The following narrative about Ebenezer Church in Marion County, South Carolina is
from a journal maintained by L. F. Jernigan (1873-1955). Mr. Jernigan wrote the
narrative in 1940 in a journal that he kept. The journal is presently in the possession
of his son Frank Jernigan, who graciously gave permission for its presentation on
this Marion County, SC site, 30 Aug 2003.
Some Notes by L. F. Jernigan* Concerning Ebenezer Methodist Church
(Written in 1940, probably)
Five years ago, this 21st of June, Ebenezer Church, Floydale Circuit, sent out the call for her first Home Coming. A considerable number of the members, ex-members and friends responded with their presence, making up a jolly, good natured crowd. All seemed to have enjoyed a fine spirit of fellowship.
A program previously arranged consisted of several addresses, eloquently presenting various traditions gleaned from the mouths of those who had long gone before.
After about two hours in session, which was a capacity audience for this old church, dinner was announced and all repaired to the zephir cooled shade of friendly oak and pine on the edge of the church ground. Here spread on a table 50 yards long parallel, with the highway was Ebenezer's bountiful repast of the most appetizing food and prepared for some 500 anticipated guests. But less than half that number was present for this occasion.
After dinner, for an hour or so, every one was busy renewing old acquaintances and sipping the nectar of old time recollections amid the atmosphere of good fellowship.
The occasion, the first of its kind for the old church seems to have failed to continue this joyous and initial Home Coming festivity. -- The prime object for calling together this Home Coming for Ebenezer was to establish with some accuracy the first organization of its membership. But as no record of its history had been preserved, bits of tradition, as above stated, was all to be offered by the speakers relative to the founding of the Church.
It was asserted by the late Ben B. Sellers, in his address at the time, that the first organization of Ebenezer was at or near Moody's Mill and later on, the first house of worship called Ebenezer was built where the present house now stands; That the first building was erected sometime in the early 1840's was burned in 1855. Two years later the present building was erected and from which Church Spring Branch, Zion, Latta Ch's are offsprings.
The other speakers added little or nothing by way of contributing anything definite to the first organization and its progress up to the 1840's. Thus it would seem that the early days of this old puritanic M. E. Church with all its devoutness went with its adherents imprisoned to the grave.
It was the pleasure of this scribe to have been one of the visitors and withal, one of the ex-members of Ebenezer, but for some several years past he had been a resident of the Piedmont section of this state. And as he was not on the program, which Program seemed so definitely prepared for only those whose names appeared thereon to conduct the session. Probably there were some of those present, including the writer who might have added some inkling of interest had the privilege been extended for a free for all discussion.
As matter of facts and there are facts, sustained by Court records, which establish the ownership of the land on which the three houses (churches) were from time to time erected in which Ebenezer Church worshiped. I mention Court records merely to substantiate facts locating the three church buildings between 1800-1857. The first of these church buildings was erected in the early 1800's on land owned by "Corn Maker" Willis Finklea, which land was later deeded to his own son Elly and later Elly deeded this same tract to his sister, Mrs. Martha Finklea Jones, my Grandmother. This estate comprised a considerable tract, beginning with its northern boundary at the cross roads where the present ch. is located and extending southward to land now owned by the I. P. Stackhouse estate.
The first Ebenezer church, therefore as we see, was built on land owned by "Corn Maker" Willis Finklea, the second and third buildings on the same land, but by this time owned by his daughter Martha, the wife of Levi Jones, and who, by the way, were my Maternal Grand parents.
It was my privilege being the eldest of my parent's (William and Mary Jernigan) children to have been largely reared in the home of my Grandmother Jones. She being a Methodist and member of the last two houses built for Ebenezer to worship in, also was familiar with and did worship in the first and original Methodist Church in Marion County.
From her and other contemporaries with her I gained first hand that this first church building was located about half way between Moody's Mill & the present church, hard by Boggy Branch and on the east side of the road. This was a log house daubed with mud, and as above stated was erected in the early 1800's.
This crude structure accommodated the Methodist for this vicinity as a house of worship till about 1844 when its dilapidated walls encircling, it would seem now a too limited sanctuary, the congregation moved up to the present site where they built a more commodious and modern house of worship.
The old log hut was later converted into a tenement which, alternately domiciled both whites and negroes until it became, by natural decay, untenable for a dwelling. Again vacated it not became a welcoming shelter of refuge in bad weather for the neighbor’s sheep and goats, till answering natures last call "From dust to dust it sank to earth in a heap of its own debris.
The debris was cleared away, leaving bare the precincts of what was once hallowed by a faithful little congregation, and now was converted into a vegetable garden, cultivated for some few years by a near neighbor. Finally the garden was abandoned and the area reclaimed by the ever present forest that surrounded it.
As to the names of any of the adherents to this particular beginning of Marion County's Methodist Ebenezer the writer is utterly blank. Possibly the Tarts, Moodys and Platts are names of some of them who helped make up the Boggy branch congregation. But this suggestion is wholly conjecture on the part of the writer based upon the fact that people by those names lived in that vicinity, at that time, and were Methodists.
And now as we follow this little crowd up to its second house at the X roads we are still unable to identify, laymen, officers, teachers or preachers. Yet, we know the church continued to grow and increase in membership
untill 1855 when it was destroyed by fire. It was the most devistating conflagration that ever swept the community. [It was "Windy Friday."] and in material prosperity. And it is to be supposed that as their physical membership increased their spirituality and ideals developed.
Such is, I think, a reasonable conclusion evidenced by the erection of this new, attractive and more commodious house of God. Here Ebenezer opened wide her door to both master and slave. Her scheduled gathering together heard the same prayers, the songs, preaching. (Was God and his heaven nearer to them than he to us of this day?) This their second Meeting House, however was destined to house its congregation for only a short period, not longer than ten or twelve years.
* Levi Franklin (Frank) Jernigan, son of William Louis Jernigan and his wife Mary (Polly) Jones, was born in Marion County, South Carolina on 16 December 1873. He was born in the home of his grandparents, Levi and Martha (Patsy) Finklea Jones. It was the custom for an expectant mother to go to the home of her mother for the birth of her baby. Their home was approximately one mile south of Old Ebenezer Church and north of the early site of this Church.
He attended and "graduated" from the local school and around 1898/1899 he attended Wake Forest College. There he took a two year pre-law course. After Wake Forest he came back to Marion County and "read law’ in the office of Junius Evans and worked with him for near seven years.
Frank was not an "indoor" person and a Law Office did not suit him so he became a Traveling Salesman, covering much of central South Carolina. It was in Fairfield County about 1910 that he met his future wife, Sara Evelyn Young, and they were married in Winnsboro on 5 June 1913.
They moved into a new home that he had built on land that he inherited from his Mother, who had inherited it from her Mother "Patsy" Finklea Jones, wife of Levi Jones. In September 1922 Frank and Sara sold this farm and moved to Sara’s old "home place" in Fairfield County. They lived there and he farmed until 1937 when they gave up farming and moved to Sumter where they lived until his death on 5 October 1955.
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