There are times of celebration in every life, and this includes men and nations. There is not a nation on the "footstool" today but can celebrate some great event in its history. There is not an individual but has passed some period in life which always, at that given time, looms up as a memorable occasion.
There are particular events to be thought of and celebrated: whether it is in your own life or another's; whether it is a nation, a society, a law or an institution, such as the Church of God. And after all, are not the events in the history of a church greater than the events in the history of men or nations? When a child is born, hell clamors for its soul, but then the church, born of God, stands like a pugilist to defend the child. The church in any town is not only the means of saving a human being, but the saving of every human being that makes up the town. We can afford to lose every other institution in the town, but God help us to hold fast to and beautify the church.
It makes no difference what church it is, or its kind of architecture,--it may be a cathedral or a little clapboard chapel,--its shadow is a protection from the hot rays of the sun of affliction--and how hot they are at time! The tone of its bell is music to the weary traveler as he passes; the melody of its song appeals to the passing sinner and assembling saint; the sermon from its desk combines with all the other things in making a basis for the soul of man to celebrate a great event in the future days that finally become ages. Oh yes, we believe in celebrating particular events in the history of men and nations and churches, and to that end we come to this day in the "fullness of time."
As the history of this church shows, Methodism has done some things in Blairstown which are worth recalling, and now, after a great deal of effort and expense in beautifying our auditorium, we pause long enough to unite in celebrating the event of the re-opening.
Particular events are not only right and nice to celebrate, but they ought to mean stepping stones to higher and better things. That is what this means to us, therefore while we are celebrating we are dedicating a beautiful auditorium to the Master's use. This remodeled auditorium stands for better work for God, town and Methodism. So, with Mrs. K. F. Stratton, we would say:
"These courts renewed and made more meetWe put this souvenir in your hands, containing all that it does, praying that it may help you to get a front seat in our hearts and our church, which always means cooperation. To that end we want you to help us celebrate; help us to be glad; help us as
For thine abode, low at thy feet
With prayer to thee we bring:
Hear and forgive; thy love distill;
This temple with thy glory fill,
Our Father and our King.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be yours in the future days."Sing we to our God above,
Praise eternal as his love;
Praise him all ye heavenly host,--
Father, Son and Holy Ghost."
Prior to 1838 the people of Gravel Hill (now Blairstown) and vicinity regarded the Sabbath largely as a day for family visiting or personal enjoyment. Hunting and fishing were freely indulged in by many, and even public horse racing on that day was not an unknown source of amusement.
When much of the beautiful Paulins Kill Valley was yet a wilderness, with but here and there a pioneer's cabin, the itinerant preachers, traveling on horseback, with their portmanteau fastened to the saddle, visited this region and laid the foundation of Methodism in what is now Blairstown township. They held preaching services at different places in the community, one of them being the home of John Labar, near the former residence of Mrs. Isaac Shuster on High Street. Rev. Jehiel Talmage, the venerable pastor of the Knowlton Presbyterian Church for twenty-two years, also visited the families in this community and catechized the children. In those days the Bible, the Discipline and the Methodist Hymn Book constituted the library of the Methodist families, and the Bible, the Catechism and Watt's Hymns were found in the Presbyterian homes.
A class was organized in the neighborhood at a very early day. The first leader was John Labar, who was succeeded by John R. Lanning. He served until 1842, when he moved away and Elisha Cook was appointed his successor and filled that position with great acceptability for many years. Adam Teets, John W. Cook and E. Y. Willever were leaders at later dates. There have been no class leaders for several years.
Among the early preachers were Charles Reed and George Banghart, who had stated preaching appointments here as early as 1805. About 1816 Rev. Mr. Bennett located here and kept store in addition to preaching. He was killed by his horse running away as he was coming down the Oxford mountain on his return from Philadelphia, where he had been to purchase goods.
When the Methodist Society was formed here in 1811, it was connected with the Harmony Circuit, the preacher living at the latter place. In 1862 the Blairstown and Johnsonburg charge was formed and the preacher located here. It is not certain who the preacher was at that time. We learn by the Church Records that the first Quarterly Conference was held April 24, 1865, with Presiding Elder, Rev. C. S. Coit, in the chair. At that time there were three Sunday Schools on the charge with a total of seventy-five scholars. Walnut Valley was officially added to the charge in 1870 and ever since has been a thriving part of the parish. Rev. Jacob Tindall was the pastor. His successors up to 1873 were: Rev. C. A. Wambaugh, J. F. Dodd, Wm. W. Voorhees and S. F. Palmer.
In 1870 Rev. Geo. Johns was made assistant pastor and located at Johnsonburg. His pastorate was brief because of ill health and his successor was Rev. Wm. H. Burlew. In 1871 Johnsonburg was dropped from the parish and this charge was known thereafter as Blairstown, Walnut Valley and Franklin Grove.
On March 28, 1866, a parsonage property was bought from Samuel Myers on what is known as the "Island," at a cost of $2,500. The house is now owned and occupied by Mrs. Mary L. Smith, on Meadow Pathway. It was sold in 1889 to Lemuel F. L. Wilson, the father of Mrs. Smith. During the term of Rev. J. F. Dodd, 1870, a heavy freshet swept over the lot, the water running through the house which later was removed across the lot to its present site at a cost of $660.47.
The lot for the church was donated by John I. Blair, by whom it was deeded Jan. 16, 1838, to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Blairstown, namely: John R. Lanning, John Harden, William Tinsman, John Howell, Alexander Decker and William Sears. The old church or meeting house was built in 1838 and dedicated about November 1st. It stood on nearly the same site as the present edifice, but a little nearer the maple trees on the west side of the lot. It was a plain stone structure, 35 x 45 feet in size, with gothic windows, two front doors opening directly into the audience room, entered from a porch 9 feet wide running across the front of the building, with steps at either end. There were galleries on the sides and rear, the rear end being reached by open stairways on either side of the pulpit. The building was rough cast, similar to the old Academy, and had neither spire nor belfry. The contract for the erection of this building was sold at public auction Feb. 3, 1838. Jonathan D. Calvin was the lowest bidder for the masonry work, including all material, for $639. Wm. Sears did the carpenter work, painting etc., for $999, making a total cost of $1,638 for the building completed.
In 1873 Rev. T. C. Mayham was appointed. The old church had become very much dilapidated and the congregation had grown very small. He secured the election of a Board of Trustees and had them incorporated. He set to work securing subscriptions for the erection of a new church. On June 4, 1873, a contract was awarded to Charles Heldemore for $7,400. On August 28, 1873, the corner stone was laid. The basement of the church was completed and dedicated Feb. 28, 1874, by Rev. R. L. Dashiel, assisted by Rev. Henry A. Buttz, D. D. The Building Committee consisted of Elisha Cook, Andrew Yetter and Isaac Bunnell.
While the church was being erected the congregation worshipped in Mechanics' Hall, where Bro. Mayham succeeded in organizing a Sunday School.
The new church, 40 x 60 feet in size, was completed and dedicated on Jan. 23d and 24th, 1875, by Rev. L. R. Dun, D. D., assisted by Rev. H. A. Buttz, D. D., and the pastor, Rev. T. C. Mayham. The bell for the edifice was presented by Hon. John I. Blair. The clock in the tower was purchased and put in place by the people of the community. The Bible and hymnal for the pulpit were presented by Mrs. Sophia S. Vass.
At the close of Rev. T. C. Mayham's pastorate it was found that Elisha Cook, treasurer of the Board of Trustees, had received to date $9,973.91. $1,056 remained on subscription and there was owing $1,000.17.
Rev. C. E. Walton was appointed as the pastor in April, 1876, and the records show that during his term he collected and paid on the indebtedness and accumulated insurance about $1,215. During this period many accessions were made to the membership through the earnest labors of pastor and people.
Rev. Geo. W. Horton came April, 1879. The debt at that time had been reduced to $479.50 and during his pastorate was paid.
Revs. C. R. Snyder, E. H. Conklin and M. C. Reed were appointed as pastors of the charge in 1883, 1884 and 1887 respectively. Each one of them was a man of devotion and piety and did his best for Methodism and the Kingdom of God, hence during the eight years of their pastorates the work was well advanced and in 1890 REv Charles E. Walton was again returned to the charge. During his second pastorate of five years all debts were paid, new heaters were placed in the church and several other incidental improvements were made. In 1892 the church was involved in a land dispute which resulted in a law suit and ended by a decision being made in favor of the church.
In 1895 Rev. S. H. Jones was appointed to the charge. He proved himself a "Live Wire" as a preacher and pastor. It was during his pastorate that electric lights were placed in the church and parsonage and $700 was raised to pay off the expense of the law suit spoken of above.
Rev. W. M. Johnston was appointed to the charge in 1897 and was succeeded by Rev. Richard Johns in 1898. During Mr. Johns' pastorate the church had a great spiritual uplift and several material improvements were made, chief of which were a new carpet in the auditorium and a steam heater in the parsonage.
In April, 1901, Rev. W. J. Hampton was assigned as the pastor. His pastorate was concluded at the end of the year. During the 12 months a pipe organ was installed and the work of the charge well developed.
Rev. O. M. West was the next pastor and the membership was greatly increased, workers much encouraged and all past indebtedness cleared away.
In 1905 Rev. F. L. Rounds was appointed to the charge. He did a good work, and the people of the community and church will remember his pastorate as one which showed two years of earnest endeavor and splendid success. He was followed in 1907 by Rev. H. P. King. During the latter's pastorate the following improvements were consummated: Memorial windows in the church, steam heating plant in the parsonage improved, church basement renovated, new hot air furnace in the church, parsonage repainted and all bills paid.
Rev. D. H. Gridley was sent to the charge in 1910 and proved himself to be a man very conscientious of his calling. A number of members were added and among the material improvements were the hot air furnace removed from the lecture room to the back room of the basement, glass front on the gallery and cement walk and steps in front of the church and parsonage property.
The pastorate of Revs. D. W. C. Ramsey and W. A. Knox were both very brief. These men, as representatives of the Kingdom, did their best and new members were added and property improved, and when they left they went with the consciousness they had fulfilled their mission and helped strengthen the cause they represented. They were followed by Rev. Wm. Burd, who was transferred here from East Rutherford July 1, 1915. (As the latter pastor is the writer of this history modesty prevents him from saying anything concerning himself or his work. Suffice it to say the present church improvements, both spiritual and material, speak for themselves.) This history is written that the readers may know of the birth and growth of Methodism in this place. These are the "Acts of the Apostles" of this charge in the history of the Greater Methodism.