Third Church Building At This Location
The history of the First United Methodist church is a long one, stretching back to 1883. The original name was the Methodist Episcopal Church of Smith’s Crossroads, though the church experienced a number of name changes.
It has had the current name since April of 1968. Before the land on Market Street was purchased in 1871, the congregation worshiped in three locations including French’s Church on Sawyers Hill, in the first-floor building in Morgantown where Vine Grove United Methodist Church is now located and in the old academy building across the railroad.
The current building is the third one at this location. The current land that the church sits on was purchased from James Jackson Abel, one of the original merchants of Smith’s Crossroads, in 1871.
The first church built on the site was quickly outgrown and was sold for $25 dollars and moved down the street.
The second church on the site was dedicated on October 28, 1888. A short time later in March of 1889, tragically the new church burned to the ground after catching fire from a nearby burning house. After much determination, a new church was rebuilt on the site and ready for worship in just six months.
In July of 1925, hundreds of guests came into town as John Thomas Scopes was tried for teaching evolution in the Rhea High School. The people of the church rallied behind William Jennings Bryan. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Rogers, members of the church, gave up their residence on south Market Street for Bryan and his wife to use while they were in town.
Bryan spoke before an overflowing crowd in the church on July 12, 1925. Two weeks later Bryan made another appearance during the Sunday morning worship service at the church. This wound-up being Bryan’s last public appearance, he died while taking a nap after the church service.
During the mid to late 1940’s the church was renovated, and brick veneered.
A current day photo of the church is shown below.
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