Saturday, March 04, 2006

Sandy Creek Church, North Carolina

The following history was written in 1980 by the church clerk of Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church -- originally known as Separate Baptist and "mother" of many Baptist churches in the South.

A Brief History of the Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church (1755 till 1980)

Here is a brief history of Old Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church, located in the north eastern part of Randolph County, North Carolina, 20 miles southeast of Greensboro, North Carolina, four miles west of Liberty, North Carolina, off of 49-A.

Morgan Edwards, the earliest historian, was at Sandy Creek in 1772, says that the work existing from Elder Shubal Stearns and fifteen other souls, 16 years early (November 22, 1755), spread so rapidly from Sandy Creek that by 1775, the church had spread her branches southward as far as Georgia, eastward to the sea and the Chesapeake Bay, and northward to the water of the Potomac. It, in 17 years, became a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother to 42 churches, from which sprang 125 ministers. Semple, next in age, 1810, says ... soon after Elder Stearns’ arrival at Sandy Creek November 22, 1755, he and his companions to the number of 16 were constituted into a church called Sandy Creek and to which Elder Stearns was appointed pastor. In this little church in the wilderness, there were, besides the pastor, two other preachers, viz: Joseph Breed and Daniel Marshall, neither of whom was ordained. Thus organized, they began a work, kindling a fire which soon began to burn brightly indeed. Shubal Stearns came into Guilford County, now Randolph, at Sandy Creek and began a work that is almost without parallel. In 1829, Hassell wrote, as of now, more than a thousand churches existing which arose from this beginning.

The first meeting house built in 1762 was 26 x 30. The old log meeting house was built around 1802. The present frame house was built in 1946. The first deed to the property at Sandy Creek was made in 1822 by Wm. Welborn. It consisted of one acre or more of land and was filed for registration on December 29, 1885, before W. J. Teague, Register of Deeds.

On the second Lord’s day in August, 1835, our predecessor protested “against all the new institutions of the day which they do believe is not founded on the scripture, among which were the Baptist State Convention, the Missionary Society, the Sunday School, and other societies which had come into existence. As a result of the declaration, the church withdrew from the Sandy Creek Association and joined the Abbott’s Creek Union Association: the church continued in this association for 124 years. The church now stands independent.

In 1902, membership had dropped to only one member, a Vedelia E. Jones who died in 1909. From about 1904 till 1909, no services were held. It is said, however, that she refused to accept the closing of the church and continued to come and sit on the steps of the old building each meeting day and sang the old hymns she loved so well.

In 1926, services were resumed and, in 1929, the church was reorganized back into a church body and has continued ever since. Elder Gurney E. Nance serves as our pastor.

We were prone to agree with the statement “This is a church where time stands still.”


In the early part of the church history, our records are lost, but we do have the first original deed. It was not lawful in North Carolina at the time Sandy Creek was organized for churches to own land.

The old Log Meeting house once had a balcony which some say was used for slaves. There are two doors and two windows. The stand or pulpit is pinned together with wooden pegs.

About 1905, the “Original” Head Rock of Elder Shubal Stearns was removed from his grave by a Missionary minister. The present stone is misleading. The Primitive Baptists, at this time, have been unable to find the original stone. Stearns’ original head rock was native stone on which was carved “S.S. 1771”.

In 1951, the Department of Conservation and Development tried to establish Sandy Creek Baptist Church as a historical shrine, but the church refused to turn over to the state the old deed. The Old Baptists believed the old building is to be used for worship of the Lord only.

In July, 1979, the State Professional Review Committee placed for study Old Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. We have seventeen members. We hope each reader will pray that our endeavors walk in the old paths may continue.

Hal Younts, Church Clerk
Climax, North Carolina


Anonymous said...

Robert, I discovered that the centennial edition of "A History of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association: from its organization in A.D. 1758 to A.D. 1858" is available from Google Books at

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks, Will. It's good to see this is a full view book at Google. I notice also they have as full view both Benedict's history, as well as the not as common "The Baptist Denomination: Its History, Doctrines and Ordinances" by Dudley C. Haynes in 1856 and "History of the Early Baptists from the 'beginning of the gospel' to the rise of affusion" by William C. Duncan in 1857.

Anonymous said...

R paulk

Jonathan Polk was married to Elder Stearns sister, Rebecca Ruth Stearns.

I am a direct descendant of Jonathan. Jonathan's son Micajah moved to South Georgia where his descendants founded Union Primitive Church which is still in existence today and the location of the family reunion each year.

I have visited Sandy Creek on several occasions and for my family it is a holy place.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for the comment on Sandy Creek and the Union Primitive Baptist Church. I found some interesting info on Sandy Creek HERE. The Paulks are mentioned in some of the comments.

Ken Mann said...

Ive been studying Baptist history for 30 yrs. Sandy Creek was a "separate" baptist church. the Separates for the most part would be considered "general" baptists and not "particular" baptists. the union of the Separates and Particulars became what was known as "United Baptists"..the Separates only agreed to the Philadelphia confession by adding the words "as long as it doesnt disagree with the Word of God"...thus most of them simply ignored the Philadelphia confession. Over time there became a mixture of both general and particular baptists, even in the same congregation, especially considering that there may not be another Baptist church within a reasonable distance, that you could get to by walking or horse back. So at the time of the split, a majority of the Sandy Creek church were already general baptists and they withdrew leaving the old building to the primitives. Shubal Stearns was a Separate Baptist, and by the very nature of him establishing so many churches, he had a missionary zeal. At the very least, he never preached on the subject of predestination. Using logic, would should conclude that the "missionary" memeber who left the church, didnt suddenly change their theology over night, so they must have already had an inclination that the lost must hear the Gospel in order to be saved.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Ken, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting on the Sandy Creek Association and Separate Baptists. This is a very interesting part of our history. In my opinion, I think it might be best to just consider the original Separate Baptists as "Separate" rather than either general or particular. The reason I say this is that they held no creed but the Bible and seemed to tolerate a wide range of views on the subject, well before they united with the Particulars/Regulars. Some of their leaders were staunch Calvinists, such as Silas Mercer, Elijah Craig, and Ambrose Dudley. Others held general provision, such as Samuel Harriss, John Waller, and Jeremiah Walker. Walker even eventually went so far as to embrace the doctrine of apostasy (falling from grace). Robert B. Semple and others have related the interesting 1775 session of the General Association in Virginia, which divided on the question, then made up. This hinged upon the introduction of a query "Is salvation, by Christ, made possible for every individual of the human race?" At least at this time, those who held particular redemption were in the majority. This is found on pages 82-84.