Although Gwinnett County is home to many old buildings, it’s not common to find an establishment that has maintained both its name and property for more than 100 years. In this way, the 147-year old Yellow River Baptist Church is unusual.
Yellow River was founded in 1871 during the Reconstruction period. Attempting to recover from the Civil War, a group of local farmers decided what the people needed was a church. They erected a small wooden structure on Five Forks Trickum Rd, which was then just an old wagon trail back then, hardly knowing the church would endure an entire century and some odd decades.
Today, Yellow River’s congregation consists of nearly 250 regular attending members. And the church campus includes four buildings, all of which have been renovated in the past eight years.
While the buildings have followed the original footprint, the campus does not look much like it did in 1847. A Granite building replaced the original wooden structure in 1948, and in 1961, a two-story educational building was added to the property. And on Jun. 10, 2018, the church dedicated two new buildings, a children’s center called “Fort Faith” as well as a gymnasium and lounge for teenagers.
The entire campus now spans 44,000 square feet, and all of the buildings have been renovated to have a clean, fresh look.
“When I became pastor, we started doing major renovations here at all the buildings,” said Kevin Creasman who became Yellow River’s Senior Pastor in 2010.
“All of the renovations for every building project were paid for in cash, faithfully given by the church members,” Creasman said of the church’s progress in the past decade.”
Creasman believes that the church has been blessed due to its regular support of both local ministries and foreign missions. On an annual basis, the church tithes 10 percent of its income and places it in a missions fund.
“We give way above [10 percent] each and every year — probably close to 15 percent,” Creasman said. “We also take up special offerings when [missionaries] come up here to speak, so we have close to $7,000 divvied up between [the 15 missionaries we support]. So missions are a big thing for us.“
Creasman admits that like most churches, Yellow River has had its “peaks and valleys.” The 80’s and 70’s were an especially hard time, but thanks to strong leadership, the church persisted.
Associate Pastor Mark Davis remembers Rev. Jerry Cline as one of those instrumental leaders. In 1991, Rev. Cline saw that Yellow River’s membership was dwindling, and so in unison with Creasman, who was just a member at the time, it merged with the newly formed Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Davis who is the son-in-law of the now-retired Rev. Cline compared the merger to an “almost perfect marriage”.
“When I came in ’93, you would never know it was two separate groups that came together,” Davis said. “The people were unified, and it remains an amazing unification in that body to this day.”
After the merger, things started looking up for Yellow River. In 2010, Creasman took office as Senior Pastor. As a successful business executive and a longtime member of Yellow River, Creasman provided strong leadership and helped stabilize the church.
Throughout the years, the church has maintained a strong identity. According to Davis, Southern Gospel music, Bible preaching, and personal relationships have been some of the church’s core elements.
“We have two couples that work with our youth and we have a fantastic children’s ministry,” Davis said. “But we also reach people that enjoy more of the traditional church service with Southern Gospel music Bible preaching. Those are the main stays of the church, and they continue to be to this day. Southern Gospel music, Bible preaching, and relationships.”
And while the campus has endured many changes, some members have stuck around for the entire ride.
One of those members is Jean Landress. While some of the congregation came and went, she has been a member since birth and has no desire to leave.
“It was just a great place to be, and I’ve been there all my life,” said Landress who remembers attending services in the old wooden building.
Other members are descendants of some of the founding fathers, although in the case of Robert Cochran, his ancestor was a matriarch. After rejoining the church about 12 years ago, Cochran learned that his Great Great Aunt had been one of the church’s 15 charter members.
“I was already a member at that point, but that was just the icing on top of the cake,” Cochran said, recalling the discovery.
Some records show that along with the Yellow River Post Office, Yellow Baptist Church played an instrumental part in the development of the area in the late 1800’s. The church aims to maintain preserve its connection with the community and welcomes newcomers to its services held on Sunday mornings and evenings and on Wednesday evenings.
For more information about Yellow River and its programs, visit the website at www.yellowbaptistchurch.com.