In 1823, after DeKalb County was formed, a settlement on a ridge was selected as the county seat and named Decatur. According to historians there was a group of twelve believers comprised of "Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and two Episcopalians," who gathered to worship in homes or outdoors, weather permitting. It was during this early time in the new town of Decatur when a circuit rider, a Methodist preacher who traveled the backwoods on horseback, arrived. The State Legislature offered each denomination land on which to erect a building solely for worship purposes. The Methodists were the first to accept this offer, and soon a log church house took its place among the other log buildings of the community.
The date of construction of the white frame, one- room structure is unknown. Pictures show doors on the left for men, who sat on the left side of the church, and on the right for women, who sat on the right hand side.
The fast-approaching twentieth century brought unprecedented growth to Decatur, and the Methodists prepared for it in 1899 by erecting the granite edifice, which is now the Chapel. Seventeen years later, the transepts were added and the altar and choirs were moved to their present location. In 1922, a three-story educational building was added to the back of the Sanctuary. In rapid succession, residences adjoining the church on Sycamore Street were used for classrooms, until the Children's Building (now the Sycamore Building) was established. Residences on Ponce de Leon to the north served as classrooms before the present Educational and Activities Buildings were built. Lastly, the Sanctuary arose. Since that time the Chapel has been completely restored and major additions have been added to the Educational and Activities Buildings. Be assured these will not be the last additions!
In the first half of the twentieth century more space was added to accommodate the growing membership. In the last half of the century, the concept of the Church ministering to the whole person -- not only to the membership but also to the community and to the world -- has required different types of buildings and meeting space. This was Jesus' idea all along! We realize at Decatur First UMC that having a growing staff supported by countless volunteers and utilizing appropriately designed and sized facilities are required "to know Christ and make Him known."
For more information, read Mary Fox's account of Decatur First in The Sesquicentennial Celebration 1823-1973, found in the church's Frank Manning Library.