Our History


Long ago, nestled by the Lord in the North Georgia Mountains, was a little community called Shirley Grove.  There most of the people lived a simple life, working hard and raising their families.  There was a man, a lay preacher of sorts, named David Newton Shirley who lived in this community all of his life.  In a deed dated September 27, 1910, which was but two days before his death, he set aside two acres of land for the purpose of a church.  If you take a stroll out back you will find the grave of this man along with his parents, John L. and Mary Weeks Shirley, whose graves are the oldest in the cemetery.

Some years later, Mrs. Mary Stone Shirley, daughter of C.E. Stone, recalled, "Papa was talking to the Shirley boys and they told him that land had been set aside for a church, and Papa said, 'Then we better build one.'"  And so they did.  The following was recorded in the minutes of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Turnerville: "On July 20, 1918, letters were granted to the J.E. Shirleys and the E.D. Shirleys."  Also noted is the sale to J.E. Shirley of 10 new singing books for the cost of 50 cents.

So, recorded in our oldest church books, on July 21, 1918 , the brothers and sisters met at their first house of worship for the purpose of organizing a new Baptist church.  At that time the Shirley Grove Baptist Church was truly born with an Official name.  The first church building was a very primitive log structure and some folks say that this building was also used for a school.

The nine charter members were Henry and Laura Cleveland, E.D. and Josephine Shirley, J.E. and Emma Shirley, Alice Shirley and J.H. and Ida Seaborn.  The first Deacons were Henry Cleveland and E.D. Shirley.  The first Baptisms into the church included F.N. Shirley, Lula Shirley, Odella Shirley, C.E. and Mary Stone, Nettie Swafford, Leonard Murry, John Murry, Walker Dean, Emory Lowen, Keith Pitts, and D.R. Beck.  The first three pastors were J.F. Eller, Terrell Carver, and Steve Rothell.

Sometime later a more modern church was built.  While still simple in design, this building was one room with a tin roof and was equipped with a wood heater, handmade pews, and one row of posts right down the center of the church.  Outside, around the back, was a spacious but sometimes chilly outhouse.

It was in the late 1940's when the first expansion occurred.  With the help of Galloway's sawmill, a front porch and three Sunday School rooms were added.  Sometime later, the final Sunday School room was added with the help of E.D. Shirley.

From 1950 through 1992 many improvements were made including new siding, central heat and air, new pews, a nursery, paved parking lots, and even a mobile building.  In 1976, inside bathrooms were added, and they were greatly appreciated.  A library was set up in Honor of Minnie Pearl Walters in 1984.  An organ was dedicated in Honor of Eugene and Beaulah Ivester.  Along in this time, Rev. Corbin Coley was pastor, and he helped with much of the work.

But, time took a toll on this little white church beside the road, and all the work could not help years of termite dinners, the need for more room, and a safer building.  On January 27, 1993, Pastor Charles Masters spoke about the proposed new building.  He stated that we had outgrown the present Sunday School space and we also needed a fellowship hall to help the church grow.  On May 29, 1994, a motion was made and happily agreed by the members to proceed with construction of the first phase of the new building program.  This new building would include a fellowship hall, Sunday School rooms, and a kitchen.

Soon work began and a short four years later, the first phase of our building program was complete.  God had provided and the building was completely paid for upon completion.  On June 7, 1998, the final service was held in the old church building.  It was a sad, but also a happy time for members and friends of this well-used church building as we closed out this part of Shirley Grove Baptist Church's history.  Many friends spoke of fond memories in the old church building and those memories continue to live on even though the old building is gone.

On January 9, 1999, we gathered on a cold, cloudy, and windy day for the grim task of tearing down the little white church to make way for the new sanctuary.  It was an emotional time as the last walls came tumbling down.  Mr. Grady Smith made a visit that day to have his picture taken in front of the rubble.  After that day the building was gone...except for the bell that had performed the call to worship so faithfully for so many years.  It was carefully removed and stored, for it would soon be needed again.

Time moved on and we were enjoying services in the fellowship hall that could - at a moments notice - be transformed from a sanctuary into a full-service dining hall.  We were happy, but not content...for to begin, we must finish what had been started.  On June 6, 2001, conference was held and it was agreed by all to proceed with construction of the long-awaited sanctuary.  Groundbreaking day was July 1, 2001.

One of the most exciting times in the building process was when the steeple was set in place.  It was an awesome experience to round the curve and once again see a steeple atop the church.  Another exciting time was when the old bell was brought down from storage.  Michael DeMore had prepared the bell for its new home and on a hot June afternoon, his son Mike lifted up the bell and with great determination made the long trip across the top of the roof carrying that old church bell.  After a long walk with a very heavy bell, he placed it where it belonged inside the steeple at Shirley Grove Baptist Church.

Construction continued for some time under the steady leadership of the Building Committee consisting of Chairman Eddie Davidson, Bob Spivey, Phil Ivester, Melvin Smith, Michael DeMore, Otis Coker, and Pastor Jason Arrowood.

As we eagerly waited, step by step, piece by piece, lumber, nails, carpet, pews, hard work, through laughter and even some tears, all was transformed into the beautiful house of God we worship in today.  A dedication was held on August 11, 2002.  Then, the building note was "burned" on August 17, 2008, as the church celebrated being completely debt free.

But, time has not stood still for church in Shirley Grove.  As we grow and change - and add a web site for our church - we strive to remember the past and the men and women of great faith who helped mold Shirley Grove into the Church it is today.  Just as they were faithful, we too must press on,  and remain faithful and obedient, while trusting to the Unseen Hand.

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