A STORY OF SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH’S 150+ YEAR JOURNEY
Updated by Joyce Hawthorne & Earlene Crump
August 12, 2021
Present day Shiloh Baptist Church is deeply rooted in the resilience, endurance and its service of its past. Shiloh found its beginnings during the growth of the Protestant religion among African Americans during the 19th Century in what became known as the black church in the United States. From the white Baptist and Methodist missionaries sent to convert the enslaved Africans, to the process of the independent black denominations.The story of the black church is a tale of strength, determination, struggle and faith in the midst of ongoing and blatant racism, oppression and hatred.
During the 1700’s there was a period known as the “awakenings.” There was focus on slaves following the Baptist and Methodist faiths. Many white slave owners insisted that their slaves be educated in the evangelical doctrine, and would bring them to service in their churches but would not allow the slaves to meet independently on their own. However, in the slave quarters African Americans organized their “invisible institutions.” Through signals, passwords and messages not discernable to their white masters they called believers to “hush harbors”. In these “Hush harbors”, they freely mixed African American rhythms, singing and beliefs with evangelical Christianity.
With the abolishment of slavery churches such as Shiloh Baptist Church better known as the Colored Baptist Church of McDonough, Georgia was born. Shiloh had a rich oral history that was passed own as the history of many other African American Churches. Through this oral history, Shiloh’s first pastor was Rev. Gilmore who served from 1869 to1914. The first members worshiped under a “Brush Arbor”. Although they were still feeling the painful sting of slavery, they continued to worship and trust God. Toiling on a daily basis working to feed themselves and their families, they continued to work the land for themselves and their former masters. Through it all, these God fearing people able to save and purchase land to build their own church.
On April 24, 1875, The Colored Baptist Church (First, Shiloh Baptist Church) purchased land from Thomas Bryant of Rockdale, County for $12.50 in order to erect a church building. Four of Shiloh’s first trustees negotiated the purchase. They were Jeff Nolan, J.H. Findley, R.A. Allen, and D.L. Pate. In addition, they also negotiated with Thomas Bryant an agreement to build a house to be called a “society,” for $37.50. These men were dedicated to the task given to them and entered an agreement that has endured for 150 years. These men proudly placed their X (they could not read or write) on the purchase agreement. To God be the glory!
During Rev. Gilmores tenure as the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, the congregation witnessed the beginning of the New Era Convention and the start of a school for African American children by Mr. Wilson. The white people of Henry County paid homage to a Confederate General by erecting a statute in his honor. The railroad also came to McDonough and brought about major changes. The remnants of slavery were still present. The difficulty of life for African Americans continued to be a part of everyday struggles. During those trying times, the members of Shiloh Baptist Church continued worshiping God in spirit and in truth.
In 1914, Rev. John Henry Moore served as the second (2nd) pastor of the Shiloh Baptist Church. Rev. Moore saw tremendous growth in the congregation. He was described in the local Henry County Newspaper as,” a person who had great ability to bring people together. He organized the church into groups for raising money to go toward church growth. The membership raised $300.00. He then advised them to tear down the old house and to build a new one. The new building would be 40x66x16 and was to be built by Mr. McMays and J.H. Bowles Construction Company.
Upon completion of that building Rev. Moore preached a sermon in the new church building and the sum of $47.22 was raised which paid off the churches debt.” The church members sacrificed to raise money and pay off their debts during the time of World War I. The members of Shiloh continued to worship and never gave up on –To God be the Glory!
During the early years of the Shiloh Baptist Church, just as other African American churches, Shiloh had to rely on ministers from other towns. They usually preached once a month in the beginning years, then around the 1820’s they began to meet on the 1st and 3rd Sundays. Because of the distance they had to travel, the ministers would stay at members’ houses on those Sundays. The members of Shiloh were devoted in their service.
From 1918 to 1921, Rev. P.L. Scruggs served as the third (3rd) pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. Rev. Scruggs was devoted to the ministry, along with his wife and eight children. They were faithful in their service. During his time as pastor, Rev. Scruggs continued to lead the congregation and initiated the raising of funds for laying of the church’s Cornerstone, which happened in 1918.
Over the years, Shiloh’s members witnessed several changes in McDonough, Georgia. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was Page 2 | 5formed. Mr. J.G. Smith brought the first power plant to Henry County. Mr. Smith lived at 62 Macon Street, only a few houses down from Shiloh. The cost of electricity was $1.50 per month. In addition, he brought the first water system to Henry County. Life for many of the members of Shiloh was impacted by the invasion of the boll weevil, which killed most of the crops. This put an extreme hardship on the membership because the majority of them depended on farming for a living.
Rev. Scruggs continued to lift up the word of God and the members of Shiloh continued to trust in God. Rev. Scruggs suffered from heart problems. He went home to be with the Lord a few years after leaving Shiloh.
Shiloh continued in its growth. The members continue to serve the Lord and to provide a place for the local community to be able to come together and serve the Lord. In this endeavor, the membership called on the Rev. Frank Paschal who served from 1921-1923 as the fourth (4th) pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. Rev. Paschal was a resident of DeKalb County. He was the son of a preacher whose name was Frank Paschal. Rev. Pascrell’s given name was William Frank Paschal, but he preached under the same name as his father who was connected to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. In 1921, the congregation witnessed the opening of the Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta, which was an African American owned bank. Although, there was progress made by blacks in some areas, there was a movement by whites to disenfranchise blacksin areas such as, voting and the ownership of land. Rev Paschal provided spiritual leadership and supported the congregation for two years before his departure.
Life was challenging for the members of Shiloh. The membership met and agreed on calling the Rev. Will S. Simmons as the fifth (5th) pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. Rev. Simmons answered the call and led the membership from 1923-1929. Those were difficult times for African Americans. It wasthe birth of the Klux Klux Klan in Henry County, Georgia. Life would never be the same. The membership knew that their faith in God and trusting in his word was paramount. Shiloh never gave up or gave in. It continued to be a place of refuge, hope and strength for the community – To God be the Glory!
From 1929 to 1944, Rev. C.H. Holland served as the sixth (6th) pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church. God blessed Rev. Holland to lead this grand church body. Rev. Holland was an educated man who was progressive in his views. He wrote a comprehensive plan detailing guidelines for the pastor, deacons and membership to follow using the Bible as the guideline. During that time, Shiloh saw growth in the community. Highway 42 was paved; Henry County Training School was established. The Tuskegee Airmen Squadron Page 3 | 5Page 4 | 5 ‘ was formed during World War II. Because of the war, there was a decline in the residents of Henry County as well as, surrounding counties. Many of the residents moved to Atlanta, Georgia to look for non-farm work. Through it all Shiloh continued to put God first and flourished.
Rev. C. C. Cloud served as the seventh (7th) pastor from 1945-1946. He was a spiritfilled man who would urge the congregation to keep God at the forefront. He believed that if the membership would keep God at their side just as He does with them, then we would be sure to win. The country was at the end of World War II and the membership was trying to recover from the effects of the war, as well as, dealing with the ills of society. Segregation did not make life easier for them, but they persevered and continued to worship God and Shiloh continued to be blessed – To God be the Glory!
Shiloh continued to grow and Rev. R.H. Milner became the eighth (8th) pastor in 1946-1974. Shiloh experienced growth under the leadership ofRev. Milner. The members were actively involved in several boards and the addition of auxiliaries such as the Boys and Girls Scouts. Rev. Milner showed great interest in the youth as well as the adults.
In 1955, he presented his plan to getting to know members better by meeting with newcomers and visiting the homes of the congregation. His plan included doing more teaching than preaching. In addition, Rev. Milner shared his vision to set up a church office and the use of the envelope system.
During that time, the congregation saw more growth in Henry County such as, Interstate 75 and Snapper. Shiloh continued growing spiritually, as Rev. Milner continued to be a dynamic leader and God continued to pour out His blessings.
Shiloh continued to grow, Rev. E.W. Lee, became the ninth (9th) pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, from 1974-2021. Pastor Lee served as the longing sitting pastor in the history of Shiloh Baptist church. Rev. Lee believed whole-heartedly in the importance of education, as such, he attended Inter-Denominational Theological Center in Atlanta (1962-64) and was ordained as a minister in October 1964. He received a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from Morris Brown College in Atlanta ( June 1969) and received his Doctor of Philosophy in Religion from North Carolina College of Theology, Wilmington, North Carolina on May 6, 2008. Rev. Lee was also committed to our youth, and served as the full-time Executive Director of the Campbellton YMCA for 33 years.
Rev. Lee’s commitment to the community led to him serving as Chaplin of the Henry County Police Department (named Chaplin of the Year in 2016), Chairman of the Henry County United Way Advisory Board, President of the Henry County Ministerial Alliance, past Board Chair as the Director of the New Era State Congress of Christian Education, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Henry County Residential Housing Authority. Based on Rev. Lee’s commitment to the community, Sunday April 3, 2005, will forever be known as Reverend Edward E. Lee Day (by Proclamation).
Just as his predecessor and mentor Rev. Milner, Rev. Lee believed in the importance of investing in our youth, our community and our church growth. Rev. Lee’s vision of growing the church led to the birth of a number of ministries referred to as “Sons and Daughters of Shiloh”. Rev. Lee was instrumental in the congregation’s commitment to a three-year journey called “BLESS.” This campaign lead to funding which allowed the construction of the 33,000 square foot Family Life Center. At the end of the BLESS Campaign which ended in May 2013. Rev. Lee spearheaded Shiloh in launching an additional two-year Stewardship HARVEST Campaign. On November 30, 2014, Rev. Lee initiated a groundbreaking ceremony for the new center. On August 21, 2016, the center was named the “Rev. Dr. E.W. & Betty A. Lee” Family Life Center.
Rev. Lee was committed to his family; standing by his side for over 50 years was his wife, Betty Lee, and sons Ted and Eric. On April 30, 2021, Rev. Lee retired from service as Shiloh’s pastor.
Shiloh is currently in the process of installing a new pastor led by the sons and daughters of Shiloh – Brooke Spaulding, Nikita Stodghill, Stephenia Hill, Garron Lagrone, Barbara Sylvester, Johnny Thompson, Andrew Hall, Emanuel Jones, Earlene Crump and Douglas Cloud. We will continue this journey as we help to write the next phase of God’s story – To God be the Glory!