In the beginning, North Charleston was a sprawling area lying north of the historic old city of North Charleston. It was a hunter's paradise of virgin pines, ancient oaks, and marshlands abundant with wild game.
The story of this phenomenal area begins in the early 1900's when a group of Charleston men organized the E. P. Burton Lumber Company. They bought practically all of the land between Noisette and Goose Creeks and the Cooper River and Old Meeting Street Road for the purpose of cutting and selling timber. As the timber was cut and sold, the land was of no value to the lumber company, so it was subdivided and put on the market as real estate. A group of men known as the North Charleston Holding Corporation bought a large tract and laid out streets for a town. These included Park Circle, Montague Avenue, and First and Second Streets (later believed to be renamed Delsey & Bethany Streets). Twelve houses were built and into one of these houses moved Mr. and Mrs. P.B. Davenport--the first residents of North Charleston. The date was June 14, 1914.
The North Charleston Methodist Episcopal Church South had its beginning several years later in 1916 or 1917. The beginning was an interdenominational Sunday School. Mr. Lebby of Charleston organized this Sunday School and the meetings were held in the Seaboard Railway Depot and in the old high school building. The first assigned pastor was the Reverend Robert R. Tucker who served in 1920-1921.
According to the Charleston News and Courier, a meeting of the Methodist Church Society met March 19, 1921 in Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church South. It was decided to go forward with plans for the erection of a "one-day church" in North Charleston. The News and Courier published an invitation asking "on April 14 all the Methodists of the city to declare a holiday and turn out and assist in the worthy undertaking. All who can work will be pressed into service. The ladies will furnish luncheon on the grounds. If we go back to the old way of working from sunrise to sunset, the construction of the church will be completed and a service held that evening at 8:00 p.m. by the Methodist Church Society. Everyone, regardless of faith or creed, is invited to come and lend a helping hand. It is predicted that 10,000 people will go out to North Charleston on that day to see this church being built."
Mr. Leland Moore, chairman of the committee on arrangements, reported that two suitable lots on what is now Jenkins Avenue and Crawford Street could be purchased at a reasonable price and the building material properly gotten together for the erection of the "one-day church." A handful of Methodists met in the old school house and organized the first North Charleston Methodist Episcopal Church South. The first official record of this organization was found in the quarterly report of the Hampton Charge of Charleston made by the pastor, Reverend Robert R. Tucker.
In the spring of 1921, plans for the "one-day church" were finalized with the help of the Methodist City Mission Board of Charleston. All Methodists in the city and North Charleston were asked to assist in raising a budget of $3500 for the materials. The ladies of the North Charleston Church contributed a piano. The labor, paint, mason's materials, and the transportation of the materials were donated by a few prominent Methodist laymen. The Electric Supply Company volunteered to install the wiring at no charge. The structure was to be used only as a temporary church and later could easily be converted into a six-room bungalow as a future home for the pastor.
By April 13, 1921 the foundations had been laid, and all materials had been transported to the site. A group of workers from The Dixie House Company voluntarily joined other citizens from the community early on the morning of April 14, eager to get to work on the "one-day church." Mrs. Viola Henderson and Mrs. Della Bingham, along with several other ladies, were on the church grounds all day serving dinner and supper to the workmen and keeping their energy at full strength with dozens of cups of coffee. Workmen crawled over the building like birds and as soon as a window was completed, two women would appear to shine the glass--one on each side. By nightfall the building had been completely erected.
The church was a reality! Services were held that evening with the sermon being delivered by Dr. C.F. Wimberly, pastor of Bethel Methodist Church South. Reverend D.N. Busby and S.B. Harper also addressed the congregation. Closing remarks were given by Mr. Leland Moore who had served as The Methodist Society's Chairman of the Committee on Arrangements. Music was provided by pianist John Landrum, known throughout the area as "The Blind Artist."
From the beginning, the pastor's reports to the quarterly conference indicated the North Charleston Methodist Episcopal Church South was a good church. The members were enthusiastic, dedicated, and worked diligently. In June 1922, Reverend E.G. Coe reported, "a woman's missionary society has been organized," but according to other references the organization was known as "The Pastor's Aide Society." It had the responsibility of doing what its name implied--helping the pastor and the church in whatever way it could. Other excerpts from the quarterly conference records are interesting: In February 1924, "a Junior Eworth League had been organized," and in 1929, Reverend Best reported "the organization of a Women's Missionary Society." Reverend L.C. Sanders served as pastor from 1925-1928, followed by Reverend C.H. Varn from 1928-1929.
The late 1920's through the early 1930's might well be called the "struggle for survival" stage of the church. These were the depression years and people everywhere suffered financial reverses. But adversity did not dim the faith and vision of North Charleston Methodist Episcopal Church South members. They worked harder for their church and in the process became more dedicated members with greater faith. Their big leap of faith was the decision to build a new sanctuary on land adjacent to the "one-day church."
In the early months of 1930, the North Charleston Methodist Episcopal Church South rented a building on the corner of O'Hear and Second Streets which had been recently vacated by a Presbyterian congregation. Worship services were held there and the "one-day church" was converted to a parsonage. When the parsonage was completed, construction of the new sanctuary began.
In 1932 the sanctuary was completed. On Sunday morning Rev. Earl V. Best, pastor, preached. The Episcopal and Baptist congregations of North Charleston shortened their morning services so they could join the Methodists in the first services in their new church. A second service was held at 7:30 o'clock in the evening, opening a seven day revival.
Rev. P.E. Hodges followed Rev. Best as pastor. At the 1934 Annual Conference, North Charleston and Cherokee Place Methodist Episcopal Churches South were placed together on a charge and in November, Rev. Feltham S. James was appointed pastor. The final payment of the debt on the church was made in 1935 and the interior of the church was repainted. In January 1936, the congregation celebrated the payment of the debt by holding a week long series of services with dedication on Sunday evening. Rev. Robert R. Tucker, the first pastor, spoke on Tuesday evening; Rev. L.C. Sanders, pastor from 1926-28, spoke on Wednesday; Rev. G.H. Varn on THrusday night, and Rev. E.G. Coe on Friday. Sunday was observed with three services. Rev. E.R. McCoy, former presiding elder preached Sunday morning; Rev Best, under whose pastorate the building was built, preached in the afternoon, and Bishop Paul R. Kern preached the dedicatory sermon on Sunday evening.
While the 1930's were depression years with many downturns in the economy, one bright spot brought new life to North Charleston--the coming of the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company. This new industry brought new people to the community and created jobs for many of the unemployed. Under the leadership of Rev. Feltham James, pastor from 1934-38, more than 100 members were added to the North Charleston Charge in one year. An increase of 33%. Rev. James set up young people's organizations, training schools and a camp for children.
In 1939, three branches of Methodism--The Methodist Episcopal Church, The Methodist Episcopal Church South, and The Methodist Protestant Church merged to form The Methodist Church. Following this, women's organizations including the Women's Missionary Society and the Ladies Aid Society merged to form the Women's Spciety of Christian Service (WSCS). The Wesleyan Guild continued as an active organization. Locally, Mrs. W.W. Risher was elected to serve as the first president of the WSCS.
The 1940's brought great changes to North Charleston. December 7, 1941--Pearl Harbor Day--was an epoch making day for the community. The US Army established Charleston as a Port of Embarkation and the Navy Yard substantially increased its personnel. Service men and civilian workers came by the thousands from all over the United States, and North Charleston Methodist Church felt the impact of this influx of people. The church was designated a station church in 1944 with Reverend A. McKay Brabham as the pastor. Reverend Brabham did not begin his pastorate until October of the year, because at that time ministers were relocated only after the farmers' crops were harvested, sold, and paid for. In turn, a departing pastor could be paid his salary before leaving the community for a new pastorate.
As attendance increased, every available space was put into use, even the pastor's study and parsonage. An old building from the Stark Hospital area was purchased and moved to the church property and remodeled fro Sunday School classrooms, including a Men's Class and a Nursery. The interior of the existing church was remodeled both for enlargement and beautification. Still lacking sufficient room, the church rented space in a building on Montague Avenue for the future new North Charleston Methodist Church and church school buildings. It was voted to first build a parsonage, and a brick veneer building on the north side of Montague Avenue. Both were completed in February of 1949 at a cost of $18,420.
Rev. McKay Brabham noted the growth of North Charleston Methodist Church and envisioned a great future. The most significant indications of this growth was a 68% increase in church membership and nine young men, who were members of North Charleston Methodist Church, took their first steps toward ordination. Rev. Brabham's vision for the church was verbalized on a sign erected on the Montague Avenue property stating, "A greater North Charleston Methodist Church will be built here." He formed a building committee who raised $20,000. Rev. Brabham played a very important role both spiritually and physically in nurturing the church's growth during his pastorate.