Bethel Methodist is one of those small “three window” simple churches that rise up in the piney woods and sandy soil of the south Georgia wiregrass country. Thankfully the church is still active but time has taken its toll in several areas. The building is beginning to sag due to deterioration of the mortar between the bricks of the supporting columns. The brick chimney has been removed because it was leaning and causing damage to the structure. A patch in the roofing material can be seen in the area the chimney once occupied. There is a hole where the wood heater flu passed through the left wall. However the interior of the little sanctuary is a treat for the eyes as you will soon see in subsequent photos.
A search in the Statesboro library produced little information about the church. It was originally known as Alligator Creek Church but (the source wrote in 1978) some pastor years ago didn’t think Alligator was an appropriate name for a church and the name was changed to Bethel. We also have this from the History of the South Georgia Conference United Methodist Church….”West of Folkston on the west side of post road from US 23 to old Homeland Road is located this church called Bethel” (the road referenced as post road is Spanish Creek Road whose name changes to Sardis Road at some point). “It is on the site of Alligator Creek Church. It was organized before 1872 in a log building. In 1872 the present building was built; the lumber, from a sawmill at Kings Ferry, Fla., was brought up the St. Marys River to Traders Hill and hauled to the present site by ox team. The sills were put together with wooden pegs. It is still in use” (now meetings are held monthly). “For a period of time it served as the school during the week. Bethel Cemetery is adjacent to the church. Among the circuits to which it belonged is Traders Hill and Folkston. It has been in the Brunswick District. 1982 membership: 13, members entering the ministry: Bailey Gay.”
We don’t know exactly when the church was formed but we suspect it was prior to the present church built in 1872. There are documented graves in the cemetery from 1861 and we also suspect there are many unmarked graves from an even earlier period. These rural church cemeteries almost always have graves that are lost to us because the early, wooden or small field stone markers have disappeared over time. There are seven CSA veterans in the cemetery, although none of them have government markers.