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Exploring early Eden

POSTED: May 30, 2013 8:49 p.m.
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The Powers Baptist Church building in Eden was in use until October 1976.

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The town of Eden in Effingham County is located on what is now known as Highway 80 in the southern end of the county. It was established first as a stagecoach stop.


The oldest building standing in Eden is the “old” Powers Baptist Church. The congregation built a new, much larger church on a site north of the church in October of 1976. The old building is still used occasionally.


Powers Baptist Church was organized in 1790 as Sand Hill Baptist Church. The church later joined the Hephzibah Society and stayed in it from 1792-1804. Then they joined the Savannah River Association. In 1814, the church was renamed Powers Baptist Church (some histories record it as Powers Baptist Meeting House) in honor of Clem and Zara Powers in memory of their parents who came to Eden from North Carolina. The old church building was said to be built in 1846 after the original building was destroyed by fire. The building was rebuilt with some of the remaining wood salvaged from the structure. Members supplemented that with lumber they brought. Some of the wood in the old church is over a century and a half old. In the early days slaves attended and were listed as members.


The Old Powers Baptist Cemetery, surrounded by a brick wall, is the resting place of many members including some original founders. One of the early families was the Powers family. Lydia Powers died in 1837.  Her husband John Powers who died in 1832 served as a Georgia Representative in 1806. Elvira Powers died in 1864 and Zara Powers died in 1853. Julia A. Powers, daughter of Zara and Elvira, died in 1894.  Major Milton H. Powers, son of Clem and Ann Powers died in 1848.  All of these citizens are interred in the cemetery. Other early families with names on graves there are: Edwards, Cassidy, Hodges, Scott, Lightsey and Kilpatrick.


In the early 1800s a stagecoach route was established running from Savannah to Darien going through Eden. Also in the 1800s, the Central of Georgia Railroad went through Eden with a station there. The railroad was discontinued in 1950.


There is a historical marker in Eden telling of General Sherman’s march through Eden.


During the late 1800s, many businesses were established in Eden including a plywood mill and a saw mill owned by a man named Oglesby. The sand plant was established selling sand for commercial use and construction. The Mennonites established a small brick factory and a few stores, adding to the expansion of Eden.


A very small one-room courthouse was established but was torn down in the 1970s.


In the late 1800s a one-room schoolhouse was built on the outskirts of Eden and was torn down after students were transferred to Marlow Consolidated School in 1935. The black children either attended school at Powers Baptist or a building nearby.


When Eden Baptist was organized, the school moved there. When this structure burned students were moved to a house over by Bowen’s Mill for education.  Around 1930 high school students rode the train each morning to Guyton to attend the Pilgrim Baptist Normal and Industrial Institute. A book of train tickets lasting a month cost about three dollars.


In 1955, Eden primary school consolidated with Effingham County Training School.


The Eden Baptist Church was organized in 1872. Father Inman Bryant, founder of the Pilgrim Baptist Association, and Rev. Norris, pastor of Powers Baptist in Eden, were instrumental in building the church for the black members of the community on a site about a mile north of Eden on the Central of Georgia Railroad.


The first building, built in 1872, was replaced in 1905 as the congregation grew. It was refurbished in 1913 including new pews. Destroyed by fire in 1914, the church was rebuilt by members and stayed at the same site for 88 years. In 1961 a new site was chosen and a new block church was built.


Eden still sits on a major highway thoroughfare near the Ogeechee River. History documents several floods that impacted Eden through the years. The little community has grown and changed with the old Powers Baptist Church Cemetery markers as testaments to its founders and early days.


Correction: A few weeks ago the John Frederick Helmly home location was identified incorrectly. This home sat on what is now Indigo Road across the railroad from property now owned by Irving Zoller


This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society from information in the 1976 Bicentennial History of Effingham as well as River to River. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: hesexleyherald@aol.com.

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