Just ask the previous generation. Pay attention to the experience of our ancestors. For we were born but yesterday and know nothing. Our days on earth are as fleeting as a shadow. But those who came before us will teach you. They will teach you the wisdom of old. Job 8:8-10 (NLT)
The Ocilla Methodist church is what it is today because of the tireless efforts and sacrificial giving of the spiritual giants who preceded us.
According to an article in a 1916 issue of “The Ocilla Star”, the Ocilla Methodist Church was established in the year 1898 following the organization of the first Sunday School in Ocilla by the late J. F. King. The Sunday School was organized in 1897 with six families in attendance. He and the members of these families met in a small schoolhouse located on Seventh Street. The families that formed the nucleus of the first Sunday School, consisted of the King, Sweatt, Davis, Baker, Drew and Ward families. Mr. King served as superintendent of the Sunday School for five years. Because of Mr. King’s loyalty, faithfulness and persistence, the little Sunday School was a forerunner of the church today.
Mr. King was a devout Christian and a lifelong member of the Methodist Church. He came originally from Bennettsville, S.C., in the early 1890’s to live in Irwin County. He settled near Ocilla that, at the time, consisted of a turpentine camp and two stores.
Records indicate that the Rev. N. T. Palford, pastor of the Irwinville Mission, preached in the above mentioned school building once each month on Sunday afternoons during the year 1897. The church was organized the following year. History records the presence of Methodists in Irwin County as early as 1840. Historical records also show that Irwin County was at that time included in the Florida Conference. The Rev. Simon Peter Richardson served as Presiding Elder over a district that extended from Brunswick, GA as far south as St. Augustine, FL and westward from the Atlantic Ocean to Albany, GA.
In 1840 the Richardson Methodist Campground was incorporated by the Legislature and was named for the above-mentioned Presiding Elder. It was located in Irwin County, However, it was not until more than fifty years later that the little town of Ocilla had a formally organized Methodist Church.
In 1898 the Rev. E. F. Register was appointed pastor of the Mystic Mission. He also preached once each month in the little school building where the Ocilla Methodist Sunday School was held. It was under his leadership that the year the first Methodist Church was organized. The first church building was erected the same year after the arrival of the Rev. J. M. Bryan who served as the first regular pastor. The little church was made up of about twenty charter members, all coming from the six families which constituted the first Sunday School.
The first church building was located on the corner of Irwin Avenue and Seventh Street. The church is described in early church notes, “as a commodious frame building”. It served the membership of the Ocilla Methodist Church until the year 1912. (continued)
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