Church History

Methodism started in Marlboro County, South Carolina in what was known as “Beauty Spot Lands”.  Bishop Francis Asbury preached at Beauty Spot and held a quarterly conference on February 23, 1788.  He preached on the text “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose” (Isaiah 36:1-6).  The first Methodist circuit riders preached in private homes until a pine log church covered with long boards was built at Beauty Spot in 1783.  The land was given by Turbett Cottingham.  This building was 60 X 45 feet and cost $1,100.00.  According to historians, Charleston, South Carolina had the earliest preaching record; but Beauty Spot had the first Methodist Meeting House in South Carolina.  As this building was outgrown, others were constructed to replace it.  In fact as many as four different buildings were erected and each one was built closer to Tatum.


The “Methodist Society” at Bennettsville was organized sometime prior to June 21, 1834.  The decision to build a church building in Bennettsville was made to enable those Methodists living in and near Bennettsville to be able to have a place to worship since many of them had difficulty getting to the Beauty Spot location and because there was the belief that Bennettsville would some day grow to be a town of some size and importance.  On June 2l, 1834, Colonel William J. Cook gave one and a half acres of land to the trustees of the Bennettsville Methodist Church.


The first church was a plain rectangular building without a steeple, portico or other architectural adornments.  It had a quadrangular roof, ending in a sharp point at the apex.  Two doors opened from the street and led directly into the sanctuary of the church.  The building was never painted and the bell was located on a frame platform outside the church.  The singing was done by the congregation without the aid of an organ.  Males and females sat in separate portions of the church.


In 1871 the decision to build a new church was made and on May 2, 1872, Bishop Pierce held a dedication of the new building and furnishings.  Later in 1872, Major B.D. Townsend gave an organ that cost just over $300.00.  The Bennettsville Church had been a part of the Bennettsville Circuit, but in 1883 the South Carolina Conference made it a station church.  In 1885, a parsonage was built on the corner of Main and Everett Streets.  This house was used until 1939 when it became necessary to build a new parsonage on Everett Street.  This house was remodeled in 1968 at a cost of $13,000.00.


On June 11, 1899 at a church conference plans were approved for a larger church building.  Under the leadership of Joseph L. Breeden, the building committee chairman, the new building was built over a period of three years and dedicated on December 11, 1904 by Bishop A. Coke Smith.  By 1925, the church membership had increased and the church school had outgrown its space so a three story building was built at a cost of $35,521.26 and completely paid for by January 1928.


In 1955-1956 the church was renovated and in 1976 a multi-purpose two story building at a cost of $300,000.00 was built that was joined to the main building by a covered walk-way.  In 2005 and 2006, the main church building was renovated at a cost of 1.9 million dollars.


On April 26, 2009 First United Methodist Church will celebrate 175 years of ministry in the Bennettsville community.