Humble circumstances surrounded the birth and life of our Lord Jesus Christ and the initial organization and forerunners of First United Methodist Church of Dothan, Alabama. The life, death, and resurrection of our
Lord have impacted the world for over 2,000 years. First United Methodist Church and predecessors have been forceful influences for many individuals and families in the community and surrounding areas. From both
sources, rich legacies have evolved and continue to motivate and challenge adherents to a better way of life.
The purpose of Christ's life on earth was to manifest God to man through His love, mercy, and grace.
The Church was established as a means by which this goal would be accomplished. The metamorphoses of F.U.M.C. from an itinerant ministry held in a blacksmith shop and under a bush arbor with a fifteen-member
congregation to the beautiful structure that exists today is evidence of man's acknowledging God's mission through Christ and the Church.
The Bible teaches that God's resources are always greater than man's needs. This principle is a strong link in the chain of events that have contributed to the development of First United Methodist Church. About
1879 two piney wood trails crisscrossed each other near the intersection of Main and St. Andrews Streets.
Nearby was a beautiful spring of clear water and a crossroads store which was also used as a post office. This
with a small patch of cleared land constituted Poplar Head, which later became Dothan.
In 1880, Mr. J. P. Folkes and his son-in-law, Mr. W. J. Baxley, (both good Methodists) moved from the
Rocky Branch Church Community northeast of Dothan to settle here. They were not content to be without a church. Records indicate that Rev. A. J. Coleman, Presiding Elder of the Marianna District, made overnight stops
at Poplar Head as he rode on horseback over his district. Meetings were held in Mr. Folkes' blacksmith shop.
They read the Bible, had preaching, and prayer.
In the spring of 1880, Mr. Folkes and Mr. Baxley and several others who had moved in by this time
built a brush arbor for their meetings. During the summer of 1881, a church was organized by Rev. W. U. Marshal, a local preacher. At this time, the congregation boasted fifteen members. Mr. Baxley, a charter member,
was appointed first steward of the church. He served in that capacity until his death in 1929.
The Presiding Elder appointed Rev. Marshall to minister to the little flock until Conference in
December. Rev. W. C. Price was appointed pastor of the Sylvan Grove Charge to which Dothan was attached,
and served one year. In the winter of 1881, Rev. J. Z. Connelley, settled in Dothan. By now, the little village
had some youngsters who needed a school teacher. Rev. Connelley was employed to teach the first school in
the settlement. A school house was needed. Mr. Folkes donated the land, and the villagers built the school
house, which was to be used as a church also. It was built on the land where Foster Street Church stood from
1904 until 1950.
The Conference of 1882 sent Brother Marshall back to Sylvan Grove Charge and in 1882 Dothan was
assigned to the Headland Mission with Rev. J. T. Powell as pastor. He was the first itinerant preacher to live in
Dothan. He was succeeded by Rev. J. B. Hudgens in 1884 and Rev. J. A. Noble in 1885. Following several pastoral
predecessors and continued growth in membership and perseverance by the members, Rev. T. L. Adams
came as pastor in 1886. It was during his ministry that Mr. Folkes had deeds drawn up and signed to turn over
to the church that part of the land on which the Foster Street Church and parsonage later stood for several
In 1890, Dothan was put on a circuit and Brother R. S. Adair, who had served in 1889, was appointed
pastor. At this time, the Alabama Midland Railroad had been built through Dothan, and the town showed
unmistakable signs of a growing city. The Methodist Church kept pace. Brother Adair set to work structure with
a bay window in the rear, a back entrance, and two front entrances. It was painted white and had stained glass
windows. One chandelier hung from the center of the building and in it kerosene lamps were used until later
when electric lights replaced the lamps.
By 1891, Dothan was no longer considered a circuit appointment, and the Conference sent Brother
Henry T. Johnson to serve as pastor. He served four years. One of the first organists was Miss Bertie Hill. Mrs.
S. (Addie) Wilson a later dedicated organist-musician served Foster Street Church and First Methodist Church for
several decades and is credited with taking the initiative to have chimes installed at First Methodist Church. The
membership grew from one hundred eighty-five members at the close of his first year to three hundred at the
close of his fourth year. After a substantial increase in Brother Johnson's salary, the members knew there would
be no funds for a parsonage. However, the undaunted Brother Johnson prepared his famous lecture titled, "If
you wants possum, ax for hit." He delivered this lecture in many towns, letting the proceeds go to the parsonage
fund. Soon a comfortable six-room cottage was built and remained until 1908, when it was replaced with a
spacious, two-story structure.
Brother Donnelly followed Brother Johnson and served four years. Under his able and earnest ministry,
the congregation grew and the church prospered. The membership numbered four hundred and eighty-six and
the minister's salary had been increased to twelve hundred fifty dollars.
The following three years were under Dr. H. H. McNeill's ministry. It was during this period and while
Brother J. P. Roberts was Presiding Elder that the first district parsonage was built on St. Andrews Street at a
cost of three thousand dollars, the greater part of which was paid by the Foster Street congregation.
By 1902, under Dr. McNeill's leadership, the Foster Street Methodist Church had experienced such
tremendous growth that a new church was needed. Some members left the Mother Church and formed South
Side Church on St. Andrews Street. This church later moved to its present location and became Lafayette Street
Methodist Church. Two other churches were also sponsored by Foster Street Church: Flowers Chapel on the
west side and Dellwood Chapel on the north. However, this division did not negate the need for more room.
During these years of outgrowth, plans were being completed for a new brick church to replace the small
frame building. In 1903 the cornerstone for the new church was laid. Some of the articles placed in the cornerstone
included a Bible, the Georgia Wesleyan Advocate, the Methodist Discipline, and a copy of the Dothan
Daily Siftings of that date. For the occasion, the choir sang, "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord."
When construction on the new church began, the ladies of the church wanted to take part and the
Missionary Society subscribed five hundred dollars to the building and then doubled it. They also paid for the
new pipe organ which cost twenty-one hundred dollars. Later, the ladies paid for the green carpet which covered
the auditorium and Sunday School Departments. Also, they gave one of the three beautiful memorial windows
which added beauty and inspiration to the church. This organization has continued through the years and
is known as United Methodist Women of First United Methodist Church.
Within a year (1904) the building (Foster Street Church) was completed at a cost of $32,000. It was a
model of ecclesiastical architecture, built by J. C. Ward, Contractors. The pastor at this time was Rev. W. M.
Cox. In 1907, the debt was paid in full. Three years later the new church was dedicated by Bishop E. E. Hass
under Rev. W. P. Hurt's ministry. The following year, 1908, a beautiful parsonage was built adjoining the church
at a cost of $7,000.00. By 1909, a Sunday School annex was built and its full cost was amortized in 1912.
During Rev. R. A. Moody's ministry, the ladies were given the right of laity and they served well in this
capacity. One of the highlights of the growth of First Methodist Church was a ten-day revival preached by
Evangelist Bob Jones in 1920. During the morning services, all stores were closed and more than 100 members
were added to the church roll. In that same year, 1920, chimes and an echo organ were installed in the bell
tower, at a cost of $8,000.00 - gifts from Mr. Joe Baker in memory of his mother. He was a member of F.M.C.
and a local entrepreneur. Ironically, the first time the chimes were played was in March 1920 for Mr. Baker's
F.M.C. continued to prosper under the ministries of Brother J. B. Cummings 0905-06) and Brother Hurt
(1906-09). During Brother Hurt's ministry, the church being free of debt, steps were taken to build a new parsonage.
A committee was appointed and the beautiful two-story parsonage was erected that year (1908) at a
cost of $7,000.00 including furnishings.
Under the leadership of devout ministers (see roster) and faithful laity, Foster Street Church experienced
continued growth, and in 1948 the decision was made to expand by building a church on a new and
larger site. Farsighted ministers, leaders, and members rallied to the need and property on West Main was purchased.
In 1949, the Foster Street Church property was sold to Mr. George Y. Malone, a long-time dedicated
member of Foster Street Church and the First United Methodist Church, for the sum of $100,000.00.
In 1950, careful workmen removed the original marble cornerstone from Foster Street Methodist
Church and placed it near the sanctuary of the new church, the First Methodist Church of Dothan, Alabama. A
parsonage was built near the new location, and plans for relocating the church facility began in earnest. The
first worship service was held there on August 21, 1950 in the fellowship hall. In 1955, under the ministerial
leadership of Dr. Wilbur Walton, major additions were added: a chapel, an education wing, and an office wing.
Also a balcony was added. Dr. Walton continued to serve F.U.M.C. after retirement in an ex officio capacity
until his death.
In addition to sponsoring Lafeyette Street Methodist Church in 1901, F.U.M.C. later sponsored the formation
of Highland Park United Methodist Church in 1959. Two decades later (July 1979) First Methodist
church substantially supported formation of Covenant United Methodist Church, which is a vibrant outreach in
the community. F.U.M.C. was also instrumental in helping to establish Wesley Manor by donating land and
$50,000.00. Each of these outgrowth facilities has made outstanding contributions to the needs of the community
and surrounding areas.
On Christmas Sunday in 1979, F.U.M.C. was tragically damaged by fire. This misfortune struck in the
year of the church's centennial recognition. Following the catastrophe, it was necessary for the congregation to
make arrangements to meet elsewhere. Services were held in Dothan High School auditorium for more than a
year. On Palm Sunday in 1981, there was a triumphant return to the beautifully renovated First United
Methodist Church on West Main.
On December 18, 1988, a Church Conference was held and voted to proceed with plans for a mammoth
expansion program/project. On March 18, 1990, "Breaking of Ground" was laid. On October 13, 1991, the
Christian Life Center was consecrated. The Christian Life Center offers a variety of opportunities to the congregation
and the community for meaningful Christian activities.
Spiritual Life at First United Methodist Church has flourished in the past century. Under the capable
leadership of the ministers (see roster) and staff, combined with the generous support of the membership,
F.U.M.C. is recognized as a vital influence in Dothan and the Wiregrass area. God has richly blessed First
United Methodist Church and may F.U.M.C. continue to work to the glory of God.
We are motivated by the belief that the lives of all people are better if they have a conscious relationship with God, through Jesus Christ.
M. V. Marshall 1881-1882
W. J. Price 1882-1883
M. V. Marshall 1883-1884
J. K. Powell 1884-1885
J. B. Hudgens 1885
J. O. Nobel 1885-1886
T. L. Adams 1886-1888
D. B. N. Jeffco 1888-1889
R. S. Adair 1889-1891
H. T. Johnson 1891-1895
J. M. Dannelly 1895-1899
H. H. McNeill 1899-1902
W. M. Cox 1902-1904
J. B. Cummin 1904-1906
W. P. Hurt 1906-1909
F. A. Rogers 1909-1913
H. H. McNeill 1913-1917
O. S. Welch 1917-1918
R. A. Moody 1918-1921
E. A. Dannelly 1921-1924
B. F. Marshall 1924-1926
J. F. McLeod 1926-1930
W. R. Bickerstaff 1930-1933
W. E. Middlebrooks 1933-1936
D. P. Slaughter 1936-1939
Norman McLeod 1939-1944
Earnest A. Childs 1944-1947
W. F. Calhoun 1947-1950
George W. Kerlin 1950-1954
Wilbur L. Walton 1954-1964
J. Carlisle Miller 1964-1966
Paul A. Duffey 1966-1970
J. Carlisle Miller 1970-1973
George W. Gilbert, Jr. 1973-1983
Lester Spencer 1983-1986
Jerry M. Dooling 1986-1997
R. Lawson Bryan 1997- 2007
James B. Sanders 2007-