By Gay Arritt
In a few months the Building Committee expects to be ready for the groundbreaking of the first unit of a three-unit building program for
This first unit to be built on the lot at the rear of the parsonage, will house the entire Church School with the exception of the adults In addition it will contain a chapel, ladies’ parlor, kitchenette, offices of the secretary and director of religious education, and pastor’s study.
The Building Committee has been working for many months on this project, and while the estimated cost of the building -- $148,000 – appears a huge sum, we all realize the program has long since passed the wishing stage and is now at the necessity stage.
R.L. Ayers, Jr., Chairman of the Building Committee and other members are H.W. Robertson, Lacy Jordan, R.N. Loving, O.E. Parker and the Rev. A. McKinley Reynolds.
We are confident that all obstacles will be overcome and the new building will be a reality before very long, just as Methodists have been overcoming obstacles and forging ahead in Alleghany County for approximately 175 years.
It will be necessary to take a glance at the geographic and economic conditions of the area from time to time to really grasp what a tremendous stride has been made in Methodism since the first settlers appeared here.
From the beginning of settlement here Alleghany was in
The early settlers in Alleghany County were predominantly Presbyterian being of Scotch-Irish ancestry, driven out of Ulster by the English and settling largely in Pennsylvania, then own through the Valley of Virginia and gradually westward. The Tidewater Virginia settlers did not appear eager to conquer the forests in the early days.
In 1742 Alexander Dunlap had settled at
Peter Wright’s survey of 286 acres covering most of the area of what is now downtown
By 1754 when the Indian wars broke out, there was quite a settlement on
There were no roads in the early days, travel was mostly by horseback and pack saddle over bridle paths. However, it was soon necessary to get some sort of roads for wagon travel, and we find the first road was ordered to be guilt from Peter Wright’s to Adam Dickenson’s near Nimrod Hall in 1748. In 1769 a road was ordered from Little Warm (Hot) Springs to the forks of the road on Dunlap Creek, and in 1772 Peter Wright and Robert Armstrong were ordered to survey a road from Wright’s (
Dr. John Merry became the owner of the Wright farm and the little cluster of houses here became known a Merry’s Store, until 1819 when
Now to get back to Methodism, just when the first services were held is not recorded but we do know that the great Bishop Francis Asbury was here frequently during his ministry from 1771 to 1816, planting the seeds that have flourished so profusely.
The Covington Virginian, in February 1938, printed an article on Bishop Asbury, said in part:
“As we look back into the days of 1771 to 1816, we can picture Frances Asbury, gentle, cultured, almost delicate, riding the wilderness of
He went to and from Old Rehobeth Church, he traveled over what is now known as the old Fincastle-Sweet Springs Turnpike, traveling, always traveling, preaching the gospel, not only to the uncivilized and hostile Indians, but to our own people our own ancestors***
The picture of Asbury stands out like a flame of fire as he rode over these Alleghany mountains through its valley, his horse often swimming the swollen streams, sometimes thick ice, his feet freezing to the stirrups, sometimes sinking in the mire, always in peril from the hostile Indians, suffering for severe attacks of rheumatism and malaria fever, homeless, except for the homes among the people who loved him, and made him welcome to their humble places of abode. Many homes, east, west, north and south, but none of his own.
Companionless much of the time, except for the never-failing companionship of Christ, yet he went on and on, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, winning souls by the thousands, building churches, directing and helping others, laying the sure foundation of a great denomination which was destined to have much to do in molding American life and making the American nation and was to sent out its own missionaries unto the ends of the earth. That is one of the most beautiful and inspiring pictures in all history.
Asbury was only 22 years old when he began to preach in 1771. In 1784 he made a Bishop at that memorable Christmas Conference held in
This seems to have been fast work, but behind it lay years of hard work, and sacrifice and suffering in the wilderness. Asbury was prepared and he deserved and had earned this promotion. When he came to
For fifty years Asbury preached.*** He traveled the largest and hardest circuits and received the smallest salary and suffered most in body of any bishop in the history of Methodism. He out did Wesley as a traveler, preaching almost daily, traveling in all a distance ten times the circumference of the earth. He held 224 conferences and ordained more than 4,000 ministers ***
When in this section Francis Asbury made his home in later years with the Rev. Joseph Pinnell, the first Methodist minister to locate permanently in
The same issue of The Covington Virginian carries a letter written August 21, 1802 by Joseph Pinnell to his brother, William Pinnell. The letter was a sermon written on a day when rain had prevented the minister from preaching.
While the first Methodist services were no doubt held in private homes, the first public services in what is now Covington were held in the old log meeting house which once stood on Main Street, where Ritsch’s Cleaners is now located. This was built about 1779 and was used as a courthouse, barricade against Indians, school and church and general meeting house.
“In Index #1 (Only) 1822 19 1879. Deed Book #1, page 416, 1829, Lot 117,
Joseph Pennell was a music teacher and preacher. Pennell’s Chapel on Potts Creek was named for him. He is said by some to have gone far and near to preach without slary. He married into the Stull family.
Next to the earliest three white men in
Elisha Knox was a minister of the gospel, a land owner and patentee.
Charles Callaghan was one of the very wealthy Callaghan family whose tavern, at which Sam Houston’s father died when on a journey to the West, written by his biographer as “the friendly tavern of Callaghan”, must have been a good place to die as well as to live.
Anthomy Brunnemer was Scotch, ALL Scotch. He lived where today the Rayon powerhouse stands. He married his near neighbor, Miss Sively, daughter of the “millionaire” of the county, George Sively, Sr. Her brother Jonathan lived in the old log house standing today near the mouth of Potts Creek, occupied by a Mr. Tucker. Anthony Brunnemer was active in the political and social and church activities of his day.
Moses Persinger descended from the original pioneer, Jacob, who patented thousands of acres of land and settled on them before the Revolution. It is believed that the Persinger family (which man can not be stated) operated a powder mill for the Revolutionary munitions supply. The Persinger family is one of three first coming to this county.
Charles Tolbert. Regretfully one must say that very little is known of Charles Tolbert, but at least he was a good Methodist and that is a worthy record to leave behind.
Lot 117 was on an extension of what is today Locust Street. No railway intervened and the Old Rogers Shop was nearby. It was later moved from the hill to where it is recalled on Bath Street. The Turnpike ran at the foot of Wills Hill and straightened out toward the mill site where McAllister and
The type of church erected on this lot is not know from authentic writings, but traditionally it was of logs and served as a “Meeting House” for many years.
Lot No. 117 was sold to Alexander Fleet on April 17, 1837. The trustees of the transfer were for the Methodist Episcopal Church, Moses Mann, Flenning Keyser, Jonathan Sively, Archibald Kincaid and Frank Stanley.
Presumably the next church was being built when
Grandbery’s Historical Record has this to say bout this church:
January 15, 1840, William H. Terrill and Elizabeth of Bath County, convey to trustees Joseph Damron, John Boswell, Charles Callaghan, William Kyle, William Sawyers, Hugh Bryan, and James Burk, Lot 69,
William Terrill was a lawyer. He later married a
The trustees of the church building he made responsible to the church stewards.
(An old issue of the Covington Virginian described this church as a small one with box pews and a high pulpit reached by circular staircase.)
Historical records show that in 1822 when Alleghany County was formed, and at the time plans must have been in the making for the erection of its own church by the Methodist congregation, there were 534 men in Alleghany County liable for the poll tax. By 1830 there were 2,816 persons listed in the census. This would have included what is now Clifton Forge. In 1834 the county boasted seven coaches, five carryalls and two gigs.
In 1843 there were 13 school houses, and $243.22 was spent for public education.
In 1850 there were eight schools, eight teachers, and 153 pupils, one academy with three teachers and 30 pupils.
By that time, records at the Court House now show five deeds had been recorded by trustees of Methodist Churches, in
In 1855 there were 43 houses in
The only industries listed were roller mills, grist mills, and one furnace at Longdale. A permit for building the dam at what is now McAllister & Bell Milling Co., was issued in 1797, according to the Chamber of Commerce booklet of 1907.
M.E. Church, South
The first Methodist Episcopal Church, South was established in
Immediately after the organization of this new congregation, they appear to have built the brick church which still stands on Main Street, and which is now called Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
The Grandbery Historical File contains two bulletins which give the date of the erection of this church as 1858, and the dedication 1868. For some reason it was not recorded at the Court House until 1874. This court record states Lot 87, Old Town, Deed Book 7, page 39, lot and appurtances thereon was sold by William Scott, for $800 cash and a lien of $274, the lien being satisfied in 1890. Trustees who made the purchase were James Burk, John L. Bowman, Jacob Pitzer, John H. Oliver, S.D. Matheny, John B. Pitzer and John J. Hobbs.
Lot 71, on Main Street, which is now the location of the home of mr. P.C. Driscoll and Miss Louise Driscoll, was purchased for a parsonage on February 1, 1860, from John L. Porter, et als., DB 6, Page 76 Part of the original log parsonage is incorporated in the Driscoll home now.
The Rev. S.T. Mallory was pastor when this church ws built, with J. D. Hanks as junior preacher.
The Rev. J.C. Tinsley, grandfather of N.F. Mefford, was the pastor in 1858, and served until 1861.
He was followed by the Rev. S.S. Ryder, who was known as the “war pastor". He served six years and held together the forces without compensation until the uniting of the two Methodisms in 1866. Following the war he is reputed to have performed many marriages, often without a fee, and frequently paying for the license.
It was during the pastorate of the Rev. D.F. Eustler 1891-95 that the
The Rev. A. Hugh Flaherty was pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, of
The stewards when the church was dedicated were J.W. Bell, J.J.
By 1870 the census for
Thus it would appear that one room church building was sufficiently large to take care of its congregation for many years.
We find from the minutes that the first Lexington District Conference of the Baltimore Annual Conference Methodist Episcopal Church, South was held in 1870 in
The fourth meeting was held in
The eighth session was also held in
In 1873, a former resident recently wrote to the Covington Virginian,
However, with the coming of the railroad,
Writing of its industries in the 1907 booklet, the Chamber of Commerce states six iron furnaces were in operation by 1893, two at Longdale, one at Iron Gate, two at Low Moor and one put in operation in
The tannery began operation in 1892, and the Nettleton planning mill was a going industry, and the Covington Machine Shops which was to provide employment for the largest group of skilled workers for the next few years was also established, in 1892.
It was in 1899 and 1900 that the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company built its first units.
We find that the census of 1900 gives
The new court house built in 1877 had a bell, which was used to call the Methodists to worship on Sunday morning, according to some of the members of Grandbery, who were also among the congregation in that first Methodist Episcopal Church, South. (The present courthouse was built in 1911.)
Miss Nan Vowles, Granbery’s oldest member, became a member December, 1878. She was the organist until the congregation moved into Granbery. One member recalls that Miss Nan sat on a box covered with red cloth to play. Mrs. Garnett Ritsch, sister of Miss Nan, has been a member since 1885.
Mrs. Lee Turner recalls that the unleavened bread was baked and the communion prepared by the Pitzers at this church.
It was also recalled that before the Roman Catholic church built their first little chapel on the corner of Oak and Monroe Streets, where the residence of Mrs. I.T. Dickson now stands, the Methodists permitted the Catholics to use their church for mass.
Mrs. Turner taught Sunday School at this church, as well as at Granbery when it fist opened.
Othr interesting facts will be included in a bulletin copied later in this article.
The Alleghany Tribute of August 11, 1882 carried this:
“The regular quarterly meeting of the
The Alleghany Sentinel, in its issue of February 10, 1893, carried this item:
“A dinner and festival for the benefit of the
The same issue carried and item that the Young Men’s Christian Association would build a handsome new building in Clifton Forge for its use.
The next items are not connected with Granbery but show what the women of other churches as well as the Methodists were doing to raise money before they started feeding The Lions, Rotarians and Kiwanians.
The Covington Sentinel of March 21, 1902 carried this item:
The Ladies of the Episcopal Gild will have on sale for the next few months, a collection of well made Sun Bonnets, of all styles for all ages. These bonnets cane be found at the residences of Mrs. O.L. Rogers, Maple Avenue, opposite Wills Drug Store, of Mrs. G.W. Payne, Hawthorne Street, and of Mrs. H.I Hardbarger,
“At the home of Miss Virginia Payne, Tuesday evening, April 23, under the auspices of the Ladies Auxiliary, Presbyterian Church. All denominations are cordially invited; not forgetting the strangers whom the members of the Presbyterian Church desire to meet and know. Refreshments will be served from 7 to 11 p.m. Voluntary contributions will be received at the door.”
Mrs. E.B. Weikel recalls that when she was about ten years o age, her Sunday School Class taught by Miss Nell Peck often net at the parsonage and at Miss Peck’s home on Riverside Avenue to make articles to sell. The principal items were lamp mats made out of cotton and embroidered. They sold for $.25 each. The parsonage she referred to is now the Driscoll home. She recalls Mrs. J.G. Jeter who had recently come to
Choir members when the old church was abandoned were Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Overhold; Mr. and Mrs. Lee Turner; Mrs. John Layman; Miss Lucy Burrus; Mrs. Larvin Deskin; Miss Nan Vowles; Mrs. Garnett Ritsch; Mrs. Ada Hudlow.
Lot 87 with the brick church thereon was sold to the Rt. Rev. A.Van DeVyer, Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, April 2, 1908, and is recorded in Deed Book 36, page 105. The sale price was $3,000. Trustees signing the deed were John W. Bell, J.C. Joseph, John B. Pitzer, J.J. Hobbs, C.A. Dameron, G.D. Kline, D.E. Driscoll, R.J. Dickey and R.F. Pitzer. The last of these trustees, D.E. Driscoll, passed away in March, last, and his funeral was held in
The parsonage on East Main Street was sold June 24, 1907 for $2,500.
When the above sales were made, the building of
Part of Lot 78 where
The same year the parsonage lot was bought from Miss Nannie Vowles.
Rev. John O. Knott was the pastor where when the building committee got underway for the erection of
The church was named for Bishop John C. Granbery, who had passed away some little time before the cornerstone was laid. Older members at Granbery recall little about Bishop Granbery, except that he had been in high esteem by the membership which had been under his jurisdiction and had been a personal friend of the Rev. Mr.Knott. He had bbeen educated at
About the erection of
“Some Facts From the Pastor’s Journal”
Present pastor arrived in Covington, April 11, 1907; April 16, 1907, new church lot was purchased; on May 1, 1908, new parsonage lot was purchased; May 4, 1907, old parsonage sold; June 23, 1907, new parsonage begun; July 22, 1907, ground broken for new church.
The corner stone was laid September 21, 1907. Dr. W.S. Neighbors, at that time pastor of
The formal opening of the new church was May 3, 1908. Dr. C.D. Bulla, then a member of the Baltimore Conference preached the sermon.
The Carnegie organ was installed October 18, 1908.
New church dedicated January 3, 1909, with the Rev. (last Bishop) W.F. McMurry, then secretary of the Board of Church Extension, preaching the sermon.
Cost of new church, including everything, $30,000; cost of new parsonage, $6,000 indebtedness on church to provide for today, $8,000.
April 14, 1907, Suinday School enrollment, 180 with 99 in attendance; January 3, 1909, Grandbery enrollment, including baby roll, 440; total Sunday School enrollment, including missions 615; September 20, 1908, pastor’s Baraca Class, 4; January 3, 1909, Baraca Class 56 and growing. August 30, 1908, Epworth League attendance, 25; January 3, 1909, Epworth League average attendance 160.
The Building Committee for
The choir for
Looking back to the economic conditions of 1907, the town of
The Chesapeake and Ohio had just completed a railroad to the Potts Creek Valley, and the mining and smelting business was booming throughout the county, with never a dream that in ten years a cheaper process in the lake regions would all but wipe out mountain ore mining.
The boards of supervisors had taken over the road building, and had graded the twelve miles of road to Clifton Forge, and had placed thereon stones, river gravel and covered it with three coats of furnace slag, making it one of the best roads in the State. The county was spending $12,000 annually on the roads.
The six furnaces mentioned previously were all in operation, and the Covington Machine Company had enlarged its operations and was employing 250 skilled workmen. There were tow brickyards, tannery with 120 employees, a pin and bracket company, two flour mills and extract plant, in addition to the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company which was employing 400 operatives including 30 girls. Rayon wasn’t mentioned. Wage rates were not included I the Chamber of Commerce booklet of 1907, but a check stub for a semi0-skilled worker at the paper mill in 1908 reads $2.00 per day.
The same source, attention was called to progress in educational facilities, and the development of the public school system. Five graded schools had been established in the county, and particular emphasis was placed on the progress of the
There was the Alleghany Teachers’ Association, whose chief aim was “to raise the standard of teaching in the county so high that the School Boards will not employ any other than first grade teachers at less than $45.00 per month.” (A teacher’s contract for a rural school in 1908, listed the school term as five months, beginning in November, at a salary of $36.00 per month, the teacher to be responsible to see that the floors were swept and either make or cause fires to be made.)
There were no busses and not more than a dozen or so automobiles, but the Chamber of Commerce said
Since the dedication of
A 1938 bulletin quotes this information from the Fourth Quarterly Conference in 1911:
“Rev. J.A. Anderson, Presiding Elder; Rev. Frank Tyler, preacher. The official Roll: J.W. Bell, J.J. Hobbs, J.S. Joseph, J.H. Overhold. J.E. Campbell, J.G. Jeter, W.P. King, Ira Dew, M.D. Miller, J.L. Frankland, G.D. Kline, J.B. Pitzer, G.A. Damron. R.J. Dickey and D.E. Driscoll. Special notice was give the Cates meeting. 777 reported conversions and reclamations. 170 new members were received with a hundred more to be received. Total membership reported 464.
“The meeting conducted by G.C. Cates lasted six weeks. The congregations taxed every available space in the auditorium. A large number of people stood for the services. The walls of the church were stained by the continual standing, making it necessary to redecorate the church. The women of the church borrowed money from the
Just how the money was raised to pay for the lovely new Granbery memorial Church, only the tresurer’s book will show, but we are told by one of the members of that time the first $25.00 donation to the new building was made by Miss Mattie Boswell. Miss Boswell’s funeral was the first one held in
All the lathes in the church were donated by the late Charles A. Kincaid.
A donation was received from Carnegie to help pay for the new organ.
The first wedding held in Granbery Memorial was that of Miss Dora Pugh.
The Annex was purchased in 1925, and after some alterations put into use for the same purpose for which it is used today. It was extensively remodeled in 1938, just after the main auditorium was redecorated, choir loft changed and new Pilcher organ installed. The total cost of repairs, including the organ and heating plant was $15,000. The ladies used the Odd Fellows Hall to serve suppers during the renovation of the annex, and church services were held at
The present parsonage was purchased in 1946 from Mrs. D.E. Montcastle, and the old parsonage on Riverside Avenuewas sold. The Rev. and Mrs. W.L. Scearce wee the first occupants of the new parsonage.
During the last redecoration of
It would be impossible to list here the accomplishments of each pastor at
Of the records available, the oldest go back to 1858, at which time, Rev. J.C. Tinsley, grandfather of N.F. Mefford, was pastor. He served until the war began in 1861. The next was Stuart S. Ryder, who served six years; Rev. A. Hugh Flaherty, who visited Granbery Memorial Church on several occasions; Rev. Saul B. Dolley; Rev. Addison Weller; 1874-78, Rev. Mr. McQuinn; 1879-92, Rev. J.C. Sedwich; 1882-84 Rev. A.O. Armstrong; 1884-1888 Rev. W.N. Wagner; 1888-91 Rev. J.B. Henry; 1891-95 Rev. D.F. Eustler; 1895-96 Rev. J.D. Martin; 1896-99 Rev. Charles H. Buchanan; 1899-03 Rev. L.L. Loyd; 1903-07 Rev. J.R. Van Horne; 1907-11 Rev. J.O. Knott; 1911-15 Rev. Frank Tyler; 1915-17 Rev. W.D. Keene, 1917-21 Rev. L.S. Rudasill; 1921-22 Dr. D.H. Kern; and Rev. O. W. Lusby; 1922-24, Rev. H.L. Hont; 1924-28 Rev. J.H. Bean; 1928-30 Rev. D.A. Berry; 1930-31 Dr. M.D, Mitchell; 1931-35 Rev. J.H. Haley; 1935-40 Rev. H.S. Coffey; 1940-43 Rev. Bernard S. Via; 1943-46 Dr. W. Albert Wright and Chaplin Harold E. Skelton; 1946-48 Rev. W.L. Scearce; 1948- ___ Rev. A McKinley Reynolds, our present pastor.
The Rev. O.W. Lusby died while serving Grandbery.
Two members from Grandbery who enlisted for life service as ministers were the Rev. J.T. Peck, for who there is a memorial window, and the Rev. E.S. Sheppe, Jr.
Directory of Church Officials Grandbery
W.W. Beele – Resident Bishop
John H. Davidson – District Superintendent
Arthur McKinley Reynolds – Pastor
Mrs. Louise B. Miller – Church Secretary
Mrs. R.K. Fleshamn – Minister of Music
Mrs. H.W. Robertson, Jr. – Organist
W.R. Ownes – President of Board of Trustees
H.W. Robinson, Sr. – Chairman Board of Stewards
Lynn Graham –
Mrs. A. McK. Reynolds – President W.S.C.S.
J.W. Call, Jr. – Chairman Board of Christian Education
A Few Interesting Excerpts from Various Records
The Number 1 marriage in
The Rev. Joseph Pennell and Elisha Knox performed all the marriages listed on Page 1, of the license book excepting one by Amos Smith. Names Listed are James Woltz, John Van Lear, Ignatius H. Tackett, William Shumaker and William H. Enos, Jacob Doup, David Kinnison, Charles Be Seppill, Alfred A Eskridge, and Joseph Meriken. Their denominations are not listed.
The Rev. Joseph Pennell performed the marriage ceremony for John Arritt and Elizabeth Bowyer, January 28, 1830, great-grandparents of the writer, and grandparents of George E. Arritt.
......The lawn of the
In 1879 it became necessary to raise $90 to pay off the indebtedness on the lot of the old church. The money had to be raised at once. Miss Nan Vowles and Miss Mattie Boswell gave a party on the Court House Lawn. The Church and friends supported them in their efforts, the mone was raised an the church was saved........
This building was sold later and the Tabernacle was built in 1906 at the corner of Fudge and Highand Streets. This was a rough frame building, later covered with block-like tim. The church started with six members. In 1917 Epworth was taken off the Mission Board and made self-supporting. The present building was competed in 1923.
The First Methodist Episcopal
The land for Emory church was deeded from Andrew Kincaid and Ann Kincaid, March 17, 1837; Fletcher Chapel, deeded by Samuel and Sarah Brown, February 12, 1852; Mt. Pleasant from Absalom Dressler, July 20, 1872; Hoke, first worshipped in school, and land was deeded in 1919; Mt. Carmel, at Dry Run first used school, land deeded November 1, 1922, church erected 1929-30.
Oldest church building I Alleghany County, Oakland Grove Presbyterian, at Low Moor, built in 1934.
Oldest church near
The Presbyterian Church first organized in
The land for
Lot 39, upon which R.B. Stephenson now lives was deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church, April 15, 1858 by William W. Laurence, the trustees named being Jno. L. Pitzer, James Burk, Jas. L. Lockhart, Abraham Burhman, Nathaniel McKinney, Fleming Keyser, and Charles Richardson. This property appears to have been involved in lengthy litigation which was not settled until 1895, when the court made a deed to J.W. Jennings, making no note of the original deed to the
Court records here show deeds to various Alleghany County Methodist Churches in the last century dated 1829, 1837, 1840, 1848, 1850, 1854, 1855, 1860, 1859, 1866, 1874, 1879, and 1894.
On September 2, 1914, two weeks after the Covington Virginian became a daily newspaper,
“Rev. W.S. Keene will preach at both morning and evening services at Granbery Memorial next Sunday.
“As it is Communion Sunday, members are being urged to attend and not devote the week end and Sunday to outings away from town. At the 8 p.m. service, Mr. Keene’s subject will be ‘Am I My Brother’s Keeper?’”
“The Junior League, which has been closed for the summer, will meet at 6 p.m."
The Senior League will observe Rally Day at 6:45 p.m.
From papers of Mrs. Fannie Biggs presented to the files of Granbery is a bulletin dated October 18, 1908, Rev. J. Olin Knott, Pastor, which ends thus:
Subject: Relation of Present to Past
Just 50 years after Southern Methodism was established in
(This is not intended to be an all inclusive history of
and Class, April 9, 1951.
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