Providence Baptist Church was constituted on December 15, 1810. It was organized and worked as a Primitive Baptist Church for about twenty five years. The following week in conference it was decided to build a log meeting house on lot number eleven, fifteenth district in Randolph County, which was changed to Jasper County a short time afterwards. The Meeting house was to be of logs forty feet long. Sixty feet wide and twelve feet high. It was located close to what is now known at Leverett’s Quarter, two miles south of Machen. In 1829 the church in conference appointed a committee to pick out a site for a new meeting house and on September 24 1831, the new church building was dedicated. This building stood until 1906 when it was replaced by the present building. Most of the foundation timbers as well as the framing of this church were taken from the old building.
There were several Revolutionary Soldiers that were members of Providence. These include, Timothy Landrum, Jacob Mercer and David Montgomery. Brother Jacob Mercer is buried in the cemetery and has a rock wall around it and a Revolutionary Soldier’s Marker. In 1888 and 1889 the Macon and Northern Railroad was built through Shady Dale running from Macon northward to Athens. The track was laid between the school and the church and it seems that the trains always pass just in the midst of the morning service. The railroad has been a blessing to Jasper County and the Shady Dale – Machen community. About 1892 the Middle Georgia and Atlantic was surveyed to come through Shady Dale, the road bed was graded across the fields to the rear of the church and until this day the signs of the fill and cut can be seen crossing the colored cemetery. An injunction was gotten after some sort of controversy and the two railroads crossed about one half mile south of the church. Both of these lines were later merged into the Central of Georgia.
The above history is taken from notes provided by Miss Ida Lancaster, a long time member of the church and resident of Shady Dale who died in 1960. For more Providence Baptist history click here.
The story of Providence Baptist is also the story of the community of Shady Dale. Shady Dale is one of those lovely East Georgia villages and well worth a visit. It lies nine miles northeast of Monticello in Jasper County. Shady Dale was originally a Creek Indian village long before the English first arrived. Later it became a local trading post and is the only other incorporated city in Jasper County. In the early 1899s the Seven Islands Road passed only a few miles to the north and west of Shady Dale. This was a very important land route from Augusta to New Orleans and brought in many traders and travelers to the town. Later a railroad from Augusta to Milledgeville to Covington and on to Atlanta passed through Shady Dale. Being in the middle of this rail line made it a very popular tourist and trading site.
About the time of the War Between the States, Shady Dale was on the road from Covington to the state capitol in Milledgeville. This provided a lot of traffic from the now growing Atlanta, formerly Marthasville, to Milledgeville. Two of the wealthiest men in the state lived in Shady Dale at that time, Mathew Whitfield and J. W. Walton. Whitfield owned the Shady Dale Hotel at that time. General Sherman spent the night in the Shady Dale Hotel during his infamous March to the Sea but, fortunately, the village emerged relatively unscathed.