At White Oak Primitive Baptist Church.

Like other white Primitive Baptist congregations, Saratoga’s White Oak Primitive Baptist admitted African-Americans to segregated membership — probably from the time it was founded in 1830. However, when they were able to form their own congregations after Emancipation, most Black Primitive Baptists left white churches to worship in less discordant settings, and White Oak’s members joined African-American churches in southeast Wilson County, including Bartee and Cornerline.

White Oak P.B. is no longer active. A small cemetery lies adjacent to the church, but its graves are relatively recent. (The oldest marked grave dates to 1927.) It seems likely that prior to that time, church members were buried in family cemeteries in the neighboring community.

White Oak Primitive Baptist Church, Saratoga, Wilson County.

On a recent visit to White Oak, I was surprised to recognize a feature in the graveyard. Up to then, of hundreds I’ve found, I had never seen a Clarence Best-carved marker on a white person’s grave. Here, though, was a little cluster, a single family whose small marble headstones I immediately recognized as Best’s work. They tell a terrible tale of loss, four babies who died before they reached the age of two.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2023.

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