Homer Methodist Church
Edited by Mary Frances Robinson
A small group of people met in a log cabin one evening in 1849 to blaze a path for what would later become The First United Methodist Church of Homer, LA. The land where the log cabin stood, where once our forbearers bowed their heads in humble prayer to begin their church, is now 416 East Main Street and has housed at one time Dorman's Blacksmith Shop, the bus station, a flower shop and at present, a meeting place for the Boy Scouts.
This was not the first group of believers that met together, for history takes us back to 1829-1833, when a courageous circuit rider, William Stephenson, preached and taught along the sandy roads and red clay hills of Claiborne Parish. He came to be regarded as the "Father of Methodism" in this and surrounding parishes.
In 1827, a class was formed in the Hood Settlement, with John Burnham as leader, followed by another in 1830 near Old Athens led by William Ashbrook. However, the development of the Methodist faith came in a large measure out of the numerous Camp Meetings and Brush Arbor Meetings. The first one was held near Isaac Miller's cabin in 1825 with Stephenson, McMahon and Ross as preachers. Others were in 1832, 1838, and later.
Methodism in our state dates back to the fall of 1803 when the Methodist Episcopal Church is credited with being the first Protestant denomination to send missionaries to the Louisiana Territory. Three of them were sent to Natchez, LA to hold services among the English-speaking people. In 1804, a Methodist minister went to Opelousas and two more came to the Natchez District. In 1823, 89 white members and 10 Negro members represented the denomination in the state. It was not until 1846 that the Louisiana Conference was organized. So the Log House Society, which met in 1849, was to become the first affiliated body with the Methodist Church in Claiborne Parish.
Wesley Goodson was its first preacher. According to an article "Arizona" by Vera Robinson Malone in Historic Claiborne, 1962, Sarah Jane Schinque Robinson, wife of Hudson Allen Robinson, Jr. of the Arizona Community near Homer, was born near Natchez, LA. Her family later moved to the Tuggle Place about six miles east of Homer. Each Sunday, she and her grandfather walked to Homer to attend church with Sarah Jane "stepping in the footprints" of her grandfather, Wesley Goodson, who wore a long white linen robe. He was the first "preacher" to preach in Homer. His church was a one-room log hut. He was the great, great grandfather of a present church member, James M. Robinson.
On a hot August day in 1854, a group of Methodist laymen petitioned for an Act of Incorporation of The Methodist Church of Homer with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and presented it to the Honorable J. D. Watkins, District Attorney, who lived in Minden, then a part of Claiborne Parish. The men who bore this petition were:
John C. Blackman, Tillinghast Vaughn, John W. Harrison, James M. Thomason, D. Henry Dyer, A. J. Dykes, Wesley Goodson, John Greer, Z. Ragland, Green S. Traylor, L. J. Joiner, Joseph T. Boring, Quency R. Boring, Joseph Dyer and Catahan Parker.
The record shows that the petition was granted and signed by J. D. Watkins. The people they represented who became the Charter members of the Homer Methodist Church were:
Dickson Henry Dyer, Quency R. Boring, Zachariah Ragland, John C. Blackman, William Mobley, W. B. Greer, Hugh Jones, J. M. Thomason, W. P. Brown, Nathan Brown, Joseph T. Boring, S. P. Hamilton, Thomas J. Hightower, John W. Harrison, J. P. Hamilton, Penelope Cook, Mildred Harrison, Ann S. Sharp, Matilda Wilson, Caroline Harrison, Louise G. Thomason, Mary Jane James Vaughn, Harriett Dyer, Litwelton J. Joyner, Joseph W. Boring, Green S. Traylor, John Greer, Solon Greer, W. W. Greer, Henry Kimble, A. J. Dykes, W. W. Goodson, John S. Burnham, William C. Boring, Cicero Cunningham, Columbus Cunningham, W. E. Gill, Mary N. Joiner, Achsah Blackman, Mary G. Joiner, Jane Mobley, Suffrania Dyer, Fannie E. Capers, Gelly Ragland, E. Brown, Nancy Maskin, Mary Martin, Amanda A. Hightower, Martha E. Boring, Elizabeth Brown, Mary A. Traylor, Emily Greer, Josephine Blackman, Susan G. Joyner, Cecily A. Boring, Victoria A. R. Boring, Rebecca Harrison, Elizabeth Watson, Marish E. Barnett, Martha A. Traylor, and Martha Hamilton.
Worship in the log cabin continued until January 20, 1857. The south half of the present church lot at 700 North Main had been purchased from Tillinghast Vaughn for the sum of $100.00 and a new church was built. This building was used until December of 1876 when the deepest snow in Homer's history crushed the roof - just three days after a fire destroyed a large part of the town. The church was abandoned and all seemed lost, but this courageous band of followers built a new white frame church by 1877 when the north half of the church lot was purchased from Robert Vaughn. Its steeple rose to the sky and a white picket fence enclosed it at the front and back. Two boys, Ernest and Edgar Gill, stoked the wood stove and climbed the steps to the belfry to ring church bells for the Sabbath worshipers. A beautiful reed organ was among the front seats, and the congregation was quite proud of the arched wooden ceiling of the sanctuary. Ladies sat on the west and men on the east side, as was the custom at that time. Near the pulpit was a marble top table that held the two communion goblets and two other stands, one for the preacher's water and the other for a lamp to read by. (Individual communion glasses were not used until later years.) Well remembered was the rustle of the ladies' silk skirts and the smell of Mr. George Gill's Florida Water Cologne as just a part of Sunday mornings.
A desire for better facilities prompted the building of a red brick church in 1906 on the same site during the pastorship of Rev. H. W. Bowman. The white frame church was sold to Mr. M. F. Robinson, moved across to South Main Street and rebuilt as the Robinson Hotel. For 16 years the congregation loved and revered the red brick church, but in 1919, oil was discovered in Claiborne Parish. As Homer grew, the church prospered and a larger building was needed.
Our present church building was begun in 1922 and completed in 1924 at a cost of $75,000.00. The two round stained glass windows saved from the red brick church were placed inside the new sanctuary above on either side of the choir loft, joining the eight full length stained glass windows in the two outside walls creating a lovely sanctuary. The back wall of doors could be folded back to open the large Susana Wesley Room for additional seating, plus a balcony above.
The Men's Bible Class was reorganized and met in the Court Room of the Courthouse each Sunday morning during this building period with Mr. A. E. Dewees as the teacher. It was first organized in 1908 as the Mutual Benefit Bible Class with Mr. A. S. Ford as teacher under the pastorship of Rev. William H. Coleman.
By 1924, the congregation had grown from the 61 Log House members to 875. During the pastorate of Rev. Louis Hoffpauir, the remainder of the debt of $21,000.00 for the construction of the church was paid, and the church was dedicated in 1934. Bishop Hoyt M. Dobbs performed the service.
The Homer Guardian Journal's headline of November 17, 1926 stated, "Louisiana Methodist Conference Opens Annual Session in Homer Today". It was a 10-day session from November 17-26. The article continued, "This is the fourth time since its organization in 1849 that Homer M. E. Church has hosted the conference. Former sessions were held here in 1863, with Bishop J. C. Keener presiding; in 1893, with Bishop Joseph F. Key presiding; and in 1910, with Bishop W. B. Murrah presiding. This meeting, the 81st annual session, was under the leadership of Bishop Warren A. Candler." All sessions were held in the church of which Rev. Ellis Smith was pastor. Upwards of 200 clerical and 100 lay members were in attendance. The citizens of Homer gave their wholehearted support helping in many ways. The Presbyterian ladies served a delightful three-course dinner for the Father and Son Banquet, one of the most enjoyed and appreciated events with 50 fathers and 50 sons in attendance. At the time of the conference, the Homer Church was recognized as one of the leading and strongest churches in Louisiana.
From 1950-1955, much activity took place with the building of our present Educational Building at a cost of $75,000.00. It contains a church office, pastor's study, chapel seating 85 people, 18 classrooms, parlor, bride's room, four kitchen units, six restrooms, a large patio area and fellowship hall and storage rooms. It was ready for use in 1956. Donald Risinger became pastor in 1955.
Today the church is modern in every respect. The sanctuary was renovated in 1977. An elevator was installed in 1980 - a gift from Christell Ferguson; parlor remodeled in 1985, the organ renovated, a sound system and a telecommunication satellite added.
Our pastor in March 2000 is Rev. David Deitzel. We have added a new roof, new air conditioning, a large new church bus, and we have had an increase in membership. Many needs have been met by donations by various members.
Many fine pastors have served this charge through the years. Many fine people have used their talents in service and remain unheralded. For these and others we give thanks to God, for each in their own way have helped to keep alive the flame of faith that was ignited in that long ago log cabin and is still glowing through all these years.