Welcome to First Church Dayton. We are a thriving community of faith seeking to share with our neighbors and the world the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Throughout every week we have opportunities to explore the scriptures, examine our personal relationship with God, encourage one another and reach out to others. Won’t you join us on your journey of faith?
FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Even before the first official land purchase in 1833, the people of what would eventually become First United Methodist Church of Dayton were working to build the Kingdom and our congregation. We don’t know exactly when, but at some point a group of like minded Methodists began meeting as a class in the homes of members for the purpose of study, prayer, fellowship, and accountability -- confessing their sins and struggles one to another.
On August 31, 1833, the first official deed of land purchased by the Methodist Episcopal Church was registered at the courthouse in Old Washington. The congregation was served by a local pastor, John Whaley who preached, performed weddings, and buried the dead. From time to time, a circuit rider would come through who could perform baptisms and Holy Communion. Circuit riders were an integral part of early Methodism in rural areas. Travelling from charge to charge, they were out in all kinds of weathers leading to the saying “So cold that only old crows and Methodist preachers are out.”
That little congregation continued to grow and serve and in 1850 decided to sell what had then become known as the Richland Campground and to join with the Sons of Temperance in purchasing a building and property in Morgantown where Vine Grove UMC now stands. The understanding was that the Methodists would use the downstairs and the Sons of Temperance the upstairs. Evidently, this arrangement worked well, but in 1865 in an effort to be closer to the center of town, the Methodists moved to a site about a quarter of a mile from the present day church. and in the 1880’s moved to its present site.
In 1888 a brand new church was dedicated in a worship service lead by one of the leading lights of the Holston Conference of the time, Dr. David Sullins, president of the Centenary Female College in Cleveland, TN. Unfortunately, shortly after the dedication, that building burned. Undeterred, the congregation rebuilt and the next year invited Dr. Sullins to return to dedicate the new building, the one where, more than 125 years later, we still worship every Sunday morning.
Time passed and growth continued. In 1925, the most historically significant event in the church’s history occurred when William Jennings Bryan, in town for the Scopes Trial, preached one Sunday morning and led prayer on another Sunday morning. In fact, it was in our sanctuary that Bryan worshiped on his last Sunday morning.
Again, time passed and growth continued to the point that in 1948 the church decided to add a fellowship hall, kitchen, Sunday School rooms, and a brick veneer to the outside. Funny thing about that fundraising — one component was the sale of bricks for fifty dollars each. Now, if you are a devotee of traditional country music (THE REAL THING), you are probably familiar with the name Roy Acuff. In 1948, he was running for governor, and on a campaign swing, stopped in Dayton. It turns out he had grown up in Fountain City with one of the ladies in our church, Mrs. Grace Abel, and stopped in to visit her while he was in town. Well, Mrs. Grace did not let Mr. Acuff leave her house until he had bought a brick and she had promised to vote for him. SO one of the bricks on the outside of our church today is Roy Acuff’s brick.
Later classrooms were added. Renovations were carried out. And in the 1980’s, our most recent building project began. Our leadership told the Administrative Board that a church that is not growing is dying and the decision was made to build the Family Life Center.
As FUMC moves forward, we remember those saints gone by -- their faith, their dedication, and their service that have brought us to where we are today -- strong roots in our past, reaching out in our present, and moving with vision toward our future.