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Bethlehem Baptist Church

Submitted to The Heritage of Holmes County, Florida by Alford Williams

It is believed that the Bethlehem United Methodist Church (UMC) actually began in the eighteen-eighties (1880's). To substantiate this a property deed is on record at the county courthouse and a copy is located in our history book at the church. to wit, "on August 21, 1893. J.M.L. Hathaway, his wife Salaney Hathaway, G.M. Hathaway (unmarried) granted, bargained, sold  and conveyed unto I.H. Alberson, J.M.L. Hathaway, S.G. Burch, J.R. Howell, H. Martin, A.M. Martin, J.C. Sorrels, J.H. Chiles, J.T. Sorrels, E. Wright, J.W. Bolland and J.s. Hatcher, trustees of the church property Pontown Circuit Alabama Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, three acres more or less where Bethlehem Church is now located.'

Bethlehem United Methodist Church

My father D.F. Williams was born in 1884 and always said that a church was there as long as he could remember. The first church was. constructed with logs and during a revival in the mid-1890's my father said everyone got happy; was shouting and broke the sleepers (floor joist). The log church was lated destroyed by fire and a tall steep-roofed church was built around 1900. My mother Nellie Mae Williams shared her reflections on the church in 1984 in which she stated that she learned of BMC at the age of ten. She remembered wonderful revivals where mules and wagons, horses and buggies, were all around a packed church with people looking in the doors and windows.

The first lumber church was built by Lee Williams, Ben Vanlandingham, John West, John Hathaway, Simon Hathaway, Jim Whitaker, Jonas Whitaker and Frank Everett. This church was remodeled twice. The second time was around 1950 when the ceiling was lowered and the rood was given a lower pitch. Also two Sunday School rooms were added, asbestos siding installed, concrete steps poured, and a steeple added. Mr. Wesley Smith was in charge of the renovation and was helped by Mr. Frank Howell, Mr. Johnny Pelham, Mr. D.F. Williams and Mr. Tom Wilcox.

Mr. D.F. Williams took Mrs. Lena Howell and Mrs. Palmer Williams on his truck around the community and took up donations for the church's first piano. It was ordered through a salesman in Bonifay and was shipped here from Pensacola, Florida. The first pitcher pump was given to the church by someone in the county courthouse. Mr. Wesley Smith put the pump down across the road from the church but it was later stolen.

In the summer of 1930 pastor W.J. Hughes invited another methodist preacher J.R> Gilbert to hold a revival. After so many people answered the altar-call and felling the moving of the spirit, they were inspired to begin a campmeeting. In the summer of 1931 a brush arbor was built adjacent to the church and services here became the first Bethlehem Methodist Campmeeting. The second and all subsequent campmeetings have been held at its present location of ten-mile creek since 1932. It is now nondenominational.

In 1962 Mr. Claude Miles made and gave to the church its first communion table along with a cross and candle holders including a matching podium. They are now being utilized in our present Sunday School rooms. He did this at the request of Mr. Frank Howell. Some of the material came from Howell Industries of Caryville (today known as Howell Chevrolet). Some other material came from Homes Veneer CO. of Bonifay. Mr. Miles still needed more material and cut an ash tree and had it dried. Mr. B. Martin of Bonifay had a cabinet shop where he sawed and dressed the legs. The communion table top is made of magnolia wood.

During Rev. Andrew Dinkins' pastorship from 1972 through 1982 he suggested building a new church. Brother Charley Smith is remembered to have quipped "don't know how this could be accomplished with such a small number of old grey-headed men". However building did in fact begin in 1977 and completed for the first homecoming in October 1878.

Having to war homecoming meals outside in very hot, humid and sometimes inclement weather we decided it was time to move indoors. Under the pastorship of Rev. T.J. Crutchfield we invited Rev. Andrew Dinkins (who had long supported its construction) to join us for a groundbreaking ceremony in September 1988 to begin construction of a new social hall. This building was finished August 1889 and in October 1989 we held out first homecoming meal inside. As functions grew (homecomings, family reunions, and funeral benefits) the need was evident and a sixteen hundred square feet (1600 sq. ft.) addition began in May 2003 and is now (August 2005) complete except for renovation of the old kitchen.

This is just a highlight of the history and growth of the Bethlehem United Methodist Church. While names of some people appear in this documentary, a lot of very important people who have contributed immensely to this church's success and prosperity have not been omitted intentionally. We have a very beautiful sanctuary and attractive social hall and would welcome a visit from anyone who would wish to come.

We would like to extend a very deep gratitude and word of thanks to all relatives of those very sincere and ambitious ancestors who had a part in sustaining this church over this many years. This most assuredly included the present-day congregation. And finally we wish to thank the people who have contributed financially toward our accomplishments. We are so thankful to live in a community inhabited by such caring, concerned and dedicated people.