A Family has helped to Hold the History
Not one century, but two have passed since the founding of McKendree Methodist Church, up on Highway 378 between Highway 25 and Faulkner Mountain Road. This church was first called Sleepy Creek Church, known in name by a nearby creek. It was probably a mile or so away from where McKendree is now.
The church is looking for artifacts that will document their history – photos, drawings, letters, anything that can help bring their history to life in a visual way. Those who have connections to McKendree might search their “attics” and share anything that will help them in their celebration which will take place September 24, 2017 — a special date to save for this special church.
About its history, in 1817 a small log meeting house was erected for services, followed by other such buildings. With time, Sleepy Creek became McKendree, following the preaching by an itinerant Methodist minister named William McKendree. Today it is McKendree United Methodist Church.
Peter Ouzts was an early pioneer in the Edgefield District and left $50 to Sleepy Creek in his will (not a small amount in that century). In 1838, Mr. George Shaver deeded the land on which the present church stands. The following were trustees of the small, framed building erected there: Peter Dorn, George Dorn, Henry Ouzts, Isaac Ouzts and Martin Ouzts.
McKendree, in short, has been through several changes within the Methodist organization. For many years it was served through the Trenton-Edgefield-McKendree charge, then a two-church charge of Trenton and McKendree; now, in 2016, it stands alone, a single, local church. And according to the resident historian who shared stories of the church with this newspaper, they are managing well with a minister who is bi-vocational and serves their congregation – Adrian D. Rogers.
Called “resident historian” by this newspaper, but not wanting to take on all that “power” in the title, Betty Dorn Bartley (Mrs. Calvin) spoke with the Advertiser giving credit to those who recorded the history before her.
In a huge tome, full of handwritten copy, a great deal of history was laid out about the church and by a loyal member, Miss Flora Alma Ouzts (Sept. 1, 1876- Dec. 18, 1964), aunt of Mrs. Emily Alberta Ouzts Timmerman (mother of the late Raymond T. Timmerman, Jr.) who inherited the compilation of notes from her Aunt Flora. Miss Flora was a descendant of Isaac Ouzts, the early trustee. And Betty Dorn Bartley’s mother, the late Maisie Timmerman Dorn called Miss Flora “aunt” also. Thus one is able to see the lineage, up to today, of one family in the progress of this historic church.
(And, by the way, another story to be told is of Maisie Dorn who actually started the now Watson Dorn Dairy with 5 cows that she milked.)
Betty and Calvin have two children (daughters) who live away, but their son Neil lives just down the road, and he and his family are members. Betty, being a Dorn by birth, has extended family that are active in the church: not only her son, but her nephews, her brother Jim’s children: Watson, Frank and Jim, whose membership and interest in the church holds fast.
In the interview with Betty Bartley, she reminisced about the families of the church community and their connectedness. She told of farm bells being available on many of the home farms and home places, and when there was a death or an emergency, the family of need would ring the bell as well as others to bring attention to that need. This was inclusive of the black population of that area, also (and Willa Springs Baptist Church). She spoke of how McKendree was a place for social as well as spiritual experiences. She remembered about her grandparents in her childhood days, being close enough in proximity to them to walk through the woods at night to go to their home, holding a lantern that her mother handed her to help make her way. Another memory was of the circuit rider (minister) having to spend the night at her grandparents – a special room was prepared for him, as well as special meals. On the chest in the minister’s room was a comb and mirror set like no other, to the wonder of a young child. She remembers fingering it and understanding its specialness.
Such memories will be shared among the membership in the preparation for this event in September, and can be brought to the attention of those preparing for this historic celebration.
There are many other names that are important to the history and story of McKendree, other than those named: Shaffer, Shaver, Walker, Williams, Wall, Turner and McManus among them.
In 1854, the congregation built a house of worship, “from the “finest grade of heart lumber found in the county. The sills were twelve inches square and the framework . . . are still part of the present building.” Only a one-room building, in 1928 the church was remodeled, and a sanctuary with memorial windows was added. Additional remodeling was done in 1954.
And one thing that will be missing, as the September celebration includes a lunch in the nearly-new Family Life Center behind the church building, and that is those wonderful dinner-on-the-grounds. Remember what they were like, all that food out under the trees?
A history of itinerant and circuit ministers, of marriages and baptisms and deaths, all add to the “tapestry” woven through the service and ministry this church has offered the community.