Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Springfield Township - United Methodist Church of West Springfield

Contributed by Evelyn Baker


The article below has been researched and written by Evelyn Baker. It is based on 1800 era entries that Evelyn found in an old book in the basement of the church, in a bottom drawer, at the bottom of a pile of old books, and on Conneaut newspaper reports of the 1915 fire. It is generally recognized that the oldest continuous church congregation in Erie County is the Presbyterian Church in North East, having been started September 27, 1801. The postion taken in this article is that because the first services were held in September 1800 and services were held periodically after that time, and even though a formal church was not founded until 1804, that this Methodist congregation could be considered the oldest. Nelson's 1896 History of Erie County does state: "The first Methodist Episcopal services in the county were held in the house of John Mershon, in Springfield Township, in September 1800. About 1804 a church building was put up something like a mile south of West Springfield." I will leave it to the technical historians to debate the issue. Pastor Bob Klinger, the first pastor of third century of the congregation, has provided a message at the end of Evelyn's article. Anyone wishing to comment on this article or provide additional information should contact Evelyn Baker directly.


UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

of West Springfield, Pa.

Oldest Existing Congregation

Erie County, Pa.

1796 - JOHN MERSHON came to Springfield in the spring as a member of a surveying team. He bought 1100 acres for $220. He cleared the heavily timbered land and built a log cabin on what is now known as Huntley Road. The cabin construction was reputed to be of a better class, having a good bark roof and bark floor. During the winters of 1797 and 1798, he lived with his sisters in Greene County, then returned again in the spring.

1799 - In January, he married BATHSHEBA BRUSH, a devout Methodist of Greene County. She was obligated to resign her church letter because she married a man of unprofessed religion. She is believed to have been the first Methodist in Erie County. They returned to Springfield permanently, bringing with them, one cow. Their property was assessed at $312 and they paid $.79 in taxes.

1800 - BATHSHEBA BRUSH MERSHON implored her husband to send a written invitation to Rev. JOSEPH BOWEN of Franklin, Ohio to hold services in their home. The letter was passed from cabin to cabin, until it reached Rev. BOWEN. He promptly responded and that September, held the first of six sermons that marked the foundation of the Methodist denomination in Erie County.

1801 - The Baltimore Methodist Circuit met and established the Erie Co. Circuit as a new mission on the western frontier. Bishop ASBURY of Maryland charged Rev. JAMES QUINN " to go and make full proof of thy ministry " .

1802 - In the spring, Rev. QUINN held the first Methodist class in Erie County with only 5 members: JOHN and BATHSHEBA MERSHON, DANIEL and ELIZABETH MONROE, and ANDREW STULL. JOHN MERSHON was appointed class leader, and embraced the Methodist denomination. Rev. QUINN later became a Presiding Elder of the Erie Circuit.

1803 - JARED BRUSH, brother of BATHSHEBA, settled in Springfield Township.

1804 - A chapel was erected of shakes and round logs, covered with clapboards. It was known as the BRUSH Meeting House, and the first in the territory of the Erie District. It was built on the JARED BRUSH farm and is believed to have been standing in a dense forest near the site where the Bessemer overpass and 6 N are now located. The Rev. ANDREW HEMPHILL arrived, and with his powerful ministry, attendance escalated from 9 to about 100. One third of the Methodist congregation in the Erie Circuit were now members at the West Springfield Chapel.

1805 - The work had grown enough to require two men, a junior minister, JAMES WATTS and Rev. ROBERT ROBERTS, who later became a Bishop. Their circuit totaled 400 miles and they were expected to travel 100 miles a week, preach a daily sermon and 2 sermons on the Sabbath.

1806 - The circuit riding preachers now required 6 weeks to make their round of assignments. A winter storm hit as Rev. ROBERTS was enroute to the BRUSH Meeting House. He took shelter with a hunter's family south of Conneaut Lake in a beech woods. He was given a meal of bear meat and potatoes cooked in one pot. His bed was straw, strewn on the floor and his saddle bags were pillows. His coat was his only blanket. He ministered to the family and baptized their children. The next morning, he arrived at the BRUSH Meeting House. After services, he baptized three persons in Conneaut Creek, one of which was JOHN RANDALL, a pioneer of the Methodist faith. It was bitter cold, and the pastor's clothes were frozen when he reached his lodgings. He suffered no ill effects.

1807 - During these early days, ministers changed several times a year. The Rev.s ABRAHAM DANIELS, CALEB REYNOLDS, and TIMOTHY DIVERE served the pioneer families.

1808 - Rev.s JOB GUEST and WILLIAM BUTLER brought their ministry to the Erie Circuit.

1809 - Rev.s JAMES CHARLES, J. M. HAUSEN, and JOHN DECELLIUM followed.

1810 - GEORGE STUNTZ, a young German from near Albion, was so moved by the words of Rev. JACOB GRUBER, that he dedicated his next 34 years to the Lord's work. Rev. GRUBER, a Presiding Elder, increased the congregation by about 40 members.

1811 - Rev.s JAMES EWING and JAMES WATTS led prayers, as the war clouds gathered.

1812 - The war was especially hard on the lake region. Necessities became very scarce and the minister's wives were praised for encouraging their husbands. Less than $20 was received for quarterly meetings, but flour was $16 a barrel.

1815 - On January 7, JOHN GRAHAM formed a society of 14 members. They met at the home of WILLIAM WEBER, in a part of Springfield that is now Girard. They were known as the Fair Haven Church. Founding members were: WILLIAM & SUZANNA WEBER, MR. & MRS. JAMES SALISBURY, and ALEXANDER & NANCY DAVIS. Received on probation were: DANIEL & KATHERINE BALL and Daughter, SUZANNA; HENRY & HANNAH BALL and son, NOAH; SAMUEL & KATHERING GULLIFORD. All were relatives of Wm. WEBER, who was appointed class leader.

1816 - BATHESHEBA MERSHON died at age 47. Interment is in the family lot # 9 W 50 at the Springfield Township Cemetery.

1817 - Worship sites were often changing. The BRUSH Meeting House probably ended at this time. Meetings moved to a log school house on the Ridge Road. It burned in 1825. Many of the fires of this era were caused by wood burning stoves and rooms lit with many, many candles. Bucket brigades were unable to control most of the dreaded fires. It would be another 130 years before Springfield organized a Fire Department in 1946 - 47.

1821 - The Fair Haven Church divided due to personal differences of leaders. Twenty-one members seceded and organized a Reformed Methodist Church with LEVI CASS as the minister.

1823 - The second faction of the Fair Haven Church also formed a new church in March. Members were: JONATHAN and EUNICE SNOW, GARY and POLLY BALL, and WALTER and DELIA DERBY. Mr. DERBY was appointed class leader and a small log building was erected at his expense, on a corner of his farm. Ten years later, it was abandoned.

1825 - The first parsonage was built in Springfield, of hewed logs. It had one large room with a recess for 2 beds. NATHANIEL REEDER was the first occupant. The log school house, mentioned in 1817, burned down.

1826 - Services were held at the log cabin home of AMASA STEWART until 1829.

1830 - A new chapel was constructed on the Ridge Road. There were two 24' x 30' rooms, separated by a board partition that could be lifted to the ceiling and fastened with hooks when more space was needed. The men made slab benchs, lathed, and plastered the interior. It became known as the beloved Cottage Church. It was to be occupied until 1854.

1831 - A second parsonage of the Erie Circuit was built in Springfield Twsp. J. C. and SAMUEL AYERS were the pastors.

1834 - A new church began construction at Springfield Crossroads, now known as East Springfield.

1836 - The church was finished. In the spring, the 1st Sabbath School was opened with Captain HARRY DAY, the 1st Superintendent. Membership had doubled in the past 5 years. An Erie Conference was organized and subdivided into 6 districts viz.: ERIE, JAMESTOWN, CLARION, FRANKLIN, MEADVILLE, and NEW CASTLE. Presiding Elders were the overseers.

1840 - The Mershon family listed in the Springfield Census as Heads of Households were JohnJohn II,  IsaacAaron  and  Daniel.

1841 - The bell was cast, that was later to be purchased by Springfield from the Congregational Church in Conneaut, Ohio. WILLIAM PATTERSON and W. B. LLOYD were pastors.

1851 - JOHN MERSHON died. He was born in 1771 at Trenton, New Jersey, the son of AARON MERSHON. He is buried beside BATHSHEBA in the family lot # 9 W 50 at the Springfield Cemetery.

1854 - The present West Springfield United Methodist Church was constructed of brick at a cost of about $200. ZACHARIAH THOMAS donated the land. The East Springfield Methodist congregation merged with West Springfield. Rev. R. N. BEAR was pastor. The church, shown in 1912 prior to the fire of 1915, is pictured below.

West Springfield Methodist Church in 1912. It was located on the site of the present day parking lot.

1856 - Ushered in an era when attention could be focused on parsonages to provide a home for pastors and their families. The next half century would record a time of more stability for the church.

1858 - A better parsonage was built.

1860 - RHODA MERSHON died. She was born in Springfield, the daughter of JOHN and BATHSHEBA MERSHON, and is buried in the same family lot # 9 W 50 in the Springfield Cemetery.

1867 - Yet another brick church was built, free of debt, and dedicated by Bishop KINGSLEY, in East Springfield.

1893 - Class Teachers: JAMES RICHEUS, morning session; WILLIAM CHAPMAN, afternoon session

1894 - Baptism by Sprinkling: MAUDE PHILIPE ( adult ), WARREN and SARAH PHILIPE, parents

Official members of the Fair Haven Church: S. D. SAWDY, DAVID TUBBS, JENNETTE MILLS, FRANK SAWDY

1895 - Adult Baptisms by Sprinkling: L. S. SLATER -DENNISON SLATER, father; MARY E. SLATER - WILLIAM MAYNARD, father; J. T. SHAFFER; ZADIE J. BRISTOL; ARTHUR G. TUBBS - DAVID and HARRIET TUBBS, parents; MATIE G. JENNESSE - WALTER and ELLEN JENNESSE, parents; CHARLES POWERS - ADDISON POWERS, father; CARL HOLDER ( infant ) - F. A. and FANNIE HOLDER, parents

1896 - Baptism by Sprinkling: A. RAYMOND SYDOW ( infant ) - ALBERT and ANNA SYDOW, parents

1898 - Marriage of: FRANK M. F. CASE to GRACE A. MUNEUGER by Rev. JOHN W. CRAWFORD - Witness: Mr. and Mrs. WALDO

1899 - Baptism by Sprinkling: GRACE GOODBAN ( adult ) - WILLIAM and ELLEN GOODBAN, parents; FLOYD GRAVES ( adult ) - HARTLEY GRAVES, father; FRANCIS ELLEN BROWN ( child ) - IDA BROWN, mother

Marriage of: LOUIS N. HARRIS to MARIE L. WELLS by Rev. JOHN W. CRAWFORD at home of the bride in Cranesville

1906 - A more modern parsonage was built. It was to burn down.

Methodist Gazebo

Circa 1910, this gazebo featured chamfered posts and stood on the lawn of the West Springfield Methodist Church for a short time.

1914 - FREDA MAY OLMSTEAD was united in marriage to CARL CLANCY WHITFORD, Beaver Center, at the home of the bride in West Springfield by Rev. DAVID  D.  SLEPPY.   Mr. WHITFORD was a Street Car  Motorman  with the C & E Trolley Lines. They are interned at the Springfield Cemetery.

THE FIRE

1915 - April 10th, at 2:30 a. m., Rev. B. D. SLEPPY awoke to find their parsonage filled with smoke. Rev. and Mrs. Sleppy were barely able to rescue their baby and escape through a window before the house was engulfed in flames. They were able to save one small cedar chest. The fire quickly spread to the Methodist Church, then to the home of D. M. HILLYER. An alarm was sounded and the whole town was awakened. Springfield's only protection was a volunteer bucket brigade. Their strenuous efforts were overcome by strong southwest winds. Flames from the blazing parsonage were carried over to the church. All 3 buildings burned to the ground in a very short time.

Incredibly, Conneaut Fire Department had received a call for help at 1:40 a. m. Captain DECKER refused Springfield authorities, citing Dept. regulations. Urgent calls to Conneaut's Mayor BRACE and the Service Director were made by Erie County Treasurer, WILLIAM G. WALKER. His own fine home and buildings were in the direct path of the fire and wind storm. Conneaut officials agreed to let their trucks proceed to the fire. At 2:25 a. m., Acting Chief DECKER and Engineers BROWN and BAXTER left the barn and arrived on the scene 12 minutes later.

Help was also summoned from Albion. With the use of chemicals, both Fire Departments were able to bring the blaze under control within 23 minutes. There were spontaneous cheers from the town folks, who brought hot coffee and refreshments. Several other buildings were saved with only minor damage. Residences of W. GREER, MARAGRET THOMAS, and FRED FORNEY were on fire at different times.

The Methodist Church was, by now, an old building and there had been talk of building a new one. It was insured for $1200; the old brick parsonage for $300; and the new parsonage for $1000. Loss of records and other valuables would forever remain priceless. It was understood that Springfield would reimburse the city of Conneaut for the use of their facilities.

TODAY

The West Springfield United Methodist Church observed their 200th Anniversary in October 2000.

Through the years, they have sent 7 of their own into the ministry: JARED MERSHON, ISRAEL MERSHON, D. E. DAY, EDWARD J. KINNEY, EDWARD A. SQUIRE, GEORGE J. SQUIRE, ANSEL WEBER

Two missionaries were sent into the field: HENRY H. HALL, LOUISE E. BLOCKMAN

To its enduring credit, the United Methodist Church in West Springfield, never had a pastorate "vacancy", in over two centuries of devout history.


A Message from the 1st pastor of the 21st Century

After two hundred years, the congregation of the West Springfield United Methodist Church continues to faithfully minister to the community in Jesus' name. As we look to the future, we have identified two major objectives:

1. To make disciples for Jesus Christ who are actively seeking God’s power to live holy lives.

2. To reach out to families in our community through ministries which celebrate and support the family.

To accomplish these goals, we continue to provide vital, exciting, and joyful worship opportunities. We also sponsor the ALPHA evangelism program on a regular basis. Sunday School, an after school program, Youth Fellowship (with it's annual trip to the " Creation " Christian music festival ), adult / children's / handbell choirs, a dynamic puppet ministry - the "Bound for Glory Puppets", weekly Bible studies, women's groups, and our "Rest Stop" ministry on Interstate 90, are all part of the dynamic, growing mix of wonderful opportunities which are offered and will continue to be offered to area families.

A strong connection to the past, coupled with an exciting vision for future offers the hope that we will continue to serve God in this place for years to come.

Pastor BOB KLINGLER -

Write to me at bobumc@velocity.net or visit our web site at: http://www.velocity.net/~bobumc


Change History: This page was originally posted Friday, December 07, 2001. A second photo was added 2/18/04.


This page was last updated on  Wednesday, February 18, 2004 .

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