Bethel Methodist

Wilkes County
Org 1835
Photography by Scott MacInnis

Bethel United Methodist Church was founded in the days of the great Methodist expansion of the early 1800’s. The exact date is (at this time) unknown. New settlers and farmers entering the area realized the need for a place of worship and built a small log house located on Scull Shoals Road seven miles from Washington, GA. That structure was used for worship as well as a schoolhouse. The first Bethel church was located about a mile from where the present structure is located. Records of the church and class meetings were kept by George Smith and document the congregation’s growth. There are records of slave members as early as 1838.

By 1849, the church recognized the need to move to larger quarters. After receiving a gift of 3.7 acres nearby, a new church was built on that lot in a pine grove situated behind the present church’s location. This new church was a white frame building with large windows and green blinds and had a seating capacity of 300. There were two front doors, one for men and one for ladies. A partition three or four feet in height divided the center row of pews and not even husbands and wives sat together but, instead, sat across the partition from each other. Young men and ladies who came together did the same. The old men sat in the “amen corner” near the pulpit on the left and the old ladies sat on the right.

In 1912 discussions began concerning erection of a new building for Bethel. The present structure, sited closer to the front of the lot and to the road was opened and dedicated on July 23, 1916. The church with furnishings, piano, etc was completed and paid for at a cost of approximately $7,000. Today, the Bethel congregation enjoys a lovely historic church with arched doorways welcoming them into a 300 seat sanctuary with beautiful stained glass windows, pulpit furniture, oak pews and two, Civil War era , captains chairs from the old church placed near altar.