Union Ground was organized in 1902 by Erastus Lamar Shellnut. The following background comes from Scott Harp’s excellent overview of the “Pioneer Preacher”, as Shellnut was sometimes known.
In 1902 the “Pioneer Preacher” again returned to his favorite work. He accepted the appointment from the Woman’s Society of Georgia Mission as an evangelist. Because of failing health he resigned that work after six and on half months. He organized two churches, Unity in Jackson County and Union Ground in Franklin County, while working under the auspices of the Woman’s Society of Georgia Missions.
During Mr. Shelnutt’s work in Franklin County he encountered opposition on the part of the Baptists. He was locked out of the community school building, was falsely accused, arrested and stood trial, although he was not convicted of any charge. Rev. Shelnutt, possessing a kind spirit, tried to come to some understanding with the Baptists, went to their worship services, but no reconciliation was made. He gives an interesting account of his Franklin County experiences in a pamphlet entitled, Encountering Opposition. He vividly describes the Baptist worship service he attended during his visit in the community: “The preacher, of the blonde type, read from the third chapter of Exodus of the ‘burning bush’, and took as his text II Pet. ii. 1-3. The sermon was harsh and sectarian in its conception and argument, and mad and abusive in its deliver. The preacher’s denunciations of the ‘Campbellites,’ as he called them ‘though’ he said, ‘they want to be ‘Christian’ and his expositions of the ‘damnable doctrine’, as he called it, directed the minds and eyes of quite a number in the audience toward me. He told them that the devil was loose in the community, and advised the people more than once not to hear me (the devil referred to) preach my ‘doctrine born of hell,’ that I would ‘decoy them and their children and lead them to hell for ever and ever.’ He further advised his people not to let me have food and shelter in their homes. If they did, they would be partakers with me in propagating the false doctrine. I quietly sat before him and pitied him for his ignorance and lack of the spirit of Christ and remembered that vengeance belongs to God (Rom. xii, 19) and that he will one day settle with him for his wicked words.”
In spite of the unpleasant conditions under which Mr. Shelnutt labored, he was successful in organizing the church with twenty-seven charter members. The building was begun and the name chosen for the church-Union Ground Christian Church, September 16, 1902.