Wesley United Methodist Church, located in Beaufort’s historic district, reached another milestone in its long existence. Members, friends and supporters of the Church gathered for the dedication of the marker which recognized the Church as an historic landmark and celebrated with a reception afterwards. District Superintendent Reverend Thomas Pearson, joined UMC’s pastor, Reverend James Ross in conducting the responsive Dedication Ceremony. The short, but profound ceremony, included the presentation of the marker by the Old Commons Neighborhood Association to the Church and the acceptance by the Church.
The marker, erected on the corner of West and Prince Streets, now stands as a testimonial to the Church being the first Methodist Church in Beaufort. Chartered as the Methodist Episcopal Church, the mission began in 1833, with the appointment of ten pastors, of which Reverend George W. Moore was to be the leader. The missionary venture was to serve and work with the people on six of the Sea Islands: Port Royal, Lady’s Island, Saint Helena Island, Parris Island, Dataw Island and Coosaw Island.
The Church is believed to have been built in the 1840s. The original outer structure has been maintained to this date. Bishop William Capers dedicated the Church on March 18, 1849. According to a Beaufort City Survey, the porch, with the steeple and the choir loft, were added sometime between 1849 and 1899. Under the leadership of Reverend D.D. Cox, 1847-1850, the membership was 379 African Americans and 27 whites. During the Civil War, the Church was confiscated by the Union Army and utilized as a school to teach newly freed people. After the Civil War, the Church was turned over to its African American members and has since served a predominately African American membership.
Church and community members are grateful for this visual means of documenting and preserving the significance of the Church in Beaufort’s history. The Beaufort County Historical Society, the Historic Beaufort Foundation and other local historians shared their knowledge, resources and time to ensure that the marker was obtained.