Abba Baptist Church, 1907, Ben Hill County

historic abba baptist church irwin county ga phoitograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgiia usa 2011

Abba has been one of my favorite places since I began rambling the backroads near my hometown twenty years ago. I have always loved this church, with its asymmetrical steeples, and its place at the edge of some of the most beautiful farmland in South Georgia. Its cemetery is one of the most peaceful places I know. A few of my ancestors are buried here. (An interesting geographical note- though the congregation is exclusively associated with Irwin County, the church building itself is actually located in Ben Hill County, due to boundary changes in 1906).

Abba Baptist Church, 1960s, Photo Courtesy Mike Kitchens

This shows Abba Church when there were two doorways at the base of each steeple and a Gothic window in the center.

Photo Courtesy Mike Kitchens

This shows Abba Church in 1970, around the time it was modified. Notice that the doorways at the base of the steeples have been closed off, and the Gothic window in the center has been replaced by a new entryway. The church looks the same today, as you can see in my own photographs, with one exception: the bell tower on the left has been closed.

I was grateful to get these vintage photographs and a great history of the church from Mike Kitchens. His father, Howard, served as pastor of Abba for 40 years.

The church began as Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in 1889, with M. L. Stone as first pastor, and O. D. Mulky as his assistant. Soon thereafter, Reverend Mulky changed the name to New Mt. Zion at Abba. In 1904, the original structure, a simple frame building, was moved across the road toward the railroad track and used as the Abba School for some time.  In 1907, the present structure was built during the pastorate of J. R. Ballenger on land donated by J. M. Bussell.  In 1955, the name of the church was changed to Abba Missionary Baptist Church. By this time, the village of Abba was in danger of disappearing from the map, so the new name was christened to ensure it would live through the ages. At some point, Missionary was dropped and it became simply Abba Baptist Church. (This history was compiled by longtime church secretary Mrs. J. W. C. Brown.)

I’ve always been told the name Abba originates from the Atlanta Birmingham & Atlantic, or A. B. & A Railroad, which ran through the area and made whistlestops there in the late 1800s, though an interesting alternative would be the biblical term abba, which was a transliteration of the old Aramaic for father. I’d love to know for sure…

Many thanks again to Mike Kitchens for sharing this fascinating story.

7 thoughts on “Abba Baptist Church, 1907, Ben Hill County

  1. james tomberlin

    I attended that church for many years as a youngster. My father was a deacon there. Lots of great memories surrounding it. My parents are buried in that cemetery. It will always be “home” to me.

  2. Pingback: 1907 Church // Photography – Clara & Co.

  3. Larry Goolsby

    Brian, the name could have come from the railroad but I lean toward the biblical origin of Abba. The railroad didn’t reach this location until early 1902 – or in any case that’s when it got to Rebecca, and I suspect it built through Abba close to that same time. Also, the line was named the Atlantic & Birmingham then, and didn’t become the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic until 1906. Do we know the earliest use of Abba for this location? If it appeared about 1902, then possibly the A&B RR could have also led to the name.

    A footnote – there is a town in east central Alabama (near Wadley) on the same RR that we know for a fact took its name from the “A B and A,” Abanda.

    Larry Goolsby

  4. Abba Baptist Church

    Abba Baptist Church is actually in Ben Hill County….When you pull our of the yard and turn Left you are in Irwin County. We are not Vanishing we are growing Praise GOD!

    1. Brian Brown Post author

      Very interesting…I know the counties are hard to distinguish in that area…and just because you’re featured on Vanishing South Georgia doesn’t mean you’re actually vanishing! I’m aware that Abba is alive and well…some of my Bussell ancestors are buried there and I love the place.

  5. Pingback: Abba Baptist Church, 1907 | Vanishing South Georgia Photographs by Brian Brown

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