In the early days, when Morgan County was a part of the Western frontier of Georgia, Methodism was brought to the early pioneers by Circuit Riders. We are told that in 1806, two young Methodist preachers served the Apalachee Circuit, which covered all the territory lying between the Ocmulgee River and a section near the Oconee River.
The Reverend Hilliard Judge and William Redivine came to the circuit in 1809. The first deed of property to the Methodists was in 1811. Services were held in the new court house in Madison the year it was completed in 1810.
In January of 1824, the Legislature deeded one acre of land to the Methodist to build a church. The members built a simple frame construction and finished it in 1825, making it the first church built in Madison. It had plain pine seats, one center aisle dividing the seating for the men and women. The church, whose location is not known, was filled to overflowing at all services. This Church was later destroyed by fire. It had served its day.
In 1844, a beautiful brick edifice replaced the first building. It was built at the corner of Porter Street and Second Avenue (today Academy Street). The red brick building was dedicated by Bishop J. D. Andrew in 1844 the year the Methodist Church split over the issue of slavery. The North Georgia Conference was held in the old church in the 1880’s.
In 1849, the Methodist Female Institute was where the Episcopal Parish House stands today. It was founded largely by Madison Methodist. It was one of the oldest girls’ colleges in the United States, and it remained in operation until the War Between the States, where it was used as a Confederate Hospital in 1864-65. It burned in 1869.
There was a Juvenile Missionary Society in 1902. The Society was a founder of the Women’s Missionary Society of the North Georgia Conference and continues today.
The first Methodist Parsonage in Madison was built just behind the church on Porter Street in 1902 when the Rev. A. W. Quillian was minister. He is an ancestor of several present members of Madison First United Methodist Church. The house is still in use but not as a parsonage.
The present church building was erected in 1914 in the Akron style, which was popular from 1910-1925. The shape of the sanctuary is square. The grouping of windows, the dome, and square shape of the Sanctuary get their significance from the Book of Revelation.
The building was dedicated by Bishop Warren Candler, also an ancestor of present church members.
The crosses in the brickwork of the eaves are Byzantine style. The stained-glass windows are American and were made in the studio of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The flower in the windows is a Tiffany trademark.
In 1983, the windows were repaired, and a protective covering placed over them. The woodwork in the church is mahogany veneer. The pews were given by Martha Wade Goddard and refinished in 1988.
Instrumental music was so controversial that when the first organ was purchased and used, one gentleman always put cotton in his ears.
In 1915, an organ built by the Austin Organ Company, was installed. This was a gift of Mrs. Sallie Johnson Penn. The organ was rebuilt for the first time in 1987, and was increased from 10 ranks to 11 ranks, with 28 stops and over 1200 pipes.
To accommodate a need for a larger choir loft, the 1915 Austin organ again went under extensive renovation in the summer of 2000. The organ was removed, the ranks reconfigured, and augmented to 42 additional digital ranks. The original console was replaced with a 3 manual Rodgers digital organ and separated from the façade. The Arthur E. Schlueter Pipe Organ Company in Lithonia, Georgia completed the pipe and digital combination organ in October of 2000.
The Wesley Building was added to the campus in 2010 for additional education space, Preschool, and a casual worship service. The Epworth Building was renovated in 2011, converting the Fellowship Hall to a Youth Center. A total renovation of the Asbury Building was completed in 2013. Madison First United Methodist Church is completely debt free.
Mrs. Kirby Smith Anderson, a long time and faithful member of Madison Methodist Church, gathered this historical information for an article in the Madisonian, the Madison/Morgan County Newspaper.