History of Bethel UMC
Methodists arrived in South Carolina by the end of the 18th century. By 1787, a congregation organized by the Rev. Richard Swift was meeting at Rembert’s Church, about 4 1/2 miles north of the present church’s location. Within four years, Methodists were gathering also for worship at various camp-meeting grounds.
One of the most popular of these grounds was Lodebar, situated about one mile west of Bethel. Lodebar church was formed at this site by 1814. As early as 1811, a congregation was meeting two miles south of the Bethel site in Clark’s meeting house. Another church, Sardis was situated one mile east on Scape Ore Swamp.
These churches continued to grow until 1856 when Clark’s church built a new church which was consolidated with Lodebar’s along with additional members from Rembert’s and Sardis. This new building, completed and dedicated in 1858, would be called Bethel, meaning “House of God.” The church was built by its members and their slaves with hand-drawn and hewn timber donated by members. In 1859, it became clear that a cemetery was needed as three young sons of Capt. J.F. Michaux died of diphtheria within days of each other. These were the first graves placed at Bethel cemetery
In 1879, an acre of land on Lodebar Road was given by M.T. McLeod for the purpose of building a parsonage. In 1880, brother J.S. Beasley and his family moved in. Over 20 years later, in 1902, the church purchased land in the village of Oswego and built a new parsonage at a cost of $1300. This is on the site of present brick parsonage which was built in 1940. At Bethel church, in 1917, more comfortable pews made of oak wood replaced the original hand-made ones. The original pews were sold to Clark’s church. One of the original pews still remains at Bethel.
In 1949, Bethel added 10 classrooms, in a two-story structure that forms two wings across the back of the present-day church. In 1966, a small chapel was designed by Ellis Cook and built to provide space for dinners, church meetings, and receptions. This building is called “Little Bethel.” Now over 140 years old, Bethel UMC, stately and serenely beautiful, symbolizes the faith and service to God of devoted and courageous congregations.
On April 13, 1997, Bethel UMC received a state historical marker. The marker represents the documented history of the church that was then 141 years old. With God’s help, the walls of Bethel UMC will continue as a monument to the spirit of community history of Oswego.
On October 21, 2001, Bethel UMC broke ground for a new family life center.(FLC)
A service of Consecration was held on August 4, 2002. The FLC has increased our ability to minister and reach out to our community . With this addition, we were able to add three new offices, five new classrooms, a conference room, an activity center (gymnasium), a large kitchen, two sets of restrooms, and several roomy storage areas. This has allowed room for additional Sunday School classes, a wonderful infant nursery, recreational programs, as well as other ministry opportunities.