Historical Account of
First United Methodist Church Bonifay
Holmes County, Florida
compiled by Syble Harcus
information provided by
The Bonifay Methodist Church was organized in the year 1887. It is not known who was responsible for its organization. Among the earliest preachers were the Rev. D. W. Owens, a "circuit rider" from Marianna, FL. and Rev. H. B. Register a "circuit rider" from Geneva, AL. H.B. Register served the Bonifay Church in 1897-98 when it was part of the Westville, FL. Circuit, according to his son, the Rev. D. Y. Register.
The first church building was erected in the year 1887. It was a one room, wooden structure about twenty by thirty feet. The materials were donated by the Evans Lumber Company and the labor was donated by interested men in the community.
The first property acquired by the church was lot 10 of the present site. It is not known just how this lot was acquired but it was probably donated by the West Florida Land Co. owners of most of the land in Bonifay. For later they gave lots 11 and 12 for the erection of a new church. Lots 7-8-9 was acquired by purchase from Mrs. J.C. McGee. This gave the church ownership of the entire block. The Ralph Neel home still sits on the back corner lot and is used as a Youth Directors home.
In March of 1899 the first Sunday School was organized by Mr. Alex Sessoms with 11 members present. Mr. Sessoms came to Bonifay in 1898. He was a man who took an active interest in the work of the church and made a great contribution of time and money.
In 1905 the second church building was erected. Mr. Alex Sessoms drew the plans for the church, directed the building, and contributed the larger part of the money. The cost of the new church was around $2500-$3000. the labor was contracted by Mr. J. W. Johnson for $450. He was assisted by Mr. W.C. Davis and Mr. T. M. Creel. Upon completion of the new church, the original church and lots were sold to J. H. Godwin, Who later sold it to Mrs. Cassie Creel.
In 1906 the Bonifay Church was joined with the Chipley church to form the Chipley- Bonifay Charge, with the preacher living in Chipley. This formation continued for 17 Years.
In 1906 the Women;s Home Missionary Society was organized in the church by Mrs. Alex Sessoms. Although the name of the organization has been changed a number of times over the years, the women's organization has been active continuously since its organization. The original society was divided into two societies a number of years ago for the convenience of the members, some needing to meet at night and others needing to meet in the daytime. The two groups of women are now called The Hamner Unit and The Stellars Unit. In the mid-seventies there was a third society of women that has small children and met in the afternoons. This was later disbanded when so many ladies began to take outside jobs. Most of this third group are now members of the Hamner and Stellars Units.
In 1923 the Bonifay Church withdrew from the Chipley-Bonifay Charge to become a station. This Charge made it necessary for the church to provide a home for the pastor. The original church, which was built in 1887 and had sold, was re-purchased from Mrs. Cassie Creel and converted into a parsonage. The Rev. L.s. Gilmer was the first full-time resident pastor.
In 1949 the first Sunday School building was erected. It is the present Sunday School building and Fellowship Hall and it was built at a cost of $17,500. Under the leadership of Rev. Griffin Lloyd and the Rev. Lamar Spencer, $14,000 in cash was raised and the building was completed with indebtedness of only $3500. Members of the building committee were; J.L. Kirkland, chairmen; E.M. Scott, and Eric Folmar. The formal opening of the building was held on March 13, 1949, with the open house held in the afternoon.
In 1953 a large and modern brick parsonage was erected at a cost of $15000. The old parsonage was torn down and the usable lumber was salvaged for use in the new parsonage. John L. Kirkland supervised the construction. The Rev. W.F. Daniels was the first pastor to occupy the new parsonage.
In October of 1958, by a unanimous vote of the congregation in a church conference, the decision was made to build a new church and to move the old church to the rear of the Sunday School building. This very wise decision not only prepared the way for a new church but also preserved the old church and provided a place of worship for the congregation during the construction period. Joseph L. Donofro and Associates an architectural firm in Dothan, AL, was employed to draw the plans for the new church and to supervise its construction. The new church was to include
sanctuary, church office, pastor's study, and choir room.
Ralph E. Neel, a local contractor, was awarded the contract, and construction was begun in September of 1959. The church was completed in April of 1960. The cost of the church and its furnishings was $85000. Members of the building committee were; B.W. Sanders, chairmen; Eric Folmer, E.M. Scott, J.L. Kirkland, Paul Bowyer, S.L. Howell, R.H. Segrest and Elton Bowen, The formal opening of the new church was held on April 24, 1960. Dr. W.B. Atkinson, District Superintendent of the Marianna District, was present to the lead the membership in the ritual for the formal opening of the new sanctuary. The Rev. Mark W. Anthony, a formal pastor who was instrumental in creating within the congregation a desire for a new church, delivered the sermon. The open house was held from 2:00-4:00 in the afternoon. The Rev. J. Carl Coulliette was the present pastor.
In the 1960's Bonifay Methodist Church became a United Methodist from a movement that has been started in 1939 for a unification of several branches of the Methodist Church.