This has been identified as a millinery shop.
Though the present church building dates to 1906, Benevolence Baptist Church was constituted on 16 May 1840; it succeeded nearby Walnut Grove Baptist Church (known as Mt. Paran when organized with nine members in November 1831). In 1840, Missionary Baptists accepted five acres of land from Thomas Coram, first settler of this area, with the intention of forming a separate church. For this generosity, Abner Ward suggested the name Benevolence for church and community. Members hauled lumber from Dawson and built the first church building, dedicated 17 May 1842, with Reverend James Matthews, Pastor, and A.M. Albritton, Clerk. First deacons were James Sherman and John Winfrey. Other early clerks were David Holman, Abner, E. H. Keese and G. W. King.
An Act of Benevolence, a play by Anna Kirsten Beard and Karan Pittman detailing the lives of the church’s pioneer members, provides historical and genealogical information. I’ve abridged it here as a list of these early settlers: Reverend James Matthews; Isaac Osteen; Simon D. & America Jane McLendon; John & Nancy Winfrey; Samuel, Edith & Mary Sherman; John M. Frazier; Ansel & Ann Crawford Albritton; Eleanor Collins; Mary Walker; Isabella Wamble; Sarah Stapleton; Thomas Coram.
Larry Ingram writes: This home was the home of a son of Abner Ward. The home was constructed around 1880. The son’s wife, Nettie Keese, was the daughter of Elijah and Henrietta Keese, who settled in the area in the 1840’s. Mr. Ward was one of the most prosperous citizens of Benevolence, and owned, among other things, a gristmill with an overshot water wheel, which was highly unusual for the area. My great-grandmother, Robert Ellen Keese Crozier, and Nettie Keese Ward, were sisters.
Charles Robinett writes: I recall in the early and mid 1960’s going to Pittman’s Machine Shop in Benevolence with my father Dean Robinett to have machine work done for equipment used in the furniture factory in Shellman. After all these years I can see Mr. Wyatt now working a turn lathe and actually hear the voice as he and Daddy talked. What a walk down memory lane this is.