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."
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.
HISTORY OF CENTER CHURCH
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
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
August 22, 1976
Contributed by Betty Jo Stewart, 22 March 2001
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