Founded in 1810
Edited and Expanded on
April 12, 2018
Our Name and the Ancient Church of Smyrna. Smyrna United Methodist Church is named after one of the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation. The location of that ancient church was in what had been referred to as Smyrna in Asia Minor but is now the modern town of Izmir in Turkey. While that church was admired for its tribulation and poverty, it was forecast to suffer persecution. But the people of Smyrna United Methodist Church would do well to remember the Good News that those in the ancient church at Smyrna who are faithful until death will be given “the crown of life.” In addition, Revelation chapter 2 verses 8– 11 tells us that those who overcome shall not be hurt by the second death (the final death of Judgement Day). They are also praised for being “rich” while impoverished and in tribulation
and admonished not to fear the “synagogue of Satan.”
Our Methodist Roots. Before the American Revolution, Methodist itinerant preachers were appointed to form societies, but they were expected by their leader, John Wesley, to work within the Anglican Church, as many were not ordained. With the outbreak of the war, most of the ordained Anglican ministers, along with many who were not, returned to England. Two exceptions were Francis Asbury and James Dempster. Wesley was increasingly concerned that there would be no ordained clergy to administer the sacraments in the colonies so he planned to appoint Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury as co-superintendents. While Asbury began to be looked upon as the leader of the groups, Coke returned to England, and Dempster moved to upstate New York, where he ministered locally.
Bishop Asbury Spreads Methodism to Our Area. In 1784, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at the Christmas Conference in Baltimore. At the conference, Francis Asbury was elected as the first Bishop. With the Christmas Conference’s unanimous approval, Asbury was ordained and appointed as co-superintendent. He was ordained deacon on Christmas Day by laying on of hands; elder on the next day; and superintendent the next. As the leader of Methodism in America, Asbury attended meetings from Georgia to Vermont. He covered this area on horseback every year preaching and presiding over Annual Conferences and earning the nickname of “Bishop of the Long Road.” Asbury visited churches in Camden area and conducted a baptism near Smyrna at what would become Ebenezer United Methodist Church.
The Wolf-Pitt, Methodists Societies and Smyrna Chapel. For a time, there were no formal
churches established in Camden or Winnsboro. The local men often constructed a tent made of tree branches to provide shade during meetings conducted by circuit riding preachers. Members of the Motley family were faithful attendees of these meetings. John Motley had been sent over by King Charles of England before the American Revolution. After the war had ended he decided to remain here in South Carolina. He married Philippina Little, they had several children, and lived between Camden and Winnsboro in what would become our Smyrna community. In 1808, The Reverend James Jenkins, a Methodist preacher, also settled nearby. Rev. Jenkins (nicknamed “Thundering Jimmie”) preached at a free church called the Wolf-Pitt where the Baptists also met. It has been said that Rev. Jenkins’ ministry was far reaching and with such strong conviction that conversions often followed. In 1805 Rev. Jenkins purchased land on Sawney’s Creek, where he and his wife took immediate occupancy. Soon afterward, in 1808, he was requested to preach at the “Wolf-Pitt.” It seems that many of the local pioneers had a course reputation resulting from their rough and frontier-hardened resistance to the Word of God. The Wolf-Pitt may have derived its name from a nearby depression in the ground into which the settlers placed a lamb to attract marauding wolves so that they could eliminate them from the area. Or perhaps the name derived from the demeanor of the settlers themselves who were may have initially been resistant to preaching. The coarse settlers were eventually won over by the powerful preaching of the undaunted Methodist circuit riders. This society continued to increase “against warm opposition,” until, when the Methodist Society numbered eighty members, they resolved to build a chapel. Once completed the chapel was named Smyrna after the church praised for its faithfulness in the New Testament Book of Revelation (see above).
Church Built at “Indian Mound.” On November 20, 1810 Nathan Melton sold the congregation eight acres of land for ten dollars and the deed lists The Rev. James Jenkins as a member of the Board of Trustees. Once inhabited by Native Americas, the land on which Smyrna was built lies in an area also known as “Indian Mound.” For many centuries large Native American settlements thrived along the banks of the Wateree River which takes its name from one such tribe.
Before moving on, The Rev. James Jenkins led the Smyrna Church to completion. It was built mostly by slaves using green boards a foot wide and was finally completed in 1811. Those same “green” boards set in place by the slaves form Smyrna’s current alter rail and are part of the Lord’s Table and the old pulpit both of which still exist. During this period, it was not uncommon in Methodist churches for blacks and whites to worship together. It wasn’t until later, when African Americans sought equality and greater access to leadership roles in congregations that they left to form their own churches for example: the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).
Smyrna and the West Kershaw Charge. At the time that the nearby Salem Church celebrated its first services in their new sanctuary on January 1, 1942 the West Kershaw Charge consisted of four churches: Ebenezer, Salem, Smyrna, and St. John (it wasn’t until 1959 that St. John’s Church, Lugoff left the charge).
Historic Sanctuary. When one visits Smyrna’s sanctuary today they step into a space that is both rich in heritage and welcoming. The straight lines and clapboard interior is an excellent example of early Methodism’s traditional emphasis on simple practicality and humility while, at the same time, the spacious white interior provides a bright, open space for lively, spirit-filled worship. Additions such as stained glass windows and improvements such as modern restrooms, new pews, carpeting, modern sound system, heating, and air-conditioning have all been tastefully incorporated into the sanctuary’s structure without detracting from its historical appearance. In fact, still visible in the middle of the ceiling is the spot where the stove pipe once exited when the church was heated by a pot-belly stove set in the middle of the center aisle. As noted, previously, alter rail, communion table, and pulpit hand-hewed by African-American slaves are also still proudly and reverently preserved.
Additional Buildings. As time progressed, additional buildings were added to the church property to enhance the full life of members outside of worship. Adjacent to the sanctuary and connected by a covered walkway, the congregation added a large, modern, brick building. This building contains well-lighted classrooms, furnished nursery, clean restrooms, large fellowship hall with brick fireplace, and a well-appointed kitchen with storage closet and a room for the deep freezer. Beyond this building a small barn was added to not only store a riding mower and other landscaping tools but also to house sporting equipment, seasonal decorations, and props for church plays and celebrations that are required by an active congregation.
Cemetery. Smyrna’s cemetery is very old and quite large with several sections that reflect various periods in the church’s history. Directly across the driveway from the entrance to the sanctuary is the oldest section of the cemetery which is surrounded by a beautiful, old, ornate, iron fence. While it is part of the greater Smyrna cemetery, it is often referred to as the “Boykin” section as many members of that family (along with others) have been laid to rest within. This area contains some of the oldest graves and two evergreen trees that were brought from England over two hundred years ago. Although not specifically indicated, it is here that visitors can see the resting places of veterans who likely served during the American Revolution alongside of those who which indicate service during the Civil War. There are also many other Veterans of more recent conflicts whose graves are spread throughout other areas of the cemetery.
To the left of the old “Boykin” area are more recent graves. Further back to the left is an area referred to as the “Mormon Cemetery.” This area also belongs to Smyrna United Methodist Church but got its nickname as a result of a brief period when several relatives of Smyrna’s members were attracted to a traveling preacher of that faith. Continuing to the right and also to the rear of the “Boykin” section, Smyrna’s cemetery extends to include both old and new graves of prominent Smyrna families and beloved individuals who have added so much to the life of our church.
On-going Communion with the Saints. Members of the Motley family were charter members and great supporters of the early Smyrna church. They, along with the people of the community, worshipped the Lord here with joy as we still worship Him today. Rev. James Jenkins is long gone; his little daughter Elizabeth Asbury Jenkins, baptized by Francis Asbury himself, lies buried at nearby Ebenezer United Methodist Church which was founded in the same year as Smyrna, 1810. Founder, John Motley and his children lie in our graveyard. Until recently when God saw fit to call her home, his great-granddaughter, Mrs. Corrie Baucom, was still active at our church.
Among others buried in the Boykin section of our graveyard is Joseph Cloud (1770-1851) of Camden, S.C. Joseph Cloud and his wife, Martha Nettles (1785-1852) of Fairfield, S.C., were the great-grandparents of western legend, John Henry “Doc” Holiday. It was “Doc” Holiday who stood up alongside the famous lawman Wyatt Earp and his brothers against the notorious McLaury-Clanton brothers of the Cowboy Gang during the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Joseph Cloud’s headstone can be seen toward the back of the older “Boykin” section of the graveyard which is enclosed by an iron fence.
Through the Years. We have noted only a few of the many saints of our church. The few members whose names appear are referenced only for the purpose of appropriately dating or verify significant milestones in the life of our church. It would be impossible (and perhaps unfair) to attempt to mention by name prominent members or families who have contributed their time, talent and gifts to our church through the years. If we were to do so, relatives or descendants of those persons accidentally overlooked might feel slighted. To see their names one only has to stroll through our cemetery and read the names inscribed above their resting places. But even then, one must realize that many of those who have richly blessed our church now rest elsewhere.
However, a simple listing of pastors has been provided because, unlike our earliest members and contributing visitors, it can be inclusive thanks to the efforts of the S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church which maintains well-documented records of all appointments to local churches. For the reasons that follow, the name and dates for each pastor in the list is provided without comment or special emphasis.
But more to the point, church membership specifically, and Christian discipleship in general, was intended to mirror the selfless giving and humility demonstrated by Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we give praise and thanks to God for each and every one of the great line of witnesses who have contributed to our church down through these many years. We believe that many, if not all, would shun personal accolades and prefer to give all honor, glory, and credit to God above.
A Living Legacy. With its name going back to New Testament times and then born shortly after the American Revolution, Smyrna’s legacy of faith continues to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, transforming lives in order to help God establish His kingdom of Heaven here on earth.
“Be faithful [Smyrna] until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
– John of Patmos in Revelation Chapter 2, verse 10.
Abbreviated Listing of Smyrna’s Pastors from 1943 Onward
Rev. Kenneth Wilson Bedenbaugh 1942-1943
Rev. Lawrence Dekalb Hamer 1944-1946
Rev. Paul Craig Scott 1946-1948
Rev. Herbert Lee Spell 1948-1951
Rev. William Dixon Davis 1951-1952
Rev. Eugene Lawson Farmer 1952-1956
Rev. George Walter Couch 1956-1957
Rev. Bessie B. Parker 1957-1959
Rev. Franklin Oscar Smith, Jr, 1959-1962
Rev. Milton Lee McGuirt 1962-1964
Rev. J. H. Owens 1964-1966
Rev. Quay Wyatt Adams 1966-1969
Rev. Dwight Hill Mims 1969-1972
Rev. Ralph Truman Bowling, Jr. 1972-1974
Rev. William D. Cooper 1974-1975
Rev. Larry J. Henry 1975-1979
Rev. Jerry Eugene Temple 1979-1984
Rev. Martha Anne Hills Andrews Jun-Dec 1984
Rev. Bessie B. Parker Jan-Apr 1985
Rev. Steven Davis Gillespie 1985-1991
Marty Nason Feb 1992-Aug 1993
Bud Boatwright Sep 1993-1997
Cheryl Rhodes 1997-1999
Jackie Connelly 1999-2002
John Williams III 2002-2006
Daniel Flessas 2006-2010
Joanne Lockard-Hawkins 2010-2013
James “Mac” McDowell 2013-2015
Tim Burleson 2015-2016
Stewart C. Kidd 2016 –
“The call of the Gospel is for the church to implement the victory of God in the world through suffering love.” — N. T. Wright