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Bryan Neck church thrives 141 years
Shirley Says
Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church - photo by Photo by Shirley Hiers
Long before there were religious campuses, large churches and impressive cathedrals, many worshipped inside one-room country churches – even in a brush arbor. With God as the guiding spirit, a congregation can meet anywhere.
The history of Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church reveals early believers did indeed meet in a brush arbor to worship. They held services beneath the massive branches of a large oak tree. Weather elements didn’t dampen their desire to sing praises and offer petitions. The large oak still stands a few feet from the church.
Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1869. It is the oldest African-American church congregation in south Bryan County. A handful of dedicated Baptists met in fervent prayer in the brush arbor, making their desire to have a place of worship known to God.
The founders of the church were the Rev. London Harris, deacons Paul Foster, James Grant and Cumblin Bush, brothers Tinnie Zander and Harry Bush and Sister Betsie Snipe.
The first structure of the church was a prayer house built in 1870. Rev. Harris, a spiritual leader of the local black community, was an organizer and first pastor of the church.
The church was enlarged at the time the George Washington Carver School was built in 1939 by Mr. Henry Ford. It was renovated to resemble the Martha-Mary Chapel (St. Anne’s Catholic Church) in Richmond Hill.
Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church was used by Carver School as a chapel and by the community as a church. This was a unique utilization. (Graduation exercises for the Carver School were held in the church.)
After Rev. Harris died, the following pastors served the church: the reverends Amos Morrell, U.L. Houston, F. Washington, E.R. Faire, David Boles, Avery, Sam Thomas, S.W. Waterman, N.E. Hosley, H.W. Wilburn, W.N. Robinson and Pete Broxton Jr.
On May 28, 1960, Rev. Broxton became the church’s pastor and continues to lead the congregation. He is a firm believer that through prayer and working together no task is too great to accomplish. Many improvements to the church have been made during his administration.
Earlier this month the church celebrated its 141st anniversary. From its humble beginnings, the church has grown to about 100 committed members. This historic church is located at 16525 Hwy. 144 in Richmond Hill. Nothing has changed inside except the walls, which have been paneled, and new windows have been installed.
Church services are held on the first, second and fourth Sundays. On the third Sunday, the members commune with the Canaan Baptist Church in Richmond Hill. Canaan Baptist Church members commune with the members of the Bryan Neck Church on the first Sunday of each month.
Church custodians Harry and Dolly Greene have been members for many years. She said proudly, “I keep the church clean, and Harry maintains the grounds.”
She went on to say, “I’ve been going there since I was small…all my life…I’m 76 years old.”
Dolly was baptized there at the age of 12. The baptismal pool was originally located across the highway near the cemetery. It has since been moved behind the church. Harry and Dolly’s children and grandchildren were baptized into the Bryan Neck Church.
Dolly fondly remembers going with her parents to the church: “My parents, Fred and Gracie Barnard, were born and raised in Richmond Hill. My dad was a deacon in the church and my mother was a deaconess.”
Other members of the church have ancestors who attended Bryan Neck Church, beginning in the 1900s. Mary Brown’s parents, Thomas and Lizzie Brown; Pete Blige’s parents, William and Nellie Blige; James Harris’ parents, Herbert and Cora Harris; and William Mitchell’s parents, Eliger and Susie Mitchell.
The church celebrates its members’ birthdays with a fundraising dinner. The next birthday celebration will be in September for those born in the month of August. Dinners are sold at the church and the proceeds go into the building fund. The date of the dinner will be published locally.
Ms. Adelphenia Jackson-Brown is the choir director and pianist at Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church. Under her direction, the choir will celebrate its organization at the church on Aug. 29 at 4 p.m. Several other church choirs have been invited to come and sing.
Perhaps the old proverb “the more things change, the more they stay the same” applies to Bryan Neck Missionary Baptist Church. Although there have been many changes involving the church over the last 141 years, the same devotion, loyalty and love exists today as it first did in the brush arbor.

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. You can reach her at
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