The history of our Church predates the division of the Methodist Episcopal Church over the question of slavery. William Ellington, one of the circuit riders of the Church ordained by Bishop Francis Asbury, spent most of his ministry in the areas of Virginia, West Virginia (which was then part of Virginia), Tennessee and Ohio. In 1834 he left his home in Hall County and came with his family to live in Gilmer County. At the time of Reverend Ellington’s arrival, the community was without a Church. The reverend was uncomfortable without a place to worship and proceeded to build the Methodist Faith in the community. He preached a first “Methodist” sermon under a large oak tree that stood where Thomas & Hall Pharmacy is now located. The reception to his sermon was overwhelming. Because his sermons were received with such vigor and enthusiasm, he elected to donate a portion of his land (where the City Cemetery is now located) for a Methodist Church. Unfortunately, he died prior to the completion of the deed transfer. In 1835, his son, L. D. Ellington, buried his father on that site, making him the first citizen to be buried in the cemetery.
In 1857, L. D. Ellington answered his father’s wishes by deeding three acres of land to be used for the construction of the Methodist Episcopal Church. A two story church building was constructed on this land located adjacent to the old Ellijay Academy. Construction of this building was completed in 1867 on property that later became the Tabor and Cox burial plots.
Worship services continued at this location for 23 years. In 1890, the congregation decided to move closer to town and began planning for the construction of a new church. Land for the church was donated by W. R. Coleman and was located in Ellijay at Church Street. The new church, known as the Methodist Episcopal Church (South) was of frame construction, partially constructed using lumber from the old church.
In 1911, Methodism continued its expansion. Construction of the Methodist Episcopal Church (North), located at the corner of College Avenue and what is now North Main Street, was completed. Some years later, the need for a new church building for members of the Methodist Episcopal Church (South) became evident. The congregation elected to continue the church’s expansion at the Church Street location. They continued planning for construction of a larger church sanctuary. In order to proceed with construction, the existing facilities had to be demolished.
Meanwhile, the acceptance of God, religious values, and beliefs throughout the country continued to grow. At 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 20th , 1925, the largest baptism in the history of North Georgia came to pass. Over two thousand gathered to witness 84 people being immersed in the Ellijay River, just north of the railroad station. Churches that participated in the baptism included the Ellijay First Baptist, Ellijay Baptist Church, Methodist Episcopal (North), Methodist Episcopal (South), and East Ellijay Baptist.
During the construction of the new Church Street Sanctuary the congregation worshipped at the Methodist Episcopal Church (North). Worship continued there through September of 1927.
The new Church was given the name of Watkins Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South in honor of the Watkins family. Reverend E. O. Vickery preached the first worship service at the new sanctuary on October 2, 1927. Bishop W. B. Beauchamp dedicated the sanctuary.
In the first part of the 20th century, there was considerable discussion regarding the question of slavery and possible barriers to the Unification of the Methodist and Episcopal Churches. In 1939, the issue was resolved and the two churches became unified. The term Methodist Church was used from this point forward.
Construction of the education wing began in November of 1966, at a cost of $75,000. It was first occupied on September 24, 1967.
In 1972 family and friends of Mrs. Irma McCutchen erected a steeple as a memorial to her. In 1973 land across from the Church was purchased for a parking lot.
Growth of the church continues with the development of the Appalachian Highway. In 1989, a church committee was formed to assess our growth and plan facilities for the future.
On November 28, 1994, the congregation voted to sell the Church Street buildings to the Good Samaritan Catholic Church and initiate construction of a new education wing and fellowship hall on McCutchen Street.
On November 12, 1995, the Fellowship Hall, Sunday School & Administrative space was occupied with worship services held in the Fellowship Hall. On March 15, 1997 the new Sanctuary was completed. Bishop Davis dedicated the Sanctuary on May 18, 1997.
Some interesting points in our history during this century:
- The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) broke away in 1816 over the issue of racism.
- The African Methodist Episcopal Church, Zion (AMEZ) broke away in 1820 over the issue of racism.
- The Methodist Protestant Church (MPC) was formed in 1828.
- The Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was created in 1830 from the South Carolina Conference.
- The northern and southern split occurred in 1844 over the question of slavery, creating the Methodist Episcopal Church – South. A similar split with The Methodist Protestant division occurred much earlier over the question of having bishops and of lay participation in the structure of the church.
- The Congregational Methodist Church was formed in Georgia in 1852 and separated from the Methodist Episcopal Church.
- William Ellington’s son, L.D. Ellington, complied with his father’s wishes and deeded three acres of land for construction of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The first TRUSTEES were: Benjamin Johnson, C.A. Ellington, W.R. Coleman, Pierce Roberts, A. B. Roberts, David Roberts, Bryan Roberts, Robert R. Hunt and John W. Bramlett. The congregation met in the old Academy at first, but constructed a two-story building nearby. That building served the congregation well until around 1890.
- In 1867 the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church – South divided into the North and South Georgia conferences.
- Also in 1867, the Methodist Episcopal Church reorganized into three conferences. The first to be created was the Georgia conference. The Savannah conference was established in 1876 and Atlanta in 1896. The latter were Negro conferences. The Methodist Episcopal Church was commonly referred to as the Northern Church.
- The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) separated from the Methodist Episcopal Church – South in 1870 over the issue of racism and became an independent church, which was also known as the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
1844 – W. G. Allen served as circuit pastor
1845 – David Credshaw served as circuit pastor
1846 – David Credshaw served as circuit pastor
1847 – David Credshaw served as circuit pastor
1848 – David Credshaw served as circuit pastor
1849 – H. H. McQueen served as circuit pastor
1850 – James Quillian served as circuit pastor
1851 – J. H. Grogan served as circuit pastor
J. Strickland served as circuit pastor
1852 – W. H. Thomas served as circuit pastor
1853 – G. Windsor served as circuit pastor
1854 – W. G. Allen served as circuit pastor
1855 – W. B. Bailey served as circuit pastor
T. B. Harbin served as circuit pastor
1856 – J. H. Mashburn served as circuit pastor
1857 – J. H. Mashburn served as circuit pastor
1858 – W. P. Clontz served as circuit pastor
1859 – H. H. McHan served as circuit pastor
1860 – J. V. Morris served as circuit pastor
1861 – B. Sanders served as circuit pastor
1862 – W. Lane served as circuit pastor
1863 – W. Lane served as circuit pastor
1864 – H. D. Murphy served as circuit pastor
1865 – L. P. Neese served as circuit pastor
1866 – J. L. Fowler served as circuit pastor
1867 – J. Newell served as circuit pastor
1868 – J. Newell served as circuit pastor
1869 – J. N. Sullivan served as circuit pastor
1870 – J. N. Sullivan served as circuit pastor
1871 – J. H. Robinson served as circuit pastor
1872 – M. Hansby served as circuit pastor
M. L. Malsby served as circuit pastor
1873 – M. L. Malsby served as circuit pastor
1874 – T. J. Robinson served as circuit pastor
J. W. Sullivan served as circuit pastor
1875 – J. M. Hale served as circuit pastor
A. J. Hughes served as circuit pastor
1876 – A. J. Hughes served as circuit pastor
1877 – T. J. Edwards served as circuit pastor
1878 – J. W. Quillian served as circuit pastor
1879 – J. C. Embry served as circuit pastor
1880 – J. J. Harris served as circuit pastor
1881 – J. J. Harris served as circuit pastor
1882 – R. B. O. England served as circuit pastor
1883 – W. T. Hamby served as circuit pastor
1884 – C. A. Jamison served as circuit pastor
1885 – C. A. Jamison served as circuit pastor
1886 – C. N. Ledbetter served as circuit pastor
1887 – G. W. Griner served as circuit pastor
1888 – W. B. Dillard served as circuit pastor
1889 – W. L. Singleton served as circuit pastor
1890 – J. W. Myers served as circuit pastor
- W. R. Coleman, responding to the congregation’s need to move to a more convenient location closer to town, deeded land for a new Church to the TRUSTEES in two parcels. The first was deeded in February and the second in March. The TRUSTEES were: E. W. Watkins, Sr., J. I. Jarrett, John Hunnicutt, A. H. Randall and E. W. Coleman. The new Church was located in the city of Ellijay on the corner of Church and Spring streets and was known as the Methodist Episcopal Church (South). The first building on this site was of frame construction built partially with lumber from the old Church.
Some interesting points in our history during the first two decades:
1900 – W. R. Stillwell served as pastor
J. F. Pettit served as supply
1901 – L. H. Green served as circuit pastor
1902 – L. A. McLanghlin served as circuit pastor
1903 – T. H. Gibson served as circuit pastor
1904 – G. P. Gary served as circuit pastor
1905 – L. L. Landrum served as circuit pastor
1906 – L. L. Landrum served as circuit pastor
1907 – T. J. Branson served as circuit pastor
1908 – H. A. Winston served as supply
Charles L. Bass – Ellijay & Blue Ridge
1909 – W. A. McMullan served as circuit supply for Gilmer Mission
E. D. Hale served as pastor
1910 – W. A. McMullan served as circuit supply for Gilmer Mission
E. D. Hale served as pastor
1911 – I. J. Lovern served as circuit pastor
1912 – Arthur Maness served as circuit pastor
1913 – Arthur Maness served as circuit pastor
1914 – F. R. Smith served as circuit pastor
1915 – M. J. Smith served as circuit pastor
1916 – J. H. Bailey served as circuit pastor
1917 – J. H. Bailey served as circuit pastor
1918 – F. C. Owen served as circuit pastor
1919 – Z. Speer served as circuit pastor
Some interesting points in our history during this decade:
- Mrs. Lollie Bell Burtz serves as Sunday School Superintendent.
- For many years our churches were served by lay pastors, and after the establishment of Candler School of Theology at Emory University in the early 20’s many of our churches have been served by student pastors (persons called by God into the ministry, but seeking to enhance their gifts through further education
1920 – L. M. Davidson served as circuit pastor
1921 – J. M. Crowe served as circuit pastor
1923 – J. M. Crowe served as circuit pastor
1923 – J. G. Lupo served as supply
1924 – J. G. Lupo served as supply
1925 – J. G. Lupo served as supply
1926 – E. O. Vickery served as circuit pastor
- The need for a new Church building was felt, and a Committee was formed consisting of Dr. Ed W. Watkins, Sr., E. T. Hudson, R. C. Welch, C. C. Poindexter, Sr., W. B. James, S. G. Dover and J. W. Sellers.
- Minutes of the February 14th First Quarterly Conference contained these words: “As to plans for future work, we are pleased to say that we anticipate a new Church at Ellijay.”
1927 – E. O. Vickery served as circuit pastor
- A new sanctuary was constructed on the corner of Church and Spring streets in Ellijay. The Building Committee members were: S. G. Dover, E. T. Hudson, W. B. James, J. W. Sellers, C. C. Poindexter, Jr., and Dr. Ed W. Watkins, Jr. The TRUSTEES were: A. H. Burtz, E. T. Hudson, J. M. Parks, C. C. Poindexter, Sr., and Dr. Ed W. Watkins.
- During the construction of the new sanctuary, the congregation worshipped in the Methodist Episcopal Church; (commonly known as the Northern Methodist Church) which was located at College & Main streets near the elementary school. Today, this site is just south of the current Ellijay City Hall.
- The Church was given the name of Watkins Memorial Methodist Church in honor of this pioneer family of Ellijay, who always supported Methodism with their love, service and finances. Dr. Ed W. Watkins, Sr. and his son Dr. Ed W. Watkins, Jr. served the Church most effectively for many years.
- The first service in the Church was held on October 7, 1927. Bishop W. B. Beauchamp, resident bishop of the North Georgia Conference, dedicated the Church.
1928 – J. W. Lee served as circuit pastor
1929 – J. W. Lee served as circuit pastor
Some interesting points in our history during this decade:
- In the 1930’s, the Epworth League (Methodist Youth) under the leadership of Joel Stembridge was considered on of the most active in all of North Georgia.
- Much lasting good for this church and community had it’s beginning during this time.
- There was also a three county union of the League (a Sub-District) consisting of Gilmer, Pickens, and Fannin, which met quarterly.
- For many years, our Church was a part of a Circuit. In 1933, the churches that made up the Ellijay Circuit were: Watkins Memorial, Cartecay, Nine Mile, and Dover Chapel. Of course, there were other Methodist Churches at that time, for there were three main branches of Methodism – the Methodist Episcopal Church (called the Northern Methodist Church); the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; and the Methodist Protestant Church. The northern and southern split occurred in the 1844 over the question of slavery. The Methodist Protestant division occurred much earlier over the question of having bishops and of lay participation in the structures of the church.
- The Methodist Church was formed in 1939 through a merger of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church – South and the Methodist Protestant Church.
1930 – W. B. Hughes served as circuit pastor
1931 – W. B. Hughes served as circuit pastor
1932 – W. B. Hughes served as circuit pastor
1933 – Henry Dillard served as circuit pastor
1934 – Henry Dillard served as circuit pastor
1935 – Henry Dillard served as circuit pastor
- An annex was constructed behind the Sanctuary; the first stage consisting of two rooms, one used by the Pacesetter’s Sunday School Class and the other as a passageway and preparation room. The second stage consisted of three additional rooms built behind the two larger rooms. These three were later used as the Church Office, Library and Reading Room. The annex was dedicated in November.
1936 – L. F. VanLandingham served as circuit pastor
1937 – L. F. VanLandingham served as circuit pastor
1938 – W. George Irwin served as circuit pastor
1939 – E. D. Hale served as circuit Pastor
1940 – W. L. Jolley served as circuit pastor
1941 – W. L. Jolley served as circuit pastor
1942 – W. L. Jolley served as circuit pastor
1943 – Y. A. Bailey served as circuit pastor and became our first full time pastor
1944 – Y. A. Bailey served as pastor
1945 – Y. A. Bailey served as pastor
1946 – Y. A. Bailey served as pastor
1947 – C. B. Cochran served as pastor
1948 – C. B. Cochran served as pastor
- The Parsonage has always been a factor in the support of the ministry by Methodist people. The first parsonage was built near what is now Logan’s Funeral Home soon after the church had a full time pastor. During the pastorate of the Reverend Charles C. Cochran, the need for a new parsonage was discussed. Minutes from the 4th quarterly conference of May 30th read as follows: “The following nominations to constitute the Building Committee to act according to the instructions of this quarterly conference are: E. T. Hudson, A. J. Dover, A. H. Burtz, Paul Sellers, Dow Hamrick, Dr. Ed W. Watkins, Jr., and Mrs. H. W. Hampton”. It is interesting to note that Reverend Cochran wanted to build a church on what is known as Corbin Hill. He challenged the Watkins Memorial congregation to build a new parsonage on the site of the present wooden parsonage and he would build the Corbin Hill Church. Reverend Cochran built his church and later was honored for his work by having the church named Cochran Methodist Church.
- In July, the Woman’s Society of Christian Service presented a banner honoring those who served in the armed service during World War II. The names stitched into the banner were: Ralph Jones, Paul Sellers, Louis Scharlach, Charlie Wright, Walter Elliott, Jr., Hollis Bradford, Howard James, Lloyd Davis, Robert Sellers, Hansel G. Dover, Walter Pettit, Howard Parks, Bill Westmoreland, Howard Stembridge, C. C. Blalock, Lake
- Manning, Hoyt Anderson, Charles Poindexter, Jr., Alba J. Dover, Margaret Hudson, and Willis Jones Bradford.
- Also in July, Dr. & Mrs. E. W. Watkins presented a new Hammond Organ to the Church in memory of his mother, Mrs. Georgia B. Watkins.
1949 – C. B. Cochran served as pastor
- The new brick parsonage, the second built on this site, was completed and occupied.