First United Methodist

October 3rd, 2007


During the years 1856-57, the Reverend Samuel Barnes was stationed at Milton, with the additional work of Presiding Elder. In the fall of 1857 he held a meeting at Thomas’, otherwise known at the “Swamp School House.” A class was formed in 1858 and the Reverend Andrew E. Taylor and the Reverend Samuel Barnes would preach at this place. The original class consisted of Joseph Hollopeter, Susan Hollopeter, Benjamin Grier and his wife, John B. Shadle and his wife, I.P. Irwin and his wife, and Mrs. Martha Stover. In 1862 Watsontown became an official part of the Milton circuit in the East Baltimore Annual Conference after the Reverend Franklin Gearhart and the Reverend Hiles C. Pardoe took up Watsontown as a regular appointment for preaching. By this time the Methodist services were most likely being held at the old Academy building. Joseph Hollopeter was appointed class leader in 1862 and the following were members of the class:

Mary BarrAnn M. IrwinMary J. RunyanJohn B. Shadle
Joseph HollopeterI.P. IrwinElizabeth SeilerElizabeth Sprole
Susan HollopeterJ.F. MeckleyJane SeilerMartha Jane Stover
George RunyanPeter Seiler

According to an article in The Record and Star dated September 21, 1906, Mary J. Runyan, George Runyan, Elizabeth Seiler, Jane Seiler, Peter Seiler, Elizabeth Sprole, Mary Barr and Harriet Barr were added to the class roll in 1862. On January 13, 1861, the Union Sunday School of Watsontown held its first session with 64 scholars attending. In 1864 the Methodist members broke from the union Sunday school and organized a school in accordance with the discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Joseph Hollopeter was chosen as superintendent, with I.P. Irwin as assistant, Joseph Bly as secretary, P.H. Truckenmiller as treasurer and John Cooner as librarian. The teachers were: R.M. Truckenmiller, Robert Seiler, Rebecca Meckley, Martha Stover, Mary Barr, Susan Hollopeter, M.J. Runyan, Mary Sprole, Ann Irwin and Emma Runyan. The school met in the Academy Building until 1872 when the first floor of the Methodist Church was ready for use. The school began to give the offering from one Sunday each month to the missionary work of the Methodist Church in 1869. During the year 1866, initial steps were taken toward the building of a Methodist Episcopal Church in Watsontown. The first board of trustees of the Watsontown Church was elected at the Mt. Bethel Church at a quarterly conference, August 12, 1866, and the trustees were Thomas Barr, Joseph Hollopeter, Henry Miller, I.P. Irwin, John F. Meckley, Daniel Marsh, and Harrison Housel. A meeting of the trustees took place on August 29, 1866 with the following officers being elected: Thomas Barr, president; Henry Miller, secretary; and Joseph Hollopeter, treasurer. The trustees decided, in view of the rapid increase in the membership together with the rapid increase on the price of lots in Watsontown, that the congregation secure a lot on which to build a church if it could be obtained. Two lots located on East Third Street were purchased from Jesse Watkins for $725 on February 25, 1867 for the building of a church when the proper time should arrive. The church was incorporated and a charter granted December 6, 1870. The trustees resolved on February 1, 1871 to pattern the new church after the Methodist Church in Milton and 145,000 bricks were ordered. Through the efforts of the Reverend John W. Olewine, work began on the church building during the 1871-72 conference year. The cornerstone was laid July 9, 1871, and the first floor was finished and dedicated November 10, 1872. The Presbyterians and Episcopalians of Watsontown were granted permission to use the new church building for services on Sunday afternoons. The congregation grew until in 1874, and the members felt they were able to support a preacher and made application to the annual conference to be made a station. The request was granted and the Reverend John A. Woodcock was appointed the first station preacher at Watsontown. But in 1879, at the annual conference held at Bloomsburg, Watsontown was made a circuit church again and was connected with the Montandon church. During the 1870s and the early 1880s, the members had a great struggle with the debt on the new church and in 1877 and for some years after, the second floor of the church was rented for public school classes. The Reverend A.E. Taylor set the date of February 22,1883 as the time when the church should make an all-out effort to cancel their financial obligations. The sum of $2,698 was raised by that date, the creditors were paid and the church was free of debt. Up to this time the congregation had rented various houses in town as a parsonage for their pastors. In May of 1883 a lot next to the church was sold and the money put on interest until such time as the trustees could buy a parsonage. On October 31, 1883 the trustees bought the Morgan property on Liberty Street for $1,200 to be used as a parsonage and that winter the Reverend A.E. Taylor took up residency. Through the tireless efforts of the Reverend David H. Shields the congregation was able to finish the upper room of the church at a cost of $2,433. On December 20, 1885 the new sanctuary was dedicated. In 1886, Watsontown was made a station again and has been a station church ever since. The congregation received a new bell weighing 1400 pounds which was delivered on September 25, 1895. It was inscribed as follows, “Watsontown M.E. Church Bell. August 1895. Orlando G. Heck, pastor.” Between 1904 and 1905, the old parsonage was sold and the present parsonage was purchased with the Reverend Dorsey N. Miller being the first pastor to reside in the new parsonage. In 1906 the upper room was beautified. The Wolfe brothers and sisters had a mural, Christ in Gethsemane, painted in the church in memory of their parents that year. During the winter of 1916-17 a fine Felgemaker Pipe Organ was built in the church at a cost of $2,500. The organ was dedicated to the worship of God on Sunday, April 1, 1917. Between 1921 and 1922 Mrs. Charles Schmucker and her children placed new art glass windows in the vestibule in memory of Mr. Schmucker. In the spring of 1922 new carpet was laid in the church. In 1928 the U.L.S. Circle had new doors placed on the front of the church. In the fall of 1935 one hundred new Methodist hymnals were bought by various persons and organizations. In 1941 a new heating plant was installed in the church at a cost of $2,280 and a new chimney at $236. In the midst of all these renovations and additions, the Watsontown Methodist Episcopal Church of Watsontown, PA applied for a charter for the object and purpose of which is to own and possess real estate for church and religious purposes, and for these purposes to have, possess and enjoy all the rights, benefits and privileges conferred by the said act. The Reverend Stephen B. Bidlack and A.B. Seiler, president of the congregation made the petition on July 31, 1925. In 1958, a building fund was established for the purpose of providing adequate education facilities. Following a vigorous financial campaign in the fall of 1963, a ground breaking ceremony was held on the lot, October 27, 1963. The new educational wing would include thirteen rooms for classes, a kitchen, an office and a library/secretary’s room. The new addition was consecrated June 14, 1964. The pay-off campaign ended in May of 1967. With the new education wing the church was able to provide weekday kindergarten classes since there was no public school kindergarten in Watsontown at that time. They began this in 1966 and continued for three years until the school district took it over. The Watsontown Senior Citizens began meeting in the Sunday School room in May, 1967 with thirty-two members present and by 1976 had a membership of approximately 165. The church also continues to sponsor and host Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Brownies. New hymnals were purchased in September of 1967. In 1972 a new pulpit was dedicated in the sanctuary in memory of Richard Ritter who had been killed in the military service. Two years later the church auditorium was redecorated. Sunday school played a prominent part in the life of this congregation. Those having served as superintendents over the years include: Joseph Hollopeter off and on for sixteen years closing his last term in 1888; John F. Meckley was selected in 1867 and served off and on for eight years; Henry Miller was another of the early superintendents; F.A. Reen became superintendent in 1894 and served until 1903; M.S. Adams served from 1903 to 1908; J.I. Martin took the office in 1908 and resigned in December 1943; James A. Lewis acted from January to October 1944; Paul E. Cronrath served from October of 1944 to October 1946 when Ned S. Bly took office; there have been other superintendents from that time to the present when Mrs. Ethel Makin became general superintendent.

Pastors serving First United Methodist Church include:

Milton Circuit
Samuel Barnes1858-1859Hiles C. Pardoe1862-1863
Andrew E. Taylor1858-1860Franklin Gearhart1862-1864
John A. DeMoyer1859-1860Silas C. Swallow1863-1864
John A. Dixon1860-1861F. Church1864-1865
George Warren1860-1862John W. Haughawout1864-1866
C.F. Thomas1861-1862Elisha Shoemaker1865-1866

Chillisquaque Circuit
Bartholomew P. King1866-1867E.M. Chilcoat1866-1867
W. Fritz1866-1867

Watsontown Circuit
William W. Reese1867-1868Jacob S. Comp1869-1871
Henry Wilson1867-1869Charles W. Burnley1871-1873
Thomas O. Cleese1868-1869John W. Olewine1871-1873
Franklin Gearhart1869-1871Pemberton Bird1872-1873

Watsontown Station
John A. Woodcock1874-1876Bartholomew P. King1877-1879
Andrew W. Gibson1876-1877

Watsontown/Montandon Station
Benjamin H. Creavo1879-1881David H. Shields1884-1886
Andrew E. Taylor1881-1884

Watsontown Station
Wm. McK. Reiley1886-1888William C. Shure1939
John W. Buckley1888-1890Malcolm V. Mussina1940-1941
William W. Reese1890-1892William W. Sholl1941
Orlando G. Heck1892-1896David M. Kerr1941-1944
S. Milton Frost1896-1897D. Owen Brubacker1944-1947
Harmon H. Crotsley1897-1899Robert E. Breth1948-1950
William C. Hesser1899-1901Norman J. Simmons1950-1952
Matthew N. Walker1901-1904M. David Long, Jr.1952-1954
Dorsey N. Miller1904-1909John F. Buehler1954-1956
Harmon H. Crotsley1909-1910W. McKinley Kepler1956-1962
W. Emerson Karns1910-1912Kenneth R. Arthur1962-1970
John T. Bell1912-1917A. Robert Walker1970-1973
H.C. Hinkle1917H. Merle Saxman1973-1974
Elmer F. Ilgenfritz1917-1921Floyd S. Sollenberger1974-1989
George W. McIlnay1921-1923Peter F. Geschwindner1989-1997
Stephen B. Bidlack1923-1926Albert E. Cox1997-1999
Clair J. Switzer1926-1931Douglas M. Eberly1999-2012
Benjamin L. Stenger1931-1935Ryan T. Krauss2012-
Victor B. Hann1935-1939

[The Record and Star, September 27, 1895, pg 1; The Record and Star, April 6, 1917, pg 1; The Record and Star, July 31, 1925, pg 1; The Record and Star, September 21, 1906, pg. 1; 75th Anniversary of the dedication of The Watsontown Methodist Church, Brubaker, D.Owen, 1947, pges 3-6; The Milton Standard, August 11, 1967, pg 36, 37]

Last Modified: 12.27.22

3 Responses

  1. Alexander Wolfe Wilson Says:

    Mrs. Charles [Kittee Wolfe] Schmucker, the donor of the “art glass” windows placed in the church in 1921 – 1922, was my great g-mother. The windows were in memorium of my G-GF Charles E. Scmucker who owned an orchard and several businesses in town. I have been told that C.E.S was killed in an auto vs. train accident around 1916 but have not found any account of the accident online. Any suggestions?

  2. Alexander Wolfe Wilson Says:

    Also, are the church and windows extant? If so, what is the address of the church? I would like to visit with my family.

  3. Floyd Sollenberger Says:

    The corrected years should be 1974-1989. We stayed in Watsontown until Wendy graduated from WR in 1989.

    Comment by James Robison: Thank you for the correction. Truly appreciate it.

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