In 1950, the Methodists of south Georgia established a religious center on the Georgia coast. Epworth by the Sea began as “a small rustic camp facility with a few old plantation buildings” on St. Simons Island.
Young Methodist from all over the state were drawn to the new retreat center, and in the summer of 1951 two young women from Ray City, GA attended the annual retreat.
June 14, 1951
Ray City Girls attend Retreat
Miss Betty Jo Webb and Miss Patricia Bradford attended the annual district officer’s retreat on June the 7, 8, 9, and 10.
The event was at Epworth by the Sea, the Youth Center for Methodist Young people on St. Simon’s Island.
Betty Jo Webb and Patricia Bradford lived in neighboring houses on Main Street in Ray City, GA. Betty Jo Webb’s parents were Garth Webb, Postmaster of Ray City, and Jessie Francis Webb, a teacher at the Ray City School. Patricia Bradford’s parents were Leon Bradford, a Ray City Barber, and Lula Eudora Bradford. Patricia Bradford later married Ray City lumberman Thomas Studstill, a son of Thomas Julian “Boots” Studstill and Maudell Vaughn Studstill.
The historical marker at the site of Epworth by the Sea describes how the center was founded.
In 1945, South Georgia Methodists resolved to establish a religious center. After searching four years for a site, the Sea Island Company offered to sell them 43.53 acres of the Hamilton Plantation. Because the Conference did not have the $40,000, Bishop Arthur J. Moore asked nine laymen to join him in signing a bank note for a tenth of the purchase price. Not one refused. Since D. Abbott Turner never signed a note, he gave $4,000 in cash. Later known as Epworth Pioneers, they were A.J. Strickland, Jr., Alfred W. Jones, Sr., Blasingame, J. Slater Wright, Ben J. Tarbutton, Sr., Leo B. Huckabee, Jerome Crawley, George T. Morris and D. Abbott Turner. On July 25, 1950, in the Wesley tradition, almost 800 Methodists met under moss draped live oaks for the formal opening. Churches and individuals responded, paid the debt and began a tradition of love, prayers and financial support which makes God’s ministry at Epworth possible.
- Reverend Joseph Frank Snell, Pastor of the Ray City Methodist Church
- A Brief History of the Ray City Methodist Church
- 1923 Revival Meeting Season in Ray City, GA
- Fifty Years of Methodist Ministers ~ Ray City, GA
- 1951 Beaverettes Couldn’t Miss; Boys Went Afoul at Homerville