Dr. Issac Boring wrote from Georgia, under date of April 13, 1829, as recorded in his diary, “I wrote to Brother Roberts, who is living in the Alligator settlement, stating that if spared, I would hold a two day meeting in his settlement on the 15th or 16th of August.” Rev. J.C. Ley, in his history of the Methodist Church in Florida, thinks that above refers to the beginning of Methodism in Lake City. Corner stones indicate our church organization 1840.
The first land owned by the church of which there is any record, was the 400 block of South Marion Street, purchased May 1852 for $75.00. A pastor was appointed in Alligator 12-30-1856. This was a wooden frame building with the tall belfry in front, and steps the length of the porch led from the sidewalk. Two doors opened from the porch directly into aisles. There was a slave gallery in front of the building. About 1886, a more modern building facing west on Marion Street was erected.
In 1907 a church of stone structure was erected on the northeast corner of Columbia and Orange Streets. A modern Christian Education Building, Wesley Hall, was erected south of the church. This was a three story red brick building which survived a later fire and is now in the block south and adjacent to the downtown Bank of America (old Barnett Bank). The first service was held in Wesley Hall April 27, 1927. A new sanctuary and Summers Chapel, constructed of red brick were erected on the block facing Alachua Street. The Church was dedicated September 17, 1950. The cost was $118, 000.00 not including the organ and furnishings. In 1961 a two story red brick Children’s Education building was erected on the site of the original stone structure.
On May 11-12, 1967 the sanctuary, Summers Chapel and the Children’s Education building were destroyed by fire.
The present sanctuary and Christian Education building were erected at 1801 South Marion Street (now 973 S. Marion) at a cost of $770,565.54. The first service was held Palm Sunday, March 22, 1970. A dedication service and the mortgage burning were celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 12, 1987.
A parsonage was built in 1891 on the land purchased by the church. It was remodeled numerous times and was sold to the Lake City Garden Club September 11, 1966. The first parsonage was a much smaller building nearer the center of the lot. A new parsonage was built in the Forest Hills section, Evergreen Avenue, with a total investment of $38,647.00 and was dedicated October 10, 1971.
Recorded are 71 preachers and associates appointed from December 30, 1856, through June 1, 2000 (3 were appointed more than once prior to 1889). Church membership 6-18-29 was 450.
The church has always been a missionary one. Some of the early minutes report that the entire Sunday School was a missionary society. The Ladies Aid Society, a forerunner of the present United Methodist Women, was organized in 1887 by the pastor’s wife. This has been a continuous women’s organization undergoing several changes in name but always with the same purpose.
Over the years many programs have been nurtured, to name a few: Sunday School for all ages, programs for Youth, Children, Choir Clubs. Vacation Bible School, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, prayer groups, etc. The Spire, a monthly newsletter is sent to all members and friends of the church.
Some outreach programs: A Kindergarten was organized in 1965-66, Happy House School, now Happy House Day Care Center, was begun in the spring of 1966 by a few women later becoming an ecumenical endeavor. First Church was instrumental in establishing the Christian Service Center with open house March 6, 1983. In October 1985 the Columbia Literacy Council was formed. Workshops teach tutors to teach illiterates to read. Foster Graduates in Columbia County are honored each year with a gift basket that includes items needed to set up an apartment or dorm room. Our church as become "the pumpkin patch church" for our community, bringing in over 1,000 pumpkins each year from the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. The UMW Circle, Suddenly Sisters, started a Backpack Ministry in 2011 that provides food on the weekends for school children who frequently had nothing to eat away from school. Our Youth go on two out-of-state mission trips each summer to help those in need. We also participate in Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan's Purse; our missionaries in Zambia, Delbert and Sandy Groves; The Florida United Methodist Children's Home and the new Madison Youth Ranch; Baby Bottle Boomerang, a fundraiser for the Pregnancy Care Center; and the 12 Days of Christmas that reaches out to those who have had a particularly difficult year.
Major changes in the property: On November 30, 1980 ten stained glass windows in the sanctuary were dedicated. (Photos by Robert Hunziger)