Axson Methodist has its origins in the railroad station of Red Bluff, renamed McDonald in honor of the large sawmill operated there. The town became known as McDonald’s Mill and by 1900 the population was reported to have been 150 people, along with a money order post office, express and telegraph offices, and several good mercantile establishments. When Atkinson County was formed from Coffee and Pierce Counties in 1917, McDonald’s Mill was renamed Axson in honor of President Woodrow Wilson’s first wife, Ellen, a native of Georgia who died in 1914. Ellen accompanied her husband on a whistle-stop tour during the 1912 presidential campaign. They certainly stopped at Waycross and perhaps McDonald’s Mill as well.
No certain date for the building of Axson Church, formerly known as McDonald’s Mill Methodist Episcopal, South, has been established. A brief mention in a Waycross newspaper dated January 11, 1896 states: “The new church being built at McDonald’s Mill by Messrs. Lott and Bailey is nearing completion, and when finished will be a good, substantial house.” Messrs. Lott and Bailey were bankers/developers doing business in Waycross. We believe the reference is to McDonald’s Mill M. E., South Church that eventually became Axson United Methodist Church.
The steeple you see in the photo is not the original steeple. At some point, probably in 1944, a hurricane took the steeple of the church. That year was an active hurricane season with several major storms effecting Georgia but the storm that removed the church steeple could have been a storm known as the 1944 Cuba-Florida Hurricane. After it made landfall at Sarasota, Florida, on October 19, it continued northeastward over the southeastern United States and Axson lay directly in its path. The hurricane caused $100 million in damage (1944 dollars), as well as 300 casualties. Despite extensive efforts to locate the steeple it was never found. Before they were destroyed, one by a storm and the second by lightning, there were two huge water oak trees in front of the church. With such a bounty of acorns there were numerous squirrels that provided a negative impact on the church structure. Among other damage they chewed the bell rope and when the replacement steeple was constructed it was done so with the exclusion of water and squirrels in mind. The lost steeple was replaced with a simple square structure that now serves to house the church bell. The bell no longer calls the community to church service but is rung on special occasions. It was rung by long-time member Mrs. Ilee Delk at the death of President Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, who died in 2004, and for whom the bell tolled forty times.
Today the church has only six members and only two of them live locally and are in regular attendance. The general congregation numbers eight or ten in regular attendance. The church has enough funding to continue for another two years – after that its fate is uncertain. Mrs. Delk, 52 year member of the congregation, stated that “it is impossible to keep going but we are going to go” (continue). We thank Mrs. Ilee Delk and members of the Lang family, particularly Mrs. Sarah Lang, for their diligent work to insure preservation of this old church. Services are held once a month on the 3rd Sunday. The pastor preaches at other churches so the service is held at 8:45 AM. The congregation is composed of warm and friendly people and guests are welcome to attend services.