The new Methodist Church of this place was dedicated last Sunday by Bishop Galloway, to whom the keys of the church were delivered by W. T. Rush, one of the officers of the church. The dedication sermon was fully equal to the expectation of those who had never heard the eminent divine. Owing to the rawness of the day, and the fact that it was uncertain whether the Bishop would officiate, so that no notice had been given through the county papers, the congregation was not so large as it otherwise would have been. But from those present, a handsome subscription was taken up, sufficient to pay off the small debt due on the building.
From the Yazoo Valley Flag, March 26, 1887
The approaches of the new Methodist Church are without any sidewalks, will not our city fathers see to it, that the sidewalks to the church are planked, and our ladies not be compelled to wade through mud and dust in getting to and from this house of worship.
From the Yazoo Valley Flag, May 7, 1887
The erection of a modern Sunday school annex by the Methodist Church is assured as a result of a drive made Thursday, according to an announcement made this morning following a meeting of committees last night to review the results of the drive. Ample funds have been pledged for the Sunday school building.
The new building, which has been made necessary by the growth of the Sunday school, will be erected on the lot just east of the church building, where the old parsonage now stands. It will be three stories in height and will contain an auditorium with a seating capacity of over 500.
The basement will contain a kitchen for use by the ladies and will be used for the primary and kindergarten classes of the Sunday school. The first floor will contain an auditorium to be used exclusively by the men's classes and two classrooms for the junior boys.
The top floor will contain classrooms for the junior and intermediate classes.
The old parsonage now being used for Sunday school purposes has been sold and will be moved off the property at an early date. Work on the new building will begin immediately.
From the Greenwood Commonwealth, April 18, 1923
Preparations are being made for the beginning of construction work on the annex to the Methodist Church, which has been in contemplation for some months. The annex will be used for the Sunday school and will contain an auditorium capable of seating 500 or 600.
From the Greenwood Commonwealth, March 26, 1924
The Methodist Sunday School annex will be opened tomorrow and the Sunday school will occupy it's new quarters for the first time. The annex is a handsome building, three stories in height, thoroughly and modernly equipped with every convenience for the Sunday school and community activities of the church. A special invitation is extended to visitors to attend the Sunday school rally tomorrow, which marks the opening of the new building.
From the Greenwood Daily Commonwealth, October 11, 1924
The new Sunday school complex of the Methodist Sunday school was opened for classes for the first time yesterday, with a record-breaking attendance at the Sunday school.
The annex, which adjoins the church building on the east, is a most handsome structure, three stories in height with ample classrooms for the Sunday school, and an auditorium for the Sunday school assemblage.
The Business Men's Bible Class, which has been meeting at the Greenwood Theatre for the past several months, on account of lack of room in the Church building, occupied it's quarters in the annex yesterday with 203 in attendance at the class.
From the Greenwood Daily Commonwealth, October 13, 1924
The bell that sounded the alarm that memorable night in January 1890, when Greenwood "burnt to the ground", still hangs in the belfry of the First Methodist Church. The bell-ringer who pulled the cord fully an hour in the dead of night while the bucket brigade rushed to the river-front is Mrs. Nannie Kerr, familiar and beloved Greenwood figure, who has been collector for the Commonwealth for twelve years.
Though the bell is silent, its clapper muted by a quarter century film of spider webs and dust, its tone today would be as sweet and clear as it was so long ago when it summoned bustled ladies and bearded gentlemen to worship the Lord.
In 1890, the Methodist Church was a frame building, located on the corner of Fulton and West Washington, next to Mrs. W. T. Fountain's home. At that time, Mrs. Kerr, then Miss Nannie Cox lived next door to the church, in the house now owned by Mrs. Helen Chapman. She cared for the church, and one of her duties was to ring the bell-twice for Sunday school, twice for preaching both morning and night, and twice for prayer meeting. She also tolled it for funerals and fires.
Greenwood's business section was a motley line of frame buildings, sprawled the length of the riverfront, from Mr. Gid Montjoy's limber mill downstream to the old river warehouse, where the Leflore County courthouse now stands. There was Stein's Dry Goods Co., the Reiman restaurant (a little house with a shed in front; you had to step down from the levee to enter it), Captain Baskett's General Mdse. Store, Selliger's Store, W.W. McBride's, a barber shop, Mrs. Griffin's millinery shop, Henry Stoddard's restaurant, and Miss Lizzie Berry's dressmaking place, in addition to a dozen boisterous saloons.
Over on Market Street were two lone buildings, the office of the Valley Flag, edited by Mr. Bonner Richardson, and Mr. Tom Chapman's livery stable.
The Allen House was the only hotel in town-and that's where the fire started. No one is positive how it began, but Mrs. Kerr says,"I remember hearing that two lumber men staying there had been killed and robbed that night. Everyone believed the murderer started the blaze to cover his tracks."
"Greenwood had no fire department, and the only way one could give an alarm of any kind was by ringing the Methodist bell. That night, I was awakened by screams of "Fire! Fire! Nanny, ring the bell; the town's burning up." And it did. The bucket brigade couldn't combat the flames, so they spread the length of river front, destroying all of Greenwood's business section."
To make matters worse, the fire fighters were unable to use the emergency hose lines on the steamboats, which in those days were used to pump water from the river to fires on the boats or adjacent river banks. The steamers were docked at the landing near the mouth of Pelucia Bayou. When they saw the flames spreading, as the story goes, the saloon keepers along the waterfront, cast their liquor into the river, knowing the bottles and kegs would float, and believing that a larger percentage of stock could be saved in this way than if they kept it in the flaming buildings.
Unluckily, a good part of the bottles broke and spread whiskey over the top of the water. This film of alcohol was ignited by the sparks flying from the blazing buildings, and the surface of the river was enveloped in flames-so dense was the blaze that the boats were unable to approach the fire to lend assistance.
All of the riverfront business section was destroyed and many of the brick buildings, which now face the river, were constructed on the charred remains of the old.
According to Mrs. Kerr, the Greenwood of 1890 was far different from the Greenwood of 1940. There were no sidewalks, except downtown (and those were made of rough boards). The streets, deep in mud in rainy weather, were lighted by oil lamps on high posts, surrounded by tin protectors. The lamp lighter went around in a two-wheeled cart and trimmed and lighted the lamps each evening.
Far different from today, when the city faced with widening its thoroughfares to care for the traffic problem, were the quiet and almost deserted streets of Greenwood of 1890. The only noise was the occasional clop-clop of a horse's hooves, and the shrill cries of children, many of whom are long dead and gone. Mrs. Kerr recalls, "I remember catching my heel in a rough sidewalk board and falling down on the main street of town. I jumped up and looked around to see if anyone saw me-and there wasn't a soul in sight!"
There was a place called Grange Hall, or Town Hall, and during Christmas week Imma Warrens' troupe staged a show. One of the most popular selections on the playbill was "Ten Nights In A Barroom".
Mr. Tom Holmes was the town marshal and the boy's friend. When the circus came to town, he used to let them all in free. Downtown there was Mr. Musick's picture tent, where everyone had his tintype made.
The only school was an old one-room, unpainted building just back of Mrs. Bernstein's house, where the Shell filling station now stands. Where the central schools are now located was a cypress-filled slough. "I've paddled a boat through these many times", Mrs. Kerr says.
Mr. Craig, Father of Raymond and W. L. Craig. Had a store where the curb market now stands. Mayor S. R. Keesler clerked there when he came to Greenwood as a youth fifty years ago. Sharkey Pate, Circuit Clerk, worked for Captain Basket and R. T. Jones was in the store with Mr. Selliger.
Captain A.A.Stoddard, Father of Judge M. L. Stoddard, was postmaster. His name was on the stamp with which he cancelled letters.
Mrs. Kerr remembers much about the early days of the Methodist Church. In the late 80s, Mrs. Lucy Wells, the Mother of Warner Wells, Terrell Wells and Mrs. John Petty, was organist. Later, Mrs. Lula Upshur, Mother of the editor of the Commonwealth, succeeded her. Mrs. Fannie Weaver was the choir leader and Sunday School teacher.
Though she is always busy, for half a century Mrs. Kerr has found time to devote herself completely to the faith, which has been her mainstay through the years. Not so long ago, following the morning service at the Methodist Church, a recent comer to Greenwood greeted her with "Mrs. Kerr, it's good to see you here this morning", "Yes, I've found it good to be here every Sunday for fifty years".
From The Greenwood Commonwealth, June 15, 1940
The auditorium of the First Methodist Church, which has been under repair, will be opened for services Sunday it was announced this morning by Rev. Shed Hill Caffey, Pastor.
Extensive work has been done on the outer walls and the interior has been redecorated.
Mr. Caffey, in announcing the re-opening of the main auditorium this morning, said that he is anxious that all members of the church and friends of the congregation should attend the services, which will be held on Sunday.
From The Greenwood Commonwealth, July 5, 1940
The silver-tongued bell of the First Methodist Church, which has hung silent for nearly twenty-five years, will be tolled tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock to celebrate the re-opening of the main auditorium of the church, it was announced this morning by Rev. Shed Hill Caffey, Pastor.
The church has been undergoing repairs for the past month and services have been held in the Men's Bible classroom of the education building.
The bell had been silent for so many years that most people had forgotten its existence until a month ago, when a feature story in the Commonwealth recalled it to mind.
The bell sounded the alarm when Greenwood burned in 1890. At that time, it hung in the wooden belfry of the old Methodist Church at the corner of Washington and Fulton streets. When the new church was built around 1900, it was moved to the new belfry, and for several years continued to summon the congregation to Sunday services, prayer meetings and funerals.
As the years passed, and the ringing of church bells passed out of fashion, it was sounded at longer intervals, finally becoming completely silent, the abode of spiders and chimney sweeps.
From The Greenwood Commonwealth, July 6, 1940
The present First Methodist Church building in Greenwood was erected in 1899. On it is a tower reaching six stories high.
Those who passed the church last Wednesday night noticed that the church tower was lighted to the top. At each story level there are art glass windows through which the light shines. This is the first time that these art glass windows have given forth light.
The Pastor, Rev. W. R. Lott announced to the congregation on Sunday that these lights were given to the church by Mrs. E. E. Riggs as a memorial to her Father, the late James Marvin Bunner, a faithful member of the church.
From The Greenwood Commonwealth, July 28, 1947