Early Barnwell, South Carolina area Methodists held services in the Masonic Lodge building until it was burned by Civil War General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick's troops in 1865 during the United States Civil War. After the loss of the Lodge building they held services in the Presbyterian Church building. In 1885, the evangelist Rev. Charles D. Tillman, a Methodist pastor, son of Rev. James L. Tillman, and an accomplished church musician, was conducting services in a tent for all denominations. Rev. Tillman encouraged the Methodists to organize and build a church of their own.
In 1886 funds were borrowed from the Methodist Church Extension Board for the erection of a church building.
The lot on which the church building stands was donated by Mr. Charlie Peckman, a German Lutheran and public-spirited citizen of the village. ( In Book 5 E page 512, Clerk of Court's Office, may be read the Conveyance of Trust dated February 17, 1885 and witnessed by Geo. H. Bates and J. W. Woodward. Trustees of the church were G. 0. Riley, M. H. Rodt, N. F. Kirkland Jr., J. F. Lawton and J. 0. Patterson.)
The Barnwell Methodist Church was organized in 1885, with 13 charter members as follows:
Mr. George H. Bates, Mr. J. 0. Patterson, Mrs. J. 0. Patterson, Mr. John Owens, Mr. Charlie Owens, Mrs. Charlie Owens, Mrs. Wm. McNab, Miss Maggie Holman, (Mrs. N. G. W. Walker}, Mrs. Jacob Holman, Capt. Owen Riley, Mrs. Owen Riley, Mrs. Emma Halford, Mrs. Josiah Brabham.
It is said that the building, completed in 1887, was built in the shape of a “T” in honor of Rev. Tillman. This is also somewhat in keeping with the design of English church sanctuaries going back many years, representing the Cross.
The Methodist Church was completed in 1887. The church was built in the shape of a "T", in honor of Charlie Tillman, an evangelist conducting services in a tent for all denominations, though himself a Methodist. He encouraged the thirteen Methodist men and women of the village to organize a church of their denomination.
The east and west wings and pulpit section of the church formed the horizontal bar of the "T", while the center aisle, flanked on each side by pews, formed the vertical line of the "T". The bell tower and a tall, graceful spire were in keeping with the church architecture of the day. (The sweet toned bell was used to call worshipers to service, to announce any disaster, or to welcome good tidings that might concern the community.) The windows were fitted with folding shutters, opening on the inside, and the window panes were painted white to simulate frosted glass. Separating the pulpit section from the body of the church was an altar rail fashioned in good proportion and design from heart pine. The west wing, having a door entering upon the church grounds, was used by the choir - and late comers who wished to slip in unobserved. The east wing was needed only on special occasions, when a larger congregation than usual attended. The furnishings of the first church were simple, consisting of handmade pine pews and pulpit, and wicker baskets for collections.
In the early church there was no musical instrument. In later years, a reed organ was bought. A red wool carpet, a pulpit bench, and silver baptismal bowl were later additions.
The original structure was a wood frame building, which was renovated in 1928, to include extensions and removal of the bell tower, which was replaced by two turrets. The building was then veneered with brick.
In the late 1930’s, Mr. William James Lemon donated a portion of land he had purchased, near the Church of the Holy Apostles, to serve as a cemetery for the present Barnwell United Methodist Church.
In 1928, remodeling of the old wooden structure was begun. Contributions and funds raisers, as well as funds loaned by the Methodist Extension Board, made the renovation possible. An extension on the back made room for a kitchen and dining room in the basement, and for the educational department on the first and second floors. The front was extended toward the street, and the two original ante-rooms were enlarged.
Balconies in the rear and over the two wings were added. The spire and bell tower were eliminated and replaced by two turrets. The entire building was then brick-veneered. Amber colored windows replaced the shutters and frosted window panes.
A memorial pipe organ was installed and a choir loft provided. The organ was made
possible by individuals who made contributions ($100.00 each) in memory of or in honor of others who were or had been members of the Barnwell Methodist Church. A piano also was added to the sanctuary, and the reed organ given to the Presbyterian Church.
The pine altar rail and pulpit were replaced by one of heavy oak. The Communion Table was added as a gift to the church.
Until the late 1930's our church was without a cemetery. Mr. W. J. Lemon purchased 3.41 acres adjoining the Episcopal Church. A small portion of the land was sold to the Church of the Holy Apostles, as that church needed it for a building and some additional lots. During later years, land for our cemetery expanded by the generous gifts of Dr. Philip Claytor.
In 1956, during the pastorate of the Rev. Bryan Crenshaw, an educational unit was built at the rear of the church building. The building was named Crenshaw Hall in honor of Pastor Crenshaw.
"The Davis - Wannamaker Music Building" in honor of Virginia Kyser Davis and Carrie Holman Wannamaker was built to house the church's choir practice. Later the building was given to the Boy Scouts for their use.
The official board acquired three old buildings located by the church on Main Street. Two were torn down, and the Hiers Building was remodeled by church members for the activity and youth building. The C. G. Fuller Foundation contribution of $30,000 covered architectural and landscaping fees for the outside remodeling of the youth building keeping with the church's Gothic architecture and for the beautification of the area between the acquired building and the church. Members of the church donated money and worked on the inside of the activity/youth building to put up new walls and to install new carpet and the new air conditioning and heating unit. The plan was substantially completed in 1983.
A two-story addition was added to the back of the church for the purpose of housing the choir, storage room, extra Sunday School rooms, Secretary's Office and Pastor's Office and to connect to the Crenshaw Hall by an inside stairwell.
Stained Glass Windows were placed to the Glory of God to enhance worship and continue to bring pleasure and joy to generations yet unborn. In all their beauty, they silently and unceasingly proclaim the gospel message. The Dedication of the Stained Glass Windows by Rev. Hilton Johnson was held at 3:00 PM on September 11, 1988. A plaque with names inscribed of those who contributed to this project is located on the wall in the sanctuary.
The needlepoint Pulpit Parament, Bible Bookmark and Kneeling Cushions were added to beautify the sanctuary. The needlepoint project was begun May 2000 and completed November 2003. Embroidered linen is sewn on the back of each piece of needlepoint to memorialize or honor loved ones as well as names of the needle pointers.
The pipe organ was rebuilt by Proscia Organ Builders. The rebuilding took several years to complete and the Dedication Service was held in 2005. Later, there were revisions to the choir loft and new Choir Chairs were added.
Our church has a glorious heritage! We face the future with confidence and seek to serve the present age as The Body of Christ.