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Center Methodist Church
Marion County, SC

Exerpts from the bulletin of Center United Methodist Church August 22, 1976,
for the dedication of the Smith Cemetery:

"We were most happy that Sam McMillan was able to make arrangements to be here and bring us the message this morning. Sam is a descendant of James D. Smith, his mother being Alice Smith McMillan, a granddaughter of James D. Smith."

"It seemed appropriate that Mrs. Gladys Wiggins Taylor bring us a brief history of our church. She and Alton Rogers compiled an early history of the church some years ago, and Mrs. Taylor has just recently brought this history up to date. Mrs. Taylor was a member of Center Church for many years. After her marriage to Mr. Hubert Taylor she moved her membership to Macedonia Methodist Church in Mullins where she is active in the work of the church."

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JAMES D. SMITH

JAMES D. SMITH (1798-1875) whose memory we honor today, lived in this area of Marion County on a 150 tract of land left to him in the will of his father, the Rev. Moses Smith. At one time Rev. Smith owned much of the land between Mullins and Nichols.

James D. Smith was himself a local Methodist preacher. From his first marriage he had four children: Daniel, Sarah, Elizabeth Jane, and John. Of greater interest, perhaps, to those honoring his memory today are the offspring of his marriage to Celia Lewis, his second wife. These children were Adeline, Zilpha, Rhoda C., Mary A., James Anderson, Pinckney, Celia Ann, Ava, George Whiteford, and Margaret. Adeline married John C. Huggins. Zilpha married Calvin Wiggins, Rhoda was married to Robin W. Rogers, and Mary was married to Curtis Lee. James Anderson's wife was Mantha Lee. Celia Ann, the seventh child, became the wife of Daniel Monroe McKoy. Steven William Tyler of Nichols married Ava, the eighth child. George Whiteford's wife was Martha Rebecca Lane. The tenth child of James D. and Celia Lewis Smith, Margaret, married H. Bascomb Harrington. Several grandchildren of these offspring are still living in this area today.

The Smith name is prominent among those who established a place of worship in this community. The earliest church, organized in 1774 and called "Smith's Meeting House," was named for Moses Smith, who helped to build it. Bishop Asbury preached in this church on one of his trips through the state. Due to his influence a second larger church was built in the early 1800's and named Macedonia. James D. Smith was one of those in charge of this church. The first church organized under the name of Center was built in 1886. The chief men in building this church were D. M. McKoy, Joel Lewis, Robin Rogers, George Price, J. C. Huggins, Randall Barnes, George W. Smith, Jr., and Allen Lupo.

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HISTORY OF CENTER CHURCH

BY

GLADYS TAYLOR & ALTON ROGERS

The first church organized under the name of Center was the church built across the road opposite the point where Center Church now stands, in the year of 1886. It would not be fair to the people who lived in the community of what is now Center, however, to say that the efforts of these people to have a place of worship began in 1886.

The first church or meeting-place as it was then called came into existence through the influence of Bishop Asbury as he came through the Little Pee Dee section on his way from North Carolina to Charleston, S. C. for the annual conferences. The first records of visits on record made to this community are found in Asbury's Journal, a kind of diary. In the journal is found this entrance: "Jan. 3, 1810. Spent the night with Moses Smith, and was delightfully entertained. What do the rich do but spoil us?" A year later the Bishop spent the night with a Mr. Newsome, the owner of what was formerly know as the Gilchrist place, but which is now owned by Mr. & Mrs. W. V. McMillan. This record is found in the journal: Jan. 16, 1811. Spent a night with Newsome, on Little Pee Dee River." A year later on Jan. 12, 1812, the Bishop makes a record of having reached Newsome's home later than he expected and preached to the family. The implication is that the neighbors who had come to hear him had gone home. One year later he again preached in Newsome's home. A few years later the good bishop died.

Soon after Bishop Asbury's death, other Methodist preachers followed him; and a church was organized that grew out of the meetings held at Newsome's home. This church, erected of unhewn logs, was built on Morgan Swamp, near where the late George Smith, Sr., lived and just above the residence of M. J. Gilchrist, about 1813 or 1814. The main people who built or influenced the building of the church were the Newsoms, Moses Smith, Hardy Lewis, and John McLain.

About 1820 the use of this first church was discontinued and it was rebuilt on the Marin place which is commonly known as the Nicholson place. It is generally understood that this building stood opposite the point where the residence of the late John Nicholson was, at the intersection of the local road leading to Miller's Church and the old highway from Mullins to Nichols. The Hon. James Norton who went to Sunday School there says of this church: "The church building was a double-pen log house with pine poles split and hewn and legs in under the seats. The floor was hewn pine poles, and many had cracks. The seats had no backs." The chief men building the second building were a Mr. Hart, McClain, Newsome, Smith and Lewis.

About 1840 Dr. Gilchrist, who had come from N. C., and had bought the Newsome place, Solomon Huggins and James Smith, with several of the younger generation, namely, Isaiah Smith, Henry Price, W. H. Grice, Wm. & Joel Lewis erected a new frame building a few hundred yards lower than the log building on what was formerly known as the Omohundra place, but which is now owned by Mr. & Mrs. Munson Harrelson. This church remained at this point, which is still marked by the cemetery that was in the church yard, until the building was moved to Mullins in 1875.

This church was called Macedonia, and inasmuch as the building was carried to Mullins and some of the chief men in founding it attended this church until their death, the Methodist Church of Mullins still bears the name of Macedonia. However, some of the children of that church and their descendants are in the community of what is now Center; and it was through the influence of some of the same people and their descendants who founded Macedonia and perpetuated organization there that Center was built.

Consequently, about the time of the building of the present building at Center, some of the members of Macedonia suggested that the "Macedonia" might be transferred to Center Church. This offer was declined, since the people of Center knew that this change would benefit neither Center nor Macedonia, and that the influence of the founders of the church will live forever in the lives of its children and heirs, regardless of the name by which they are called.

From the time that the church was removed to Mullins until Center Church was organized, covering a period of eleven years, the people of the community were without a church. A Sunday School was organized at Clay Hill School soon after Macedonia was moved; part of the people of the community worshiped there until about the time Center Church was organized; some went to Mullins and others went to Nichols to church. For most of the people, going to church meant walking four, five or six miles. Most of the people, however, attended church regularly, showing their desire to observe the Sabbath as commanded. On October 6, 1886, a church was organized and a building was begun under Mr. Attaway's guidance, and was named "Center" by him because the location was a central point of the community. The chief men in building this church were D. M. McKoy, Joel Lewis, Robin Rogers, George Price, J. C. Huggins, Randall Barnes, George W. Smith and Allen Lupo. At the end of that year the following report of Center was made at the annual conference: Members 41, 13 infants baptized and 2 adults, 5 officers and teacher, church property valued at $100, $4.28 collected for the pastor and 50 for the presiding elder. This was considered remarkable in view of the fact this was the first year of the church and no assessments had been made.

The next year Mr. T. C. Odell came to the Little Pee Dee Circuit, Mr. Attaway having been removed to some other work. Mr. Odell preached at Center regularly for the next two years that he had the work of that charge, 1887 and 1888. The Rev. M. M. Byrd, a local preacher, also preached there occasionally. During the year of 1889 the Rev. John Owens had the work of the Little Pee Dee Circuit. Mr. Owens' work was changed to the Mullins Circuit at this time and he continued to preach at Center for four years, completing five years as pastor of the church. Center remained on the Mullins Circuit until Mullins was made a station in 1889 during the pastorate of the Rev. A. B. Watson. The Rev. J. W. Arial and S. J. Bethea served as pastors of the circuit for four and one years respectively, of the intervening years. After the change, Center remained a part of the Mullins station until 1921 when it was put on the Nichols Circuit. During those years the station preacher of Mullins preached twice a month in the afternoons at Center and there was Sunday School every Sunday afternoon. The pastors of those years were T. C. Odell, W. L. Wait, J. L. Daniel, W. C. Kirkland, E. S. Jones, S. O. Cantey, and G. P. Watson.

The year of 1903 was an important one in the history of the church. Rev. Odell was then serving his second year as pastor of Mullins, having returned a second time to this work. He, with the splendid cooperation of his congregation, was able to erect a new building which is now the present Center Church. The chief men in building this church were Rev. Odell, George W. Smith, Jr., George Price, Hemingway Wiggins, Henry Carter, Robin Rogers, Randall Barnes, and others of the younger generation. This building stands as a monument to the faithful work of these men. Much of the lumber was hand dressed, and these men made sacrifices to complete the church. It was said that Rev. Odell rode a bicycle from Mullins each day that the men worked on the building and helped to plan and build a new place of worship.

When the Nichols Circuit was created in 1921, Center Church was changed from the Mullins Station to that circuit. At the time that this change was made, the Rev. C. W. Burgess came to this work. After four years T. W. Law served as pastor of the Nichols Circuit for two years. In 1925, the second year of Rev. Law's work here, the pastor's wife organized the Womans Missionary Society of Center Church, which has functioned regularly except for a few months. It is a constant reminder of her efforts to interest the women of Center in keeping Christ's command, "Go ye into the world and preach the gospel to all nations."

In 1926, C. L. Ingram came to Center as pastor of the Nichols Circuit. From his first year, Mr. Ingram sought to encourage the movement which had begun under Mr. Law to add Sunday School rooms to the church. The need of these rooms was keenly felt, since there was an average attendance of about seventy at that time and all the classes met in the auditorium. In 1929 two rooms were built. It might be said that Rev. Ingram served as chairman of the building committee, contractor and chief laborer. He was among the first to begin work each day and among the last to leave. It was his encouragement, plans and suggestions with the cooperation of the men of the Sunday School that made the rooms possible. Better classroom instruction will perpetuate the memory of Rev. Ingram's work in the Center Community.

T. E. Derrick followed Mr. Ingram as pastor of the Nichols Circuit in 1930, and served Center for the next four years. In May, 1931, the Epworth League, forerunner of the Methodist Youth Fellowship, was organized. The spiritual help and training received by the youth of the church in their League was reflected in the growth of the Sunday School and Church. On August 25, 1932, a homecoming was enjoyed by members and former members, and friends of Center Church. On that occasion, the church had on its roll about 150 and the Sunday School had about 100 members.

The remaining years when Center Church was on the Nichols Circuit were years of change and progress. The church was fortunate in having the following pastors: M. G. Arant, C. S. Felder, L. D. B. Williams, C. E. Hill, Jesse G. Ferguson, E. King Scoggins, Tommy C. Gibbons, W. Harvey Floyd, Jr., and Eugene Holmes.

In 1939, the Northern Methodist Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, were united, ending a 95 year-long division, and Center became Center United Methodist Church.

The Nichols Circuit was discontinued in 1963, and Center was placed on a new charge, Tranquil-Center. Donald Britt, a native of Marion, S. C., who was a student at Duke University Divinity School at that time, was the first minister. He was followed by Robert Page, who served until June of 1976, a period of eleven years, the longest ministry of any pastor of Center. In 1970 the Tranquil-Center Charge was made a four-point charge which included Centenary and Central, and Mr. Page served these four churches until June 1976.

After the depression years of the thirties, two more Sunday School rooms were added to the church. One of these rooms was recently converted into rest rooms. Funds given as memorials to Mrs. Elma H. Allread were used to help defray this expense. An air conditioning and heating system was installed in the late 1960's, adding much to the comfort of the building. The pulpit was given by the church as a memorial to J. Whiteford Smith after his death in 1959. About the same time the Methodist Youth Fellowship gave the pulpit Bible, the picture above the altar and also altar accessories. Hymnals and the lovely pews were given by members and others in honor of or memorials to loved ones and friends. The collection plates were given by Mrs. S. D. McMillan in memory of her husband. The children of Mr. & Mrs. Liston Lewis plan to give alter furniture, using funds given as memorials for their parents.

The 1785 and 1886 Annual Conferences, both Methodist, both named the "South Carolina Conference" merged in 1972 to form "The South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church," and Center became a member.

The name of the Tranquil-Center Charge was changed to the Mullins Parish and Larry F. Wilson became its pastor in June, 1976 - the Bicentennial year of the United States, and the 165th year of Center Church. Hopefully heeding the admonition of Hebrews 10: 24, 25 - "and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together - but exhorting one another.

August 22, 1976

Contributed by Betty Jo Stewart, 22 March 2001


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