Ochlawilla Baptist Church, Inc.
Thursday, February 29, 2024


     One of the most singular Indian words in Georgia maybe a coined term. This name is Ochlawilla, the designation for a church in extreme Southeast Brooks County,  near the Florida line. The name is unusual because it seemingly is the only indigenous word in the state that now retains the Hitchitee form "okla," signifying people, or even town. The "willa" element of the expression perhaps was borrowed from the nearby Withlacoohee River. Withlacoohee signifies Little River. Perhaps, then Ochlawilla was intended to mean something like Little River People or Little Riverians, or Little River Town. Most likely the name was simply coined by the people who applied it to provide an attractive Indian expression for their church.      PLACENAMES OF GEORGIA by John H. Goff 
Further research revealed that the Indian word, Ochlawilla, means "Clear Water."
   A deed dated March 4, 1876 made to Ochlawilla Church for a lot "where the church now stands", for the sum of $5, signed by Joseph Tillman and wife Susan; therefore, the church was organized prior to 1876.
   A deed dated Dec. 5, 1891 was made by R.M. Chaney for one acre of land for Ochlawilla Missionary Baptist Church; therefore, the date 1891 is considered the date of establishment of Ochlawilla  Baptist Church in Brooks County Georgia.
A.M. Becton , deacon in Ochlawilla Baptist Church, related helping construct the church building in 1892; prior to this, the church was located in Madison County, Florida.
 Earlier pastors included: J.C. Harris, W. Henry Dent, W.H. Bryant, J.D. Evans, I.F. Duncan, W.B. High, J.C. Thompson, J.J. Simmons, H.H. Parrish, O.C. McDearmon, Cox, Farnell, Avery, Cross, Johnson and Smith.
1924-26     A.M. Parker
1927          M.J. Fowler
1928          A.M Parker
1929-35     A.M. Rowe
1936          R.J. Lewis
1937-39     A.M. Rowe
1939-40     R.B. Keys
1940          J.F. Maddox
1941          E.L. Williamson
1942-43     M.J. Fowler
1944-45     A.M. Rowe
1946-47     Coleman Watkins
1948-50     L.G. Baldwin
1951-54     A.M. Rowe
1955-57     Jack Lamb
1957-59     Chapman Hicks
1960-62     Austin Kelley
1962-64     Howard Money
1964-65     Bill Terrell
1966          Bill Jenkins
1967-69     Harold Smith
1969-73     Bob Atkins, Jr.
1974-75     Keith Humphrey
1975-84     S.G. Folsom
1985-2007   Ronnie Combass
2007 -         Dewey Fountain
    Credit is given to Mrs. Deliah Ragan for making the fourth Sunday in May an outstanding day in the history of the church. Mrs. Ragan invited relatives and friends from Cairo, Georgia to attend a fifth Sunday meeting held in the early 1900's. following a singing school held at Ochalwilla. Everyone enjoyed the day and decided to continue it annually. In later years, the date was changed to the fourth Sunday to accommodate the Brooks County Singing Convention. When it was disbanded due to the lack of interested singers, the fourth Sunday in May became known as Ochlawilla Homecoming Day.
     Construction of the Educational Building began in 1968 with the men of the church providing the labor. It was completed in 1969.
     Construction of a Butler building to be used as a gymnasium was done in 1977. In 1989 half of it was converted into a fellowship hall, with most of the labor provided by the members of the church.
   There are many more events which could be included in the history of Ochlawilla; many trials, sorrows and joys have transpired, all these only God has the record. Many people have entered the doors and departed to serve.  { Information taken from research by a deceased member of Ochlawills Baptist Church, Mrs. Neita Bass Rhodes Taylor, 1994.}