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ELGIN — It remains one of the saddest days in Elgin’s history and
perhaps the bleakest in the story of its cherished Methodist Church.
It was a day in 1929, one in which a fire fanned by strong winds destroyed a portion of downtown Elgin and took down its Methodist Church. The scars and ashes of that blaze disappeared decades ago, Today downtown Elgin stands proud and its Methodist Church sits on the brink of a major milestone — one to be celebrated this weekend.
The Elgin United Methodist Church will mark its 125th birthday Sunday. The celebration will be in the form of a sing-a-long that begins at
6 p.m. and is open to the public. Everyone is encouraged to bring 125 of a monetary denomination to mark the anniversary. Individuals can bring 125 pennies, 125 quarters or 125 of any other coin.
All money donated will go to the Elgin Ministerial Association. Money from the ministerial association is used to help people in Elgin who are in need.
A potluck dinner will follow Sunday’s sing-along. Cake will be served at the meal.
Tales of the church’s history will be shared throughout Sunday’s celebration.
The church’s story is one that dates back to the early 1880s when a group of devout Methodists identified in church records as the Galloway Brothers donated lumber from their sawmill to build a shelter for meetings conducted by circuit riders and other ministers who visited the area.
The meetings conducted at the shelter led to the establishment of a Sunday School class and inspired a fundraising campaign for the construction of a Methodist Church — the building that would be destroyed by fire in 1929.
The fire was accidentally started by someone living at the church’s parsonage, according to church records. The man was doing some backyard burning while preparing to move. A strong wind hit, blowing burning debris to grass and pine trees on the edge of the yard, accelerating the blaze.
Methodist records also reveal the wind blew so hard that day that shingles from the roof of the Methodist Church or its parsonage were carried several miles out of Elgin.
Members of the church’s congregation emerged undaunted by the blaze. Church officials in 1930, using insurance money received after the fire, purchased a Baptist church building in Elgin. Records indicate the building had been constructed in 1888. The deed was signed by O.W. Barlow, a trustee of the First Baptist Church in Elgin.
That building, at Seventh and Birch streets, has been the home of the Elgin United Methodist Church the past 80 years.
A number of significant improvements have been made to the building since then. They include the construction of a fellowship hall in the 1960s and the installation of stained glass windows in the 1990s with the help of donations from eight local families.
Today the church looks better than it has in years thanks to recent projects led by congregation members. In the past 10 months the roof has been replaced, the interior and exterior have been painted and a gravel parking lot has been added.
The parsonage has been spruced up. Over the past month new carpeting and linoleum floors have been installed and the interior has been repainted.
The parsonage is being rented out by the United Methodist Church now but may be used by ministers in the future if they do not have homes in the area. The present ministers, Gerald Hopkins of Summerville and Becci Scott of Elgin, have their own homes.
Hopkins and Scott are excited about the chance to help lead the Elgin United Methodist Church’s 125-year celebration. Hopkins anticipates that many people from other churches in Elgin will be present to help the Methodist Church celebrate its 125th birthday at the sing-a-long. This will reflect a bond of uncommon strength within the Elgin ministerial community.
“I have just not seen anything like it anywhere before. I have heard of it but never seen it,’’ Hopkins said of the close ministerial ties within the Elgin community.