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By Lois B. Mays, Charlton County Historical Society

The year was 1913, one hundred years ago, and the railroad tracks that had brought the citizens together to begin a new little town called Folkston, Ga,. was dividing the families of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

The small wooden church, painted white, had been built on Church [now Mills] Street in 1891, about a block west of the railroad. In 1900, a parsonage costing one hundred dollars and facing the railroad was constructed. Pastors appointed to the Folkston Circuit called this their home until the controversy began stirring in 1913. The building became the home of the J. E. Harvey family for many years and it still stands today.

It all began when Rev. Arthur J. Moore, (who later became Bishop Moore with worldwide parishes), had brought to Folkston a revival tent, which was set up in an oak thicket where Johnson Brothers Hardware Store is now. Crowds attended the three daily services during the two-week “protracted meeting”, resulting in the gain of twenty-five new church members.  This was a turning point in the growth and strength of the Folkston congregation.

The revival also sparked a movement to move the church to the eastern side of town.

The one-room building was a frail structure and had been through the violent hurricane of 1896 which had broken it apart and laid it on its side, facing south. The same storm destroyed the Methodist Episcopal Church North, about four blocks away, leaving it facing north.  Soon after the storm, workers pushed the southern church back up and added heavy timbers to make it much stronger.

The 79 members voted, by a slight majority, to move the building to the Kolar’s Ferry Road in east Folkston since the town was expanding with new families more rapidly on the eastern side of the tracks. Members on the other side naturally opposed the move.

The expense of $150.00 was a costly amount to have the building moved and reassembled so the Board of Stewards asked the members of the women’s missionary group, the Ladies Aid Society, to raise $50.00 of this. They refused, as most of the women lived on the western side of the railroad and didn’t want the church moved in the first place.

Chairman of the moving committee was businessman Henry J. Davis and serving with him were J.S. Mizell and T.L. Pickren. Others had been assigned to this group but declined to assist because of the controversy. Mr. Davis said that since a majority of the members wanted the church relocated, he was going to see that the building was moved, and he immediately hired contractors W.W. Bauman and E.L. Martin to get the job done.

Folkston’s main streets had recently been cleared of all the oak trees and big stumps by the local convict camp, making it easier to bring the church across town. There had been only a small cost as the wood was taken to the camp, for the superintendent had been ordered by the County Commissioners to secure wood for the use of the compound. It came out of the streets of Folkston and the work on the streets paid for it.

The little church came through about seven blocks of town in three sections – the main building rolling on logs through the sand and the big iron bell, bell tower and steeple making the trip nestled in the beds of wagons. The little parade came safely across the railroad tracks between 10:00 and noon on that hot August morning because it was the only time trains weren’t passing through Folkston. A few church members walked along with it, charmed at seeing their church being in the middle of the dusty road.

Moving safely around the oak thicket, the little procession stopped across the street from the Folkston School [on Third Street] at a lot donated by Agnes and Lawrence E. Mallard.

The church was reassembled within a week, bell in its tower and steeple on the roof, so that the monthly worship service could begin on time at 10:00 a.m. the first Sunday in September. The bell was rung by the church’s faithful sexton Jethro “Jet” Roddenberry. He also rang it at 2:30 each Sunday afternoon for the regular 3:00 Sunday School sessions.

Soon it became a privilege for honor-roll students across the street to be able to ring the bell. Mrs. Belle B. Roddenberry, beloved but very strict principal for many years, devised a  merit system consisting of good grades and near-perfect attendance and the students who scored highest were chosen to cross the street and pull the rope at 8:00 a.m. to begin each school day. A certain number of tugs on the rope were decreed by Mrs. Roddenberry…and no more…no matter how enthusiastic the child. Among those who rang the bell regularly were Floyd Mills and Gertrude Wildes [Johnson].

The wounded feelings of the Methodist members were quickly forgotten and they united in an effort to make their church a positive force in the growing community.


from DeBrahm's Report
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