Brief History of Columbus FirstUnited Methodist Church
Compiled by: Peggy Cantelou, Church Historian
FUMC, Columbus, Mississippi, has a unique historical background. Organized in 1823, it is the oldest church organization in Columbus. From 1821-1831, Methodists and other denominations used the historic Franklin Academy, a 30 x 40 foot log cabin, as a place of worship.
First Methodist has owned three church buildings. In 1831, a frame structure, the 1st church building in Columbus, was erected at the corner of 2nd avenue north and 8th street. In 1844, a brick church was built in the center of the same block. The present building was begun in 1860 for a projected cost of $30,000 when the church had a membership of 334 and was finished in 1866.
The Civil War interrupted completion of the facility. During this period portions of the tin roof were removed to make canteens for the confederate soldiers and the building was used as a hospital for the sick and wounded and as a place for the manufacture of ammunition.
Due to the impact of the Civil War and reconstruction, the church faced enormous problems in the 1860’s and 70’s. Minutes from the Board of Trustees indicate great concern over financial matters and lack of Sunday School teachers because so many had gone to serve in the army. As a means of raising funds, a system of pew rental was instigated in 1871 and continued until the church debt was paid off in 1877.
During this same period of time (1870’s) the Columbus Station was transferred from the Alabama Conference to the newly organized North Mississippi Conference.
Several revivals were held in the later part of the nineteenth century with the most famous evangelist being Sam P. Jones. Within six weeks there were 105 additions to the church.
The last quarter of the nineteenth century and first decade of the twentieth brought little change to church facilities with the exception of the addition of a pipe organ to the Sanctuary in 1878. The pipes for this organ remain in place serving as a focal point of the Sanctuary, though a new custom built organ was installed in 1960.
An addition to the original church, designed for Sunday School classes was built in 1912 and now houses the Chapel, kitchen, and choir rooms. The next addition came with the building of the Caffey Educational Building in 1950. This two-story facility more than doubled the existing space for the educational program of the church, providing space for all children and youth Sunday School classes as well as some adult classes.
In 1953 it became evident that extensive repairs were needed to be made on the original building. A two-year renovation program was undertaken which included providing a new roof, new Sanctuary floor and ceiling, and new steeple as well as making structural repairs. During this period worship services were held in the auditorium of Franklin Academy.
The present structure is of unusual architecture in that the main Sanctuary is on the second floor and reached by twin staircases arising from a foyer floored with the original ceramic tile. Slave galleries, though never used due to the Emancipation Proclamation, extend along the sides and back of the sanctuary. The exterior of the building exhibits an imposing façade of old handmade brick with a towering spire that is a local landmark.
The $1 million Marguerite Tennille Family Life Center was completed in 1988 featuring a large multi-purpose room. 2001 saw the completion of the Fletcher-Jones Educational Building. Offering a beautiful Artz Fellowship Hall in addition to spacious classrooms for children and youth as well as kitchen facilities. The building also houses the Early Learning Center with state – of –the – art classroom facilities and playground. FUMC continues to grow and is dedicated to meeting the needs of the twenty-first century, yet remembering its early nineteenth century beginnings!