Above: Newport Methodist 1908
Courtesy of Washington County Library
Speeches given by Ethel Hays and Mary Heeter at the Methodist Episcopal Church Newport on October 5, 1952
The first settlement in Newport was in April, 1798. In 1799, Rev. Robert Manley, the first Methodist preacher in Washington County, visited the Newport settlement. It was one of his stopping places in his evangelistic tour. The ministers who followed him to Marietta did not neglect this way station; consequently, it was not long before a
Methodist Society was organized. They first worshiped in the school house which stood near the present Bleakley home.
In 1825, it was deemed advisable to organize a regular church and this they did with less than twenty members. However, it was not until 1829 that a house of worship was ready for occupancy. This frame building was erected at a cost of $800.00 and stood on the site of our old brick school building which was torn down just a few years ago.
Rev. David Young was the first preacher after the church was occupied and dedicated. From a mere handful the membership of the church increased. Revivals were experienced from time to time and many memories cluster around the old, but never-to-be-forgotten mourner’s bench.
The earliest records that have been preserved are the Book of Records of sessions of the Quarterly Conference on the Newport Circuit in 1845. In those early days Newport Circuit embraces many charges – namely, Newell’s Run, Upper Paw Paw, Lebanon, Salem, Lowell, Moss Run, Cow Run, Rea’s Run, Yankeeburg, and Lynch. As the years passed some of these charges were placed on other circuits and new ones added to the Newport Circuit.
These charges were taken care of largely by local preachers and exhorters. These circuit stewards were carefully examined in respect to their character and their ability to carry on the duties of a preacher. Records reveal that quite often one would fail to meet the requirements.
Our next available record of a Quarterly conference in the Newport circuit begins in 1862. Here we find the pastor supported by the following churches; Brownsville, Cline, Mill Creek, Grandview, new Matamoras, Centerview, Rea’s Run, Pleasant Ridge, Newport and Bell. The amount assessed to Newport to meet the demands of that year was $215.00, and for New Matamoras it was $70.00.
It was in 1866, that Rev. John W. Hamilton came to Newport Church. This was his first appointment, and while here, he married Julia Elizabeth Battelle the [grand] daughter of Ebenezer and Mary Greene Battelle. The Greenes and the Battelles were among the first settlers of Newport and to Ebenezer Battelle goes the credit of plotting this village. In later years after the death of his first wife, Rev. Hamilton was married to her sister, Emma Battelle. Rev. Gordon Battelle – to whose memory the Soldier’s Monument was erected wand whose statue stands facing West Virginia, the state from which he had a large part in forming its constitution – was a brother-in-law of Rev. Hamilton.
In 1913 John W. Hamilton had become Bishop Hamilton and he returned to Newport and made the dedicatory address when the Soldier’s Monument was dedicated.
It was a short time after Rev. Hamilton first came to Newport that Centenary Chapel, our present church, was planned. No record is given for the selection of “Centenary Chapel” as the name of the new church. The minutes of the Quarterly conference on Nov. 10, 1866, list the following people elected as a Building Committee: Ebenezer Battelle, Sr., E. A. Jones, Henry O’Blenness, Aaron Edgell and John Vorley. It was about this time too that the records reveal the origin of the Ladies Sewing Circle. They, no doubt, had a share in raising the funds for the erection of the new church. In October, 1867, Rev. Hamilton reported to the Quarterly Conference (quote); “Newport’s new church is on the way. The foundation is completed, the brick ready and both very nearly paid for. All things thus far indicate success.”
The church was not complete until the spring of 1870, at a cost of $7000.00. Rev. D. C. Knowles was the pastor then and for the dedication service, on May 15, 1970, Dr. C. A. Holmes of the Pittsburgh Conference gave the dedicatory address.
Rev J. H. Doan was the pastor to follow Rev. Knowles and records reveal this interesting report by him (Quote): “I have catechized the children in the Newport school in connection with their regular lesion two or three times, but not in the church catechism. I have, however, supplied a considerable number of families with the catechism,” (unquote.) In all of his reports, Rev. Doan went to great lengths to list every detail of his work. In 1880, after several other pastors had served this charge, Rev. Doan was returned to the Newport Circuit. In one of his quarterly conference reports he states (Quote): “Brother William S Gano and some of the other young men with several of the young women of the Newport Society have undertaken to pay off the remaining debt on the Newport church, now amounting to $570.00, and have prosecuted this work. It is due to the members of the Ladies Aid Society that we say that Society is the largest subscriber to this fund, and that is in addition to previous payments for the same purpose, amounting to about $397.00. The truth appears to be that the women have saved the Newport Church. Whether it would finally have been saved without their aid, I know not; but feel it is clear that as the matter how stands, the credit is due to them and I fell it is but just that this record should be made. They have raised and applied to church purposes in fourteen years about $1800.00, (unquote.) Respectfully submitted, J. H. Doan, P.C.
In another report – Feb. 1881 – Rev. Doan says thus: “The debt on the church art Newport which so long embarrassed the society there had been paid in full and the mortgage cancelled. Great credit is due to the young man and the young women of the church through whose instrumentality this has been effected.”
J. E. Starkey became pastor in 1883 and served four years. In the fourth year of his pastorate, he died suddenly- the first pastor to die while serving our church. Rev. J. D. Kaho finished the remaining part of the year.
T. I. McRae became pastor in 1886 and it was during his pastorate, in 1888, that the church was improved at a cost of $1700.00. At that time the front entrance, the vestibule, with the large center steeple and two smaller cupolas were added. The building committee was composed of Dr. J. H. McElhinney, Mrs. Lydia G. Rea. W. S. Gano, James Kerr, and Richard Rea. On August 3, 1887, T. I. McRae was married to Miss Ella R. Hays, a Newport girl who was a great worker in the church. The wedding ceremony was performed in this church presiding elder, W. L. Dixon. Probably this was the first wedding ceremony to be culminized in this church.
Rev. R. W. Gardiner was the next pastor given this appointment. He also married a prominent young lady in the Newport church, Miss Cora H. Rea. She was church organist for many years. She is still living and at present is with her daughter at Geneva, Ohio.
Rev. B. E. Edgell, a native of Newport, entered the ministry from this church. He was licensed to exhort at Newport in 1865, and was licensed to preach in 1867. He served the Newport charge from 1890 to 1892. Later, he and his wife went to China as missionaries and remained three years. In his pastor's report of 1891, we note that an iron ceiling had been donated to the church at a cost of $125.00. This was a gift of the Battelles.
Another Newport man who entered the ministry from this church was John W. Moore. He was born here and converted in 1866. He was graduated from Mt. Union College and later received his Ph. D. degree from Alleghany College. He did not hold a pastorate here at Newport but frequently visited his mother Mrs. Susan Moore, and always would preach a rousing sermon. His son, John N. Moore, was pastor of this church in later years.
In 1893, under the pastorate of Rev. F. A. Domer, a chapel was added to the church at the cost of $700.00. This chapel was built by Epworth League, a flourishing young people's society, under the leadership of J. E. W. Greene.
During Rev. Domer's pastorate, too, we find that proceedings were undertaken to have a parsonage erected. Two lots were purchased for $150.00; and, in 1900 the balance of $317.00 was paid on the parsonage mortgage.
It was during the pastorate of Rev. A. N. Misel, in the early 1900's, that much material improvement was started on the church. He began the good work by raising $700.00 and having the church re-roofed at a cost of $317.00.
The improvement was continued under the pastorate of M. W. Bevington. The interior was refreshed and revarnished at a cost of $315.00, with about $25.00 being expended on the belfry. Beautiful stained glass windows costing nearly $400.00 were installed. The windows in the main auditorium cost about $31.50 each and were furnished by friends and relatives of those whose names are inscribed on the windows. The large front window in the vestibule cost $45.00 and was the gift of the Epworth League. The building also was plumbed for gas and new gas fixtures were purchased at a cost of about $50.00.
This concludes the history of the church up until the turn of the century. -Miss M. Ethel Hays
THE CHURCH TODAY
You have been given a resume’ of the early years of Methodism in Newport. You have heard how the pioneers planned for this place of worship and how they strived to keep it an inspiration to every generation.
I was asked to continue this resume’ from the earthy 1900’s until the present time. We have not had to promote building projects such as his been reported, but the work in the past half century had been concerned with the maintenance and improvements in this house of worship established so many years ago.
It was noted that the first music in our church was provided by organs. The organ for the Epworth Chapel had been given by Carrie Jones Rea Wilson. She was a Newport girl who was first married to Wilbur Rea. After his death, she became the wife of Rev. J. I. Wilson, a presiding elder. Our church piano was purchased in 1916 with a fund started by the very generous gift form O. S. Reckard.
The large Bible you see here on the rostrum was purchased and presented to the church in memory of Mrs. Mary Stewart, a former Bible Class teacher who gave willingly and happily of her time for many years.
The church was redecorated in 1932, during the pastorate of the Rev. M. Ray Smith. It was about that time that our hymn board was a gift from Mrs. Gertrude McGee Wisner and the small arch lights were presented by Mrs. Helen Bachelder Hood.
In 1843, we were the recipient of new hymnals, presented by the Cree and the Bachelder families in memory of Bertha Hays Cree and Mildred Hays Bachelder.
Five years ago, following the death of Mrs. Bess Travis, her son, Edwin, presented a very generous donation in her memory. With this we arranged to have a new furnace installed to replace the old Reznors of bygone years. We were able to have a redecoration program of the church auditorium completed and new chancel and archway drapes were hung. In memory of our esteemed friend and fellow Methodist, the altar set you see before you was purchased. This altar set was dedicated just five years ago today – Oct. 5, 1947 – during a specially arranged dedicatory service. We are grateful for the generosity of this gift and for the memorial which perpetuates the memory of our friend.
You have heard that almost from the beginning the women have played a very great part in financing the requirements of our church. Formerly the ladies of the church participated in three societies – the Ladies Aid, the Women’s Home Missionary Society, and The Women’s Foreign Missionary Society.
In 1940, upon the merging of the three great Methodist branches – the ladies were organized under the one society, the Women’ Society of Christian Service. It is a happy privilege to note that records of this society from its charter meeting on Sept. 5, 1940, until the present time show an organization praiseworthy for the works it has wrought through prayers, personalities and possessions.
Formerly there were three very active classed in our Sunday School – the Helping Hand, the Sunshine, and the Amici. Today on the Amici Philathea Class remains as an organized, active class. It is through the efforts of this class that this dedication service became a reality. Miss Hays, whom you have just heard, has been our pianist for many years. She has worked tirelessly with the young people and has arranged interesting and appropriate programs for all occasions. Deep in her heart, Miss Hays has cherished for years the dream that one day an electric organ would enhance our sanctuary and lend beauty in expression to our worship services.
It was in the early summer of 1951 that the Amici Philathea Class generously voted to give its $400.00 reserve as the original payment for an organ. This substantial contribution, along with generous bequests from friends and former members, has given to our church an instrument of pride to all of us and of especial joy to our organist and friend, Miss Hays. May I digress here to speak of behalf of the organ committee and say, “Thank You, friends,” for any and every part you have had in this enterprise.
This completes, I believe, the list of material bequests with which friends have remembered the Newport Methodist Church. In conclusion, I would like to mention that the lamp which afford lighting for the organ also had been a gift of the Amici Philathea Class – having been presented just last month. -Miss Mary Heeter