There is no record of when the Methodist Church in Brandon was begun, but on October 13, 1833, the Methodist Episcopal Church South executed a deed for 3/4 acre of land in the “Town of Brandon, County of Rankin, Choctaw District, State of Mississippi.” The duly elected trustees of the Church paid Alexander McDowell $100.00 for the land which was located approximately behind where the Presbyterian Church stands today. The deed specified that the land was to be used for the “erection of a House of Worship” and that all other Christians were to be allowed to use the building when not in use by the Methodists. On June 12, 1836, Presiding Elder (District Superintendent) Rev. John G. Jones preached in the first Rankin County Courthouse. His journal tells of how he preached on the building of a church, appointed a board and got “a good deal of money subscribed.”
A two-story wooden building was erected. During the War Between the States, the church building was used as a hospital, treating both Confederate and Union soldiers. It survived the invasion of General Sherman’s Union troops in 1862. However, in July 1863 General Steel’s Union troops marched through Brandon. Before leaving they burned the church building. The bell was all that was saved. (The bell can be seen in the belfry over the front entrance.) Services were then held at Brandon Female College, which was located on the site of the present large school on College Street.
The present sanctuary site was purchased in 1864 for a price of $290.00. Judge Alonzo Mayers was named building superintendent. He donated bricks made by slaves from the deep-red clay of the Brandon area, and building was begun in 1867 and completed in 1873. The inspiring steeple on the beautiful little church held the bell from the first church.
Brandon Methodist Church has entertained the Mississippi Annual Conference three times: 1857, 1872, and 1873.
In 1877 the pastor reported the following to the conference: a library consisting of 350 volumes, a membership of 131, a pastor’s salary of $500.00 paid, and $24.00 left in treasury.
In 1878, the same year the general Conference authorized the organization of a Women’s Foreign Missionary Society in the Methodist Episcopal Church South, Miss Addie Purnell organized a local unit in the Brandon Methodist Church (the forerunner of the United Methodist Women), and this unit holds Mississippi Methodist charter number one. At their sixth annual state-wide meeting, held in Brandon March 9-11, 1900, the Brandon Society announced that a juvenile society had been organized. It was called the Brandon Sunbeams and they encouraged other societies to begin similar work with children. That was the beginning of what we now know as the Methodist Youth Fellowship.
In 1929 the Church purchased a lot just north of the Sanctuary. In 1948 an educational annex was erected on that lot. It contained classrooms, a kitchen, and a fellowship hall.
Easter worship services were observed in the sanctuary April 6, 1958, and the next day demolition was begun. A new modern building was constructed on the same site, containing an office, classrooms, and the sanctuary. It was completed in time for the Children’s Christmas Musical on December 14, 1958.
On April 4, 1960, fire destroyed the educational building and rebuilding began immediately, with a bigger, better building ready for use early in 1961. In 1990 the United Methodist Woman had the parlor in this building enlarged and redecorated. In 1992, a kitchen and sunroom were constructed adjoining the parlor. A covered walkway leading from the sunroom to the sanctuary building was added, making this area more accessible for handicapped persons.
When the second sanctuary building was demolished, the bell was salvaged by Tom Berry, a member. In 1975, a bell tower was erected on the church lawn and the bell was home again.
In 1977 John and Sylvester McLaurin donated three acres of land on the northeast side of the church property. In 1978 a lot and two-story building on the north property line was purchased from the Bullock family. The lower floor became the home for the Boy Scout Troop, and the upper floor was rented to local firms. Later renovations were made in 2002 to use the upper floor as the Youth Activities Building.
A Family Life Building was constructed adjacent to the educational building in 1979. It was completed and officially dedicated in December 1981.
In 1901 the Brandon Methodist Church purchased a house from Mr. S.L. McLaurin for use as a parsonage. The wood frame house was located at what is now 306 Mary Ann Drive. In 1952 the old parsonage was demolished and construction on a modern blond brick house was begun. It was completed in March 1953. On January 10, 1971, the church purchased the McLaurin home and two acres of land on the southeast property line of the church. The old parsonage down the street was sold, and the former McLaurin home became the parsonage. In 1987 this house was given to Mr. Sidney McLaurin to move off the property. The parking lot was extended into this area. From 1987 to 1991 the church did not provide a home for the pastor and instead gave him a housing allowance. In 1991 a lovely four bedroom brick house was constructed on the southeast end of the church property for use as a parsonage.
The year 1992 saw the opening of the first Brandon United Methodist Church Kindergarten with classes for three, four, and five year old children.
In 1996 a plan for renovations and additions to the church buildings was presented to the members and a “Proud Heritage/Exciting Future” campaign was begun. Restrooms, 6 classrooms, 3 nursery rooms, 5 offices, a large foyer, and a hallway connecting the buildings were added. Also constructed were a covered drop-off and a bell tower. In 1998 the original church bell was once again atop the Sanctuary.
In 2000 the property adjoining the east end of the church was purchased, rounding out the present land parcel.
Presently the church continues to grow in membership and facilities. A financial fund drive in 2002 was completed and work was begun on a two story educational building erected behind the Family Life Center and Education Building. The Church is still a vital part of the community and living the building fund slogan: BUILT TO STAY AND BUILDING TO SERVE.
Submitted by Ruth M. Harvey, Church Historian 2002
Updated by Charla Jordan, 2011