1955 Directory, First Methodist Church, Athens, Georgia

This manuscript is a directory of the First Methodist Church in Athens, Georgia for the year 1955. It includes a history of the Methodism in Athens, Georgia, which we published below. Included within the manuscript is a list and photographs of special groups of the Church, a list of Pastors from 1825-1955, and a complete membership roll in 1955. The membership roll includes each member’s name, address, and their telephone number. This directory also contains an out-of-town membership roll. These are usually individuals who once resided in Athens and were members, but since then had moved and not changed their membership to a new church. It could also include students who grew up in Athens but chose to attend a College elsewhere. Since the history was written in 1955 it uses many of the terminologies of that day. Consider that when perusing it and read responsibly please.

Table of Contents

Dedication, p. 1
Message From the Pastor, p. 2
First Methodist Visitations, p. 4
Christian Education, p. 5
Wesley Foundation, p. 8
Music, p. 10
Church Staff, p. 13
List of Pastors, p. 14
History of Methodism in Athens, Georgia, p. 15 (included below)
WSCS, p. 20
Official Board, p. 23
Men’s Club, p. 24
Directory Editors, p. 25
Fisherman’s Club, p. 26
Methodist Neighbors, p. 27
Membership Roster, p. 29

History of Methodism in Athens, Georgia

In 1785, the Legislature of Georgia granted a charter to an institution to be known as The University of Georgia when and if it were established and activated. Sixteen years elapsed before the institution was activated and the site on which it now stands was chosen. In 1801, instruction in the new institution began even though Indians occupied the territory surrounding Athens.

The lapse of sixteen years between the issuance of the charter of the University and the opening of the institution is explained by the poverty which prevailed in the State Government.

Methodist Urges Action In Starting University

It is an established fact, however, that the Rev. Hope Hull, an itinerant Methodist minister who operated out of Washington, Georgia, and covered most of the State, joined Abraham Baldwin and others in arousing the people to the necessity of activating the educational institution which had been created on paper. Hull, who preached the idea that, next to religion, education was the most important thing in life, was aided and abetted by his kinsman, General David Meriwether, who, even though a Methodist, was a man of considerable wealth. It was in General Meriwether’s home that the first Methodist Conference to be held in Georgia was held in 1788.

Hope Hull, already a Methodist, joined the Conference shortly after the creation of The Methodist Episcopal Church of America at the Baltimore Conference in 1784. He became the close personal friend of Bishop Francis Asbury, traveled over the South with him, and came to Georgia as Bishop Asbury’s personal representative. Dr. George G. Smith says of Hull: “Hope Hull, if not the father of Georgia Methodism, yet was the man who was second to no other in fostering it.”

Hull Teaches at University

Having been instrumental in creating sentiment for the activation of the University, it is but natural that Hull and Meriwether should come to Athens to educate their sons, Hull with his sons Asbury and Henry, and Meriwether with James. This they did in 1803. Both Hull and Meriwether taught in the University, and Hull became one of its first Trustees, serving until his death in 1818. He preached on the campus in addition to his preaching in a log cabin which had been built for a church in 1804.

This log cabin was said to be the first Methodist Meeting House to be built west of the Oconee River. It was about 22 x 24 feet and “without a chimney,” a fact which suggests that Methodism in Athens in those days went in Winter Quarters. This house was soon abandoned, and in 1810 a more commodious building was erected “in the environs of Athens” and known as Hull’s Meeting House, likewise built of logs and which served as a place of worship until Hull’s death.

In 1824, Mr. Thomas Hancock, having moved to Athens from Jefferson County in 1819, gave the plot of ground on which the present church building stands and a frame building was erected on the lot in 1825. This building was about forty feet square with a gallery on three sides which was to accommodate the negro membership. After a short while, this building, proving to be inadequate to accommodate the congregation, was enlarged by the addition of twenty feet on the west end and so stood until 1852 when the walls of the present building were laid and the building completed at a cost of approximately $6500. This included the steeple which now stands.

Present Building Known As “The Brick Church”

This building was known as “The Brick Church” and was a rectangle with the pulpit and organ occupying the place in the rear where the sliding doors now stand. In 1884, the extension at the west end was built to accommodate the Sunday School. No figures are available for the cost of that extension. In 1910, the pulpit and organ were moved to their present location, the Sunday School constructed as now standing, the galleries were added, the sliding doors installed, the two front doors now used for entrance were added, and also the rear entrance doors.

The cost of this construction was approximately $25,000. The original building which housed the sanctuary had only the one entrance door, the one which now leads to the little room in the front of the church. A middle aisle led from the front door to the pulpit with “amen corners” on each side of the pulpit. There was a gallery where the pulpit and organ now stand which was to accommodate the Black membership.

The remodeled building of 1910 proved ample to house the congregation in the sanctuary and to accommodate an expanded Sunday School program until the post-war era following World War II when consideration was given and plans laid toward enlarging the facilities of the church.

This resulted in the erection during 1951 and 1952 of the handsome addition known as the Educational Building, which houses a chapel, a portion of the Sunday School, the offices of the church, and other agencies and activities of the church. This was occupied in May 1952 and represents, when completed and furnished, an investment of approximately $250,000.

It is an interesting coincidence that this enlarged program should come just one hundred years following the erection of the walls of the main building in 1852, and that the new building should be occupied on the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Mr. Thomas Hancock, the donor of the ground on which the church stands.

Location of “Hull’s Meeting House” Not Known

Reference has been made to Hull’s Meeting House and the fact that Hope Hull died in 1818. The location of the building is not known, but it was evidently not in or near the center of the town, for it is referred to as being “in the environs of Athens,” and there is no record as to the ownership of the ground on which it stood. The building gradually fell into disuse following Hull’s death, which is natural since there was no organized congregation to care for it and it had not yet become a part of organized Methodism.

As previously stated, Mr. Thomas Hancock moved to Athens in 1819 and bought a number of lots of land from the University of Georgia on what is now known as Hancock Avenue. He built his home on the corner of Hancock Avenue and Lumpkin Street on the lot now occupied by the Business College. He was a man of considerable property at that time and was a devout Methodist. Dr. Henry Hull, his contemporary, writes of Mr. Hancock: “Of whom and his excellent wife, the writer can only say that they were the most lovable and pure-hearted old Methodist people he ever knew.”

Following the abandonment of Hull’s Meeting House, Methodism in Athens, according to Dr. G. G. Smith, a historian of that day, “almost perished.” This serious condition evidently prompted Mr. Hancock to give a lot for the erection of a building that would be permanently owned by the church. He gave the lot immediately across the street from his home. The first building was erected on this lot in 1825, and, according to Dr. Smith again, was “the first house of worship of any name to be built in Athens.”

Rev. Thomas Stanley First Minister

The Rev. Thomas Stanley, a local preacher and “Rector of the Female Academy,” was placed in charge of the church for the remainder of that year. In 1826, Dr. Lovick Pierce was assigned by the Conference to the church as Pastor and reported to the conference at the end of the year as follows: “Membership, Whites 107, Colored 70, and a total collection of $9.41 from Athens and Madison.” Dr. Pierce did not move to Athens but kept his home and family in Greensboro from which place he commuted to Athens via horseback twice a month.

Dr. Smith reports a wonderful revival in the Athens Church during the ministry of Rev. W. J. Parks (1844-45) in which “163 white members and 97 colored members joined the church.” Following this revival, the colored membership had become so large that they demanded a church and pastor of their own, and the annual Conference sent Rev. John M. Bonnell, a white man, as their pastor.

Oconee Street Church Established About 1870

This was the first step toward the expansion of Methodism in Athens, to be followed by the establishment of Oconee Street Methodist Church in about 1870, and Young Harris Church in 1909. There was evidently a close relationship between the colored and white Methodist churches, for, when the wooden building was removed from the present lot for the erection of the Brick Church, it was moved to West Hancock Avenue for use by the colored membership.

In about 1858, there was a great revival in this colored church under the preaching of Rev. H. N. Turner (later Bishop). Rev. W. J. Parks was pastor of First Methodist Church.

On December 20, 1828, the Governor of Georgia, John Forsyth, assented to “AN ACT INCORPORATING THE TRUSTEES OF THE PRESBYTERIAN AND METHODIST CHURCHES OF ATHENS IN CLARKE COUNTY.” The Trustees named in the charter for the Methodist Church were James Meriwether, William Lumpkin, Cicero Holt, Asbury Hull, and Right Rogers. They were empowered to hold in trust for the proper use of the church all property, real and personal, which the church then owned or might thereafter acquire. These Trustees were given full power to fill vacancies on the Board as they might occur.

Just who promoted the idea of incorporating the church and the reasons for the same are not known, but it is significant that James Meriwether and Asbury Hull, the sons of the founders of Methodism in Athens, are among the Trustees named in the charter, and further that Rev. W. H. Potter (1875-78), a former pastor, wrote that “Mr. Thomas Hancock, the donor of the property was a Trustee from the beginning.” For the entire history of the church from 1828, it has operated under this rather unusual plan of organization even though, as judged by a strict interpretation of the Methodist Discipline, the plan was unmethodistic.

Key Church in Georgia Methodism

The Conference authorities of that era accepted the church on a full fellowship basis without criticism of its status, and it has through the years been recognized as a “key church” in Georgia Methodism. It has contributed its full share to the support of Methodism at home and abroad.

Great institutions find their beginning in the mind and heart of some individual in the form of a dream or vision “of what might be,” and certainly, this is true of Methodism. Each succeeding generation is called upon to play its part in the process of synthesis once an institution is born. The process must continue through eternity until finally, the institution represents the end product of the lives and the contributions of the people of all generations who have been identified with it.

The history of Methodism in Georgia, or in America, and that of First Methodist Church, Athens, GA, is so intimately associated that consideration of the history of either is a reflection of the history of the other.

Among the pastors who have served First Church through the years will be found many who participated in the formulation and crystallization of the principles and doctrines of Methodism, which is now an agency of national and international influence. Three early pastors of First Church, Andrews, Pierce, and Key were later chosen as Bishops.

It was around Bishop Andrews and the fact that his wife owned a slave that the fight developed which resulted in the withdrawal of the Southern branch of the church from the parent church, a condition which continued for eighty or more years and was one of the great tragedies in the life of Methodism in America.

The quality of the lay membership of the church has kept pace with the quality of the pastors who served it. From the beginning of the church to the present time, 1955, the members of First Methodist Church have been among the more important and prominent citizens of Athens and have contributed to the molding of the economic, social, educational, and spiritual life of the community.

Facilities Available to Students

Throughout its history, the full facilities of the church have been generously available to the students attending the educational institutions of Athens. Currently, the student work of the church has reached a peak of efficiency, activity, and interest, promising even greater achievements in the future.

The Women’s Work program of the church has progressed in tandem with other church activities. The quality and quantity of their work, along with the enthusiasm they bring, have consistently inspired the men of the church.

The Sunday School has been a significant factor in the life and achievements of the church and has been the principal agency in bringing members into the church on the profession of faith. Its work has been of such high quality and well-directed by Officers and Teachers alike that the new Sunday School Building, now designated as the Educational Building, stands as a monument to their efforts.

The expansion of the Sunday School facilities by adding a Minister of Education marks a long-needed advancement in the church and will justify our full moral and financial support to ensure that we bring into the church’s life all the young people from our Methodist homes.

The full history of a church cannot be expressed in words but is written in the minds and hearts of the ministers who have served it and the members whose lives have been dedicated to its service or enriched by its influence.

Since a church is born from the distant past and remains a vibrant agency of the present destined to endure into the future, all of us—pastors and members alike—must recognize that we are merely episodes in its enduring legacy. Under our Methodist system, where a pastor is assigned to a charge for one year at a time, he becomes more of a temporary presence compared to the average layman, as all or a large part of his life is spent in that church.

Laymen Have Important Role

We laymen look to the pastor for religious instruction and leadership, but, as far as the continuing life of the church is concerned, we laymen, because of our more permanent status, must assume the responsibility of carrying the work of the church forward and, by our lives, exemplify to the world what the church teaches and stands for.

All of us, pastors and members alike, might profit from Cicero’s statement:

“If we fail to make use of the knowledge and the labors of past ages, we will forever remain in the infancy of knowledge.” We of the present generation, profiting from the knowledge and labors of our Methodist forbears at Athens First Church, have the responsibility of passing on to succeeding generations those principles which will enable the church to expand its service in the cause of Christ.

There is a tablet in the vestibule of the church that bears the inscription:

“TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN MEMORY OF THOMAS HANCOCK.” The writer knows of no more appropriate shibboleth to apply to and guide our beloved church than the phrase, “TO THE GLORY OF GOD.” The old steeple of our church has been pointing into the heavens for one hundred years. May it, through God’s grace, continue to touch the minds and hearts of all who see it with the thought “TO THE GLORY OF GOD!!”


First Methodist Church, Directory, First Methodist Church, Athens, Georgia, 1955, Athens, Georgia : First Methodist Church, 1955.


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