave Spring, ten miles, broken by Little Cedar Creek. There was an old fort at the end of Vann's Valley that protected the settlement and Cave Spring.

Rome was basically in support of the South in the Civil War. More than two thousand men of Floyd County went out to protect their homes during the conflict from 1861-1865. Rome was a concentration point for recruits from northwest Georgia, and so was very involved in the war effort. As were many other Southern cities, Rome was physically devastated, and her people emotionally drained by the war effort.

But the city was not dead. She began to grow in number and prosperity as businesses were quickly reestablished to meet the needs of the people. Schools and other organizations grew up to take a prominent place in the life of the town. She was on her way to becoming a prominent place in northwest Georgia.

In May of 1814, the Baptist in America united for benevolence, by mutual agreement of various persons, to form the Triennial Convention (so-called because they met every three years). This organization was formed to raise money for foreign missions, publication and distribution of tracts, and home missions. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in Augusta, Georgia, on May 8, 1845, partly in reaction to the North-South differences of the time, and partly due to the alleged lack of help in the South by the Triennial Convention. The SBC grew slowly and struggled in its early years, but is now one of the largest and fastest growing denominations in America.

There were some Baptist among the first settlers of Georgia in 1730's, though there were no churches this early.

Vann's Valley Baptist Church Organized

On September 3, 1893, fifteen men and women met at Six-Mile Station, a store with a warehouse in back owned by D. B. Sanders, for the purpose of organizing a Baptist church. Rev. J. W. King, G. H. Doyal, W. C. Ezzell, D. B. Sanders, and J. W. Copeland served as presbyters, with King the chairman. The name given to the church was Vann's Valley Baptist Church. Sanders and Ezzell were charter members of the church and also the first deacons. Each of the original members brought a letter of recommendation from his or her former church.

Plans were made for a meeting on the Saturday before the fourth Sunday in September to transact business for the good of the church, and Sanders, Dr. J. L. Murdock, and W. C. Bickers were appointed to draft rules of decorum. Each member was extended the hand of Christian fellowship and recognition by the presbyters and the meeting was then adjourned. King served as moderator and Bickers as clerk for this first meeting.

Vann's Valley Baptist Church met in conference for the first time on September 23, 1893, for the purpose of electing a pastor and clerk. With Bickers acting as moderator, J. W. Pullen was unanimously called as the first pastor of the church, and Dr. Murdock was elected church clerk. The decorum and articles of faith were read and adopted at this meeting, and Murdock was elected as a delegate to the newly formed Floyd County Baptist Association. The young church was alive.

The Floyd County Baptist Association adopted an abstract of faith at its first meeting in 1893. This eight-point confession affirmed the sovereignty of God, the validity of the Scriptures, the fall of man, God's love, salvation through Christ alone, and the resurrection of the dead. There is no record of the church adopting this document, though it was an original member of the association.

The first pastor at Vann's Valley Baptist Church, J. W. Pullen, was unanimously called by acclamation at the first church conference. He was reelected each year until the church extended an unlimited call in 1896. He was the pastor at other churches, including Cave Spring Baptist Church while at Vann's Valley. He moved his membership to Vann's Valley from Cave Spring after five years as the young church's pastor. Pullen was the pastor for the first seven years of the the church's life. He retired from the church in 1900 due to illness. He died on December 11, 1905, while still making his home in Floyd County.

Other pastors include: G. B. Bowman, 1900-1901; Asa B. Carnes, 1901-1905; E. R. Nelson, 1906-1907; W. M. McKenzie, 1907-1914; Gordon Ezzell, 1914-1916; J. S. Garner; R. W. Hamrick, 1919-1920; J. L. Hodges, 1920-1921; S. E. Casey, 1921-1922; T. W. Stone, 1922-1924; T. L. Collins, 1924-1929; S. H. Pendley, 1929-1930 and 1935-1941; R. C. Daily, 1931-1935; The entire year of 1941 was spent without a pastor; J. Theodore Phillips, 1942-1943; W. S. Baits, Jr., 1944-1946; Charles S. Rush, 1946-1947; On November 2, 1947, Vann's Valley Baptist Church made a very important decision, calling Charles Rector as the church's first full-time pastor, 1947-1950; Charles L. Davis, 1950-1952; Robert Lloyd, 1952-1953; Patrick H. Jones, 1953-1955; T. Lunsford Heath, 1955-1963; O. M. Fox, 1963-1964; Sam Snyder, 1964-1965; L. Kenneth Fleeman, 1966-1970; Dr. George A. Coker, 1970-1974; Wayne Fain, 1974-1977; Wallace Preast, 1977-1978; Floyd L. Battles, Jr., 1978-1988; Charles Edens (interim) 1989-1990, Duane Ivey, 1990-1994; John Allen (interim), 1995-1996; Tommy Ritch, 1996-December 1999; Dr. Paul Camp (interim) January 2000-October 2001; Scott Griffith, October 2001- November 2006; Dr. Paul Camp (interim) December 2006-November 2007; Rev. Phil Blanton, December 2007 - December 2008, Rev. N. Curtis Heyward, December 2008 - April 2017, when death seperated him from the church. (Interim) Rev. Ted Fuller, June 2017 - February 2018. Rev. Seth Carter, August 2018 - Present

Services were held one Sunday each month in the early years of Vann's Valley Baptist Church's history. The church was usually called into conference after preaching by the pastor. The "door" of the church was open for the reception of new members, and then the business of the church was discussed. Services varied from Saturday to Sunday, and from morning to afternoon, to accommodate the pastor. By 1906 the church was holding two services a month. By 1939, preaching services were being held during the morning and evening of one Sunday each month.

Music always played an important part in the life of Vann's Valley Baptist Church. As early as 1904, the church took part in a singing school with the Vann's Valley Methodist Church. The church owned an organ in 1898, though there was no mention as to the type of organ or when it was purchased.

The membership has grown slowly from the 15 charter members to 273 in 1997. As was the custom of most Baptist churches in the early 1900s, all members, especially male members, were expected to be at all services unless providentially hindered.

Members of Vann's Valley Baptist Church were disciplined many times during the early years of the church. This practice consumed a great deal of time at church conferences. No one was exempt from church discipline. The number of disciplinary cases was diminishing by the early 1930s, and the practice of church discipline seems to have disappeared completely by 1940. Some of the reasons for bringing charges against members were: continual nonattendance, "undue use of intoxicating beverages" and drunkenness, "contempt for the church", fighting, strife among members, un-Christian conduct, uncomplimentary remarks toward fellow members, and "heresy" or departing from the Baptist faith (i.e., joining a Primitive Baptist or Methodist church). As a general rule charges were preferred against a member by another member at a conference meeting.

Though the exact date of organization is unknown, it is evident that Vann's Valley Baptist Church had organized a Sunday School by 1894. The "Sabbath School," as it was sometimes referred to, had at most two classes in the early years, one for the adults and one for the children. The church voted to reorganize the Sunday School in 1905. The school grew, and by 1919 there were two classes for the young people, separated by age. By 1922, there were at least five classes.

A Woman's Missionary Union was organized at Vann's Valley Baptist Church in 1899, under the direction of Mrs. W. J. Neel of Rome's First Baptist Church. The ladies supported the church. In the first decade of the 1900s, the WMU raised money for the Orphan's Home and Cuban Mission. The ladies also sponsored the annual Annie Armstrong Easter and Lottie Moon Christmas offerings for home and foreign missions.

The Brotherhood was first organized in 1951, but only lasted one year. It was reorganized in 1956, and has been an active and important group in the church since that time.

Vann's Valley Baptist Church has usually had a healthy relationship with churches of other denominations, and especially with the Vann's Valley Methodist Church. In 1904, the Baptist and Methodist churches of Vann's Valley held a singing school together. The Methodist church allowed the Baptist congregation to use their house of worship in 1910 when part of the present building was under construction. The two churches also planned their revival meetings so that they did not conflict. In 1967, the pastor made the suggestion that the church have a spirit of fellowship with the Methodist church at all times, especially during revival services. The church has supplied financial aid to other Baptist churches, from as far away as Galveston, Texas, on a number of occasions.

The Floyd County Baptist Association was constituted at the First Baptist Church of Rome on October 4, 1893. Vann's Valley Baptist Church, only one month old at the time, was represented at this first meeting. The church has had between one and seven delegates at each meeting since. Vann's Valley hosted the twelfth annual meeting of the association in 1912, soon after the new building was completed.

Vann's Valley Baptist Church has not been quite as active in the Georgia Baptist Convention as in the association, but there are cases in the church minutes where the GBC is mentioned. In 1897, the church adopted the method of a monthly collection for mission work as submitted by the state commission of mission work. Money has also been given to the Georgia Baptist Building Program by the church. The church supports the convention through the Cooperative Program, and by sending the pastor to the annual convention.

Vann's Valley Baptist Church is also a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. The church took part in the "Seventy-five million campaign" of the convention in 1919. It also enrolled in the "Southwide campaign" for soliciting funds to carry on local and foreign church work in 1931.

Vann's Valley Baptist Church is now over 100 years of age. The church has grown in number and strength in these years. One of the weaknesses of the church is the instability of the pastors. There have been too many pastors for the period of time. However, the church has survived. The members of the church claim that their goal is to be a "lighthouse on the hill." As long as they retain their Biblical sense of evangelism and love, the church will be able to meet this goal.