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Proud of our history

John Wesley United Methodist Church has a deep history, established in 1868 as one of the first black churches in Greenville, South Carolina. 

 

History of John Wesley United Methodist Church

The leading spirit in establishing black Methodism in Greenville SC was the Reverend James R. Rosemond. Known only as Jim when he was born on February 1, 1820, he was the son of Abraham and Peggy, who were slaves of Waddy Thompson, Jr.  When Jim was six, his parents were sent to Alabama with one of Thompson's sons. Jim remained in Greenville and went to live with a family of Quakers. He ended up being the slave of Vardry McBee, who was known as the father of Greenville. He was baptized in 1844.

 

Vardry McBee was reared as a Quaker. He regularly attended services of various denominations and remained private about his religious views. McBee donated land in Greenville downtown for the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, and Presbyterian churches; and in Conestee he built an octagonal chapel for his workers. In 1832, Vardry McBee, a large landowner and prominent citizen of Greenville, deeded to the Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church a lot of land located at the southwest corner of East Coffee Street with a frontage on Coffee Street of 100 feet “for the promotion of religious worship and in order that a suitable church may be erected for the Methodist denomination in the village of Greenville.” The vision and gift of a non-Methodist spurred the Greenville Methodists to action and two years later, in 1834, five women and one man gathered at the home of Miss Mariah Turpin for the organizational meeting of Greenville's first Methodist congregation that later became Buncombe Street United Methodist Church.

 

On September 12 1854, Osgood A. Darby, pastor of the Greenville Methodist Church, recommended Jim as a “Colored preacher.” The next Sunday he preached his first sermon at Salem church near the Saluda River. He preached regularly at Sharon church in the Anderson district, and the congregation collected funds to purchase his freedom. His owner, Vardry McBee (the “father” of Greenville SC) agreed to the price of eight hundred dollars, but the church raised only five hundred dollars before the Civil War. According to his biographer, Jim received his “freedom without pay” through Emancipation. A note in the church records of the Greenville Methodist Church in 1862 indicates that “among the colored people you will find a person, Jim McBee, who has been allowed to preach for the last ten or eleven years.”

 

After the civil war, Jim took the name James R. Rosemond and he soon gathered a group of Black Methodists in Greenville to establish a church. According to one account, the group first met at a member's house and agreed to pay the trustees of the Greenville Methodist Church one hundred dollars a year to meet there weekly. When the Freedmen's Bureau School opened, the Black congregation began to meet at the schoolhouse. This church was organized sometime between 1851 and 1854. It was founded in 1866 under the name, Silver Hill Methodist Episcopal Church. It is the oldest Black United Methodist Church in Greenville SC and one of the first of more than two dozen churches in at least six counties that Reverend Rosemond was instrumental in establishing. The church retained the name until the present church was built between 1899 and 1903. The name was changed to John Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church in 1902. The name continued until 1939 when unification of three Methodist bodies took place. In 1968 at the General Conference, a merger was made with the Evangelical Brethren Church and The Methodist church, and this church from then on became known as John Wesley United Methodist Church.