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Thursday, May 31, 1928

Bidwell Circuit M. E. Churches

Bethel History

     The Bethel Methodist Episcopal church is the oldest church on the Bidwell circuit, in fact, it is one of the oldest churches in Gallia County. The first Bethel was built of logs, in 1810, by William Cherrington, in whose home for several years previously the Methodist meeting had been held. The formation of the Bethel congregation in the Cherrington home dates back about one hundred and twenty-five years.

     A splendid sketch of Bethel’s history was prepared by, W. H. Gibbons when the present building was dedicated in 1901. We quote from his work “ Let us go back nearly a hundred years from (1901), Thomas Jefferson, the Father of the Declaration of Independence is President of the United States. Ohio has just been admitted into the kingdom of states. The fame of its beautiful plains, its fertile soils, and splendid forests has traveled eastward. A sturdy, heroic farmer over in Greenbriar County, VA, hears of the land of promise, breaks up his Virginia home and turn his face westward. He is a man something over fifty years old, with considerable family, and his name is William Cherrington. He crosses the Ohio River, enters the new state and settles on a stream, known by the Indian names of Chickamauga, four miles west of Gallipolis, which was then a village of perhaps a dozen years old. Here he formed the first settlement in Addison Township, Gallia County. We have but meager accounts of his toile and struggles of about thirty years in his new home. Seventy years ago the body of William Cherrington was laid to rest in the old graveyard by Bethel church. But he left a record of which to speak.

     William Cherrington came to Ohio a loyal Methodist. Possibly he was converted under the preaching of Bishop Asbury, who traveled all through Virginia in those days. It is a matter of history that in his Virginia home he often entertained that prince of preachers, Bishop McKendree. So one of the first things he did in his new place was to open his home to the ubiquitous Methodist preacher.

     In that home was organized the first religious society of Addison Township and among the first in Gallia County. For a number of years his home was a Methodist appointment, but the society grew and the time came when a little log church went up on the farm of William Cherrington and he called the place Bethel. This was about 1810. Some of the historic Methodist names of that day are associated with that church. Henry Bascon, the Apollo of Methodism, made its walls resound with his matchless oratory. William P. Strickland, the accomplished scholar and polished writer stood in its pulpit. In 1816, Jacob Young was assigned as Presiding Elder to the Marietta District. Bethel was one of the churches on Letart circuit on this district. Mr. Young speaks of visiting this church and forming the acquaintance of William Cherrington. In character, in intelligence, in energy and activity, he speaks of him as one of the remarkable men of that day. From him farm sprang the great host of Cherringtons throughout Gallia, Jackson and other counties. By inheritance and education they have almost universally become Methodists. Fifty-five years ago W. H. Cherrington joined the Ohio Conference and today there are four Cherringtons on the roll of that Conference.

     William Cherrington has been in heaven for seventy years, but he still lives in his example and influence. As the year passed the original Cherrington settlement grew in numbers. Even old Scotland contributed her part to its population. From far away under the shadow of Melrose Abbey, came a Mr. Johnston to the new world and found a congenial home among the Cherringtons. These two families eventually mingled in marriage. With addition of the Mortons, Switzers, Entsmingers, Rogers, Watts’ and others, this historic Cherrington community grew in numbers and wealth. In the natural order of things the time came about sixty years ago when the humble little log church became obsolete. After having served its purpose for possibly thirty years, it was torn down and on the same spot sprang up a modern substantial, respectable Bethel.

     William Cherrington, with the help of his neighbors, built the first Bethel church, perhaps ninety years ago (over 115 years ago now – 1928). His children, with the help of their friends, built the second about sixty years ago. The second Bethel is no more. It is among the things of the past. Its walls no longer reverberate with the songs and prayers of the people of God. Long and well it served the noble purpose for which it was constructed and dedicated. But on the sacred spot, a third Bethel has arisen. The grandchildren and possible the great-grandchildren of William Cherrington, the Johnstons, Cherringtons, of the third generation with the generous co-operation of their friends in the spirit of their forefathers, have nobly combined for the erection of this beautiful little country church.

     The present Bethel Methodist Episcopal church was dedicated October 6, 1901. Reverend E. E. Stone was the pastor and the Reverend J. R. Tibbles was the Presiding Elder.

     Miss Mary Johnston of Eagle Rock, California and Mr. and Mrs. R. C. Johnston, are the only survivors of the old membership representing the early families of Bethel. Miss Johnston is eighty-six years of age. Her brother, who is eighty-nine years of age, was for many years a class leader, steward, trustee and a pillar of the old church.

     Miss Johnston vividly recalls many interesting incidents of the old Bethel church and community to which she still maintains a deep loyalty. She remembers the great assemblies in the olden days at the Quarterly Conferences, incidental to which Mr. Cherrington would kill a beef and the ladies would make a half-barrel of doughnuts and prepare other food in proportion in order to feed the people who came. Oftentimes, because of the distance traveled many of the visitors would spend the night in the homes of the Bethel community. Lack of space forbids the telling of the many interesting incidents that abound in the history of Bethel.

     The true Methodist traditions are still maintained by the present membership, which reflects the influence of its long and vital history.

     The present officers of Bethel church are: Andrew Watts, D. M. Raikes, Ed Fulton, E. F. Stone, Arthur Blazer, W. A. Blazer, trustees. Andrew Watts, Arthur Blazer, Stewards. Sunday officers: E. F. Stone, Supt. Arthur Blazer, asst. and Bonnie Haskins, sec’y. Ruby Miller, asst. Mrs. Emma Hager, Miss Susan Rake, Miss Janet Bailey, D. E. Raikes, teachers.



By Harry R. Hurn

     Safe from, all worldly cares and tribulations, early settlers rest peacefully in Bethel Cemetery. They ran their earthly course with credit, and long since have departed to enjoy their well-earned reward.

     Imposingly situated on a Chickamauga Rd. Eminence overlooking the beautiful valley by that name, Bethel Cemetery is Typical of many similar places in Gallia County to provide a resting place for pioneer settlers.  

     Adjoining Bethel Church, the cemetery is believed to have been first utilized in 1810, date of the erection of the church. Cursory visit of the headstones, some sadly deteriorated, reveals among others the family names of Johnston, Cherrington, Blake, Maddy, Knapp, Irwin, Entsminger, Minks, Bailey, Switzer, Rodgers, Hawkings and Yeauger.

     A stone carries the legend: “William Cherrington the First” born 1756, died 1834.” Beside him rests his wife, Margaret Hank Cherrington, whose earthly life span was 1755-1797. [The William Cherrington family Bible, which contains the family record, gives April 19, 1755 as the date of his birth and April 28 1833 as the date of his death. This must be correct.]

     Bethel Church is in excellent state of preservation, despite burdens of 143 years. A placard states it was repaired in 1901 and again in 1944.

Transcribed by: Marian Schoonover

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