First United Methodist Church of Marion, South Carolina
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
THE METHODIST CHURCH IN MARION
Highlights from 1786-2010
Methodism in the town of Marion is now approaching the ripe old age of 284 years. The present structure, the fifth church building in which the Methodists of Marion have worshiped, is a far cry from the first small log cabin church, called Flowers Meeting House. Official records state that in 1786 Hope Hull and Jeremiah Mastin, two young itinerant ministers, were assigned to the Pee Dee circuit, including Liberty Precinct in which the little settlement that later became Marion was located. The Rev. Hope Hull was said to have been the first Methodist minister to preach in this area. During 1786 these dedicated circuit riders enumerated 600 Methodist in their area and reported the erection of 22 meeting houses.
One of the simple churches built that year might have been Flowers Meeting House, the first Methodist church building in this area. The exact year of construction is not known but it was in existence in February 1789 when Bishop Francis Asbury paid his first visit to Liberty Precinct, for he mentioned it by name in his journal. It was probably a simple structure made of logs and rough boards cut from local timber, furnished with benches made of logs cut in halves with peg legs!The meeting house was located about a mile north of the present town of Marion. Bishop Asbury, after spending the previous night at the home of Henry Flowers, was planning to preach on Sunday at Flowers Meeting House. However, so large a crowd had gathered that instead he preached next door in the Evans' yard under a huge tree which was known thereafter (until it died of old age some years ago) as the "Methodist Oak."
Bishop Asbury visited Marion again in February, 1790, and a third and final time in the early part of 1816, just a few weeks before his death. Some time before 1800, for reasons unknown, Flowers Meeting House was abandoned and a new place of worship called Bethel Church, was started east of Marion near Smith Swamp. Bethel Church apparently ceased to exist before 1814, for in that year Rev. Joseph Travis, who came to Marion as headmaster of the local Academy, stated that he preached every Wednesday night in the Courthouse since there was no church in the village at that time. A few years later a brick school was erected on Godbold Street and its upper story was used as a place of worship by all denominations.
In 1833 a Methodist Church was erected at a cost of $1,200.00 on the corner of Godbold and Pine Streets. After twenty years, when a larger building was needed, the location was changed. At that time the Academy stood where the church stands today, in front of the town cemetery, which was being abused by the school children. The trustees of the church and the school trustees agreed to exchange lots.
Photographs still exist of the fourth building, completed in 1853. Of white frame construction, the small but dignified edifice had a portico in front with four stately columns, graceful bell tower and steeple, and tall small paned windows along the side walls. The year 1853 brought another advance also: the local church was taken from the Marion circuit and made a station with its own minister.
Early in the 20th century, the congregation was beginning to feel crowded in the small building. The members started planning toward a larger church with facilities for modern Sunday School work. Eventually, the church of 1853 was torn down to make way for a new one on the same spot. The cornerstone of the present building - the fifth church edifice to serve local Methodist congregations - was laid on September 12, 1912, in an impressive ceremony befitting the occasion. Seven and a half years later, on Easter Sunday, April 20 1919, a more elaborate dedicatory service celebrated the debt-free status of the new $75,000 building, referred to at the time as one of the most beautiful churches in the Pee Dee section. According to the Marion Star, (local weekly newspaper) Bishop U.V.W. Darlington preached an "eloquent and forceful" sermon; also, "a special musical program was rendered, and for the first time a great gathering of people heard the new $5,000.00 pipe organ which had been recently installed."
The Methodist Church of Marion was host to the Annual Conference of the Church five times,1855, 1866, 1880, 1922 and 1937. Realizing the need to expand its educational facilities, the church added a modern educational building in 1957. In addition to classrooms, the building also houses the pastor's study, the church office, a chapel, a large social hall and kitchen. The "Methodist's Block"of Godbold Street also contains the Methodist District Parsonage and Office, Uncle Charley's Hut (given to the men's Bible Class by a former member, Charley Haynes) and a large paved parking lot with a covered walkway to the sanctuary.
Mrs. Thelma Clark - Church Historian