Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South:
1815 to the Present

John G. Crowley

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"A superb study of Primitive Baptist belief and practice in a specific region of the South. Expands our knowledge of an often neglected group."--Bill Leonard, Dean, School of Divinity, Wake Forest University

Between 1819 and 1848, Primitive Baptists emerged as a distinct, dominant religious group in the area of the deepest South known as the Wiregrass country. John Crowley, a historian and former Primitive minister, chronicles their origins and expansion into South Georgia and Florida, documenting one of the strongest aspects of the inner life of the local piney-woods culture.
Crowley begins by examining Old Baptist worship and discipline and then addressing Primitive Baptist reaction to the Civil War, Reconstruction, Populism, Progressivism, the Depression, and finally the ferment of the 1960s and present decline of the denomination. Intensely conservative, with a strong belief in predestination, Old Baptists opposed modernizing trends sweeping their denomination in the early 19th century. Crowley describes their separation from Southern Baptists and the many internal schisms on issues such as the saving role of the gospel, the Two Seed Doctrine, and absolute as opposed to limited predestination. Going beyond doctrine, he discusses contention among Old Baptists over music, divorce, membership in secret societies, sacraments administered by heretics, and rituals such as the washing of feet.
Writing with insight and sensitivity, he navigates the history of this denomination through the 20th century and the emergence of at least twenty mutually exclusive factions of Primitive Baptists in this specific region of the Deep South.

John G. Crowley is assistant professor of history at Valdosta State University.

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"A sensitive and concise study of an important tradition in American religion." - Religious Studies Review
--Religious Studies Review

"A sophisticated and entertaining denominational history. by focusing on a region where these stern, uncompromising Calvinists were at least prominent enough to survive round after round of spiritual controversy, Crowley effectively illuminates the theological schisms that have continuously riven the Baptist faith." - Southern Historian
--Southern Historian

"The Primitive Baptists have endured primarily in the most rural regions of the South, like the wiregrass country, and parts of Appalachia. We are indebted to Crowley for illuminating their place in American religious life through his careful attention to the Primitive Baptist story in one region and paving the way for further scholarly inquiry into their distinctive religious culture."-- Georgia Historical Quarterly
--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Meticulous and enlightening about the people called Primitive Baptists."-- Journal of Southwest Georgia History
--Journal of Southwest Georgia History

"Making extensive use of church and association minutes along with some attention to the periodicals of the movement, the author has produced a helpful portrait of a little understood group. This book would be of benefit to anyone interested in the history of Baptists or of the South."-- Journal of Church and State
--Journal of Church and State

"Crowley has done a commendable job painting a sensitive portrait of Old Baptists in the Deep South." -Florida Historical Quarterly
--Florida Historical Quarterly

"A well-documented source for researchers interested in Baptist life in the Wiregrass region." -The North Carolina Historical Review
--North Carolina Historical Review

"Both clear and convincing. Crowley's inquiry into Primitive Baptist life blends religious and social history to tell a story that has been neglected far too long." -American Historical Review
--American Historical Review

"Crowley gives a substantial contribution to Baptist history in the American South. Specifically, his research provides valuable insight to an often-misunderstood group of Baptists. Baptists of any persuasion will be intrigued by Crowley's chronicle of this region and the Primitive Baptists that inhabit it." -Faith & Mission
--Faith and Mission

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