Transcribed by Nelle Price Epps
A History of Watkinsville First Christian Church
By Martha Harris
The building in which the members of First Christian Church now worship was built in 1861 by William Murray and his laborers as the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Chestnut hand-sewn sills are still exposed in the basement and serve as evidence of age. The pillars of the church contain hand-molded bricks. During the War Between the States, a flank of General Sherman’s army, lead by Major General Stoneman, bivouacked in Watkinsville, and it is legend that horses of the cavalry unit were stabled in the church building. Court was held here temporarily after the 1887 courthouse fire.
A new Methodist Church was built across the street, and the old building was for sale. To prevent its being sold as a dancehall or whiskey store, Bedford Langford and W. Joe Elder bought the building in May, 1897, from A. W. Ashford for $500. The buyers decided to establish a new Christian Church, and Y. H. Daniel, W. Joe Elder, W. B. Langford, D. A. Osborn, and H. M. Robinson were selected as trustees of the church. A. W. Ashford granted unto this group by a warranty deed the church building on June 9, 1897. The trustees and their families had been attending Antioch and Union Christian Churches. Rev. John H. Wood of Winder, Georgia, was called as the first minister for fourth-time service, fourth Sunday.
Rev. Wood held the first revival, and twenty men and their families united with the church. Among these were Dr. W. H. Hodges, Courtney Elder, Green Avery, Clarence Hutchings, H. C. Durham, J. M. Mayne and Will M. Nicholson. There were fifty families listed as charter members. Many direct descendents of the trustees and charter members are on the church roll today.
The first Christian Endeavor in the state was organized by Mable Langford, daughter of Bedford Langford. The first Christian Endeavor Convention in the state was held in Watkinsville Christian Church on April 5-6, 1913. Miss Langford traveled the state organizing C. E. groups. The women’s organizations have always been very active. The first organization was called “The Ladies Aid Society,” which later became “The Missionary Society.” In 1950 the “Christian Women’s Fellowship” was established. This fellowship embraces all interests of the church, and it includes all women in Christian living and service.
A licensing service was held in the church May 16, 1957. Dr. Charles F. Schwab, Decatur, Georgia, delivered the sermon; Dr. Barton A. Dowdy, Dean of the Christian College of Georgia, granted licenses in Christian Ministry to Lamar Crawley, A. K. Head, Morris Wood, and Paul Wood. Dr. Morris Wood is now Dean of the Christian College in Georgia. The church has licensed two of is own young men: Andrew Crowley and James F. Harris, Jr. Both Young men served churches in Georgia. Andy Crowley continues in an important ministry in Indianapolis, and Jim Harris is a professor at the College of William and Mary.
The membership voted to call a full-time pastor in 1958 and Rev. A. K. Head was the first full-time minister. The church, adopting a new constitution, became the First Christian Church, Inc., of Watkinsville, Georgia, affiliated with the brotherhood known as the Disciples of Christ and the Christian Church in Georgia. The church would be a congregationally governed body working to promote the work of the church in the spirit and under the guidance of Christ. The purpose of the church is as revealed in the New Testament, to win people to faith in Jesus Christ and commit them actively to the church. The church would work for the unity of all Christians and with them engage in the common task of building the Kingdom of God.
Some of the building and remodeling projects of the church over the years have included excavating a basement, adding a kitchen and bathrooms, building a baptistry, Sunday school rooms, and a parsonage, bricking the church, and remodeling the sanctuary. Chimes were installed as a memorial gift. The bell from the belfry was saved and used as a church sign. Lately a memorial gift added the Christian Church symbol to the sign. The latest building projects completed included a ramp at a rear entrance and a beautiful front porch.
Service projects include opening a prayer room, installing a P. A. system, providing communion and a tape service for shut-ins, and the purchase of a van by the youth. A landscaping project sponsored by the Christian Men’s Fellowship is nearing completion.