Rising Fawn United Methodist Church

Note: The following article is taken from the History of Dade County, Georgia, Volume II. The articles for this book were written by volunteers, this one probably a church member, but he or she is not identified. The article was written sometime in the late 1990s and so does not include more recent history. The Rising Fawn United Methodist Church still meets either in person, or virtually, during this time.--Linda Wilson

In 1845, Methodists in slave-holding states withdrew from the main body of Methodism and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In this year M.E.C., South records that Freeman F. Reynolds was appointed pastor of the “Dade Mission,” an outpost of the Georgia Conference.

History shows that whites had been in the area and intermarried with the Cherokees many years prior to 1845. Adhering to the practice started by Francis Asbury, the first American bishop, the Circuit Riders were surely here before 1845 also. For example, the Wills Town Mission at Fort Payne was established in 1823 by Rev. Ard Hoyt and Hoyt’s son-in-law and daughter, William and Flora Hoyt Chamberlain, all from the Brainerd Mission. M.E.C., South records the Dade Mission transferred to Holston Conference in 1858 and the Rising Fawn congregation, a member of the mission, became the southernmost church in that conference.

Where the congregation met for the next 20 years cannot be determined but J. A. Darr, a former junior minister and editor of the newly created Dade Co. Gazette at Rising Fawn, chastised the church with these words in an editorial in January 1879. “The cracks of this church (so called) are large enough to throw a spaniel through by the tail, a resort for snakes, bats and owls….a place not fit for a good horse to stand in.”

In that year Solomon Cross donated property on the east side of Valley Road (US 11) at Steele Road for a church. In 1879, in conjunction with the Masons, a three-story brick building was built. The school was on the ground floor, second floor, the sanctuary, and third floor, the Masonic Hall.

At this time Rising Fawn enjoyed a vibrant economy because of the furnace and the Rising Fawn Circuit was one of the largest in the Chattanooga District. The circuit in 1894 had one of the first and the largest Epworth Leagues in the District. One minister, J. A. Bilderbeck, Junior Minister in 1873, returned as the Senior Minister in (1911-12). Three ministers, J. A. “Joe” Henderson (1916-21) George E. Erwin (1935-40), T, N. Orr (1944-49), tied for most years on the circuit.

Tragedy struck on February 17, 1925, when the church was consumed by fire. A meal was being prepared by the Masons on a gas stove when a container of fuel ignited. In moments the entire building was in flames, which resulted in a total loss.

Soon after the fire a dedicated member, S. W. Woodin, donated property on which the present church stands. The Woodin family had recently moved from Birmingham, and purchased and remodeled the Solomon Cross house.

The current Rising Fawn UMC

During construction of the new church the congregation met in the school. The Building Committee consisted of S. W. Woodin, chairman, members J. L. White, E. M. Allison, L. M. Allison, Charles W. Chadwick, and Asa A. McMahan. An outpouring of financial support from surrounding communities aided greatly in the construction.

The minister at that time was W. L. Tate, whose daughter, Olivene, met and married Raymond Morrison and remained in the county.

The inside brick was from a smokestack of the old furnace. The outside brick facing was new. The white columns were purchased and brought from Birmingham at $100 each. The stained glass windows were memorials to family members of the church.

The church was dedicated in 1927 and was appraised at $5,000. Five hundred dollars indebtedness remained on the building but was retired the next year.

Through the years church has remained a vital part of the area. The number of churches on the circuit has varied over the years from a high of 14 in 1882 to two in 1999, Rising Fawn and Byrd’s Chapel.

The 80-plus ministers over the last 154 years cover a broad spectrum of dedicated servants. Many in the last 50 years have been student pastors, who after serving here have moved on to more responsible positions in the church. Two, J. Monroe (Jimmy) Ball and Richard Looney, have been district superintendents. Looney retired as bishop of the South Georgia Conference in 1996.

With the reunification of the Northern and Southern Methodist in the 1940s and the merger of the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren in 1968, the denomination became the “United Methodist Church”.

The removal of the old parsonage for additional parking was part of a bold project that was undertaken in the mid ’80fs. At that time, five classrooms, nursery, fellowship hall, kitchen and two restrooms were added to the original building. With the aid of volunteer labor from the congregation, the cost of the project was held under $85,000.

The church membership, beginning the third millennium, as in the past, consists of families faithful to spiritual values and sensitive to the needs of the community.

The congregation, under the leadership of the present pastor, Sullins Lamb, retired, and church officers remains enthusiastic about future service to God and earthly responsibilities.

You can contact local historian Linda Hawkins Wilson at lanew@tvn.net.

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