City Directories and History: 1917 – J.F. Tolbert, 1948 – B.M. Wolff, 1975 – Vacant
Built in 1852 and oriented toward the railroad tracks, this building was the second one constructed for worship by the Methodists. When it served as a church it was known for its high ceiling and beautiful wood walls and pews. Click here for added information on this house and the Historic District.
“In 1815 a traveling preacher from Virginia came to the hamlet of Laurens to organize a unit of the Methodist Society of Friends. Among the fifteen charter members were Mrs. Elizabeth Hance Word and her twelve-year-old daughter, Sarah Word. For a number of years, public services were held as often as Laurens had the good fortune to be included in the itineraries of the circuit riders. Between these services, Mother Word went from house to house to conduct Bible classes.
In 1825 the Laurens Circuit was formed by the Reverend Barnett Smith. With an undaunted spirit the Laurens group went forward with plans to erect their first house of worship.
Prior to this date, John Garlington had deeded a lot on East Main Street “to any denomination that would erect a church thereon.” This offer was followed by a contribution of five thousand dollars given by Doctor Samuel Todd of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian faith.
A stone structure was erected, and it was known as the Old Rock Church or the Seceder Church, the site being adjacent to the present railroad properties. Various groups in worship must have symbolized a near-perfect pattern of brotherly love, for within the sacred walls all denominations met until such time as each could afford its own separate building. As late as 1888, the crumbling walls of the Old Rock Church stood, at that time one of the few survivors of “Old Laurens.”
To the Rock Church came the Methodist Society of Friends with their ironclad,prescribed practices. The apparel for the women, both young and old, was simple and modest without gay ornaments or jewelry. There is on record one ecclesiastical censure of a church member who insisted on playing the violin, or fiddle as it was called. The violator was Mother Word’s own young son; but regardless of the person, the use of musical instruments was the devil’s pleasure. One minister of that era (it is hoped he was not a Laurens County minister) in a sermon warned ladies of his congregation “At the resurrection of the just there will be no such sight as the angels carrying painted ladies in their arms.”
In 1852, the Methodists erected on West Main Street their own sanctuary without a spire or a high pulpit. This building has for many years been used as a dwelling and more recently as an apartment house. It is situated beside the railroad overpass. The Epworth Methodist Children’s Home in Columbia, South Carolina, had its beginning in this old building.
Among the dedicated workers and toilers were the families of Ballew, Gray, Auld, Farley, Franks, Eichelberger, McSwain, Fike, Hance and Crews. Mr. C. L. Fike is credited with instituting the penny giving in the Methodist church. He felt that small gifts made systematically were better than larger amounts given occasionally.
From the humble beginning of the Methodist Society of Friends, the First Methodist Church of Laurens came into being. The membership has become strong and prosperous. The present church was built in 1898 with its first service being held on Christmas Day. The first marriage in the new church was that of Miss Mattie Kern and Mr. Marvin Medlock, and the first baby to be christened here was Miss Hattie Dunklin Gray.”
Information from: The Laurens County Sketchbook, Author – J.S. Bolick, 1973
A stop on the Little White Church Jaunt – A Driving Tour
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