The first white family settles in the Greenville area. Harriet Byron McAllister Blanton (later Theobald) brings her family. 5,000 acres of the delta becomes known as Blantonia. Her home is opened as “the meeting home for faithful riders”, according to her remembrances.
Dr. S. R. Dunn and John G. Jones, the first ordained Methodist preachers come to the area. The church is called the Methodist Episcopal Church. These men were contemporaries of Tobias Gibson and Lorenzo Dow.
The first church building is erected by 12 members. It is a one room log cabin with floors of split logs. The seats are rough benches without backs. The pulpit is a section of a large oak tree with the bark still on it.
Come Build A Church
The church petitioned the conference for an officially appointed pastor to the Greenville Station, as it was called. Thus, this church became the first officially organized congregation of any denomination in the Greenville settlement.
The MS Legislature named “Old Greenville” as the new county seat. And the Greenville Methodist Episcopal Church formally withdrew from the national church and from that date until 1939 would be referred to as Greenville Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
“A little white church with a white spire was built that could be seen afar and whose bell call was answered by planters and families for miles around.”
This comfortable little church was burned by marauding Yankee gun boats in the Late Great Unpleasantness. By the end of that war, only 2 houses remained in the entire town.
Inhabitants of Old G’ville had to seek new quarters. The earliest services after the conflict were held in the home of Ann Finlay.
Harriet B. Theobald donated land for the city to be rebuilt, earning her the title of “Mother of Greenville”.
A unique pre-fabricated bldg. purchased in Cincinnati, Ohio, was shipped by steamboat to G’ville. It was dedicated in 1869 by Bishop John C. Keener, the very first Bishop to visit Greenville.
This church was located on the north side of Main between Walnut and Locust Street. Since Locust eventually fell into the river. This location today is the drive ascending the levee.
The Yellow Fever epidemic claims 1/3 of the city’s population and 17 members of the Methodist Church including the pastor, the Rev. Tillman Page.
Mrs. Theobald deeded the property on the NE corner of Washington and Shelby to the trustees of First Meth. Episcopal Church, South. This property was the SW corner of Blantonia Park. The pre-fab church was moved to the newly deeded location. Tradition says that “Mrs. Theobald wanted to sit on her veranda and oversee her church”.
The 27th North MS Annual Conf. was held in the church presided over by Bishop Charles B. Galloway.
Meetings were held in the church to organize the King’s Daughters & Sons into a state organization. As an outcome, the first hospital for the town was planned and eventually built as a result of those meetings.
The frame church was sold to the trustees of St. John Baptist Church which still stands today on the SW corner of Harvey and Union Streets. With the sale of the church went the bell which according to Read Dunn Sr. “had the most distinctive tone of any bell in Greenville.
A modern larger brick church was built on this corner with polished wood floors and stained glass windows. The entrance was a corner entrance from Shelby and Washington.
On April 15th of 1927, the levee broke at Mounds Landing, flooding 27,000 sq. miles covering an area 50 miles wide and 100 miles long up to 30 ft. deep. It was the most destructive river flood in U.S. history.
Relief efforts and meetings for the city’s restoration were held in the church. Water did not enter the bldg.
The church had grown so that Sunday School classes met in city Hall and Big Brothers met in a tent behind the church. However, despite economic reverses of the Great Depression, an annex was built to accommodate growing membership and programs. This annex is the oldest part of our church today and houses the choir room, Big Brothers, the library, the Wingate Kitchen and the Archives Room.
Two properties were bought by the church, one in the Country Club properties which became the site of Trinity Methodist Church and the other in the Fairview Garden addition becoming the site of Grace United Methodist Church.
The old 1903 sanctuary was torn down to be replaced by our present sanctuary completed in 1950. The congregation held services in the Hebrew Union Temple during construction. Mrs. Thomas’ favorite story about this period involves a visitor to the city who observed the congregation leaving after services and commented that they were the shabbiest Hebrews he had ever seen.
The Drew property on Shelby St., north of the church was bought by the trustees. The Wesley Bldg, a playground and parking lot were built.
The First United Methodist Church of Greenville celebrated its sesquicentennial, 150 years. The celebrations here led by Mrs. Nell Thomas who organized the first church archives room in Greenville. Some area churches have followed suit since.
In present day Greenville, from 1828 to today, we are the oldest church of any denomination in this part of the delta. Many historical firsts took place within our walls and the literal history of Greenville has flowed through the very doors of our church. Today we celebrate that “first” and our history.
This historical overview compiled by Lynda Dickerson from the archives of First United Methodist Church of Greenville, Mississippi.
Much of the information is recorded in This Is Our Story…This Is Our Song, the most recent history of the church. Other facts were secured from The Spread of Methodism by Claude Johnson, newsletters of Greenville First United Methodist Church and the Journal of the North Mississippi Conference.
If further information is needed or if there are any questions, please contact