By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

Hartsville United Methodist Church is inviting the community to help celebrate the church’s 175 years of existence next week.

The congregation will hold a special service on Sunday, June 3 beginning at 10:45 a.m. and followed by a catered lunch at 12:15 p.m.

“It’s former pastors and former members coming back,” said Kathy Dies, who is helping organize the event along with Kathy Atwood. “We’ve had great response and we’re expecting a big turnout.”

The church’s history lists Hartsville United Methodist as being formed in 1843 with the appointment of a minister to serve the local membership.

Church tradition states that James Hart, the founder and namesake of Hartsville, laid off a lot at what would become the corner of Church and Foxall Streets in what is now downtown Hartsville for a church lot, which was intended to be used by all congregations.

Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette

After the passing of Hart in 1819 and his wife, Sarah, in 1823, her heirs auctioned off the lot, which was purchased by the Methodist congregation, which records say consisted of 18 people at the time.

Construction began on a one-story brick building to serve as the church and was completed sometime between 1843 and 1845. The church’s first pastor, Franklin C. Wilkes, was assigned to Hartsville in 1843. That building still exists today on Church Street today and is known to most longtime Hartsville residents as the “Popcorn Factory.”

Union Lodge #113 added a second story to the building around 1850 and changed the building’s name to the Hartsville Masonic Lodge. The Masons would remain there until moving to a new site in 1893.

During the Civil War, it is said that Confederate forces used the church as a hospital ward and as a dormitory for nurses and other personnel. The building next door, now the home of Total Image, was the site of the actual hospital.

The old building also saw use for a time as the meeting place for county government after Trousdale County was formed in 1870.

In 1947, church leaders saw the need for extensive repairs to the 100-year-old building and instead sought to build a new facility. George and Edna Mae Terry sold the church the property for its current site on River Street for the grand sum of $5.

During construction of the new building, Hartsville United Methodist held services at the Presbyterian Church on River Street (now Hartsville Printing and Prime Fitness).

The congregation was able to move into the basement of the building on Palm Sunday in 1949 and held its first service in the sanctuary on Easter Sunday in 1950.

According to church historian John Oliver, the current building was completed at a cost of approximately $32,000.

During its 175 years of existence, Hartsville United Methodist has had multiple pastors. The current pastor, Charles Smith, will celebrate his final service at HUMC on June 3. A new pastor, Abraham Zimmerman, will be taking over in July.

“He’s taking a job in the district office,” Dies said. “It’s a sad time, but then again it’s a joyous time.”

“As we celebrate 175 years, it is impossible not to think about those who have come before us. The steadfastness of our forefathers and foremothers has made it possible for us to serve God for a new generation of United Methodists. We hope you will come and celebrate this heritage on June 3,” the church said in a statement.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.