Submitted by Nelle Price Epps
Ray’s United Methodist Church
by Albert Ashew
Ray’s United Methodist Church has a rich and full history. Although somewhat obscure in its recorded documentation, Ray’s Church is located at 1521 Ray’s Church Road, about one mile south of Ga. Highway 53, at the edge of the Eastville Community. It is in the Athens-Elberton District of North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Ray’s and Johnson Churches make up the Johnson-Ray’s United Methodist Charge.
Earliest records show Ray’s as being on the Watkinsville Circuit. The History of Watkinsville United Methodist Church and Parsonage, compiled by Mrs. Mildred Bishop (1978) tells some of the story of Ray’s Church. The list of pastors of the Watkinsville Circuit would also be Ray’s pastors until 1963, when the Johnson-Ray’s Charge was created.
It is believed that Ray’s Chapel was a place of worship in 1829 or before, for there is a gravestone of that date (D. T. Houze-1829).
As early as 1822, there was a junior preacher on the Appalachee Circuit by the name of Andrew Ray. In 1828, there was an Anderson Ray (may have been the same person) as preacher in charge and again in 1848. Whether this pastor gave the land for a church, or organized the congregation, or simply was held in high esteem by the people is not known. No original deed record can be found in Clarke County Court House. Mrs. Mary Whitehead Hilsman told this writer that her grandfather, Richard Malone Whitehead, was one of the original trustees.
There must have been a meeting house by 1842, for in the Clarke County records (Deed Book “S”, page 13) Malinda Cagle deeded to the trustees of Ray’s meeting house a pathway to the spring. Evidently there had been a meetinghouse there for some time. According to information given by Frank Parrish in the Watkinsville UMC history, the second building was blown away by a cyclone in 1902. Although there was much destruction, the communion table seemed not to have been moved. The church was rebuilt in 1904. According the Quarterly Conference records of March 30, 1850, Ray’s was one of 21 churches and two missions on the Watkinsville Circuit.
In 1955, The Watkinsville Methodist Circuit was composed of Watkinsville, Johnson, and Ray’s churches. In the annual report of the Official Board, Frank Parrish, Chairman, reported that two revivals had been held. One of these was regarded as “one of the best in resent years, of high spiritual quality and as great turning to God.” Mr. Parrish stated that a Lord’s Acre project had been organized to help in the construction of the Sunday School Annex and a Methodist Men’s Club had been organized. That year D. H. Malcom was Sunday School Superintendent, Mrs. Helen Parrish was president of the Women’s Society of Christian Service, and Sylvia Aycock reported activities of the Youth Fellowship. Charles H. Duffey was pastor at that time. There were 137 members on the roll.
When Ray’s and Johnson churches became a separate pastoral charge in 1963, there was a need for a parsonage. Ray’s trustees received an acre of land from D. H. Malcom on July 25, 1962 to be used as a site for a parsonage for the two churches. The parsonage is located on Malcom Bridge Road in the Eastville community.
In 1987, the following members were recognized as having been members of Ray’s Church for forty years or longer, listed in order of reception into the church: Mrs. Beatrice Barnett Aycock, Mrs. Mary Whitehead Hilsman, Mrs. Sarah Malcom Freeman, Mrs.Oliwee Cobb, Mrs Wilda Whitehead Dillard, Weymon Dillard, Mrs. Floy Wheeler Aycock, John G. Cobb, Jr., Mrs. Mary Hancock Mahle, Miss Carrie Bell Mahle, Mrs. Jewell Mahle DeLay, Ray DeLay, Don Michael, Walter Harris Malcom, John C. Christopher, Mrs Lillian Christopher, and Mrs. Rachel Christopher Ward.
At the present time (1989) Ray’s UMC has a membership of 75, worship services each Sunday, Sunday school, youth fellowship, and United Methodist Women.