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The La Grange United Methodist Church

written by William R. Haas

The Town of La Grange believed in God and the procession of early town immigrants from the older sister states brought with them the beginning of Methodism here. La Grange United Methodist Church records are few and sketchy; tradition has it that a meeting house was built of logs in 1832 and was used for worship until 1836. The first written record in the office of the Register of Fayette County about the Methodist Church in La Grange shows that on Februaru 8, 1836 a warranty deed to the Methodist Episcopal Church of America, La Grange Organization, was made by Mr. Booth Malone of Lot No. 69 on town plot, located on Poplar Street, now Highway 57. The consideration was $100.00 cash in hamd paid. The trustees of record were John A. Frazier, Orville C. rives, A.G. Goodwyn, Banbury Walton, Edward Davis, Samuel Gilbert, and Harrison Locke. This lot has been deeded to Mr. Malone earlier that year by the surviving founders of the town of La Grange who were Samuel B. Harper, James Titus, Robert Cotton, Robert Fearn, Thomas Fearn and John J. Winston. This evidences that Methodism was on the scene in the early days of the town. On this lot a beautiful pre-Civil War structure, with from three to four hundred seating capacity was built. The minister in the early days received little compensation in money but was welcomed to many homes to abide as long as he desired. This Church shared the fortunes of the General Church in America and became part of the Methodist Episcopla Church, South when the division resulted from a difference in interpretation of the constitution of the Church by the North and South.

According to Court House records in Somerville, Tennessee, an instrument dated May 28, 1855 records a warranty deed to lot No. 68, one which adjoined the one deeded in 1836. This was signed by Samuel Gilbert and his wife, Nancy, conveying the following trustees: Robert Locke, John W. Clay, John B. Cobb, Thomas B. Firth, Ernest Steward, S.M.B. Houston and F. D. Cossett; consideration was $1.00 in hand paid. The 1850's ended while La Grange continued to grow and prosper, and the Methodist Church expanded as the membership roll grew larger.

The uncertain 1860's came, and in La Grange, like most of the South, few people felt apprehensive of actual war. In November of 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency of the United States, came the audible thunder of the coming storm. South Carolina was rapidly followed by State after State in secession ordinances, as efforts for a peaceful settlement failed, and war seemed inevitable. The people of La Grange began to realize that perilous times were before them. The surrender of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson to Federal troops, and the disastrous battle of Shiloh brought sad tidings to many citizens in La Grange. News of husbands, brothers and sons who were killed, wounded or missing was received by telegraph and railroad, and many members of the Methodist Church were dressed in black mourning for lost loved ones. La Grange was visited on different occasions by raiding parties, but it was not permanently occupied until after the fall of Memphis on June 13, 1862. The town from that time was never free from a a garrison, more or less numerous and troublesome, until the close of the war to the terror and distress of the inhabitants. The Methodist Church like the other Churches and public buildings in La Grange was confiscated for the use of the Federal troops that occupied the town. The Church building, which had suffered abuse and neglect during and following the Civil War, underwent

considerable repairs in the 1870's. The name Lloyd is closely connected wiht this part of the history, and it must have benefitted a great deal from his generosity.

From 1855 to 1904 the name J. B. Nebhut, a beloved local citizen, is most prominent in the work of this Church. He was active as Sunday School Superintendent throughout this period, as well as collecting steward responsible for providing funds to meet the various expenditures of Church and Sunday School. In the Sunday School class room is a large stained glass window in memory of J. B. Nebhut for 49 years of faithful services. Many more who have taken an active and loving part in the service of this Church, have their names engraved on the Honor Roll that hangs in a prominent place to be viewed by all who enter this sacred house; those who have given to God of their time, talent and tithes.

On November 20, 1900 a terrific cyclone struck La Grange destroying completely the Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist Churches. The former two were never rebuilt. Some of the pews, the Altar rail, the pulpit, the organ and the bell were salvaged from the ruins of the Methodist Church. Reverend B. B. Thomas was the pastor at the time, and with his enthusiastic leadership and willingness to work, this Church was rebuilt, and in a short time another frame building was ready for occupancy. This occupied about the same space as the former but appeared plain in comparison with the intricate workmanship and adornments of the predecessor.

In the spring of 1926, following a general renovation of the building and the laying of new carpet, another cyclone struck, not as extensive in its general area of destruction, but even more disastrous to the Methodist Church. No salvage was attempted this time, but plans were made immediately for the construction of a new and better building. Reverend U.S. McCaslyn was the Minister at this time and the leader of the movement.

By 1928 arrangements had been completed and the new Church was erected. It was dedicated to Bishop U. V. W. Darlington in 1935, with Reverend James D. Jenkins, presiding elder and Reverend B. O. Clark, Pastor, Assisting. This is the Church building which is being used today, though considerable improvements were made on it in 1951, while Reverend J. P. Archer was Minister, and again in 1979 under the leadership of William J. Agee.

For one hundred and fifty years this Church has played a significant role and earned its place in the history of La Grange. Yet today although the congregation is small in numbers, it is more significant that it has kept pace with the times and the forward movements of Methodism.

If it were possible for the membership of the La Grange United Methodist Church to honor those God-faering pioneers, who built this Church on solid ground, we with one accord give to them the plaudit:

"Well done, good and faithful servant!"

This history of the La Grange United Methodist Church was taken from newspapers and other sources and written by William R. Haas.

Worship Services are held each Sunday at 9:45 a.m. and Sunday School at 10:45 a.m.

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