Our History

Our History

A Methodist Class Meeting was organized in Pearisburg in 1809/1810 by Jacob Peck, James Sewell, Mrs. David French, Mrs. John Brown, William Watts, Mr. and Mrs. James McClaugherty and daughter Jane.  The class leader was a Mr. Bluford.  An earlier Class Meeting of Methodists had been developed near the old Wabash Camp Ground in Giles County as early as 1780, at the home of Frank Munsey.  See Francis Asbury's Journal

The McClaugherty family lived directly across the New River in the Clendenin Community.  They were from Ireland and had settled here in 1794.  Tragedy struck this family as they were crossing the river to attend church services on May 18, 1813, and the three members of this family belonging to that first class were drowned. 

The next record of the church is in 1821 when the Class Leader was Jesse Key.  George Key was listed as “Exhorter,” which was a lay preaching office.  Members at that time were Mrs. William Chapman, Mrs. Thomas Kirk, Mr. and Mrs. James Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. John McClaugherty (a surviving member of the McClaugherty family that had drowned in 1813), and Mr. and Mrs. Mahood.

The first public services were held in a log schoolhouse which stood opposite of the C. A Hoilman home.  Services were also held in the old stone court house which stood on the same grounds as the present courthouse (erected in 1837).  The old log house was replaced by a brick building which is now the old part of the Masonic Hall.  Services were held there for several years.

In 1847 the first church building was erected by Methodists in Pearisburg.  It stood on the corner of Main and Church Streets.  It was a wood frame building which served the church for twelve years.  It was torn down in 1859 to make way for a large brick building which was completed and dedicated on April 7, 1861 with Bishop John Early presiding.  Its cost was $4000.  Records show the following persons contributed to the debt on this building:  Albert G. Pendleton, Edward Hale, Guy D. French, Manilus Chapman, Charles W. McClaugherty, William C. Charlton, Jesse Hale, John Wall, James F. McClaugherty, Henry T. Dennis, Joseph Peck, William W. McComas, Charles D. Peck, and James D. Johnston, Sr.

The first Foreign Missionary Society was organized in the Pearisburg Methodist Church on March 4, 1881.  This was a forerunner of our United Methodist Women’s organization.

This building was replaced in 1896 with a newer brick structure on the same corner of town.  It was completed during the ministry of the Rev. J. A. H. Shuler.  The next year severe earthquakes hit the area and several older members recall a crack developing in the brick over the front entrance at that time.  An addition was built on to this structure beginning in 1934 for housing the Sunday School program of the church.

With the coming of the Celanese Corporation in 1939-1940, and additional population within the county and the town of Pearisburg, the church began to have growing pains.  It was decided to add another educational structure to the church.  This was completed in December, 1950, at a cost of $90,000. 

By 1961, it was decided that old church could no longer accommodate the growing congregation.  After much consideration, it was decided to sell the old site and move to a location where the church could spread out and enjoy a more peaceful setting.  The family of the late Senator A. E. Shumate, Sr., donated 4.5 acres and a new building was erected on the corner of Hale Street and Valleyview Drive.  It was opened in 1966. 

A.    D. Gerberich testified of the new setting:  “To many old timers, like myself, there was a deep sentimental attachment to the old site which caused some hesitation about abandoning the surrounding so rich in Methodist heritage for 120 years.  Under the wise counsel of the Reverend Jim Hankins the decision to move was made with the minimum of dissent.  As we sit in the quiet and worshipful atmosphere of this lovely sanctuary, we almost forget the squeaking boards of the old sanctuary which announced the coming of each addition to the congregation.  The sixty huge tractor-trailor trucks which passed the front door during each service, shaking the rafters and drowning out the speaker, are no longer a nightmare.  We now depart under the benediction of a refreshing experience of worship, and as we step outside we view with wonder and admiration Angel’s Rest, overlooking the countryside for countless ages; clothed in a multitude of harmonious green shades, reminding us of the omnipotence of God and the wonders of His creations.  Truly this is a worshipful place.”

Our Name

The Methodist movement in the United States began with the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784.  The name “Methodist” refers to the methodical way in which early members of this movement focused upon their discipleship to Jesus Christ.  “Episcopal” refers to the New Testament-oriented style of church government which included the oversight of bishops.  The name “Methodist Episcopal Church” continued until the Plan of Separation was adopted in 1844 at which time Methodists split along geographical lines over the issue of whether members and ministers should be allowed to own slaves.  The “Methodist Episcopal Church, South” was the name of the church in the southern states.  After the Civil War efforts began to reunite the two great branches of the church.  This was not accomplished until 1939, at which time North, South, and a third branch, the Methodist Protestant Church, were united into the Methodist Church.  Another merger occurred with descendants of German-speaking Methodists, the Evangelical United Brethren, in 1968.  At that time the church became known as “The United Methodist Church.”  Pearisburg’s church was called “Pearisburg Station” for several years.  In 1944 the church was named “First Methodist Church” of Pearisburg. 

From the Papers of A. D. Gerberich


  April 2021  
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