History of Christ Church in Valdosta, Georgia
by Thomas Mundy, Jr.
The exact date of the beginning of this mission is not known, but for eighty years and longer Episcopalians have identified themselves with the life of the community. To accommodate these early members, Rev. Samuel Benedict, Rector of St. John’s Church Savannah, and also Archdeacon of South Georgia, held services in the court room of the Court House. Although he came only occasionally, he would remain for several days at a time. When Valdosta was merely a mission station, its members had a dream of some day having a church building.
This dream did not come true until 1885 when Rev. H. B. Stuart-Martin came to Valdosta as the mission’s first regular Vicar. At that time there were two church families–Parr and Wilson–a total of twelve, half of whom were communicants. With the money that these members had saved, the Vicar bought a lot on Central Avenue (68 ft x 92 ft) from Mr. J. N. Griffin for $250.00. This was in September and the corner stone was laid on November 7, 1885–the rector at Waycross assisting the vicar. A lady, whose name is unknown, gave the Vicar enough money to build the church. A Mr. Holt was given the contract for building the church, and the first service was held in the new church February 1886. The building was of frame construction and not until 1910 was the building stuccoed. Bishop Weed of Florida consecrated the church on December 13,1887–the Bishop of Georgia being abroad for his health.
At the request of the Rev. W. H. Phillips, rector of the church in Bainbridge, the ladies of the church organized a Sunday School in 1892 with two teachers and fifteen pupils. About this time Mr. Charles Thompson came to the aid of the ladies as organist for the morning services. He remained organist of the church for about fifty years, and was a most loyal and faithful member of the church.
Colonel Powhattan Whittle had given the church a lot on Ashley Street where the A. & P. store is now located. The ladies wanted to build some stores on the lot, so when Bishop Nelson came to Valdosta for the first time in 1892, as the guest of Mr. Lewis, the ladies asked him if he would loan them enough money to build the stores. He thought it was a good idea and loaned them the required amount, $360.00. The stores were easily rented.
When Rev. F. B. Ticknor, first resident vicar of the mission, took charge, the church had grown to six families; Whittle, Crom, Hampton, Powell, Barnett and Lamar. The Sunday School increased to four teachers and twenty four pupils by 1894. The vicar insured the church for $1000.
Seeing, that the ladies were having a hard time raising money, the Rev. Ticknor suggested that they organize “Christ Church Guild” which they did in 1894 with Mrs. Lamar President, Mrs. Crom Vice President,- Miss Hampton Secretary and Mrs. Powell Treasurer. These hard working ladies gave concerts, festivals, lectures and in other ways paid the Bishop back in full the money he had loaned them with seven percent interest.
In 1896 Bob Taylor gave a lecture and with the proceeds a baptismal font was purchased. At the suggestion of Mrs. Lamar, the Guild borrowed $300 from the Bishop to repair the church, giving a mortgage on the stores as security. The church was reshingled, repainted, the walls calcimined and a carpet put on the floor. This money was paid back in full. In appreciation for having such fine workers in his diocese, the Bishop gave a set of candle sticks to the church.
It had been about seven years since the stores on Ashley Street were built and they were in need of repairs. With some money left over from the church repairs and from an ice cream festival, the Guild repaired the stores.
At various times the name of the guild was changed. The Rev. Geo. M. Davidson suggested changing the name of the organization from Christ Church Guild to Women’s Auxiliary. This was in 1897. The ladies agreed to his suggestion. But when the Rev. Dyer came he thought it ought to be St. Mary’s Guild, and finally the Rev. Cassil, archdeacon of Savannah, changed it back to Christ Church Guild.
The Rev. G. A. Ottman organized a vestry in the fall of 1900 with Mr. J. L. Staton as Senior Warden and Mr. Charles Thompson as Junior Warden. Up to this time the ladies of the church had done all of the work, but since 1900 the men have taken over the important matters. In the same year Mrs. Lamar resigned as president of the Guild and Mrs. Staten succeeded her. Being the first president from 1894-1900, Mrs. Lamar will always be remembered as one of the greatest leaders of the church. She was the one who suggested building the stores on Ashley Street. It was also at her suggestion that the church was repaired. She did not resign her office until the debt was paid in full.
In January of 1901 the first choir of the mission was organized under the direction of Miss Dew. Because of the choir, the Guild bought new hymn books and book racks for all of the pews in the church. When the Rev. G. A. Ottman came to the mission, the church agreed to pay $200 of his salary. Because of this agreement, the ladies were busy giving entertainments of all kinds to secure the money. At the suggestion of Mrs. Staton, the Guild sold fifty dolls in December of 1901 and made a profit of $106.00. In March of 1902 with some of this money, the church bought a brass altar set, consisting of a cross and two vases. These three pieces, which are still in use, cost $61.00. But R. Greissler of New York gave a 10% discount so they really cost only $54.95. Because it was her suggestion to buy the set, Mrs. Powell placed them on the altar for the first time on Easter Day 1902. In October of the same year Mr. Thompson sold the old organ and bought a new one. Mrs. J. L. Staten gave the church a set of electric lights in 1901 which were in use until 1938. She suggested the organizing of a “Needle Woman’s Guild” in 1903, and became its first president.
In 1904 the mission did not have a regular minister, but the Rev. G. S. Whitney of Thomasville and the Rev. Cassill, archdeacon of Savannah, held occasional services. At the suggestion of the Rev. H. B. Thomas the Guild, in 1910, sold the stores on Ashley Street and with the money built a rectory on East North Street. The vestry borrowed about $500 from the bank towards this project. In May of 1912 the vestry paid $346 to the bank and the balance later on. About the same time the rectory was built the church was enlarged. It was cut in half and the back part moved to make a larger nave, thus providing space for more pews for the growing congregation. In 1911 the church, aided by the Guild and vestry, bought a new organ. This organ, which was in use until 1940, was installed soon after the church was enlarged.
In October of 1913 the church sold the property next to the rectory for $1600. It was bought at the time the rectory was built. Mr. J. F. McCracklin bought the lot paying $400 cash and the balance at 8% interest, payable in three years. In September of 1913 Mrs. Ethel Booth gave the church a brass missal stand and Mr. Spencer Henley gave a pair of Eucharistic candle sticks, which are now in use. In the summer of 1914 the rectory was painted for $109.00 by Goodson Brothers Inc.
In 1918 Mr. Foster lent the church a large sum of money to cover church expenses, and it was paid back before the specified time. The vestry bought 17 pews for the church. There was a vested choir on Easter of 1921, under the direction of the Vicar, Rev. J. J. Cornish. In February of 1922 the Guild started a Parish House Fund, but at the request of Bishop Reese, it was changed to an organ fund. The first Bible Class of the Mission was formed by the Rev. Cornish in 1924. North Street was paved in 1926 and the church had to pay for the paving in front of the rectory. So they borrowed the money from the bank. In 1928 the attic of the rectory burned and a new roof had to be put on. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Foster helped to collect the insurance money, and with the help of the Guild put the rectory in first class condition. With the help of Mr. Horace Caldwell, who gave the church $692, it got out of debt by the time the Vicar, Rev. J. J. Cornish retired in 1932.
The Rev. A. T. Eyler became Vicar in the fall of 1932. He bought electric light fixtures for the rectory and paid for them himself. Up to this time the rectory had gas fixtures in it. After Mr. Cornish died, the members gave donations and bought a pulpit in his memory, which was used for the first time in 1935. In the fall of the same year, Mrs. Asbury President of the Guild, suggested buying gas heaters for the church at a cost of $282.00. The heaters were installed in December 1935. Mr. Eyler resigned February 1st 1936. Nothing had been paid on the heaters when he left.
The Rev. T. G. Mundy become vicar of the church March 1st 1936. The church was in sad need of repairs. In June 1936 the roof was covered and other repairs made at a cost of about $250. Most of this was raised by donations from members of the church and the Easter offering of 1937. The rectory needed repairing and this was done in April of 1937, at a cost of $125. A beautiful pair of seven branch candelabra were given by the Lewis family and were used for the first time on Easter 1938. A reredos was placed in the church in November of 1938; and in December new light fixtures were put in at a cost of $20.00. Mrs. Mundy, who was President of the Women’s Auxiliary, remained in that office until the gas heaters were paid for in the fall of 1938. The choir was vested for the first time in many years on Christmas 1938. In March 1939 the reed organ was repaired and the Vicar made an electric blower and attached it to the organ.
In the latter part of June 1940 the sanctuary of the church was enlarged eight and one half feet, thus providing room for choir stalls. This improvement cost $358.00. Of this amount, $125 was borrowed from the bank and paid back the following December. The balance was paid out of money already in the treasury. The Vicar drew up the plans, bought the material and superintended the work.
A new wine colored carpet, purchased with donations from the congregation, was put in the church in October 1940. Mr. Caldwell made it possible to purchase the carpet wholesale at a cost of $68. He also gave the padding under the carpet and had the walls of the church calcimined. Mr. Glen Robinson Jr. gave the church $10 which was used to purchase thirty seven red hymnals for the pews.
In the summer of 1940 a fund was started for a pipe organ. This was at the suggestion of Mrs. Dave Wainer, who was president of the Woman’s Auxiliary. It was through her that an unknown donor started the fund with $100.00. Later on the Lewis family gave $450.00 which made it possible to purchase the organ at once. So a $1200 pipe organ was ordered from the Wicks Organ company. The Auxiliary paid $600 down and the vestry assumed the balance–$200 per year for three years at six percent interest. The organ was paid for in November 1942. The Auxiliary carried the insurance on the organ–$1200–at a cost of $45.90. At some future date the organ will be a memorial to Mr. Charles Thompson, who so loyally and faithfully served the church as organist for fifty years.
Mr. H. F. Kraft of the Music Department of the G.S.W.C. became organist and choir director, in October 1940. Because of a conflict with other work he resigned at the end of the following August, and Mr. Hugh McGarity, director of the V.H.S. band, became organist. Mr. McGarity entered the Navy in October 1942 and Miss Mary Beth Woodward became organist of the church.
Mrs. Dave Wainer gave the church a brass Processional cross, and Mrs. Charles Converse gave a silk American Flag. Those gifts were used for the first time around Easter 1941, also at this time new skirts and caps were provided for the choir. In April of the same year Mr. Caldwell solicited funds from the church members to make repairs on the rectory. The exterior was painted and the walls inside were calcimined. The house was treated for termites and the Vicar screened a part of the front porch. This all amounted to $313.00.
In February 1942, a Business Woman’s Auxiliary vas organized with Mrs. Lena Branch as president. The constitution was drawn up by Thomas Mundy Jr. and was adopted by the Auxiliary. One of the most successful Every Member Canvasses the church ever had was conducted by Mr. Wayne G. Miller, chairman, in the fall of 1942. The largest congregation in the history of Christ Church attended the Mid-night service Christmas Eve 1942. About 200 came to the church but only 170 could get in the church. This is the history of Christ Church through December 1942.
The following members of Christ Church have entered the military service of their country and have a star on the service flag as of July 1st 1943:
ROBERT MCEACHREN JR
THOMAS MUNDY JR
GLEN ROBINSON JR