Photography courtesy of Randall Davis

Photography courtesy of Randall Davis


 High Bluff Primitive Baptist   Circa 1819

High Bluff was organized in 1819 by Isham Peacock, a legend among the Wiregrass Primitive Baptists.  Elder Peacock began his religious life in 1802 at the ripe old age of sixty, and retired from Providence Church in Ware County in 1844 at the age of 101.  He was typical of the Primitive Baptist preachers of the early 19th century in that he was not a man of letters but was able to convert the wild frontier cattle drovers who inhabited this part of Georgia in great numbers.  The religious doctrine they founded was strict and extended to their architecture, their dress, their services and every aspect of the hard life in this part of wiregrass Georgia.  It still exists today in much the same form as the unpainted structure above will attest.  These unpainted Wiregrass Primitive Baptist churches are all located in this small region of Southeast Georgia and a few in North Florida.  The visual similarity of the construction of these old sanctuaries, both inside and out, is amazing. The Georgia Wiregrass Primitives are a unique subsection of the Baptist religion and worth some investigation if you are so inclined.  John Crowley’s book, Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South is one of the few reference books on the subject.

High Bluff Primitive Baptist Church had its beginnings in a settlement on a high bluff (hence the name) of the south bank of the Satilla River. The origins of the settlement are lost but history seems to indicate that the pioneers had come up the river in boats and may have been previous members of the Little Satilla Church, whose location is now unknown. Eventually these early pioneers settled in and found the need for a church. High Bluff was constituted in September of 1819 with nine members. The Presbytery was made up of Isham Peacock and Fleming Bates, two ministers who would be active in the establishment of other churches in South Georgia and North Florida. A meeting house was built that included a cemetery and, beginning in 1821, Fleming Bates was the pastor.

In 1823, 13 members of High Bluff were granted letters of dismissal to become a constituted church at Kettle Creek. At some point, within the next few years, the congregation at High Bluff moved to become members of Big Creek. The minutes make no mention of the cause for the move, but tradition says that there was a cholera outbreak in the High Bluff area. The only solution to cholera at the time was to move away. So the little church on the bluff was closed. Today few signs can be found of the original church. In the late 1870s, the name of the Big Creek Church was changed to High Bluff.

High Bluff is still an active house of worship today and is among the oldest continuing congregations in this part of the state. Its cemetery is very old, but as with many of these historic churches, few of the graves of the old settlers have survived. Among the tallest of the existing stones in the cemetery is that of Lydia Stone, known as the “Queen of the Okefenokee.” Lydia was an unschooled, independent, iconoclastic girl of the swamp. With a unique and colorful style, she made the swamp her life and became a self-taught and shrewd businesswoman who died a millionaire.  The river brought many of the early settlers into this area. And today, it holds the story of their struggles and successes, their sins and their redemption, and the ongoing story of the High Bluff Church.

For church location and directions click here.

21 Thoughts

  1. Billie Allbritton Chambers · May 22, 2016 Reply

    My daddy, Andrew J. Allbritton and most of his siblings and relatives are buried there.

  2. Kevin Mercer · May 18, 2016 Reply

    By my count there are 22 of my Mercer ancestors buried there. I have visited this cemetery on my way home from St. Simons island. It is a beautiful cemetery and a wonderful primitive church. My wife and I were able to walk into the church and look at its simple, yet pleasing design. I would love to connect with any Mercers still living in the area to discuss our ancestors. Thank you and God bless.

    • Bob griffin · March 16, 2017 Reply

      My great grandmother was a Mercer .. Matilda….a creek indain…on mother’s side married James King clinch county…my great grandpa is buried at highlight

  3. Richard Warren · November 6, 2015 Reply

    Many of my relatives are laid to rest here and many went to this church. My great grandfather Albert Thomas went to the church and is buried here with his wife Zettie Griffin along with many many other Thomas and Griffin ancestors. My beloved grandparents Wendell and Lou Thomas are laid to rest here. Wendell is Albert’s oldest son. Zettie’s sisters are also buried here. Also my great great grandparents are buried here.

  4. Linda L. Crews DuBose · September 13, 2015 Reply

    Grew up on High Bluff just down the road from the Church. This Church and it’s people both active members and those who have passed on was always a big part of our lives. So much that we just took it for granted. Both of my parents went there when they were small and we’re with their parents. Dixon/Crews and Griffin /Davis. It was common to wander around the cemetery looking for a grave and looked across the way seeing someone else doing the same thing, only to find both of you at the foot of the same grave. Next finding out you were related. Driving by thing the church can make you feel this crazy mixed up world still has some people who help to put priorities in the right order.

  5. Bonnie Charles · May 28, 2015 Reply

    I am a DAR Registrar and I need HELP! Is there some kind of documentation that proves Banner Thomas Jr or Letitia Thomas are the children of Banner and Mary Mixon Thomas. This is the last connection needed to complete the Application. Thank you for any guidance or assistance in this matter.

  6. pat w carter · May 17, 2015 Reply

    Would like to know if there was way to find out the names of some of those dear people buried there. I think I have a lot of family there I do believe like the Stones, Harris, Mizell’s and maybe my Grand Parents the Williams.

    • churchadmin · May 17, 2015 Reply

      Pat. Go to and “search for a cemetery”. Enter Georgia, Brantley County, High Bluff. All interments are listed alphabetically.

    • Bob griffin · March 16, 2017 Reply

      Billy knows who is there

  7. Amy Crimmins · May 1, 2015 Reply

    My great grandfather is Charlie W Walker of Blackshear GA. He was a key figure in that area and very involved with Pierce Chapel. If anyone is looking for more info on that church, feel free to contact me Most of the cemetary is my family. In addition, we have many family members buried at High Bluff as well. I believe it was built before PC and was our family church until they built PC. Great write up!!

  8. Cres Keys · April 28, 2015 Reply

    Great photos and information about the church!

    Here is an interesting article about Lydia Stone. She was quite a character.

  9. Jackie King · February 25, 2015 Reply

    My husband’s ancestors on the Lee side of his family are buried at High Bluff.

  10. Frank Lee · February 8, 2015 Reply

    High Bluff is still in existance. It is located in Hoboken Ga just a few miles east of Waycross GA.. Many of the Dowling Family members are buried in the High Bluff Church. Get in touch at the e-mail address above.
    Also High Bluff still meets on the second weekend of each month,

  11. Mary Beth Dowling · December 16, 2014 Reply

    Hello, I am a great great granddaughter of Lazarus and Mary Ann Guy Dowling. My great grandparents were Joel and Rhoda Crews Dowling. My immediate family and I are interested in visiting the church, visiting the historic Dowling Bridge named for Lazarus’ ferry, and finding out more about Lazarus’ and Mary Ann’s descendants who might still attend the church or be in the area. Do you have any knowledge of church members who are Lazarus’ descendants? Thank you.

    Mary Beth Dowling
    PO Box 78154
    Atlanta, GA 30357

  12. amy crimmins · October 29, 2014 Reply

    There is another church at the end of a dirt road there that use to be a school. It is Pierce Chapel.

  13. Kay Westberry · January 13, 2014 Reply

    Could you give us a better location so we can visit these historic sites?

    • churchadmin · January 14, 2014 Reply

      See my answer to Benny below regarding mapping. Just bear with us. We will get there and thank you for your interest.