Headland’s Piney Grove Church

Henry County Siftings - Vol. 7, No. 49

By T. Larry Smith

The oldest remaining active entity within today’s Headland City Limits is the Piney Grove Primitive Baptist Church, located on Broad Street, also known as the Newville highway or County Road 173.  Piney Grove Church was constituted on April 21, 1849. 

That was twenty-two years before the town of Headland was established in 1871, and twelve years before the Civil War began.  Most lands where Headland began wasn’t even claimed or patented in 1849.  Piney Grove Church is now 155 years old. Headland is now 133 years old.

Piney Grove began as an arm of the Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church that once stood just North of the Abbie Creek on present highway 53 North of Browns Crossroads. Shiloh was organized on Feb 24, 1844, with the last recorded minutes being on August 15, 1891.  No signs of the Shiloh Church and Cemetery remain today.  Hopefully, the cemetery can be located.

The Church of Christ at Shiloh met in conference on Feb. 17, 1848, and opened a door for the reception of members where as there was a petition from the vicinity of Blackwoods Creek through brother Willis Lock and Morris Ronie for Shiloh to extend an arm for the convenience of a group that had been meeting near the three cornered pond.  The three cornered pond is said to have been located behind the present Headland Farmers Co-Op facility and was on the dirt road behind the present Co-Op.

At least twelve religious meetings were held near the three cornered pond with the Blackwoods Creek worshipers during 1848 by the arm of the Shiloh Church.  Several worshipers joined the Shiloh arm or mission desiring to form a new church South of Blackwoods Creek.  On April 21, 1849, the arm of Shiloh met to organize themselves into a new church congregation.  Eight charter members signed a constituting document that they called a “Covenant of Love”, that Covenant of Love is now rendered:

Covenant of Love, Piney Grove Primitive Baptist Church. The State of Alabama, Henry County, April 21, 1849”.  Whereas, we, a few scattered Primitive Baptist who was, as sheep having no shepherd, have agreed to unite together in a church capacity upon Faith of the Choctawhatchee Primitive Baptist Association and was constituted into a church by the hands of Uriah M. Pellum and Pilot H. Edwards upon the following Covenant of Love:

For as much as Almighty God by his Grace has been pleased to call us whose names are underneath subscribed out of darkness into His marvelous Light and all of us have been regularly baptized upon a profession of our faith in Christ Jesus and have given up ourselves to the Lord and to one another in a Gospel Church to be governed and guided by a proper discipline agreeable to the Word of God.  We, therefore, in the name of our Lord Jesus and His assistance, covenant and agree to keep up the discipline of the church.  We are members of in the most brotherly affection toward each other while we endeavor punctually to observe the following rules to wit: 1. In brotherly love to pray for each other. 2. To watch over one another if need be in the most tender and affectionate manner. 3. To reprove one another – that is, if we discover anything amiss in a brother to go tell him his fault according to the directions given by our Lord in the 18th chapter of St. Matthew. 4. To not to be whispering and backbiting. 5. To attend our church meetings and also to observe the Lord’s day and not absent ourselves from the Communion of the Lord’s Supper without a lawful excuse. 6. To communicate to the defraying of the church expenses and for the support of the Ministry. 7. To not intentionally to depart from the fellowship of the church nor to remove to distant churches.  These things we do covenant and agree to observe and keep sacred in the name of and by the assistance of the Holy Trinity.  Amen”.

Signed by the mutual consent of the members whose names are underneath subscribed.  This church embraced of free Saving Grace and was established on the plan of the gospel.  Charter members: James Kirkland, Joseph Lock, Willis Lock, Nancy Lock, James Lock, James C. Smith, Morris Ronie & Rebecca Lock.

Soon after the church organized in 1849, membership increased to about 40, later reaching 88.  In 1955, membership stood at 49 with about 45 members attending in 2004.  The first congregation met either in a church home or in a log structure near the three cornered pond.  On Jan. 16, 1858, two acres were purchased from William and Elizabeth Mims for fifty cents per acre for church purposes located on the Abbeville-Newton Road.  That road portion now in front of the church is known as Knowles Road and is still a narrow dirt road.  Also, on Sept. 21, 1887, John and Mary Starling sold the church ¼ of an acre for fifty cents. Also, on Sept. 17, 1887, J. B. and E. C. White sold the church ¼ of an acre for seven dollars. Also, on January 11, 1909, C. F. Wilkinson and wife sold one acre to the church for thirty dollars.  In  1887, a new frame church was erected on the present site.

In 1953, Hurricane Florence inflecting heavy damage felled a 100-year-old oak tree across the church.  The congregation then held services in the J. P. Wilson Hall at the Wiregrass Experiment Station in Headland until the church was re-built.  The church was bricked at that time.  Part of the original structure remains. The attached image depicts the 1887 - 1953 church building in a painting by the late Headland railroad historian, Thomas Solomon in 1939.  His sister, Lorene Hall recently donated the painting to the church.  The church as depicted in the painting then faced the present highway side.

Piney Grove remained a member of the Chatawhatchee Primitive Baptist Association from 1849 until 1982, when the church withdrew their membership to become an individual Primitive Baptist Church. Services were held twice a month until 1990 with services then being held every Sunday.  The church has built several additions.  Piney Grove celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1999.

The road from the Headland Public Square to Piney Grove Church was established in 1879, and was named Grove Street.  The dirt road was 16 feet wide.  On February 10, 1904, the road became Broad Street with ten families residing from the railroad to the Livingston lands.

After 155 years, since those eight charter members signed that 1849 “Covenant of Love” constituting Piney Grove Primitive Baptist Church, the church continues to shine as that bright morning and evening star resting on the south ridge of old Blackwoods Creek.   Long lives Piney Grove.  Amen.

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