Prior to 1921, as far as can be learned, there was no group of people in the Greenville area known simply as "Christians" who assembled themselves together to worship God in spirit and in truth as taught in the New Testament. There were a few families who were members of the Lord's church who had moved to Greenville, but were unknown to each other. Therefore, they were not assembling themselves together.
In 1921, brother and sister Jackson (Jack) Fennell, who were Christians, were meeting in their home in the Sans Souci area. Originally from Greenville, they had heard the truth and obeyed it, becoming Christians in Texas, and then moved back to Greenville. They contacted a church in Nashville, TN. for someone to come to Greenville. That church in turn contacted brother G.F. Gibbs who was helping brother Thomas H. Burton with the new work in Union, SC. Brother Gibbs came to Greenville and conducted a tent meeting on what was then called Old Buncombe Road (now Buncombe Road), near American Spinning Village (no longer in existence). It was during this meeting that the Fennells became acquainted with the families of two brothers, Joe and Milton Sparks, members of the church who had moved here from Hartford, TN.
At some later date, sister Fennell passed from this life, and brother Fennell later married a lady who was the mother of a young girl we all came to know and love as Exie Harris. Joe Sparks was the father of sister Elizabeth Sparks Craft, mother of the Craft family. By this, there is still a connection today with the beginning of the church in Greenville.
In March 1922, brother and sister Gibbs moved to Greenville and lived in the Sans Souci area. Most of his work, however, was done across town in the Mills Mill, Dunean and Judson mills area. It was in the summer of 1922, during a tent meeting near Mills Mill, that the McCoys and Turners were baptized. From the McCoy family we knew Annie Belle Moreland. From the Turner family, we have Pansey Durham, Jenell Lindsey and the late Julia Mae Moody. All of the began meeting in brother Gibbs’ house. After this, the tent was moved to Judson, where among those being baptized were the Dovers, Dotsons, Upchurches, Morrises and Faubions. The tent remained at this location for about three months during which time a meetinghouse was built just off the Judson Mill village.
The Waverly-Belmont church in Nashville supported brother Gibbs with $125.00 per month for the 6 ½ years that he stayed in Greenville. They also contributed $1000 toward the construction of the meeting house along with another $1000 toward furniture for the building. Some of those pews are in a classroom at Edgewood still today.
Tent meetings continued to be held in 1923 and later. The locations of these meetings extended from Poe Mill to Piedmont and Enoree. A work was started later at Fork Shoals through a “Dad” Whitaker. It was during this time that the Pruitts were baptized. That work ended due to some events of which we do not have the details.
Judson became a hub for the preaching of the Word of God in the Upstate area. Other churches were established as a result of the work at Judson, among them being Duncan, Anderson, Spartanburg, and even as far away as Gastonia, NC. There were two additional congregations started in Greenville. First, in the 1940’s there was the Central church which was located in a house on W. Washington Street and later relocated in 1955 to Poinsett Highway. This congregation disbanded and closed its doors several years ago. In the 1950’s, the Augusta Road church was started by members from Judson. That congregation continues until today. From the Augusta Road church came the Northeast congregation under the leadership of Burl Curtis. There were some other individuals, who desiring to bind opinion as doctrine, left Judson and started the church that is now located in Berea. They hold to the view of using one cup in observing the Lord’s Supper and are anti-Bible class.
Judson has had several gospel preachers to arise from among its members. In the early years there were men such as Henry Dotson, Oliver (U.O.) Dover, Brady Green, Glenn Moreland and Homer Craft. Today, other active preachers from Judson/Edgewood are Randy Lawless, Robert Morris and Gilbert Tripp. In between the beginning and now there have been several others who have preached also.
Prior to the start of the church in Union (about 1919) and then the Judson congregation here in Greenville, there was a group of individuals down the Fork Shoals Road who were attempting to be scriptural. There are no written records of this work partly due to the burning of the court house in which the records relative to the deeds were destroyed. Brother James A. Tripp, father of the Tripp families, was one of the outstanding leaders of this group. During the last days of this work, brother Homer Craft preached there until the building was taken from them and the doors locked by the digressive Christian church. It is known today as the Antioch Christian Church.
About 1959, the brethren at Judson began to look for property to relocate the church. The building had deteriorated, and the neighborhood had declined so it was judged best to move. The search was confined to the area between Easley Bridge Road and Grove Road. In early 1960, it was learned that the old Mills Mill school property was for sale. Bids were being submitted, and the church was given permission to purchase the property at the highest bid of $6,124.85. The property totaled 3.8 acres.
A building committee was appointed about a year after the land purchase. Those on the committee were Charles Hicks, Carl Lindsey, Dale McDaniel, Jimmie Tripp and Ernest Thigpen. A set of plans, developed by Charles Hicks and Dial Holder, were adopted by the business meeting for an educational building which was to be phase one of a two-phase building program.
A contract was signed with the Blue Ridge Lumber Company for $20,645.00. This did not include the heating and electrical work which was to be done by the brethren. A loan for $17,850.00 was obtained from the First Federal Savings and Loan Association. The Blue Ridge Lumber Company was also the one who provided materials for the original Judson building.
Groundbreaking was held February 11, 1962 at 12:45 PM. The opening day services were on June 24, 1962.
In 1964, the decision was made to proceed with phase two of the building program. Again, Charles Hicks was asked to serve as chairman of the committee consisting of Jimmie Tripp, Ernest Thigpen, Carl Lindsey and Dub Lawless. Again, Dial Holder assisted in the development of the plans.
Also, once again the Blue Ridge Lumber Company was awarded the contract for the construction. Later, it was found that they were unable to fulfill their contractual obligations, and a new contract was let to M.L. Garrett Construction Company. This contract excluded the heating and air conditioning work which was to be done by the brethren.
Groundbreaking for this phase was on July 25, 1965, and the opening day services were held on June 19, 1966. The first service was the ordination of elders. These were Charles Hicks, Carl Lindsey, and Joe Tripp.
This brief history has not been intended to be exhaustive. It was not the purpose of this writer to give all of the details of all the events in the life of this congregation. These are only some of the highlights that have taken place over the past 80 years. Much of the history has gone to the grave with those who lived those days and experienced the highs and lows of all that has happened. Much of the information that is contained in this writing was given to me several years ago by brother Gibbs, who took it from his diary. The rest has been obtained from various sources. To those who read these words, I hope that this will help you to appreciate your heritage and that you will want to continue in the “old paths” that those who came before have trod.