Methodism began in Belton in 1858 when two Methodist pastors, “Sirs Franks and Black, held a 3 days meeting” in the Belton Presbyterian Church. Years later in 1876 Belton Methodist Episcopal Church, South was established. The congregation met at the Presbyterian Church until 1882 when a frame meeting house was built. Sometime around 1900 a tower and steeple were added to the front of the building as seen below.
As can be seen in the pictures, there were two entrances in the front. Originally, one of these doors was for the men and the other for the women; however, the area inside the right entrance was used for a Sunday School room so everyone entered through the left entrance. As best I can tell from the recollections of Mrs. Selma Folk (born 1894-died 1995) the men sat on the right side. While this practice of seating the men and women separately may seem odd, it was church law for the first 100 years Methodism in America.
In the early days of the church the bell in the bell tower was rung before services to call the community to come and worship. Older members tell stories of walking to church and hearing the bell peel in the distance. That same bell still remains in the bell tower and is rung every Sunday at the beginning of worship.
In 1911 the church was renamed in memory of U.S. Senator Asbury Churchwell Latimer(seen in picture) who was an inspiring member of the church from its earliest days. See also Asbury Churchwell Latimer.
In 1942 Rev. Horace Gravely who was serving Latimer Memorial Methodist Church volunteered to serve as a Chaplain in the Military. On February 7, 1943 his ship, the USS Henry R. Mallory, was torpedoed near Iceland. His body was never recovered. It is told that he gave his life vest to a sailor who had none. He was the only Chaplain from South Carolina to lose his life in the war. The chimes in the sanctuary were given in his memory.
The present church structure on the corner of River and Green Streets is the site of the original church building and is the oldest church structure still in use in Belton. While having been renovated several times the original wooden peg structure is present inside the current walls of the sanctuary. A Sunday School wing and a Fellowship Hall were added in the ’50’s, ’60’s, and 70’s.
The most recent addition to the building was the addition of a steeple in 1992. A stained glass window of Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane sits
above the front entrance of the sanctuary. This window was given in memory of Senator Latimer. It is illuminated each night from dusk until midnight as reminder of Christ’s constant intercession for his disciples.
In the 1970’s the other windows in the sanctuary were replaced with stained glass. To see these windows and sermons about their meaning go to “The Stained Glass Windows of Latimer Memorial.”