History of the First
Established in 1867
In the pages that follow, we have pulled together information from a variety of sources pertaining to the history of The First Presbyterian Church of Brunswick, Georgia. We hope that this information will serve as a basic record of the life, particularly the early life, of the church. Especially valuable was the history, "The Heritage That is Ours", that was written by Hildreth Taylor and included in Centennial Observance in 1967. As we researched this history, it became obvious that new, and possibly more accurate, information can suddenly appear from unexpected sources. Therefore, we view this document as a work in progress that can be added to as more facts about the past become available and as the future becomes the past to be added to the historical record.
Joe McGoogan and Kathe Fuller
Anyone wishing to make corrections or additions should contact Joseph T. McGoogan. Please email the webmaster who will forward your message.
Early Churches in Brunswick and Glynn County
In 1735 Charles Wesley, a priest in the Church of England, and his brother John, a missionary, accompanied Georgia founder James Edward Oglethorpe to Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. Charles, secretary to General Oglethorpe, was also the chaplain and held the first known protestant church services at Fort Frederica. Christ Church Frederica (Episcopal) is the famous descendant of that early church. Brunswick did not become a town until 1771 when the legislative body of the Royal Province of Georgia (the colonial government) laid off the city, named the streets and "squares", and ordered an official survey of the area. (Cate)
What little is known about late 18th early 19th century organized religion in Brunswick and vicinity comes from William W. Hazzard, who in 1825 published a "Description and History" of the area. He reported that the most prevalent "sects" were the Methodists and Baptists with houses of worship at "pine grove on Satilla Neck" and "Hustons on the Barrington road." He mentioned that "a neat chapple [sic] has been erected near Brunswick by the generous contributions of the Inhabitants, which is open to all denominations." (p. 26)
The first church we know of in Brunswick was the Methodist Church, founded in 1847. Members held their services in the Glynn Academy building. (Glynn Academy was one of the first three public schools in Georgia.) A wooden sanctuary was built in 1861 and replaced in 1907 with the current Victorian Gothic style structure.
In 1855, Baptists established a church with nine whites and ten black slaves. In 1858 members built what came to be called The First Baptist Church at the corner of Union and Mansfield Streets. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the blacks left the main church and formed the First African Baptist Church in 1863. In 1869, the members built their church at 1416 Amherst Street; it is the oldest church in continuous use as a house of worship in Brunswick. In 1885 members of the Advent Christian Church organized and began holding services in the original Baptist Church building that had been moved to 1812 Ellis Street. That is still their house of worship. The First Baptists built their current church in 1967.
Episcopalians formed a congregation, St. Mark's Episcopal Church, in May 1858. A year later the Rev. Robert Cross came to Brunswick to serve as rector. Forming a sewing circle, the ladies of the church made and banked a significant amount of money to put toward a sanctuary but lost it all when the bank failed. Services were held in McConn Hall, a building on Bay and Mansfield Streets. Soon members built a church on the east side of Egmont Street between Howe and Mansfield Streets where they held services until the Civil War when services were suspended for the duration of the conflict. The current sanctuary, located on Gloucester Street between Egmont and Norwich Streets, was completed in 1874.
St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church was established in 1868. In that year members built their first building and were served by their first priest, Father Scollins. The original building was torn down, and a new one was constructed on the site of the old one in the 1960s.
In 1867, after the Civil War, Presbyterians, many of them recent arrivals from New England, set about to form a church.
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Congregational Churches in New England - a Presbyterian Connection
Among the early settlers in New England were a significant number of the Congregational faith. They were very much like Presbyterians in their theology, but perhaps felt an even stronger resistance to the power of the Church of England with its Catholic form of government and liturgical service. The Congregationalists strongly believed that each church should be considered autonomous and were, therefore, strongly against an organized structure of church government, especially with some high priest in charge who held sway over believers.
Soon after the Civil War several of these New England families moved to the Brunswick area to seek employment and establish businesses, mostly in the lumber industry. Some of these people were instrumental in the establishment of the Brunswick Presbyterian Church. The early member names of Osgood, Fuller, Cook, Brewster, and Fisher came from the New England Congregational Churches.
Liberty County, an Early Source of Congregational Presbyterians
In the mid 1750's a group of settlers came to the St. John's Parish (now part of Liberty County) in Georgia. Most migrated from an area near the Ashley River in South Carolina. They colonized almost all of the Parish and grew a variety of crops including indigo and rice.
They brought with them the Rev. John Osgood, a Congregational minister, who led them in the construction of a log Meeting House. In 1758, they held their first service there.
In 1800 an agreement was formed between the Presbyterian and Congregational churches whereby fraternal delegates were exchanged and in which their ministers could be interchangeably installed (i.e. a Presbyterian minister could lead a Congregational church and vice versa). The Rev. Thomas Goulding, a Presbyterian, was installed pastor of the White Bluff Congregational Church in 1816, and Josiah Law, a Deacon in the Midway Congregational Church, was sent to a Presbytery meeting in St. Mary's as a delegate in 1822. Several Presbytery meetings were held at the Midway Church. The Rev. Charles Odingsell Screven, a Baptist minister and son of Revolutionary War General James Screven, once termed members of Midway Church "Congregational Presbyterians."
Through this close relationship between the Congregational and Presbyterian churches, most of the early ministers at Midway were Presbyterians. Therefore, an increasing number of the members of the congregation ascribed to the Presbyterian doctrine. The church after 1791 regularly contributed funds to the Presbytery of Georgia. Members of its congregation organized themselves into Presbyterian organizations and formed three branch houses of worship. All three became Presbyterian churches.
The members of this parish were very strong supporters of independence. In 1776 two Parish leaders, Dr. Lyman Hall (a member of Midway Church) and Button Gwinnett, along with George Walton of Augusta, signed the Declaration of
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In 1777, because of the zeal shown for independence by the citizens, St.
John's, St. Andrew's and St. James's Parishes were combined and became
Families who later helped fill the roster of the First Presbyterian Church in Brunswick - Baker, Goulding, Law, Fleming, Mallard, Norman, Osgood, Quarterman, Stacy, Way, Winn - were tied to families who were originally in Liberty County.
Midway Church, built in 1756, was burned during the American Revolutionary War and rebuilt in 1792 as a white-frame, New England-style church. Regular services are no longer held there. It is maintained by The Midway Society.
Early Presbyterian Churches of Coastal Georgia Before the Brunswick Church
The first Presbyterian services in Georgia were held in Darien when the Rev. John McLeod preached to the Highlanders of Fort King George in 1736. The Darien Church was officially organized in 1808. The White Bluff Church was first organized as a German Reform Church in 1773. In 1944 that congregation voted to join the Savannah Presbytery. The St. Mary's Presbyterian Church was established in 1822; the First Church of Savannah, in 1827; and the Waynesville Presbyterian Church, in the 1840's. After the Civil War the Flemington Church was formed in 1866.
The Waynesville Connection
No history of Brunswick Presbyterian Church would be complete without including some facts about the Presbyterian Church at Waynesville. Many of its members transferred to our church upon its closing, and their descendants are still active members of this church. Many names entered in the session book of the Waynesville Church and still familiar today include Fleming, Quarterman, Way, King, Atkinson, Mumford, Hazlehurst, Hopkins, Scarlett, Wiggins, and others less familiar such as Hack and Sweeney. It was Ruling Elder Frank F. Scarlett of the Waynesville
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Church, and great uncle of Judge Frank Scarlett, who served on the commission to reorganize our church in 1870.
Numerous letters and Bible records still in existence refer to Waynesville as the "Sand Hills". Eons ago the coastline of Georgia was 25 miles west of the present line, and the sand hills are thought to have been the sand dunes of the ancient beach. At the time of the establishment of the Presbyterian Church there, the lowlands along the coast of Georgia and even the islands were considered unhealthy during the summer, so the families of the rice and cotton planters moved to Waynesville during the summer months. Waynesville had a mineral spring and was considered a resort. Merchandise was brought there via the Turtle River to a place called Bethel and was then carted to Mumford's Store by an ox cart on a road paved with brick from the Waynesville brick establishment.
James Hamilton Couper of St. Simons Island built a summer home there called "The Lodge" that was on a tract of land that comprised 256 acres. It was occupied by him and his family during the summer months until 1844 when it was sold to Leighton W. Hazlehurst. In all probability, Mr. Couper helped organize this church. The Scarlett family also had a home there. Entered into the records of the Session of the Waynesville Church is the following notation: "April 18, 1872 - In application of elder F.D. Scarlett of the Waynesville Church for admission from said church and permission to join the Brunswick Church having been presented by the Rev. R.Q. Way during the meeting of Presbytery at St. Mary's. It was ordered that his name be taken from the roll of the Waynesville Church and placed upon that of Brunswick. By order of Presbytery - J.F. King - Clerk."
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Just when the Presbyterian Church was organized is not clear. Henry Clay King, a leader in the Waynesville community, was an organizer of the church, and he paid half the cost of construction of the church parsonage. The earliest existing records show that on October 15, 1852, the church was well organized and flourishing. The Rev. H.K. Rees was Stated Supply, and the two Ruling Elders were Edmund Atkinson and S. Clay King. On that date Mrs. Theresa Mumford was received into the church and Elder King was appointed to attend the meeting of the Presbytery of Georgia which was to convene at the Bryan Neck Church on November 18, 1852. The records show that during the years between 1852 and 1892 meetings were held reasonably often to receive and dismiss members from the church. Representatives were sent to meetings of Presbytery and later to Synod. They entertained the Presbytery of Georgia on March 26, 1857, and again on April 11, 1861. On this occasion, the members of the Presbytery were invited to come the day before the one appointed for the meeting because of a change in the steamboat's schedule.
The land where the church was built was owned by Job Tison, a major farmer and land owner of Glynn County. Job Tison's son, John M. Tison, inherited the land and donated a plot for the building of the church. Job Tison's daughter married a Hazlehurst, and both John M. Tison and Hazlehurst became early trustees of the church. Later the land around the church was bought by the Wiggins family, and they continued to respect and support the Tison agreement with the church. In fact, in 1879 Mrs. Louise Wiggins re-conveyed the land to the church. James F. King signed the agreement as Treasurer and Trustee for the church.
It is interesting to note that just at the outbreak of the Civil War the church resolved to take their first annual "Collection for the Board of Domestic Missions". Also, in April 1861, there were nine "colored persons" received into the membership of the church.
There were no meetings from April 1861 to April 1864. But in 1864 and for several years thereafter the congregation regularly received new members, elected officers, and sent their share of money to the "various church schemes as directed by the General Assembly". In 1877, we read that "a free conversation was held upon the state of religion in the congregation from which it appeared there was much cause for encouragement and devout thankfulness". They also complied with the "injunctions of the General Assembly touching the matters of Foreign Missions and Ladies Societies". They were participants in in various controversies. At one point they joined other churches in the region in asking the Synod of Georgia to allow Savannah Presbytery to be detached from the Synod of Georgia and added to the two Presbyteries of Florida to be called the Synod of Florida.
In the meantime, the Brunswick Church had been organized and built, and one by one the members left the Waynesville Church to join that church or some other. The little church in Waynesville was falling apart, and the building was in sad need of repair. Records show that much was said about the state of the church. Occasionally meetings would be held in the Harrison School House or in the home of Dr. F.C. Hack. In 1891, the session applied to Savannah Presbytery for "pecuniary aid". Presbytery agreed to help them by supplying a Presbyterian minister for services once a month. The Rev. T.
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J. Allison, evangelist of Savannah Presbytery, agreed to arrange for preaching there on those occasions. But in June 1892, the session resolved to hold only quarterly meetings.
In September 1892, after a revision of the church roll, a congregational meeting was called for the purpose of "considering the advisability of repairing the old church or building a new one". A building committee was appointed, but nothing ever came of it. That is the last entry in the records.
On June 23, 1899, the church property at Waynesville was put into the hands of the session of the Brunswick Church. The building remained standing until 1910 when it was torn down and the materials used in the construction of a schoolhouse. In 1903, six members from Waynesville Church became members of the Brunswick Church. The burial grounds around the site of the church still stand, mute testimony to those brave souls who steadfastly bore the burden of their task with abiding faith that we might today enjoy the fruits of their labor. Please note: In June 2015, a member of the Wiggins family officially re-conveyed the land to the Brunswick Church.
Brunswick Prior to and During the Establishment of First Presbyterian Church
Following a period of economic depression, the Altamaha-Brunswick Canal opened in 1854, followed by the railroad in 1856. Brunswick received its second charter in the same year. By 1860, it had a population of 468, a bank, a weekly newspaper, and a sawmill that employed nine workers. In addition, it had Methodist and Baptist churches and a railroad running 30 miles.
During the War Between the States, Confederate troops withdrew, burning the St. Simons Lighthouse as they left to keep it from falling into Union hands. In Brunswick, wharves were burned as was the Oglethorpe House, which would have made an excellent hospital or headquarters for the Union Army. When the city was ordered to evacuate, most of the citizens fled to Waynesville. The canal and railroad ceased operation, and Brunswick was abandoned for the third time since its founding. While Sherman did not enter Brunswick on his destructive march to the sea, the entire area suffered from the war. There was no railroad. One boat a week was the only method of transportation (one boat and what horses were left), and of course there was no money. After the Civil War, the area suffered from a post-war depression. Later, from 1874 - 1908, one of the nation's largest lumber mills operated on St. Simons Island, leading to the return of economic prosperity. There millions of feet of legendary "heart-pine" lumber were cut and became timbers, floors, and ceilings for buildings all over the world. Vessels on canals and rivers gave way to rail traffic as the Macon & Brunswick and Brunswick & Albany railroads connected Georgia to the port of Brunswick. An old Brunswick map shows that the town was bounded on the west by Bay Street, on the east by Amherst Street, on the south by Dartmouth Street, and on the north by Gloucester Street.
In an article published in the Brunswick News in 1915, Dr. W.B. Burroughs related some interesting history. He first came to Brunswick in 1859 from Savannah on
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a steamboat, the "Welaka" (the Native Americans' name for the St. John's River), and landed at the foot of Mansfield Street. He stayed in an inn kept by a Mrs. Clark. The population of the city numbered between 400 and 500. It was a curious looking town to him. Some of the older citizens told him that in 1835-1836, three-fourths of the town was salt marsh. There were still a number of creeks with bridges over them and a great quantity of marsh grass. At the intersection of Newcastle Street, H Street, and the Glynn County Courthouse were two bridges, and tidewater in the creek rose four or five feet under them. On Mansfield Street, a "bold" creek divided the town into two land bodies. Three bridges crossed this creek, one on Union Street, one in front of what is now the "Old City Hall" on Newcastle Street, and a third on Bay Street. Great quantities of sea myrtle thrived, and crabs, shrimp, and thousands of fiddler crabs, along with cattle and horses, fed on the marsh grass. A Mrs. Lamb told Dr. Burroughs that her parents had moved to Brunswick from the Bahamas prior to 1815. She planted the high spots between Bay and Newcastle and Mansfield Streets in corn. Dr. Burroughs' next visit to Brunswick was after the war in 1868. All the bridges were still standing, and he stayed at the same inn. After the Civil War and the freeing of slaves, the labor required to support the farming of rice and other crops was no longer available, and that industry died. However, Brunswick began to grow. Lumber mills, naval stores, and other industries came in. The port with rivers that could accommodate large vessels and the infusion of people from up north with money to invest helped stimulate this growth. According to the 1870 U.S. Census, Brunswick had a population of 2,348 and Glynn County, 5,376.
The Establishment of the Brunswick Presbyterian Church
Shortly after the Civil War ended, Mr. and Mrs. T. Goulding Stacy and their two young children moved to Brunswick, then a village with no working railroad and a steamboat that visited only once a week. They were Presbyterians accustomed to actively participating in a Christian community, and they missed their church. Soon they met with four or five women of similar religious conviction and appealed to Savannah Presbytery for help. The Rev. Charles B. King, a Presbyterian minister in Savannah, visited the town to preach.
Since he came by boat, he had to stay a whole week every time he came. As he preached, more people, a number of whom were Presbyterians or Congregationalists, came to hear him. By their invitation and under the authority of the Presbytery of Georgia, on the 27th of January 1867, in the Methodist Church, a Presbyterian Church was organized. The earliest record of this event was recorded by Mrs. Caroline Stacy and found in the 1901 Church Manual:
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Mr. Warren Fuller, Old South Congregationalist, Worcester,
After speaking[at] some length with regard to the government, etc. of the Presbyterian Church, an election was held for the office of 'Ruling Elder' which resulted in the choice of T. Goulding Stacy, whose ordination took place immediately after the sermon. The 'Sacrament of the Lord's Supper' was then administered.
T.G. Stacy, Clerk of Session
However, a variety of circumstances brought about the virtual dissolution of the Presbyterian Church of 1867. Several members moved away, including Mr. and Mrs. Stacy, who moved to East Florida and later to Decatur County, Georgia. No records were kept and no session minutes were recorded for over a year. Finally, in April 1869, the Presbytery directed its licentiate, J.W. Quarterman, to visit the Brunswick Church. He began preaching there once a month.
In April of 1870 at its meeting in Boston, Georgia, the Presbytery of Savannah appointed the Rev. D.H. Porter and Ruling Elder J.F. King to visit the Brunswick Church and "perfect" its organization. This commission reached town on May 14, and Ruling Elder F.D. Scarlett of Waynesville Church served with them. After due investigation, the commission concluded to organize the church "de novo" since it appeared that the organization previously affected had been dissolved by Providential causes. A call was issued for all who were interested to meet in the City Hall the next afternoon. By this time Mr. and Mrs. Stacy and their children had moved back to Brunswick. At that time the church was reorganized with the following 22 members:
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Lt. Douglas G. Risley, Presbyterian Church, Elkhart, IN
Mr. & Mrs. William Fisher, former members of Congreg. Church, Cromwell, CT
Mrs. Mary T. Dunn, former member of Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Mr. E.B. Pennick, former member of Presbyterian Church, Perry, Georgia
Mr. T.A. McIver, former member of Presbyterian Church, Eufaula, AL
Mrs. J.W. Meadows, former member of Presbyterian Church, Fernandina, FL
Mr. J.C. Norman, former member of Presbyterian Church, Wacahoota, FL
Mrs. L.I. Norman, former member of Presbyterian Church, Wacahoota, FL
Mrs. Abbie F. Brewster, former member of Congreg. Church, Danielson, CT
Mr. John R. Cook, Former member of Congreg. Church, Worcester, MA
Mrs. Samuel B. Baker, not formerly a member of a church
(Eight were received by certificate and fourteen by profession of faith.)
Following the enrollment of these persons as members of the church, an election of officers was held. Messers. T.G. Stacy, W.A. Fuller, and J.C. Norman were elected as Ruling Elders. Messers. E.B. Pennick and John R. Cook were elected Deacons. They were ordained and installed that same day at a service held at the Methodist Church.
In its early struggles the small congregation worshipped wherever it could find a temporary home. Preaching was conducted in the buildings of Methodist and Baptist Churches and the old Glynn Academy building in the 1200 block of Egmont Street. The most frequent place of worship, however, was the old City Hall which stood where the fountain is now located in Hanover park.
For where two or three or gathered in My Name, there am I
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The Sunday SchoolThe Sunday School was started immediately after the re-organization of the church in 1870, and the meetings were held in the old City Hall, which stood in Hanover Square, a park very near where the Church was ultimately built.
There are very few records available of these first years to provide much information. However, Mrs. Louisa Stacy, among others, reported a lot of activities. Each class distributed clothing, sent out baskets, and cheered sick ones. They had picnics; there were Christmas parties with tree decorating and other festivities in their season, and home socials for the older classes.
In 1898, the Sunday School adopted Mattie Hipp, a resident of Thornwell Orphanage, as their "special orphan". She continued to receive contributions until she graduated from high school. Frank Streckfuss was then named the new "special orphan". The Sunday School sent a regular contribution of five dollars a month for the support of a child at Thornwell, which was run by the Presbyterian Church, until the first World War when it became necessary to increase the support to ten dollars per month. In June 1905, the Sunday School began contributing five dollars per month to the Georgia Industrial School of Macon, GA. This amount was also increased to ten dollars per month during the first World War. Funding was discontinued in 1931, when the monthly contribution to the Nacoochee School, also affiliated with the Presbyterian Church and located in Rabun County, GA, was increased from five to ten dollars.
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In 1901, the enrollment consisted of 120 pupils and 21 officers and teachers.
Superintendent, A.M. Way
The expenses for the year were $97.00. The amount for all other causes was $20.29. The attendance at times reached almost 150 pupils.
The school was graded in 1920 into the following departments: Cradle Roll, Beginners, Primary, Junior, Young People, Intermediates and Seniors, Adult, and Home.
In those early years the following served as superintendents:
W.A. Fuller, T.G. Stacy, S.H. Cook, S.G. Caldwell, Palmer G. Stacy, W.J. Way, A.M. Way, T.J. Wright, Claude Dart, M.M. Diefenderfer, C.A. Taylor, Jr., W. Harper, G.R. Young
The Sunday School was held in the afternoons. Since people were supposed to devote the Sabbath Day to prayer and contemplation, there could be no diversions such as boat and carriage rides, etc., but Sunday School activities were allowed; consequently, meeting in the afternoon provided an outlet for pent-up youthful energy and did not interfere with the morning church service. Frank L. Stacy served as Secretary and Treasurer from 1879 until 1926. J.O. Taylor replaced him and served seven years. A.M. Way, L.R. Shirley, and Gordon MacGregor each served for short periods.
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Ladies Aid SocietyThe work of the women really began before the church was formally organized. Four or five joined with Mrs. Caroline A. Stacy and her husband T.G. Stacy to petition the Presbytery to establish a Presbyterian Church in Brunswick.
Next to the Sunday School this was the oldest organization in the church, and for the first 25 years of the 45 years of its existence, it was the only organization exclusively for women. It began in December 1873 immediately after the dedication of the church. Mrs. J.W. Meadows was the president and Mrs. Cora M. Rowe, Secretary. This Society was formed to help with the cleaning, furnishing, and insuring of the church. However, by 1901 they had helped in many different ways and supported numerous causes.
They met once a month, usually on Monday afternoons, usually in members' homes, and their dues were ten cents. By making and selling aprons, bonnets, ice cream, cakes, and other things and putting on suppers, they increased their income. There are no written records to measure the works of these women, but their contributions were many, especially considering that there were seldom more than 12 members. They paid the church insurance until the annex was built. They even paid for paving George Street in front of the church in 1908.
The Society joined the Savannah Presbytery Union of the different church societies in 1913 and sent delegates to the annual meetings until they disbanded on April 18, 1918. At that time they merged with the Missionary Society to form the Ladies Auxiliary.
Over the years, the following served as president, some several times:
Mrs. Cora M. Rowe was the only secretary throughout the existence of the Ladies Aid Society, which was her desire and ambition to do so.
[November 11, 1918].
Mrs. Louisa Stacy
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Church Property Deed was extracted from the records in the Brunswick Glynn County Court House, book AA page 513
State of Georgia, Glynn County
This Indenture made this ninth day of January eighteen hundred and seventy one, between Urbanus Dart as Trustee for his wife, Eliza R. Dart and her children of the county and state of aforesaid, party of this first part, and J.R. Cook, D.T. Dunn, Andrew Brown, J.W. Taylor, Burr Winton, Francis D. Scarlett, J.C. Norman Trustees of the first Presbyterian Church Brunswick Georgia of the same place parties of the second part.
Witnesseth that the said party of the first part for and in the consideration of the sum of four hundred dollars to him in hand paid as trustees as aforesaid by the parties of the second part and before the sealing and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath granted, bargained, sold and conveyed and doth by these presents grant, bargain, sell and convey to the parties of the second part, as trustees as afore said, and their successors in office, for the use benefit and advantage in trust for said church all that undivided on one half of lot of land number two hundred and three (203) of Brunswick known as the Old Town, in the county and state of aforesaid bounded North by lot numbering two hundred and two, East by Union Street, South by George Street, and West by Reynolds Street
To have and to hold the said half lot of land to them the said parties of the second part and their successors in office in trust for the said church as above specified, together with all and singular the rights of members and appurtenances thereof to the same in any manner belonging forever fee simple.
And it is covenanted by and between the said parties of the first and second parts that the said parties of the second part shall have full power and authority to sell or exchange the afore described half lot of land in said city of Brunswick, should it ever appear to them that the interest of said church shall require said sale or exchange, such lot or part of lot so acquired by such sale or exchange to be then used for the purpose herein before mentioned and appointed.
In witness whereof the said party of the first part hath herein set his hand and affixed his seal the day and year above written
Signed: U. Dart
Other Half of Lot 203 was conveyed in a deed in book AA, page 512, as a gift from the Urbanus Dart Family.
Trustees placed in the same county records as above book AA, page 514 a record of a church meeting on 8/8/1886: The Rev. Paul F. Brown presided over the meeting in which the trustees in the deeds above were replaced by S.H. Cook, C.F. Way, and C.J. Stacy. T.G. Stacy, clerk and secretary, recorded the meeting minutes that are on file.
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Church Construction and Other Early ChallengesThe small group of members got busy at once to build a permanent church. The property on George Street, Lot 203, was acquired from the Urbanus Dart Family. Half of the lot was donated by the Darts, and the church Trustees purchased the other half for $400. The present building was completed in three years and dedicated on December 18, 1873. Since Presbyterian churches are not dedicated until they are out of debt, the building was completely paid for in that time. Taking into consideration the times and struggles of Reconstruction, this achievement seems remarkable. The architect and overseer for the building of the church was Mr. George W. Lane. Mr. Norman was the construction contractor. Mr. Lane was also the architect for the school and Union Church at Gascoigne Bluff Saw Mill on St. Simons Island. The Union Church is now called Lovely Lane Chapel at Epworth-by-the-Sea.
On November 4, 1874, George Lane and Lula Abby Brewster, daughter of Mrs. Abby Brewster, were married in the first wedding held at the new church. Mrs. Brewster was among the first members of the church, as were her daughter and son-in-law, Maria and Warren Fuller. Later the Lanes moved to Atlanta. In 1931 George Lane was asked to write his recollections about the building of the church. Here are excerpts from his letter written in 1931:
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Unfortunately, this bell cracked in 1892 and had to be replaced with another, which has faithfully provided a ringing reminder of our worship hour ever since.
As is the case today, finances were a constant concern. As efforts were being made to raise money to pay for construction of the sanctuary, there was also the need to pay for the expenses of running the organization - the pastor's salary, etc. - and also to pay for ongoing spiritual and charitable outreach. A notation in the Session records of October 13, 1872 states, "The present system of weekly collections (by means of a box at the door) being deemed imperfect, it was ordered that hereafter the deacons should collect the same by passing through the congregation each Sabbath morning immediately before singing the last hymn, and that these collections should be divided as evenly as possible to various benevolent purposes of the church after paying incidental expenses." As can be seen from this item in Session minutes dated December 4, 1871, there were very specific "benevolent purposes": "All monies from weekly collections now in the hands of the treasurer, ordered sent forward for two objects now before us: Foreign Missions and relief of disabled ministers and widows and orphans of deceased ministers."
Worship services were central to the life of the young church. Shortly after its reorganization, the congregation realized the need for hymnals to enhance those services. On September 3, 1871, the Rev. R.Q. Way and Elder Stacy were appointed a committee to procure subscriptions for hymnbooks to be called Hymns of the Sanctuary and to order same from the publisher. In January 1870, it was ordered that a weekly prayer meeting be held at the City Hall every Thursday evening at 7 o'clock. Also, the first Sabbath evening of each month was set apart for a monthly concert at the place of worship; the usual services were dispensed with and united prayer was offered for "those who have not yet heard the Glad Tidings of the Gospel".
A key challenge was procuring a minister to be the spiritual leader of the congregation. From September 1870 until April 1873, the Rev. R.Q. Way was the Stated Supply. On October 15, 1872, Rev. Way requested action of the church relative to his desires as to the continuance of his services for the ensuing year. At the congregational meeting held the next week, the following actions were taken:
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Committee on pastor appointees reported names and facts. The clerk was instructed to write The Rev. W.I. McCormick of Gainesville, Fla. who had been invited to preach for us, hoping thus to affect permanent arrangements. That we found ourselves unable to raise the necessary amount to support him. The church at Darien having refused to assist us as we had hoped. [sic]
The congregation then proceeded by unanimous vote to secure for the present as Stated Supply the services of S.H. Bell of Long Creek, NC, then a student at Columbia Theological Seminary. But Mr. Bell would not come for the salary offered him. After several meetings, the congregation finally offered him $900 per year. He then asked that the call be suspended for a season. However, Mr. Bell finally arrived as we know from this account: On Dec. 18, 1873 the Presbyterian Church of Brunswick was dedicated. Sermon by The Rev. S.H. Bell. The night of the same day he was ordained pastor. He had served as Stated Supply from May 10, 1872 until December 18 of that year when he became the first pastor of the church. He remained pastor until April 1875 when he again became Stated Supply for five months following a controversy that arose when Rev. Bell insisted on allowing people who had rented pews but who had not become church members to vote on church affairs. According to church records, the three years that Rev. Bell served the church were quite tempestuous ones, but the church weathered the storm and went on to greater things.
The Brunswick Church became a member of the Savannah Presbytery in 1874, and on April 19th of that year the church entertained Presbytery. In May the session appointed as their first choir leader "Mrs. T.S. Stevens and the following persons to assist her: Mrs. J.R. Cook, Mrs. D. Dunn, Mr. Stevens and others she might wish to invite. It is desirable in the singing service of the church that such selections be made as may be joined in by the congregation as far as practicable." After three years Mrs. Stevens moved away and Mrs. John Cook gave her services until illness incapacitated her.
Mrs. Alice duBignon became the first paid organist in the city of Brunswick when the session of our church engaged her as organist, soprano and choir director in 1881. She filled this role for several years.
The sanctuary was enlarged in 1893 through the south end of the building (called the "lecture room" and used for prayer meetings). This section apparently had a fireplace because many of the brick remains can be found under the floor of that section of the sanctuary. In fact, some of the old timbers underneath show signs of a previous fire.
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In 1887 a pastor's home was erected of yellow pine on the corner of Union and George Streets at a cost of $3,800. The church had a very difficult time paying for this building. Church officers took out a mortgage of $2,100, but nothing was paid on it for several years, and the interest mounted. Several of the church officers died and two banks in the city failed, making it impossible for the church to decrease the debt and, with the accrual of interest, it grew to be a large sum. Mrs. John R. Cook held the mortgage; in February 1899, she reduced the interest from 8% to 7%.
When the Rev. Hollingsworth became the pastor in 1898, he organized the ladies into "The Manse Circle" to help pay off the debt. The Deacons set aside the rentals from the manse as a sinking fund to liquidate the debt. A few years later it was finally all paid off.
In 1952, to make way for a new education building, the old manse was moved across Union Street to a lot acquired by the church at a cost of $4,000. In its new location it housed the church office, pastor's study, scout quarters, youth fellowship activities, and, occasionally, Sunday School classes.
Organ Installation and Other Improvements
In the fall of 1899 during Rev. Hollingsworth's pastorate, the organ room was built along with a choir loft and rostrum, and the first pipe organ was installed at a cost of $1,000. The women in "The Manse Circle" helped raise the money to pay for this purchase. After the debt was retired, the organization ceased to exist.
Over the years the nave has been changed three times since the 1899 alteration. The first organ was replaced by a used one purchased around 1947. In 1961 the current one was purchased new for $20,000. It was made by Hillgreen, Lane & Co. in Alliance, Ohio. The pipes were made by A. R. Schnapps and Sons near the Hillgreen facility. The organ is an opus 1232 with 2 manuals and 12 ranks. In the spring of 1996, the organ was repaired and solid-state electronics were installed.
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Earlier in 1899, electric fixtures were put in the sanctuary. Years later, in May 1916, the concealed lights were added by Mrs. Cornell, a New York resident who wintered in Brunswick, and Mrs. Cora Rowe. These were replaced with more modern fixtures in a late 20th century remodeling of the sanctuary.
It is amazing to read the accomplishments of those early years. It is a thrilling story that should serve as an inspiration and challenge to us today.
The original lighting was from gas lamps mounted on the walls and hung from the ceiling beams. The first electric fixtures were installed in 1899 with upgrades at least twice since then.
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Members of the Church in 1888
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Early Christian Outreach
In addition to contributing to benevolent causes of the church including Invalid Fund, Sustentation, Foreign and Domestic Missions, Education and Evangelistic Work, members gave much more. For some years they contributed $185 per year for an evangelist for the Savannah Presbytery. One Sunday night's offering each month for years was dedicated to "colored evangelistic work" in Savannah Presbytery.
The church established a Mission Sabbath School at the Seaman's Mission in the Seaman's Bethel Building located on the corner of Dartmouth and Oglethorpe Streets. (See profile of Halvor Iverson in Appendix, p. 16-A.) It began with six teachers, 44 scholars, and three officers. It was so successful that prayer services were held each Tuesday night. Later, the Methodist and Baptist Churches assisted with the project. Some years the financial reports show $1,000 or more per year funneled from our church to this cause.
Church leaders did not neglect spiritual or church disciplinary matters
Records indicate activities like these: committee reports on persons from
Mills who wished to unite with the church; a meeting of the Session in the
home of Mrs. Fitzgerald on Friday night at 7 o'clock to pray for the recovery of her
Session meeting in the home of Mr. and Mrs. _________ to counsel and pray
about their marital troubles. (Session marital counseling notices appear
The Session suspended two people from the church and excommunicated one person because they were guilty of violating the seventh commandment. The person excommunicated was "unrepentant". A lady was suspended from the sacraments of the church because of the way she treated her husband. These actions seem harsh to us today, but we should bear in mind that being a church member in those days was taken very seriously. One was to be set apart from the common herd. It was a sacred business, and our church fathers took their duties seriously. We find a gentle reminder from Presbytery that "one Session meeting had not been opened with a prayer. At least it was not recorded in the book".
The Session reported to the church that the "training of pupils in the scripture and the Catechism of the church has not been as we would like owing to the indifference in the home."
Sometimes community exigencies interfered with the business of the church. On November 13, 1876 is this notation: "The prevalence of yellow fever in Brunswick had prevented our meeting sooner to appoint a delegate to Presbytery".
Even in the early years the church inspired young men to enter the ministry. Carlton I. Stacy was the son of Caroline and T.G. Stacy, the first elder, and was also the first child to be baptized in the church. Called to the ministry, he was licensed in April 1902 by the Atlanta Presbytery at Jackson, Georgia. He did evangelistic work until he was ordained and installed as pastor of the Waynesboro, Georgia, church in November 1902 by the Augusta Presbytery. He served several churches in Georgia and Florida until his death in Elberton, Georgia, in 1945.
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In April 1890, the year's statistical report to Presbytery shows: Elders (9), Deacons (7), added on examination (16), on certificate (18), total communicants (152), number in Sunday School and Bible Class (160), total gifts ($3,331.10).
The church continued to grow, particularly the Sunday School. By 1912 there were 212 members. In that year a free will offering was taken for flood sufferers in the west and money was sent to the Red Cross for distribution to the Paraguayans.
In 1912, it appears that the church encountered financial difficulties. Church officials sent out letters to out-of-town members with quarterly financial statements and a request for contributions to help alleviate the situation.
Church Youth Groups
The Willing Workers
Beginning on May 17, 1887, the Willing Workers held a weekly meeting for prayer, praise, and scripture recitations. Members of the group testified that it was at these meetings that their godly leader, Mrs. Way, stressed the work of the Holy Spirit to them.
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Ada Cook was the daughter of the charter members John R. and Mary B. Cook. The identities of the other young ladies have been lost to time.
For the joy of human love,
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the Mission Band. The "Mada McDonald Cot" program was supported and the name kept over it long after the other names of the cots in the hospital had been removed.
The Brunswick church class, whose motto was "Young women at work for young women and all standing by the Bible and the Bible School", was organized through the efforts of Mrs. Lulu Stacy and Miss Elise McDonald in the church on December 1, 1909, with the following members present: Ms. Lulu Decker, Mrs. Albert Way, Misses Mary Clay, Edith Tait, Ruth Thomas, Ruby Wilson, Connie Young, and Eva and Sammie Middleton. Mr. A.M. Way, superintendent of the Sunday School, called the meeting to order and the following officers were elected:
The Chairmen of the committees were the following:
In keeping with the ecumenical nature of the organization, the class linked with the Baptist and Methodist Philatheas to form a city union, which cemented friendships with the other Christian workers.
The Philatheas met during the Sunday School period; business meetings were held monthly at different homes in the evenings. Dues were five cents a month to cover small expenses and were paid at the business meetings. A social period with refreshments always followed the business meetings. Several of the Sunday School teachers became members so as to participate in the social and philanthropic work of the class.
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The Philatheas supplied flowers for the church and a welcome committee to meet strangers at the door at services. At Christmas and Thanksgiving, baskets of fruit and flowers were carried to the sick and shut-ins. Clothing was given to needy children to enable them to attend Sunday School. They contributed twenty dollars annually to support the Seaman's Mission.
These young women were active and resourceful. During the church's financial difficulties in 1912, the Philatheas, wanting to help, asked the Session for permission to give an entertainment at the Pastime Theatre to raise money for the church. Permission was denied.
Great stress was put on studying the Bible and opening the hour with "sentence prayer." Members of the group felt the need to meet in a quieter spot than the sanctuary, where all classes assembled for Sunday School, so they petitioned the Session for the privilege of constructing a room adjoining the sanctuary. Fearing that such a space would detract from the appearance of the church, the Session was hesitant but finally approved the construction of the Annex. The Philatheas donated $200 from their bank account as a nucleus for the work.
The Session appointed a building committee composed of Rev. W.H. Chapman and elders C.A. Taylor, Sr. and C.S. Tait. On May 10, 1914, the congregation voted to build an addition to the church to cost approximately $3,000. Mr. J.H. Hawkins of Jacksonville was the architect.
During this time, the Philatheas were sorrowing over the death of their president, Miss Elise McDonald. As a memorial to this beloved member and worker, in April 1914 the class installed a marble tablet while the room was being built. (This tablet is now in the church history room.)
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The actual cost of the addition was $4,600. At a special prayer service in March 1918, the congregation was informed that all debts had been paid and the last note burned with appropriated ceremonies. Rev. W.H. Chapman presided, and Mrs. Cora Rowe, the only charter member of the church still alive, was given the honor of striking the match.
The Philatheas rendered many years of service to the Church, but in time most of the young ladies married, assumed home duties, and could not attend the monthly business meeting held at night, so the class withdrew from the state and national unions and merged into the Young Matrons Bible Class.
The Church in the 1920's and 1930's
By 1920 the membership had dropped to 160 and gifts were $6,252. Despite the decrease in number of communicants, the spirit was excellent. The leaders reported to Presbytery that "the fidelity of God's people in worshipping the Lord with their substance and in giving to the support and extension of the Gospel is splendid".
The number of members and gifts continued to drop for the next few years. In 1924, there was a deficit of $650. A committee was formed to try to raise the money by voluntary gifts and to borrow the rest from the bank. The Session refused to allow the women to sell cakes and other goods to raise money for the church.
In 1924 Rev. T.W. Simpson was called to be pastor of the church. Under his care the church had one of its great periods of expansion. He served until his tragic death in 1936, longer than any of the ministers who preceded him.
The Sunday School was organized into departments with graded lessons. A mission Sunday School was started on Blythe Island. A bus, driven by Mr. McDonald Fraser, brought children from remote districts to Sunday School. Several private cars were also used in this outreach program.
Also in 1924 Boy Scout Troop Number 2 was organized. (See Appendix, p. 11-A.)
The outside of the church was painted, the roof re-stained, and new carpets and pew covers were installed during this time.
By 1926 there were 208 members. Gifts that year amounted to $10,300 with a building fund of $2,165. The church adopted a budget for the first time and also paid a proportionate share for the permanent paving of George Street.
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Rev. Simpson was very interested in securing Coligny Beach (East Beach) as a conference ground for the Synod of Georgia. He asked permission to accept the executive management of Presbyterian Conference Grounds, Inc., and asked that the church hire an assistant pastor. The hiring was approved and in February 1928 the Rev. J.E. Wayland was called. However, the Great Depression was on its way and times were hard. This project fell through. Mr. Frank Stacy helped to pay the assistant pastor's salary with his personal funds until Rev. Wayland departed in January 1929.
Although these were the depression years, the church continued to grow and carry the load as best it could. The congregation made student loans to three students. They hosted Synod in 1928. They accepted the Presbytery’s funding requests for the first time. They instituted Roll Call Sunday. They took part in community preaching services at the County Casino on St. Simons Island during July and August each summer. Mr. Albert Way had been teaching a Sunday School class there for years during the months that his family moved over for the summer. Young people's work was also organized on the island.
Leaders in the African-American community organized the Brunswick Second Presbyterian Church in 1926. During the early years, our church provided various forms of assistance. Rev. and Mrs. McQueen, who came to First Presbyterian in 1936, helped with church services, Sunday School, and Bible studies. Three women in Mrs. McQueen's Bible study class purchased the land on the corner of Albany and I Streets for the church. In the 1940's Rev. and Mrs. Harnsberger provided vital assistance.
In 1931, First Presbyterian had 279 members who contributed $8,809, a significant reduction in per capita donations. In 1932, as the Great Depression continued its toll, the pastor's salary was cut from $2,700 to $2,400; it was some years before the church was able to raise it to the former level. The church building and addition were valued at $12,500, while the Manse and lot were assessed at $7,500. During this time of financial struggle, Mr. J.B. Wright, a non-member, bequeathed the church $500.
At the time of Rev. Simpson's death on May 13, 1936, the church had 306 members, eight elders, twelve deacons, a Sunday School enrollment of 299, 35 in family worship, and total gifts of $6,240.
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The Rev. Simpson Tragedy as Described by Mrs. Louisa Stacy
By 1938, the church had 342 members and total gifts that year amounted to $6,257, a further reduction in per capita contributions. Despite these difficult times, the Sunday School and young people's work continued to grow. The church established the daily Vacation Bible School in the summers with Miss Alma Harris as leader. The young people took charge of some of the Sunday evening services with that night's offering designated for their work. Our church joined with the Brunswick Ministerial association in promoting joint evening services during July and August.
During these years, the session continued to oversee the spiritual welfare of the church and community. We read: "A member of the church appeared before the Session and made a statement regarding his personal life and conduct. Upon motion the Session voted unanimously to assure this member of its confidence in him." And on December 21, 1930 is this notation: "It was brought to the attention of the Session that a moving picture was to be on at the Ritz Theatre on Sunday afternoon for the benefit of charity. After due consideration of the matter, the Session voted unanimously to direct the pastor to pronounce from the pulpit our disapproval of this desecration of the Sabbath Day."
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Teachers of Sunday School on March 31, 1934
General Superintendent, R.W. Harper
Teachers of the Departments
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The Church in the 1940's and 1950's
In 1940 equipment was installed to broadcast the church services. It was also the year that our pastor, J.W. McQueen, was called to active military as Chaplain. He was granted a year's leave of absence, but the War came and he was sent overseas. He resigned and did not return to the church.
Rev. T.L. Harnsberger, a missionary from china who had to leave that country because of the war, was called as Stated Supply and later as pastor. He remained as pastor until 1947. These were the war years and the church tried to accept her obligation to men and women in the service and to the enormous number of new citizens who came to Brunswick and the surrounding area to work in the shipyards and other war related industries located here. Before the war the population of Brunswick was 15,035; by 1950 the population was 17,964, an increase of almost 20%. War housing was built, but there was never enough; it was said that many people resorted to sleeping on park benches because they could not find lodging.
On October 2, 1943, a Baptismal Font was presented to the church by Mrs. Lula Decker, Mr. Goulding Stacy, and Mrs. Carrie Stacy Gould in memory of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Palmer G. Stacy.
St. Simons Island Presbyterian Church
It was in these war years that the Sunday School and prayer meetings were expanded on St. Simons Island. These activities led to the organization of the St. Simons Presbyterian Church in September 1945. Our church returned to the St. Simons church all monies received from the Sunday School there and also contributed $50 per month for a year after it was organized. Twenty-two members from our church became charter members of the St. Simons Presbyterian Church.
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Members of the First Presbyterian Church Who Served in World War II
*Killed in the War Effort
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In 1944, the old manse became a Sunday School Building, and the pastor was provided with another home. The church supported a Presbyterian Radio Hour and initiated a proselytizing campaign of personal evangelism by sending out officers in visitation teams. A young people's choir with Allene Hall as choir director was established.
By 1945, The men in service began to return home, and the church, recognizing her responsibility to this group, organized fellowship and study groups for these men and their families. Ed Lambright and Bill Way were the leaders.
In 1947, Rev. Harnsberger resigned due to ill health. The church had 342 members, a Sunday School enrollment of 240, and gifts amounting to $19,145, a welcome increase in contributions after the lean depression years.
Over the next ten years the church began to expand her influence to attract targeted interest groups: young adult classes, men's club, family suppers, special naval services, college groups, leadership training classes, and many other programs and activities were offered. We began to unite with other churches for Union Thanksgiving Services and Christmas programs and pageants. The Gideon Association was allowed to speak at the morning services and take up an offering at the door. New Testaments were shipped to Japan in response to an appeal from there.
In 1948, the church purchased a house at 607 Union Street, at a cost of $14,000, to be used as the manse. Dr. C. Logan Landrum and his family were the first to live in the new manse.
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In 1949, 25 years after the organization of Boy Scout Troop 2, the church organized a girl scout troop. A moving picture machine was purchased. A highlight of the year was a musical program provided by the Presbyterian College Glee Club.
In 1950, the church reported to Presbytery 557 members and 349 in Sunday School. Church leaders began in earnest to raise the money for the Education Building. The lot on the northeast corner of Union and George Streets had been purchased for $1,500 in 1942. The Wells Organization of Georgia, a professional firm, was hired to assist the committee in fund raising. It was decided that the Education Building would be constructed to honor and memorialize the men and women from the church who had served in the armed services in World War II. Seventy-one men and women served; of these, four lost their lives. (See complete list on P. 31.)
A Philadelphia architect, Mr. H.E. Wagner, was hired to design the building and blend it with the sanctuary. The building was erected in 1952 at a cost of approximately $120,000. This included a new heating system for the entire church, painting, restoring some old parts, new furnishings, new roof, and moving the old manse across Union Street. The church borrowed $30,000, but this debt was quickly paid off, and the building was dedicated on February 28, 1954.
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Jekyll Island Presbyterian Community Church
After the Jekyll Causeway was built in 1954, an effort began to organize a Presbyterian Church on Jekyll Island. First Presbyterian Church was eager to sponsor the church. Under the leadership of Rev. Robert McBath, who served as pastor from 1956-1961, plans were formulated in 1958. A student minister, laymen, and a retired minister held services on the island for a couple of years. In 1960 an agreement was reached to call a minister to serve half-time as assistant minister at 1st Presbyterian, and to live and devote half-time to the development of the Jekyll Church. Many members contributed to the building fund, and the old communion service was donated to them. Rev. David E. Boozer was hired and installed as pastor on May 14, 1961. There were 38 communicants on the roll by the end of the year.
The Church in the 1960's and 1970's
In 1960, the First Presbyterian Church had 544 members and total contributions were $36,690. The Vickers property, behind the church on Union Street, was purchased for $28,000; the debt was repaid by 1967.
In the 1960's the sanctuary was renovated and extended. The renovations cost approximately $103,000, and that figure included the $20,000 for the new pipe organ. The sanctuary was expanded in length, and the chancel was redesigned. Next to the chancel new choir and session rooms were added, and a large basement room was constructed underneath for youth and other fellowship activities. The new Hillgreen, Lane and Co. organ was installed. Also, new carpets and pew cushions were added, and central air conditioning was installed. The communion table and flower stands were donated by The Women of the Church.
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The civil rights laws enacted in the 1960's provided a challenge for church leaders. The Session, concerned about what to do if black people came to worship at the church, decided and voted that they would be turned away. The reasoning behind the Session's decision is unknown, but perhaps they were doubtful about the motivation of those who would suddenly want to attend an all-white church. However, the Deacons, who had the responsibility for ushering at the services at that time, voted that they would seat worshippers regardless of the color of their skin. It never got to be an issue because no person of color ever came to a service. As time has passed, time has healed.
At the end of 1966, the church had 495 members and total contributions of $52,190.
In 1967, Rev. Daniel Rees Thomas accepted the call to the pastorate of the church and remained our minister for the next 23 years. During his tenure, the church flourished. So far, he is the only minister to be named "Minister Emeritus." (See article in the Appendix.)
In 1968, the old manse on Union Street was sold for $7,500.
In 1970, the congregation voted to elect elders on a rotating basis whereby each would serve for a maximum of six years. The church had 434 members, and contributions were $48,277.
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The Presbyterian Women in 1971 rolled bandages and sent them, along with medications, warm clothes, and 34 new blankets, to South Korea. These women were known as the "Holy Rollers" and the "Holy Tearers." The church established a church improvement fund.
Altama Presbyterian Church - As early as 1960 Rev. McBath and the session felt the time had come to establish another Presbyterian Church in Brunswick. Fred Smith donated property on the Jesup Highway, but it was ultimately decided that a location near the newly established Brunswick Junior College would be a better location. The first service was held on February 4, 1968, at Gibson Hart Funeral Home on Altama Avenue. Seventy people attended, and Rev. Dan Thomas preached. The Presbytery called Rev. Scott Poole to be the organizing pastor beginning on August 10, 1968. On April 10, 1969, the Altama Presbyterian Church was authorized. The church was formally organized in 1971 with 97 charter members (seventy of them from First Church), and ground was broken for the building. The sanctuary was consecrated in November of that same year.
In 1972, our church's report to the Presbytery indicated a membership of 389 with total contributions of $55,378.
In 1976, a budget of $59,250 was accepted. The communion chalice and paten, given in memory of John E. Morris, were dedicated and used for the first time to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Outside organizations including Girl Scouts, Brownies, the Mental Health Association, and the Old Town Preservation Group were invited to use the Fellowship Hall for meetings. The Women of the Church held a family night supper monthly. Flowers were taken to homebound members, and Valentine's cookies were sent to the college students.
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The Church in the 1980's
In 1980, the sidewalks around the church were restored.
In 1982, the congregation voted to provide the pastor with a housing allowance instead of the manse formerly provided.
In 1983, a handicap ramp was installed in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In 1985, Mrs. Bernice Smith donated the ceramic nativity set. Rev. David McDonald, son of the church, preached when the new class of elders, his mother among them, was installed. Church membership was 312.
In 1990, the church steeple was repaired at a cost of $40,000.
Easter Sunday 1984: Kindergarten Class
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Easter Sunday 1984, Men's Sunday School Class
Although the church had benefited from women associate pastors and Christian Education directors, Rev. Dawn Mayes was the first woman minister to be called to be the lead pastor; she was installed in 2009.
Under Rev. Mayes's leadership, the congregation became better organized and energized, which resulted in the following:
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To reflect enhanced commitment to community outreach, in 2011, the congregation adopted this vision/mission statement: A Historic Church with a Caring Heart, Worshipping God, Working for Good, Welcoming All". This replaced the statement that first appeared on the church Order of Worship in the 1930's and was later used on many of the church's publications: "The Little Church with the Big Heart."
Inspired by the motto, volunteers created and furnished a Bridal Room upstairs in the Education Building. A History Room was also created so that all the documents and artifacts reflecting the rich past of the church could be easily accessible.
The Session recognized the
importance of being proactive in the maintenance of facilities and adjusting
them to meet the changing needs of the church, her members, and the
community. The Leadership Team was encouraged to place funds in the
Rev. Mayes left the church in 2014. Rev. Sam Henderson served as Interim Pastor through 2015.
In 2016 Rev. Chris Noyes accepted the call of the congregation and will lead the church toward a "new beginning" as we celebrate the Sesquicentennial of our Founding in 2017 and move forward in achieving the Lord's work.
Spirit of the living God,
Daniel Iverson, 1926
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A History of Caring
Present Vision: "A Historic Church with a Caring Heart"
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Ministers of the First Presbyterian Church
--- Appendix 1-A ---
--- Appendix 2-A ---
--- Appendix 3-A ---
--- Appendix 4-A ---
"And I will give you shepherds after
my own heart, who shall
--- Appendix 5-A ---
Dr. Daniel Rees Thomas
Dan Thomas was called to First Presbyterian Church, Brunswick, in 1967, and was pastor until his retirement in 1990, serving longer than any other minister. During those 23 years, he was the spiritual leader of our congregation and also ministered to numerous others in need of wise council. Supported by his wife Doris, he was the epitome of the pastor as good shepherd. Excerpts from his obituary and from documents in support of his appointment to emeritus status follow.
He was born on February 28, 1927, in Knoxville, TN, and spent his childhood in Tapioca, NC, and Calderwood and Knoxville, TN. He graduated from Knoxville High School and entered the University of Tennessee in 1942 at the age of 15. At UT, he played on the varsity basketball team and served as president of his Sigma Nu fraternity chapter, the university YMCA and Westminster Fellowship. He also was a member of the United States volleyball team that toured Europe in 1948 to encourage inclusion of the sport in the Olympics. He received his bachelor of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1950 and his doctor of ministry degree from McCormick Seminary in 1985.
Dan served as Presbyterian pastor for campus ministry at the University of Kentucky from 1950 to 1952. He next served as pastor of Banner Elk Presbyterian Church in Banner Elk, NC, and several nearby chapels until 1964. He was a Bible instructor at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk from 1958-1961. In 1964, he became assistant pastor and minister of education at Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Augusta, GA. He was pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Brunswick, GA, from 1967 until 1990, when he retired, and he was honored as pastor emeritus of that church in 2010. In 1991, he became pastor of visitation at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, FL, a ministry in which he served until he retired again in 2011.
During his career in the ministry, Dan served in various roles with Presbyteries, Synods, the Presbyterian General Assembly, and ministerial associations. Dan also was involved in civic activities, including service with the Mental Health Association of Glynn County, the Mental Health Association of Georgia, the Glynn County Chapter of the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Hospice of the Golden Isles, and the Exchange Club of Brunswick.
For over twelve years he was a “Motel Chaplain,” where he often answered phone calls from distressed travelers. Runaways, those with marital conflicts, mental illness, in trouble with the law, etc., were calmed by his deep strong voice and soft spoken yet spiritually confident manner.
As pastor of First Presbyterian he always found time to visit those who were in need of care. He gave freely of himself and stood tall as a community leader. He was a Presbyterian Minister for 61 years.
He and his wife, Doris Turner Thomas, had three children: Andrew, Mary, and Daniel.
--- Appendix 6-A ---
The Reverend Dr. Thomas Lyt Harnsberger
Thomas Lyt Harnsberger was born in Hot Springs, VA, on April 14, 1883. As a young man, he attended Hampton Sidney College from 1901 to 1905. After graduating, he became a farmer and a merchant but soon left that career path behind and enrolled in Union Theological Seminary. Upon completion of his course of study, he was ordained in Lexington Presbytery in the Synod of Virginia in 1911. In 1912, he married Lanie Gilliepie, and they became missionaries to China. In that country, they lived briefly with the Syndenstrickers, also missionaries and the parents of Pearl S. Buck, author of The Good Earth and numerous other novels and writings for which she won a Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Before her death in 1917, Lanie and Lyt had one child, Vivian, who later married the novelist C.W. Grafton, also the child of a Presbyterian minister. One of their two daughters, Sue Grafton, is now a famous author in her own right. In 2014, she visited Brunswick and First Presbyterian Church, where the sanctuary is much the same as it was when her grandfather preached there.
In 1919 Lyt married Agnes Woods, who was living with her parents, also missionaries, in Tsing Kiang Pu, China. Lyt and Agnes returned to the United States where he became pastor of Howard Memorial Church in Tarboro, NC, from 1927- 1929. Soon after, they returned to mission work in China. In 1931, they were living near the Gayou area where the Great China Flood occurred. It was the most widespread and deadliest flood in the world in the 20th century. Over 1,000 dykes broke, flooding over 70,000 square miles. Some 3.7 million people were killed and huge farming areas were destroyed.
Lyt was determined that the dykes must be rebuilt. He left his mission assignment and went to Shanghai to raise funds for the project. World famous pilot Charles Lindbergh assisted and made numerous photographic flights to help publicize the desperate need. Lyt enlisted a retired Chinese military general who had the knowledge necessary to supervise the construction of the new dykes. Funds were raised, and Lyt managed the huge project involving 15 to 20 thousand laborers who built a dyke that was 32 feet high, 100 feet wide, and many miles long in one year. The project, along the Grand Canal, was completed on time and 10% under cost, a feat unheard of today.
After the dyke was completed, Lyt and Agnes moved their mission ministry to Yengcheng, where they stayed until the outbreak of World War II. They were forced to evacuate in 1941. In 1942, they moved to Brunswick where Lyt replaced Rev. J.W. McQueen, who had been called to active duty as a chaplain. Rev. Harnsberger played a major role in the establishment of the St. Simons Presbyterian Church. Both Rev. and Mrs. Harnsberger assisted and supported the establishment of the Second Presbyterian Church of Brunswick.
The congregation was saddened when the Harnsbergers left Brunswick and First Presbyterian in 1947. They moved to Jacksonville, FL, where he became visitation minister at the Riverside Church. From 1948 - 1952 he was a stated supply to the First Church of Statesboro, GA. He retired in 1952 and died on November 28, 1970.
--- Appendix 7-A ---
Church Members Who Became Ministers and Lay Leaders
FRASER, Powell Alexander: Born 30 May 1918, Brunswick; died 23 October 2005, Hilton Head, Beaufort, South, Carolina; son of Daniel McDonald Fraser and Mary Eloise Bunkley; married Annie Ellen McCall 11 January 1947, Laurens County, South Carolina; he grew up in the First Presbyterian Church. Obtained his BS from Presbyterian College in 1941. Became the President of King College in Bristol, TN. He was once voted the National Outstanding Presbyterian Layman of the Year. He also had an outstanding Army career.
GLADDING, Russell: Son of Russell Burton Gladding & Gertrude Barnes Templeman. Attended GA State Univ. Graduate of Savannah Presbytery School of the Laity 2008. Commissioned Elder in Pastoral Service 2011. Executive Presbyter of Savannah Presbytery 2012 .
GOLDEN, Edward Smith, Jr.: Born 7 July 1925, Asheville, Buncombe, North Carolina; died 11 April 1995, West New Jersey Presbytery, Lebanon, PA; son of Edward Smith Golden & Jennie Irvin; married Sally Townes. Ordained 9 July 1951, Transylvania Presbytery. From 1981-1994 he was at Wells Memorial Presbyterian Church in Avalon, NJ.
GRACE, Danny: Son of Robert W. Grace & Jean Krauss. Attended Coastal GA College. Graduate of Savannah Presbytery School of the Laity, 1990. Commissioned as Lay Preacher in 1995 & Lay Pastor for Darien Presbyterian Church in 2002.
IVERSON, Daniel: Born 26 September 1890, Georgia; died 3 January 1977, Hendersonville, Henderson, North Carolina; son of Norwegian immigrants Halvor Iverson & Elvina Karoline Rude; married Vivian Fraser Thorpe in 1915. Attended the University of Georgia, Moody Bible Institute (Chicago), Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur, GA), and the University of South Carolina. Ordained a Presbyterian minister. (See more on p. 16-A).
LANDRUM, Charles Logan, Jr.: Born 5 March 1930, Kenly, Johnston, North Carolina; died 4 April 2014; son of Dr. Charles Logan Landrum & Marguerite Boozer; married Virginia Ruth Vann. He earned the A.B. from Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), attended Richmond Seminary for B.D., and was ordained in Savannah Presbytery on 20 June 1954. He was called to Citronelle, AL.
LAW, John Harden: Born 18 June 1934, Georgia; son of Louis Fleming Law & Lucille Norman. He attended King College, graduating in 1956. Earned Masters in Theology, 1966, from Columbia Seminary. Ordained in 1967. Served churches in LaGrange, West Point, Dalton, St. Simons Island, Brunswick and Aiken, SC. Awarded honorary doctorate from Presbyterian College. Interim Executive Presbyter, Savannah Presbytery 1996-1999.
McDONALD, David Lynwood: Born on 2 August 1946; son of William Clarence McDonald & Bertha Jackson Rose. Attended Coastal GA & Presbyterian Colleges. Earned M.Div. from Columbia Seminary in 1971 and DM from McCormick University, Chicago. Ordained Todd Mem. Pres. Ch., Laurens, SC 1971.
SCARLETT, Francis Muir IV: Son of Judge Francis Muir Scarlett, Jr. and Mary Louisa Morgan. Attended Washington & Lee College and the University of Georgia for the A.B., Columbia Seminary for B.D. Ordained June 7, 1953, Greenwood, MS, & was at Fort Valley, GA, Presbyterian Church in 1960.
STACY, Carlton Ingersoll: Born 13 July 1866, Brunswick; died 17 July 1945, Elberton, Elbert, Georgia; son of the church's first Elder, Thomas Goulding Stacy & Caroline America Palmer. First person baptized in First Presbyterian Church. Licensed April 1902 in Atlanta Presbytery in Jackson, GA. Finished a book started by his uncle James Stacy, "A History of the Presbyterian Church of Georgia."
STEELE, Robert: Came to Brunswick as a piano player in 1885. Contracted tuberculosis and was cared for by some of the church women. Became the church organist and choir director and worked with the boys' Sunday School. Licensed into the Savannah Presbytery in January 1889, he traveled with a portable organ and preached.
--- Appendix 8-A ---
Early Elders and Year Each Was Installed
--- Appendix 9-A ---
Early Deacons and Year Each Was Installed
--- Appendix 10-A ---
Church Related Scouting Activities
--- Appendix 11-A ---
--- Appendix 12-A ---
--- Appendix 13-A ---
--- Appendix 14-A ---
--- Appendix 15-A ---
--- Appendix 16-A ---
--- Appendix 17-A ---
--- Appendix 18-A ---
--- Appendix 19-A ---
--- Appendix 20-A ---
--- Appendix 21-A ---
--- Appendix 22-A ---
--- Appendix 23-A ---
--- Appendix 24-A ---
--- Appendix 25-A ---
--- Appendix 26-A ---
--- Appendix 27-A ---
Starred items are located in the History Room or in the large secure file found in the church office area of the First Presbyterian Church.
Burroughs, W.B. Reminiscences about Brunswick before and after the Civil War. In Hildreth Taylor, Centennial Observance, 1967. * Originally printed in The Brunswick News, 1915. (Issue not found.)
Cate, Margaret Davis. Sketches of Coastal Georgia: Midway, Sunbury, Darien, Brunswick, St. Marys, Brunswick, GA: Glover Brothers, Inc., 1931
Childs, Curtis W. History of Brunswick, Georgia, Master's Thesis, Auburn University, 1960. Section on First Presbyterian Church.*
Fendig, Bruce. Brunswick, the Ocean Port of Georgia. Darien, GA: Darien Printing & Graphics, 1998
First Presbyterian Church Session and Women of the Church minutes and other records located in the heavy church safe. *
Garis, Rev. Greg A. The History of the First Presbyterian Church of Brunswick, GA. Printed about 1997 for the 130th anniversary of the church. *
Graham, Abby Fuller (daughter of Warren A. Fuller, a charter member of the church). Old Mill Days, St. Simons Mills, Georgia, 1874-1908*
Groover, Robert Long. Sweet Land of Liberty, A History of Liberty County Georgia, Roswell, GA: W.H. Wolfe Associates, 1987, pp. 52-53.
Hazzard, William W. St. Simons Island, Georgia/ Brunswick and Vicinity: Description And History, 1825, Virginia Steele Wood, Ed. Oak Hill Press, Belmont Mass. 1974
Historical records of the Women of the Church. Contains information covering the early years of the church and includes historian reports by Mrs. Louisa Stacy (2nd wife of T.G. Stacy), Mrs. B.R. Young, Mrs. Ida MacGregor.*
Mayes, Rev. Dawn. The History of the First Presbyterian Church of Brunswick, GA, Revised. 2009*
______. The Historic Church, sermon delivered on August 28, 2011*
Mills, Frederick V. "Charles Wesley (1707-1788)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. 30 March 2016. Web. 05 August 2016
Stacy, James, D.D. A History of the Presbyterian Church in Georgia. First published before 1923. Reprinted and available on Amazon Kindle and in hard copy through various publishers.*
Taylor, Hildreth (Mrs. Clyde Taylor, Jr.). Centennial Observance, 1967. The notes she made during her research for the history are also available.*
______. The Story of Structure, One Hundred Years in its Building*
We Build a Church to the Glory of God, a document compiled in the 1950s to help in the fundraising for the education building.*
White, Rev. George. Historical Collections of Georgia, Pudney & Russell, New York, 1854, pp. 514-516*
Websites such as The New Georgia Encyclopedia and GlynnGen.com, Coastal Georgia Genealogy & History (Amy Hedrick, webmaster) also contain much valuable historical information.
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