The year was 1902, 100 years ago in the village of Harlem. Much excitement filled the air as members of the Methodist Episcopal Church gathered in front of their newly built church.
The photographer arranged the lineup so everyone would be seen. All ladies and children were in front, and most of the men were in back, on the steps and up to the door.
Since moving from Sawdust, a about a mile west of Harlem, some 28 years earlier, the Methodists occupied a small, one-room building on the same site. Membership grew through the years and it was evident that a larger church had to be built. It was gratifying that membership was growing and there was so much enthusiasm among the members, knowing they would be having a new church.
Meetings were held and plans laid out for this new church. Sometime around 1900, construction began. Probably most of the work was done by the men of the church. Then, by 1902, their dream was realized. There it was: a huge church of the finest wood, and painted white as snow.
Above the front door was a huge bell tower than housed the most melodious-sounding bell that the village of Harlem had ever heard. On Sunday morning the sound would ring out, calling the members to come worship. On the opposite side there was another tower, not as tall as the bell tower but just as beautiful.
The sanctuary was just breathtaking; the vaulted ceiling extended all the way to the roof, and the cathedral-style windows of stained glass would sparkle like rainbows as the rays of sunlight trickled through.
There are several people still living in Harlem today who remember this church as they were young children and have commented that the building was beautiful and a joy to see.
Rev. W.T. Bell was pastor in charge in 1902, and Dr. John B. Robins was presiding elder. The cornerstone bears the names of I.V. Ballard, Newnan Hicks, W.E. Hatcher, George Larkin and John W. Bell.
Eliza Bevins gave the land to the Methodists to use for worship. She was the wife of Dr. Thomas H. Bevins, who was the pastor of the Linwood Methodists Episcopal Church in 1858.
During the next 26 years the church served the community and accomplished much. It continued to prosper until one cold Wednesday, Feb. 22, 1928, when flames engulfed the building. People came from all over the area and fought the fire by any means possible, but were unable to save the church. It was destroyed. Sifting through the ashes the following day, the church members could find only a few books and papers.
Sadness fell over the town, but the Methodists came back strong. With help from all over the county and from the Baptist church, which sat next door, the Methodists were able to rebuild.
The Baptists and Methodists in Harlem have always had a close relationship, and continue to share services on certain Sundays throughout the year. These two churches are now like family, helping each other in times of need and sharing blessings received.
(Bette Sargent is a Harlem historian.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.