For years the only churches in Duluth were the Methodist and the Baptist. Many of the people who are responsible for the development and growth of Duluth and of the two churches are buried in these cemeteries. All upkeep inside the cemetery is led by the church cemetery committee, with some funding by the two churches. Both churches pay equally into a fund that pays for cutting the grass during the spring and summer. Saturday clean-up days are held in the spring and in the fall. Notices go out to cemetery volunteers and usually from 30 to 50 people turn out to help. After this a barbecue lunch is held for the volunteers.
The beautiful fence and wall around the cemetery were funded by the City of Duluth in 2000 with SPLOST funds. This was part of Phase One of the Master Plan for Downtown Duluth, which included the Town Green. These projects were all designed by Mack Cain, a Landscape Architect, who is responsible for much of the beauty in Downtown Duluth.
Singleton Howell, son of the founder of Duluth, Evan Howell, donates two acres to the Methodist Church. Ironically, Singleton died in 1878 and was the first person actually buried there. There are a number of older graves but they were relocated there several years later. Evan Howell and other Howell family members were moved from the Howell Family Cemetery near Evan Howell's home in Duluth about the turn of the century.
The old Methodist Church now stands at the end of the Baptist portion of the cemetery. It was built in 1873 on the spot where Duluth City Hall stands now. It served as the Methodist church until 1961, when the congregation moved to the present location on Hwy 120. Several on the committee grew up in this church. The Masons purchased it later for $10,000 to serve as the Masonic Lodge. In the late 1990's it was purchased from them by the City of Duluth, and moved to its present location. Plans were that it will be turned into some type of community center later. The new Duluth City Hall was then built on the property.
The land for the Baptisth cemetery was donated the year the Baptist Church was founded by J.G. New and Dr. E.G. Ware.
Duluth Baptist Church was organized on February 13, 1886 with fifteen charter members, Julia Flowers, Henreitta Vaughn, Amanda E. Gorman, Sara McKinney, Agnes Pittard, Lou Scoggins, Sara Maddox, Julia A. New, J.L. Vaughn, Ansel Morgan, J.M. McKinney, E.M. Pittard, Thomas E. Gorman, Emory Flowers, and J.C. New. The council of ministers who participated in the organizational meeting, were D.S. McCurry, moderator; B.F. Coolege, clerk; Reverends W.J. Pirkle, J.N. Tribble, Albert Ellis, and E.J. McDaniel. The original building was built on what is now West Lawrenceville Street at a cost of $ 500 on land donated by J.C. New. Originally as was customary, the congregation met for worship once a month, although Sunday School and afternoon activities were added over time. By 1901, early church records show a membership of 85. The original building was destroyed by fire on July 21, 1947. While they met in the local school, the congregation used $ 1,500 in insurance proceeds and $ 3,500 in war bonds, to begin the task of building another church building. Church member, Frank Mattison, supervised the construction, much of which was done by members who also donated material for the building. Mr. Mattison oversaw the purchase, transportation and construction of a solid granite building with the material brought in from Elberton, GA. This distinctive building was completed in 1950, and a parsonage was also built from granite shortly after that. After purchasing additional property across W. Lawrenceville St. to accommodate the growth of the church, a visionary step occurred with the purchase of 16.5 aces on Highway 120 in 1975.
In 1979, the congregation voted to relocate the church to the new property, and sold the downtown property to the City of Duluth, for it’s city hall. In 1980, a multi-purpose family life center and educational building were finished and the church moved to the new site. In 1988, a 1,000 seat worship center was constructed and later office and other educational space was added. After many years of growth, the demographics changed of the area had changed dramatically with corresponding changes in the churches congregation. Still, the church continued to have an active ministry in the community, and expanded its mission efforts by sponsoring new church plants, including one in Duluth, MN, others in Mexico and in India.
In 2010 the church began to reassess its vision for the community which had by this time become very multi-cultural with over 50 languages spoken in the local high school. As a result the church’s mission was defined --“To be a united community of faith, that loves, reaches and disciples all people for Jesus Christ” and began the process of becoming a church which was reflective of the diversity of its community. In 2016, the worship center was ringed with the flags of over 35 countries, representing the birth nations of its members.
Written by Charles Summerour
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