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Township, Lancaster County, Pa

"Churches of Today and Yesterday in Southern Lancaster County" by Fellowship of Solanco Churches, Raymond Dunlap, George Herbert, & Richard Yates , Sr. printed 1968


Writing the history of Mount Sinai Union American Methodist Episcopal Church cannot be fully complete without writing the history of Rigby's Meeting House also. The two churches were affiliated with the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church Organization, which was first known as the Union Church of Africans. The Historical Sketch of the Primary Or-ganization of the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church states: "We, the undersigned, do hereby publish a true and Authentic His- tory of the early rise of our Church. We, with others, had our early days pregnated with bitter trials, born of necessity and a creature of religious Caste so prevalent toward Negroes in the early days of this American Republic." The Reverend Peter Spencer, a Negro, was born in Kent County, Maryland, about 1779. He came to Wilmington, Delaware, when quite young and joined the (white) Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church. He became the leader of his group of 42 other Negro mem-bers at Ashbury in 1805. After repeated denials of legal redress, Mr. Spencer and the 42 members withdrew for peace and harmony, and worshiped in houses, groves, etc, until 1812. They built a church, and considering themselves Methodist Epis- 94 copa1, they remained loyal, but reserved the right to reject as their preachers those rejected by the Methodist Episcopal Conference. Mr. Spencer and his followers were told they had no other choice __ but to obey. Mr. Spencer refused and decided then to sever all rela-tions with the Methodist Episcopal Church.

They purchased a lot and built another church in Wilmington, Delaware, and there organized the "First Independent Church of Negroes on September 18, 1813." With Mr. Spencer and six other incorporate trustees, the Articles of Incorporation were issued by the State of Delaware. The title of this Corporation was to be known as the Union Church of Africans and kept that title until 1852, when it became the Union American Methodist Episcopal Organization.

Thus began the dedicated work of the Reverend Peter Spencer. He organized thirty-one churches and erected a school house to each church. He completed his work, and entered into rest in 1843, after being very active as a well-known religious leader of his time from 1813 until 1843. Visiting Negro preachers were sent out from this incorporated independent Methodist Group to preach in Negro communities. In 1832, one Lewis P. Hood, a preacher, visited homes in the southwestern part of Fulton Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Among those he visited was Jarrett Rigby. Religious meetings were held under the roof of his humble dwelling, which, according to an in- scribed stone in the Old Rigby House, was built in 1807. A number of converts were made. For two years, meetings were held at intervals in private houses until at last the Congregation de- cided to erect a church building. For a small consideration, Jarrett Rigby decided to deed a half acre of his land, and in the year 1834, a Union Church of Africans was built here. No name was assigned to this Meeting House, but since it was near him (Jarrett Rigby) who donated the land, it received the name Rigby's Meeting House. The church was built of logs, with a slate covered roof. It was thirty-five by twenty-five feet in space, with a seating capacity of one hundred and fifty persons.

The charter members, or Original Trustees named in the deed were William Wilson, Daniel Webster, Bennett Jay and Abraham Milburn.

Charter Lay Elders were Jarrett Rigby, James Milburn, Senior, and Isaac Waters.

The first Elder Minister to preach in the new Meeting House was our founder, the Reverend Peter Spencer of Wilmington, Delaware.

In 1869, according to the minutes of the Annual Conference held in Wilmington, Delaware, this area became known as the "Fulton District."_ Among prominent names mentioned at this time were Elders Levi Butcher, Thomas C. Wilson, and John K. Williams. _

The Trustees were Gilbert James, Emanuel Mitchell, Solomon Boyer and George Waters. Between 1834 and 1870, a yearly quarterly meeting was started, to be held always on the second Sunday of every August Rigby quarterly Meeting was the attraction for many people; large crowds gathered from many miles around, with Elder Ministers, preachers, trustees and exhorters taking into consideration the general welfare and consideration of the Society. A "Love Feast" was held from 6 AM. to 9 AM. every Rigby Meeting morning. Bread and water were used in the ceremony.

There were 55 members,5 probationers, 30 Sunday School children and 50 day school scholars at this time.

The meeting was represented in the Conference of the Union American Methodist Episcopal which convened annually at Wilmington, Delaware. After the death of Jarrett Rigby, about the year 1870, and probably because his property was always allowed to be used for the famous quarterly meeting, the property was sold and it became necessary to find location for a new church.

Gilbert James, a trustee and President of the Sunday School of the older church, donated the land for the new church. It was located in the settlement of what is known as Arcadia, Fulton Township, or Peach Bottom, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, about one-half of a mile away from Rigbys.

The land was deeded April 19, 1876. Although there were delays such as the partly constructed building being blown down by a wind-storm, it was rebuilt, and the new church, known as Mount Sinai Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, was finally recorded in the Lancaster County Court House, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on December 24, 1881. Although the old church was replaced by the new one, the Old Rigby Burying Ground was still used until the year 1918, when the ground close to the newer church had been bought for burial purposes. In the old cemetery, buried are some of the Charter members and their families. The oldest name, carved on a slate, was an Ellen P. Milburn, who died in 1845 at the age of 84 years. There is also the tombstone of Jarrett Rigby's daughter, Sarah Rigby Milburn born 1833, died in 1913. She is remembered for her faithful work in the Mount Sinai Church, as she was the "founder" of that church.

With the new church being built in its new location, Rigby quar-terly meeting drew larger crowds than before, Arcadia was a stop-ping place for a Narrow Gauge train named the Lancaster, Oxford and Southern Railroad, also called "Peachy" because it ran between Oxford, Chester County, Pennsylvania and Peach Bottom, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

With extra coaches added on the day before and on Rigby Day, it brought many more persons that could not have attended otherwise. This continued for many years until 1919, when the train was discontinued.

Due to the lack of employment in this area and eventually the higher cost of living expenses, families have moved elsewhere to se-cure their livelihood, and membership at Mount Sinai Union American Methodist Episcopal Church has become few in number. At present there are about 15 members and 17 Sunday School children.

Sunday School is held at 10 AM. every Sunday with Carl Cevis and Phyllis Murray as Sunday School teachers. Church Services are held at 11 AM. every Sunday with the Rev-erend Paul Cevis, Darlington, Maryland, as the present Pastor of the church. The Trustees are Wayman H. Harris, President, and Roy Tung, Elsie M. Harris, Stewardess, and Mildred B. Harris, Treasurer- Secretary.

The Reverend John E. Harris is the Presiding Elder, related by marriage to one of our elected Bishops, the Right Reverend Orville W. Forward, elected to Bishopship in 1939, as was our present Bishop John P. Predow.

The Right Reverend Orville W. Forward's father, the Reverend William Forward, was Pastor at Mount Sinai Church in the late 1800's and early 1900's, they being of a well known family in this area. Rigby Quarterly Meeting, although it is still held on the same date as always, it is not as well attended as in former years, with always the hope that it can become the Meeting that it once was.

Mount Sinai Union American Methodist Episcopal Church is lo-cated on the first south east hard road after leaving Wakefield, Penn-sylvania off route #222 South going about one and one half miles in the Southerly direction toward the Susquehanna River.

Mount Sinai Church welcomes all who come in good faith and to the Worship of God. Its doors are always open.

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