Our History

Methodism's roots in Henry County go back to 1770, when John Wesley sent Francis Asbury to the United States to serve as the first Methodist Bishop in Virginia. Asbury was formally installed as Bishop in 1784, and Virginia became his diocesan jurisdiction. 

In 1813, three years before his death, Bishop Asbury sent Rev. J.C. Traylor to Henry County to serve as the county's first circuit riding Methodist minister, with a command to build a church and a school to feed both the local Patrick Henry Academy and Emory and Henry College in western Virginia.

Prior to Rev. Traylor's arrival, Methodism did exist in Henry County, but not as a formally organized denomination. Its few members met in private homes, school buildings, and courthouses. 

First Methodist Church in Martinsville, founded during Rev. Traylor's tenure, was a small brick church erected in 1839 on the site of the current church annex. The year before, George Hairston II donated the property, which included the site of the present sanctuary, the educational building, the telephone company building next door to the current church property, and the old Globman's department store parking lot adjacent to the phone company. During the period from 1838 to 1882, when the church was part of the Henry County Circuit, it was served by at least 17 circuit clergy.

During the Civil War, the original brick church was destroyed and a small frame church was erected in its place in 1866. A parsonage was also constructed on the site of the present sanctuary. As it grew, the First Methodist Church was removed from the circuit and made a separate station in 1882. The first full-time minister was the Rev. Charles F. Corner, the annual budget was $500 and the church roll consisted of 87 members at the time.

The congregation grew with the community and the church constructed a new and larger building in 1892 at a cost of $4,612. The membership continued to increase and on April 11, 1922, a contract for $57,989 was signed to build the current church. The cornerstone laying ceremony took place on July 4, 1922.

By the 1950's, the need for an expanded facility was recognized and the church embarked upon an ambitious building and renovation program. The three-story educational building was completed in 1966. An office complex with a new fellowship hall and chapel was added in 1979.

The parsonage, originally built next door to the church in 1928, was replaced with a parsonage on nearby Oakdale Street in 1953. The present parsonage on Kenmar Drive in Martinsville was purchased in 1986. It should be noted that the First United Methodist Church of Martinsville is on its site of the original church built in 1838 and is the oldest church on its original site in Henry County, Virginia.

A History of Henry County, Virginia by Judith Parks America Hill
History of Patrick and Henry Counties, Virginia by Virginia G. Pedigo, Lewis Gravely Pedigo