Near the end of the 19th century, the leaders of Methodism in South Georgia congregated in Dublin for their annual conference. The event was held in the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church under the leadership of many legendary Methodist ministers. It would be the first of three conferences held in our city before a permanent meeting site was established. The delegates were housed in local hotels and in residences of local Methodists - and probably in the homes of members of other denominations.
The conference opened on the 6th of December 1899 with Bishop A.W. Wilson of Baltimore presiding. Rev. W.F. Smith, who had been responsible for the building of the Dublin church five years earlier, was elected to serve as Secretary of the conference. Reverends Thomas H. Thomson, Edmund F. Cook, Osgood F. Cook, William W. Seals, and Jeremy M. Glenn were selected to assist Rev. Smith. Rev. Glenn would return to the church twenty two years later as its pastor. One of the highlights of the first day was the presentation of a gold watch to Rev. W.C. Lovett by the ministers of the Americus District.
The big event of the second day was the least enjoyed of the conference. Following the opening prayer, the committee on ministers gave a disparaging report on one of their own. In light of convincing evidence, the members dismissed Rev. S.G. Meadows from the conference for his acts of immorality. In a more pleasant agenda item, new ministers were accepted on a trial basis while many newer members were moved up in their class. Dr. J.W. Roberts, President of Wesleyan College in Macon, made an eloquent speech in the interest of his college. Rev. J.W. Callahan, former missionary to Japan, spoke on the behalf the church's continued support of mission work.
During the session on the third day, the delegates continued to receive committee reports on various aspects of the church. More ministers were promoted to higher classes. Those elder members who had served the Church for several decades were superannuated to the esteemed positioned of seniority among ministers of the Church.
During the fourth day, the delegates went through one committee report after another, ranging from the Orphan's Home to the Epworth League. Dr. W.W. Pinson gave a report on temperance - one that was enthusiastically applauded by the delegates. Pinson urged the delegates to be partisan prohibitionists and to eliminate any use of alcoholic beverages. The minister criticized the American people for sending soldiers and missionaries to Cuba to save lives, when they stood by and let the breweries kill people on a daily basis.
The final day, Sunday the 11th, was the biggest day of the gathering. Bishop Wilson gave an address at the Methodist Church, while other sermons were presented at First Baptist, St. Paul A.M.E., and Marie Baptist Churches. A community-wide temperance meeting was held at the courthouse. The biggest event of the entire conference was the announcement of new appointments to the churches of the conference.
The appointments for 1900 to the Dublin District included J.M. Lovett, Presiding Elder; J.T. Ainsworth, Brewton; E.H. Crumpler, Lovett; E.P. Morgan, Wrightsville station; C.T. Bickley, Wrightsville Circuit; and J.S. Jordan, Adrian. Rev. William N. Ainsworth was named minister of First Methodist Church of Dublin.
Rev. Ainsworth served two years at First Church, Dublin before moving onto Mulberry Street Methodist in Macon. In 1918, Rev. Ainsworth was elected Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Rev. Ainsworth presided over Methodist Churches around the world until his retirement in 1938. Preceding Rev. Ainsworth at First Methodist Church and participating in his next to last South Georgia conference was Rev. Peter Simmons Twitty, the beloved minister of thousands of Methodists throughout South Georgia.
Peter Simmons Twitty was born in southwest Georgia in 1842. On May 27, 1861, he enlisted in Sumter Light Guards, Company K, 4th Georgia Infantry, in Americus, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, Twitty was appointed regimental musician. 1st Sergeant Twitty suffered his first battlefield wound at the bloody battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam, Maryland on September 17, 1862. On that day, the bloodiest in American history, more than twenty three thousand men were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. Sgt. Twitty returned to duty only to be wounded a second time on the 2nd day of the Battle of Gettysburg. During that three-day epic battle more than fifty thousand men were killed and wounded. Twitty was taken prisoner and kept in a Union prison until March 6, 1864. Sgt. Twitty was wounded a third time at Winchester, Va., on Sept. 19, 1864. The war ended for Twitty on May 10, 1865, a month after Lee's surrender, when he surrendered at Tallahassee, Florida. Sgt. Twitty entered the ministry of the Methodist Church in 1872. He served as President of Andrew Female College from 1891 to 1895. Rev. Twitty served as pastor of First Methodist Church from 1899 until his superannuation during the 1899 Conference in a highly emotional service, which was one of the saddest moments of the entire week. Rev. Twitty died on April 15, 1901.
The church sanctuary was filled with mourners and those who came to paytheir last respects to their beloved friend and comrade. Not a seat was empty. The aisles were filled with standing gentlemen. Rev. W.N. Ainsworth led the body of his friend and predecessor up the aisle to the chancel railing. Members of Camp Smith, United Confederate Veterans stood in a line at the church door. With their heads bowed in upmost reverence, these gray-haired gentlemen said their farewells to another fallen comrade before bringing up the rear of the funeral procession into the church. The funeral services were conducted by a half-dozen ministers and colleagues of Rev. Twitty. Rev. Twitty's body was carried to its final resting place at the rear of the church in the Old City Cemetery.
The life of Rev. Peter S. Twitty was typical of those men who served the Methodist Church at the turn of the 20th century. Rev. Twitty's death came as a result of that first battle wound he suffered at Sharpsburg, Virginia in September of 1862. In battle, he was a soldier for his state. In life, he was a soldier of the cross - a Christian Soldier fighting for the Lord.
The Methodists of South Georgia came back to Dublin in 1919 and again in 1937. Eventually the conferences were moved to permanent locations. For one week a hundred years ago, our city, on the brink of becoming one of the state's largest, was home to hundreds of Methodists going about their work in serving the Lord.