BAGDAD — Bagdad United Methodist, more commonly known as "the little white church" of Bagdad, will celebrate more than 100 years of history with a celebration of preservation at 11 a.m. Saturday.

The festivities will culminate in the placement of a marker at the church on 4540 Forsyth St. signifying the church's membership on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Congregation member Sally Arnold said the church is an important landmark with a rich history.

"It began in a moss-covered arbor in 1830 on Blackwater River," Arnold said.

The first building was built on the waterfront in 1837, she said. In 1887 the church moved to the present location on Forsythe Street. Arnold said in 1909 it was wired for electricity.

The church has survived disasters, Arnold said, during its long history including the steeple and bell tower being hit by lighting twice, in 1912 and 1993, requiring extensive repairs. 

"Another misfortune came when the town's saw mill closed in 1939," she said. "A number of church members (had to) seek work elsewhere. However, when World War II ended in 1946, many families returned."

Over the years, Arnold said, the church has grown to include a fellowship hall and other buildings to support the congregation's growth. As time has gone on the church has begun to show signs of age, she said, which led to the church group, Women of Grace, to sponsor the festival to help raise funds for preservation projects.

Saturday, Arnold said the church will be serving dinner for visitors, displaying antique quilts and holding a bake sale as well as arts and craft and gift basket sales.  There will also be activities for kids, and live music by Charlyne Kilpatrick. 

"We will also give guided tours of the distinctive old sanctuary," she said.

Robert Warren, pastor of the church, came to Bagdad three years ago. He said the church was a "wonderful discovery" for him and he finds the community unique.

"Just the word 'historic' defines them," Warren said. "I don't think I've seen any community or church who is more historically conscious."

Warren said he is proud to be a part of the marker dedication ceremony and he hopes the community will take pride knowing that the church is nationally recognized and come be part of it.

"It is a very humbling sort of feeling." he said.