RIDGEWAY M E CHURCH HISTORY
In the early days of Ridgeway there were no M. E. churches nearer Ridgeway than Morris Chapel, Eagleville and Bethany. Ministers came from various appointments and held services wherever room could be found - in unfinished buildings, store rooms and hotels, but the most novel place to hold church was in a corn crib. The crib stood about midway between the depot and the Herring livery barn, on the west side and the end toward the track. Planks were slipped between the slats on the sides of the crib and served for seats, the minister occupying the center and the congregation either end. The early workers of the church very correctly styled themselves the "corn-crib members."
The first meeting preparatory to building the church was held in the south room of the depot by permission of A. J. Henry, the agent. That afternoon an attempt to organize was made - a soliciting committee was appointed, besides other business. Bro. Chivington proposed finding how much money could be raised among those present, and five persons promised $25 each, and with this small sum promised, the work began to move. The first money paid was $100 by A. K. Miller, $50 by R. Gray, and $40 by A. B. Barnes, and $10 each from two other parties, and with the small sum of $210 in hand the building actually commenced. But the soliciting committee worked in earnest. No contract was let, but Brother Chivington took entire charge of the work on his shoulders, and very ably and successfully was it carried through. For sixteen weeks he came here on Mondays at noon and left on Fridays soon after noon - only allowing himself one day for preparation for his pastoral duties at Bethany. Mr. Gray gave the largest donation but Mr. F. Redinger, Geo. W. Kirk and G.B. Daugherty also gave liberally.
As soon as the building was enclosed, we gave a festival - Nov 26, 1881--which was the first gathering within its walls. A large crowd was present, and Rev. S. Baker made a short talk that night. The receipts were about $60. As soon as the building would permit, Sunday school was organized with A. K. Miller as superintendent; Miss Minnie Combs, teacher of primary department; Mrs. J. T. Travis, Mrs. A. P. Fowler, and Misses Stella and Rachael Vandivert were among the teachers. Brother Chivington, on the morning of the opening, in a short talk, charged the school to hold one session each week "as long as grass grows and water runs". The building was finished and papered just before Christmas and was ready for dedication. Rev. J. W. Martinsdale preached the dedicatory sermon in the morning and made an effort to raise the $450 necessary to pay the indebtedness, but he did not raise more than the half of it. After the sermon in the evening, by request, Brother Reuben Gray took the finances in hand and secured the amount necessary, and then Brother Martinsdale proceeded to dedicate the new church to the services of Almighty God, after which the congregation was dismissed with glad hearts because of the victory.
The church received a donation of $250 from the church extension fund. Noticeable instances of self-sacrifice were those of Sisters Opdyke and Travis, who each gave $10 which they had saved to get themselves winter wraps. On that memorable night it seemed that the debt could not be paid, and they laid their wraps on the debt and went without for a long time. I went to the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.P. Fowler to visit sick children, and I found the room destitute of lath and plaster, but they gave $125 to the church and waited for the improvements later on. In the home of the writer, there were articles of home use very much needed. We did not have a window shade in our house, but we paid the $125 and went without needed articles for years to come.
The first trustees were A. K. Miller, R. Gray, A. Reeves, J. E. Opdyke, and A. B. Barnes. Brother Isaac Leazenby was class leader most of the time from the beginning up to his death. He was always an earnest, active worker and was never known to shirk a duty.
The first wedding in the house was Nelson Taylor and Mrs. Almeda Mitchell, Rev. Anderson officiating. The first funeral held in the house was that of Mr. Jefferson Sevier. S. G. Anderson preached the sermon.
There are a few who deserve special mention. Rev. S. G. and Mrs. Anderson were among the most earnest workers I ever knew. When they reached the fiftieth mile stone of married life, we celebrated the even in a fitting manner. Eighty were present and we gave them $20 in gold. They both, as he expressed it himself to the writer a short time before his death, "changed worlds." Another couple, Mr. and Mrs. David Maxwell; well I remember the baskets of provisions they used to pack to our festivals, dinners nice enough to temp the appetite of the most fastidious. If they live until the 26th day of next August they pass their 52nd married anniversary. And another couple - Mr. and Mrs. Joel Davis; they came here in the early days of the church and were always earnest workers and when they passed the half century of married life they were given a surprise supper and donation. A great many useful articles were given them. Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Brewer were ever ready to lend a helpng hand - both with money and work. He was secretary of the Sunday school several times. He donated $60 in cash and work. John T. Opdyke gave $75. Another faithful worker was Edward Thorne; also his mother. Mr. Patterson was teacher in the school during the first years of its history. Mrs. Carman took an active part when it was possible. Mr. Wagner was always very helpful in church and Sunday school although belonging to a different denomination. Mr. Lumpkins and daughters were always present when sickness did not prevent. Another deserving couple who deserve special mention is Mr. and Mrs. Eli Lundy. They came here almost at the beginning and have been active in church work, and if they live until the 16th of next month they will reach a very remarkable period in life - the 56th anniversary of their marriage.
Silva Gray died 21 December 1881. She was the first taken into the organization, and her funeral was the first preached in the new church.
The old church filled a necessary place in the community, and many hearts were made to rejoice there because of the many seasons of refreshing. But as the community grew, there was a demand for a larger building. In the spring of 1899, it was sold to the Yankee Ridge class, and its place was filled by a new one. The old church was on its way to its new site and got as far as the culvert by A.P. Hayes' residence, where it met its tragic end on the morning of Nov.5, 1899, at the hand of an incendiary. Mingled with its ashes are the memories of great struggles and hard fought battles with the powers of sin, crowned with victory in the name of Jesus Christ. The fire made a loss of $200 on the Yankee Ridge class, as they made the last payment.