by Shirley Simmons
A really sad occasion for we historians to see one of our oldest buildings razed this week. Progress is the name of the game, but there is nostalgia over the loss of the historical over one-hundred year old building which now will be only a memory! We share this history with you who might not have known the story.
In 1903, Dr. J. A. Sexton donated a lot to the Fuquay Springs Methodist Episcopal Church for their new church building. The citizens of Methodist persuasion had been worshiping at Cokesbury, or at least some members had grown up in that church. After moving into the area around the mineral spring which would become Fuquay Springs, these people were so excited to be given a lot for a church. They now joined the newly organized Fuquay Springs Baptists who used their little wooden building where Fidelity Bank now stands in 1903.
Among these Methodist charter members were J. D. Ballentine, Mr. and Mrs. Romulus Barham and daughter Lizzie, Dr. and Mrs. J. M. Judd, and Hattie Parker Jones family members, and the Sessoms family.
The diligent members paid for their little building within the first six months, opening for services in 1904. It was termed “a good one-room structure, very nice for that time.” The steeple contained a bell which could be heard for miles. Since the Fuquay Road came up the hill behind the Varina Mercantile buildings and continued south eventually in the area of Wagstaff Road, the steeple and front of the building faced that road to the south.
J. K. Sessoms provided fuel for the wooden stove and built the fire so the church would be warm for services. Dr. Judd had the pews built at the Blanchard sawmill. He had drawn off the plan for them based on the pews from Edenton Street Methodist Church in Raleigh.
At this juncture in time, there were no churches termed full-time. Some records tell us that the Baptists held preaching on the first Sunday, the Methodist on the second Sunday, and Wake Christian Church was the third Sunday. After the 1913-14 organization of the Presbyterians, they had the fourth Sunday. Mr. Chester Holland often told us about his attending different worship services on the designated Sundays.
The Methodist congregation worshiped there for a quarter century. In 1930, they completed their first brick building on North Main Street and moved out of the little wooden structure. The property was deeded by the congregation to the Ballentines. Miss Lizzie passed the property to her daughter Margaret Lane. We have been told it was rental property during these years.
In 1977, Ida Mae and Jimmy Ashworth purchased the building and Ida Mae opened her antique shop inside. By that point the steeple had been removed and a porch added to the side making the building front on Main Street. Dormers in the Main Street roof opened the attic for upstairs rooms.
When the Ashworth’s closed the shop and sold the building, it was repurchased by members of the Lane family. Following 1986, It was converted to rental apartments until this demolition. in 2021. An additional structure built in a similar style was added on the back property several years ago.
Certainly, the structure had undergone many changes and was not a modern building. Sadly we can no longer point this out as the “first” Methodist Church in Fuquay Springs. A piece of our history is gone forever! We remember these hardy Methodists which have now become two separate congregations. First Methodist members remain at the 1930 site on North Main and the Fuquay-Varina Methodists have their facilities on Judd Parkway.
Sources: Fuquay-Varina Methodist Church history, FV History, Wake County Records