By Joan Baxter
When Methodist families began to move into Greene County they met in various homes until there were enough members to form a church. The ministers who served these rural churches were called Circuit Riders, meaning that they went by horse from church to church to preach at several different sites.
With several churches under the direction of one pastor, formal services were not held at each church every Sunday. On the Sundays when the pastor could not be present, the Sunday School classes would meet for hymns, prayers and Bible study.
Old Town United Methodist Church is located on the site of the 18th century Shawnee Indian village of Old Chillicothe. In 1853 the trustees of the Old Town Methodist Episcopal Church purchased land from Abner Reed for $75 for the purpose of constructing a church building. Bricks for the structure were made on site and the building was completed in 1855. In 1861, there were 131 members listed on the roll. Ten years later, the membership had increased to 188.
In 1950, a basement was dug while the the building was shored up. Cement walls were constructed and then a kitchen, restrooms and a furnace were added. As the congregation grew, the need for additional space was apparent. A new parsonage was constructed. In 1962 the home next door was purchased to use as an educational building. In 2000, a steeple was placed on top of the church and dedicated to Herman Swadener, a life-long resident.
Bellbrook United Methodist Church members first met in a log building constructed on the northeast corner of Wilmington Pike and State Route 725. A few years later a second log structure was built on West Franklin Avenue. The current structure has been remodeled several times over the years. A welcome addition was the class rooms which were added in 1956.
In 2009, a large meeting room was constructed which provides ample space for many additional activities. This portion of the building was dedicated by the United Methodist Presiding Bishop of the West Ohio Conference at a special ceremony.
Richland-Crumley United Methodist Church dates its history to 1861 when the Quarterly Conference Minutes reflected the motion that a committee of three be appointed to estimate the expenses of building the contemplated church at Richland. Tradition holds that the members provided labor and materials for the building which was formally dedicated Feb. 2, 1862. Any debt which had been incurred during construction was paid at that time.
The windows were originally plain glass, but with the advent of automobiles, it was determined that frosted glass would keep the congregation from looking out when a car passed. A series of stained glass portraits of Christ hang in front of each of the windows today. The original pews are still in use.
Originally called the Richland Methodist Episcopal Church, the name was changed in 1974 when Albert Crumley, last surviving male member of one of the founding families, bequeathed a sum of money with the suggestion that the family name be incorporated into the church name. From that point on the church has been known as Richland-Crumley.
Until 2007, the church was a one-room church. It was then that a member of the congregation with the help of family members constructed a new fellowship hall complete with restrooms and kitchen area. Recently, a paved parking lot has been added.
New Jasper United Methodist Church history tells us that the first organization of the congregation was in the early 1800s growing to a size soon that required a new church being built on Jasper Station Road around 1836. The “upping block” which was used at that church was relocated to the front of our present building when it was built. On Oct. 3 1881, the building committee was appointed and work began on the present structure which was the third for the congregation. The bricks were made on site, and it took the workers all of the summer of 1882 to lay the foundation. The church was finished in 1883 and dedicated on Jan. 27, 1884.
In 1893 the present parsonage was built. The pastor, being a good carpenter as well as a good preacher supervised and directed the project. Some changes have been made to the church over the years. In 1960 the church celebrated its 150th anniversary with the dedication of a new organ. In 1966 new classrooms and restrooms were added, in 1995 a handicapped ramp was installed.
As with any church building through the years there have been improvements, changes in pastoral leadership and congregation. As Sara Fudge quoted, “Our churches have weathered the storms of year of plenty and years of war and scarcity. But always it has been a place to go and enjoy good fellowship and the blessing of God our Heavenly Father. May we always be found working in His service. History is a double challenge, one to those to try to compile it and another to those who follow.”
Sunday 1-5 p.m. Sept. 11 these churches, along with other Common Cup United Methodist Churches will welcome all visitors.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.