Soon after its founding, Jackson was served by roads to Vicksburg, Warrenton, Monticello, Columbus, Natchez, and points northeast on the Natchez Trace. However, these so-called roads were little more than trails cleared through the forest wide enough for wheels on vehicles to clear trees and undergrowth. There used to be a saying to the effect that “if in going through the woods you saw the bush move, you knew it was bound to be either a bear or a Methodist preacher.” Until 1836, however, there were no preachers in the Jackson area.
In those days keel boats were in use on the Pearl River for transporting cotton and supplies. The first record of a steamboat on the Pearl River was in 1835, the year before the first church was begun. Currently, the Pearl is only navigable by pleasure boats.
In 1836, the Methodist church was organized in Jackson. The Baptists organized in 1838, the Presbyterians in 1837, the Episcopalians in 1844, and the Catholics in 1846. The Methodist church was built in 1839, the Baptist and the Presbyterian churches in 1843, and St. Andrews Episcopal church was built in 1846, with the aid of the Methodists.
About the time the Methodist church was first constructed, Jackson was a village situated on the Pearl River extending north to High Street and east to Jefferson Street. In 1839, the first Methodist church building, the Old Capitol, and the penitentiary were all completed and occupied - within a few blocks of each other.
In 1840, the number of Black members increased to the point that the gallery would no longer hold all of them, so a brick church was built for them next door on the same lot. The pastor of the White church served both congregations.
In 1842, Bishop Andrew presided over the Annual Conference at Galloway. Two years later this same bishop became the “storm center of the debate at the General Conference of 1844 in New York, which resulted in the splitting of the Methodist Church asunder” over the issue of slavery. At this time the church was divided into North and South.
On January 7, 1861, our Methodist pastor Charles Marshall was invited to offer the prayer at the Secession Convention held in Jackson at the Old Capitol.
During the War Between the States, First Methodist Church served as a Confederate hospital and a base for hospital supplies, as well as a meeting place for the women who made bandages and sheets and other necessary hospital accessories for wounded soldiers. In 1864, Federal troops took possession of Jackson and during this period the records of First Methodist Church were burned. Sherman destroyed a substantial part of Jackson, and much of the rest was destroyed by the Confederates trying to remove Sherman. This battering so damaged the city that Jackson was called “Chimneyville” for several years afterwards.
During this final bombardment of the city in July 1863, a breach was made in the wall above the pulpit by a cannonball. This memento of the war remained until the building was torn down in 1882.
The Reconstruction years from 1865 until 1873 were a bleak period of violence and confusion. Toward the end of this time, First Methodist began once more to have a sense of identity. In 1873, the pastor for whom the current church is named began his first tenure.
At 24 years of age, Charles Betts Galloway first came to First Methodist in 1873. The church began recovering strongly during the four years he was here. In 1876, Galloway went to Vicksburg where he suffered through the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878. First Methodist of Jackson was notified that Galloway had died, but they were notified in error.
In 1881, Galloway returned to First Methodist of Jackson. In 1882, he is reported as saying to the congregation, “Brethren, we have talked of building a new church long enough. I intend to tear this roof from over your heads, then I know we will build.”
In 1883, the new church was completed. The cornerstone of that building was saved when the building itself was torn down and can now be seen in the current mezzanine.
An interesting note regarding this new construction is that there was a graveyard around the previous building from which all the bones were exhumed and now rest in a vault under the new building.
On July 13, 1957, property was purchased on Congress Street which is currently used for the east parking lot.
In 1959, records indicate some of the earliest unrest of the civil rights era. As many southern churches, Galloway struggled with the issues of civil rights, first closing and then opening the doors of the church. The result of opening the doors caused nearly one third of the church's membership to transfer out.
By 1969, Galloway's membership had declined to half of her previous high. Membership would decline until the 1980's when a slow turn around began. Membership would grow during most of the 1980's only to enter a decline from 1988 to the mid-1990's. Since 1995, Galloway has experienced slow but steady growth, especially in the number of young families involved in the church. Today, although the number of members is just over 2100, the percentage of active and resident members has grown significantly.
In 1993, Galloway undertook the first capital expansion in 50 years adding a family life center and completely renovating the annex building for a children and youth center. This addition of space nearly doubled the educational and recreational space in the church. With a gracious and generous gift from Selby and Richard McRae, Galloway installed one of the finest organs in the state of Mississippi. The program was called Fulfill the Vision.
Three years later, in 1996, the church carried out the second capital campaign completely paying the church's debt and finishing the renovation begun in 1993.This campaign, called Partners in a Dream, worked to expand the church's vision and dream. At this time, Galloway adopted the mission of becoming a "Worshiping Congregation that Reflects the Faces of the Community: Young and Old, Rich and Poor, Black and White, and Male and Female."
Today, Galloway is rapidly becoming the youngest (demographically) of the large United Methodist Churches in Jackson. As our congregation continues to grow each and every year, young families and young single adults make up a larger and larger percentage of the congregation. This growth is the result of the church's vision and the commitment of her leadership. In the midst of the numerical growth, Galloway is becoming a multi-cultural church to fulfill our inclusive vision. More and more members of Galloway reach out in service to the community as they seek to become the hands and feet of Christ in our world.