Thursday, December 09, 2010

Interested in Methodist history?

There was a time in Lucas County when Methodist churches were scattered across the county --- at least one in every township. But decline in rural population and improved transportation combined to kill off most of them --- simple white frame buildings for the most part that also served as rural community centers.

Two of three remaining rural United Methodist Churches have closed within the last few years --- Pleasant Prairie, first, along Highway 14 on the road to Knoxville; and more recently Bethel (above), located east of Chariton in Cedar Township near the location of Ireland, early settler William McDermott's old stomping ground.

That leaves Norwood United Methodist Church in the northwest part of the county, First United Methodist in Chariton and First United Methodist in Russell. And both Norwood and Bethel are/were former Evangelical United Brethren congregations that became United Methodist when the Methodist Episcopal and EUB denominations merged in 1968.

So far as rural Lucas County churches in general are concerned I believe only three are left --- Norwood, Goshen Baptist southwest of Chariton and Center Community, southeast of Russell. The Chariton Christian Union Church (once located farther north when it was known as Whitebreast Christian Union) is in the country, but not that far. And the Norwood Assembly of God church still is operating in Norwood, but there's not much left of Norwood so it probably could be considered rural, too.

Anyhow, an interesting manuscript dating from 1903 that recounts the early history of Methodism in the Russell vicinity recently was added to the Lucas County Historical Society collection. Methodists kind of hold pride of place here because one of their circuit-riding preachers conducted the first public worship services in the county back in 1849 at the Xury West family cabin at Greenville in Washington Township. If you'd like to read the 1903 manuscript, go to the LCHS blog, which is here.

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