History of Grace United Methodist Church

Back                                              Gallipolis, Ohio

In 1817, Rev. Henry Baker, an itinerant circuit rider, preached the first Methodist sermon in Gallipolis in the log home of Ahaz S. Morehouse, at the mouth of Mill Creek. Much opposition was met here, so the meeting place was transferred to the home of Calvin Sheperd on First Avenue. As this First Methodist Episcopal Society grew, opposition continued and as both the courthouse and the schoolhouse were denied to them for worshipping, they continued to meet in the Sheperd barn until the first church, made of brick, was building 1821 on the north side of Lot #240 at Second and Cedar Streets. This lot was purchased from Anthony Maguet and wife for $150 specie.

In the winter of 1848-1849 a storm damaged this church beyond repair and it was agreed to build as entirely new church. The cost of this church was $1675, $200 of which the Ladies collected. The pastor was Rev. W.T. Hand, and while the church was being built, the congregation worshipped in the schoolhouse.

The next building to be erected was the parsonage – built in 1964-1865 on the corner during the pastorate of Rev. James F. Williams – cost $2500.

In 1875, the church which was erected in 1849 became inadequate and a new church was necessary. The church building was torn down; the parsonage was moved to the north side of the lot, thus leaving the corner for the new church. The cost was nearly $20,000 in spite of selling the salvage from the previous church. While this church was under construction, the congregation worshipped in the courthouse.

In January 1876, headed by the pastor, Rev. C.D. Bartelle, and the officials, the membership and friends marched into the completed basement. On June 25, 1876, the church was dedicated by Bishop Randolph S. Foster.

This church measured 70 feet by 86 feet and was of brick construction. There was a lecture room and six classrooms in the lower part, and the second floor had a seating capacity estimated at 700 with a gallery for 150 more. Originally, the steeple was 150 feet in height, the bell hung 80 feet above the pavement.

On June 17, 1898, Grace United Church was incorporated. Subscribers were as follows: Homer C. Brown, Charles H.D. Summers, James W. Gardner, Edward W. Parker, Jenkin W. Jones, A.W. Kerns, Isaac F. Chapman, Edgar N. Deardorff, John H. Thomas, N.P., George W. Alexander, Clerk of Courts of Gallia County, and Charles Kinney, Secretary of State of Ohio.

The church in the early 1900’s was still having financial difficulties. They had to borrow $500 from the Ohio Valley Bank and $1200 from the Centerville National Bank to meet their bills. They formed committees to call on members to collect subscriptions or to make contracts. In fact, they even tried to economize in another unusual way – instructing the janitor to ring the first bell for all services no longer than fifteen rings and the second no longer than ten rings. The December taxes for 1902 were $16.88.

In 1909, then Rev. A.P. Cherrington was the pastor, a property on the rear of the church with the building fronting on Cedar St. known as the Hayward property was purchased at the cost of $1500. This was remodeled somewhat, water, gas, and electricity installed, and it was used for a number of years for social and other activities. It was known as the Church Parlors.

By September 29, 1911, the church spire, having been thoroughly inspected, was found to be in a decayed condition, so the trustees voted to remove the steeple for the sum of $100, which sum had to be borrowed. Lumber left over was sold to the janitor for $1.08.

In 1926, the Hayward building was torn down and a new addition to the church was constructed at a cost of $40,000. It was joined to and opened into the rear of both floors of the main church. The lower floor furnished reception, dining room, and kitchen facilities, and housed an adult department of the Sunday school. Upstairs there were a large stage with a dressing room, a commodious gymnasium, two classrooms, and a choir room. There were also included four modern rest rooms. Rev. J.R. Fields was pastor at this time. However, the mortgage was not burned until May 2, 1940 when Rev. Scott Westerman was pastor.

Hopes for an Educational Unit was finally realized in 1955 when properties were acquired for the church from, first, the Aaron George estate who had given the property to the church in his will, and secondly, the property adjoining this, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Howard I. Neal. The cornerstone was laid Sunday, July 29, 1959. Rev. Warren Wilson, pastor, conducted the worship service and then all proceeded to Cedar Street for the cornerstone laying – the first for Grace Church.

During the pastorate of Rev. Hughey Jones, a new two-story parsonage was built at 426 Hedgewood Drive on a lot formerly owned by the Stanley Evans family. The old parsonage on Second Avenue was torn down and the area converted into a parking lot.

Three other properties adjacent to the church have been acquired. The home of the Misses Millie and Artie Watts on Third Avenue was conveyed by will. This house was eventually torn down which provided an egress to the parking lot from Third Avenue. The Frank Shaw property on the north side of the parking lot on Second Avenue was purchased from the estate and was used temporarily as the church office after the fire. It was eventually torn down and the area converted into additional parking. The Louis Preston property adjoining the Educational Building on Cedar Street was purchased in 1979 from Mrs. Preston and was used for the church offices. Later it was refurnished and used as a residence for the Associate Pastor, then torn down to provide parking space.

Beginning in 1975, it was decided that the sanctuary and old lecture rooms and kitchen needed remodeling and refurbishing. This program called the “Parade of Progress” was undertaken during the tenure of Rev. Paul Hawks. The new chapel replaced the three small classrooms on the upper side of the old lecture room, three modern classrooms were placed on the lower side with a lovely lounge between, the church office and the pastor’s study were enlarged and improved, a study was provided for the associate pastor, a storage room and utility room were added to the kitchen, the sanctuary was painted, carpeted, the pews refinished and new cushions were provided, all of which set the stage for the celebration of centennial in 1976.

On Monday, June 20, 1977, tragedy struck Grace Church about 4:30 in the afternoon. A fire, considered by many to have been arson, gutted the entire one hundred and one year old church. Due to the know-how of our dedicated Volunteer Fire Department, the two additions were preserved, although there was some fire and water damage to the 1926 addition. Some articles were saved from the fire: parts of the organ, the bell, the altar, cross, candlesticks, the pulpit chairs, and enough fragments of the stained glass windows hopefully to be incorporated in a memorial window in the new chapel. However, the windows were too damaged for use.

All through the summer of 1977, the congregation met in the auditorium of Gallia Academy High School and the United Presbyterian Church. The business office was transferred to a room in the Masonic Building formerly occupied by the Columbus and Southern Ohio Electric Co., until the Shaw property was available. By October, the congregation was again able to worship in their own church as the dining room became available after repairs were made.

A congregational meeting was called for July 17, 1977, in the First United Presbyterian Church of Gallipolis. A building committee was elected viz: Kenneth Johnson, chairman, Norman Snyder, William Smith, Raymond Willis, and Warren Sheets. By virtue of their offices, the following ex-officio members were added: Director of Music, Merlyn Ross, Chairman of Board of Trustees, Dr. Keith Sheets (replace in January, 1978 by Hoyt Mullins, new chairman, but Dr. Sheets was retained in an advisory capacity), Finance Chairman, Arden Dobson, and the pastors, Rev. James V. Frazier, Jr., and Christian R. King. Later on, an Advisory Committee was added: Phyllis (Mrs. Keith) Thomas, president of the United Methodist Women, Ruby (Mrs. R.E.) Jenkins, and Sarah (Mrs. Isom) Walker.

It was decided by the building committee, after consulting with experts, that the shell of the church could not be saved and would have to be razed. Mr. Thomas Bode of the architectural firm of Seibert, Worley, Cady, Kirk, Partners, Inc. was chosen. The project cost was $1,230,341.02.

On Sunday, June 17, 1979, the service for the laying of the cornerstone was held. Rev. Hughey Jones, former pastor and then Administrative Assistant to Bishop Dwight E. Loder, gave the sermon.

On Sunday, March 23, 1980, consecration services were held before a standing room only, capacity crowd. Bishop Dwight E. Loder presided at the morning services. Tours of the building were held after each service. Later, a formal open house was held with invitations to the community.

The Grace Church bell, dating from 1882, was placed in its 35 foot tower and a spire rising 50 feet above it was put in place on July 24, 1980. The bell, fortunately, survived the fire and was refurbished by Campbellsville Industries in Kentucky.

In 1983, changes were seen around the church. A new roof was installed costing $40,000. Late 1983 saw a change from all male acolytes to including girls in the lighting service. The bicentennial of the Methodist Church was celebrated during 1984. The Bicentennial Committee of Grace Church planned many outstanding events to celebrate Methodism’s 200 years. During the Bicentennial year, dedication services were held for communion ware and later for the new paraments.

In 1985, heating and air conditioning were installed in the education building at the cost of $79,000. On September 23 rd, the men of Grace Church presented their charter to establish the United Methodist Men. In 1986 a contest was held for a church logo. The winning entry showed a cross in a heart depicting and using the words “A Church With A Heart, In The Heart Of The City.” In April, after many money making events, Grace Church was able to buy a 15 passenger van at the cost of $14,000.

On September 10, 1986, the entire church and community was saddened by the death of Merlyn Ross, Choir Director of Grace Church for 28 years.

In April, 1987, plans were started to have a bell choir. Monetary gifts were given to purchase the bells; and on November 29 th they were dedicated. Also, in April, a project was started to erect a cross with a red flame (U.M. Emblem), and the lettering: “ Grace United Methodist Church,” on the exterior of the building, and to arrange proper lighting on the corner of Second Avenue and Cedar Streets. The project was completed in December at the cost of $7,000.

Late in 1987, the Finance Committee came up with a plan to absolve Grace Church of its $87,029.35 debt. Their idea of CAN DO/WILL DO was approved and put into operation. Within a two month period, the church had reached its goal.

On January 24, 1988, a celebration of mortgage burning and re-consecration of the sanctuary and church dwelling was held. Bishop Edsel A. Ammons led the worship experience, assisted by Athens District Superintendent Frank Rowe and Pastors Joseph Hefner and David Elliott. Several former pastors attended the service to celebrate with us.

There have been seventy-two ministers since William Cunningham, our first one, most serving only one year or less, and we are now Grace United Methodist Church having united with the Evangelical United Brethern Church in 1968. We are thankful for the pastoral leadership we have had here at Grace Church and we recognize with pride the untiring efforts and dedicated sacrifices of all who have labored so faithfully through the years. We are grateful to them for the heritage they have given us and are challenged by their example as we look to the future.

The Heritage of the Pipe Organ

Grace United Methodist Church

In 1887, under the pastorate of Rev. B.F. Stubbins, a fund was started for the purpose of purchasing a pipe organ for the church. Around the time of the depression, money was very hard to come by. However, through some very generous offers, enough money was accumulated by 1892 to make the purchase from A.B. Felgemaker, Erie, Pa. The total cost of the organ was $1850.

There is no information on the church organ between this time and the year 1941, when Mr. L.W. Barnhart of Parkersburg, WV, began his work and repair on the organ we now have.

Mr. Barnhart states: “The make of the original, old organ was a Felgemaker, made in Erie Pennsylvania. I began servicing your pipe organ, which at that time was a tracker organ. (Ed. Note: A tracker organ is an organ made with tracker action which is a thin strip of wood by which a pulling motion is transmitted from one point to another.) A few years later, the church decided to have the action electrified, and add a new console and new chimes. Eight or ten years later the console was moved to a different location in the church. About ten years later, when the church was remodeled, the console was moved again – this time, back against the outside wall on the right hand side of the sanctuary.

The recent fire destroyed the building and much of the organ. The parts that were destroyed in the fire were: the console, manual chests, some of the pipes, and of course, all the wiring.

The new organ contains the following parts: new two manual consoles, new manual chest for the Great Organ (being the lower keyboard), manual chest for the Swell Organ (upper keyboard), new reservoir for pedal organ and new Viola stop and pedal chest for pedal organ, seventeen new pipes for the Open Diapason, and a new two rank mixture, 122 pipes in all, new Flute on the Swell Organ, and new metal bass for the Swell Diapason. The main pedal chest that was kept was rebuilt with new units, making it the same as a new one.

The organ is installed in the present organ chamber with the same care as if it were installed in the assembly room. The parts of the old organ that were used in the way of pipes couldn’t have had a better balance if new ones were used as all were put into number one shape. All the new parts and material that went into the new organ came from the Organ Supply Company, in Erie, Pennsylvania.”

This article cannot close without voicing our deepest and heartfelt thanks to Mr. Barnhart for his services, devotion, and dedication to a job he loved doing, and did so very well.

The Heritage of the Bells

Grace United Methodist Church

Grace Church has had three bells: the first weighted 135 ½ pounds, the second 341 pounds, and the third 1655 pounds with hangings. We do not know what happened to the first bell, but the second was sold to a Rev. Pettyman in Huntington, WV. It cost $135 to place the third bell in the tower. Inscribed on the bell is: “Presented by D.Y. Smithers May 28, 1882.” On the reverse side is the inscription: “the Spirit and the Bride say, Come.”

On April 8, 1889, it was ordered by the trustees that the church bell not be rung except for the following: Regular preaching service on Sunday morning and evening and also Sunday school, and Thursday Prayer meeting. In spite of this restriction on its use, the bell became cracked and was sent to Cincinnati to be repaired.

This bell fortunately survived the 1977 fire, was sent to Kentucky to Campbellsville Industries to be refurbished and hangs in the bell tower of the new church, and, hopefully, will call people to worship for years to come.

Faceted Glass Windows in Grace Church

The windows in the church and chapel are of faceted glass (multisided cut glass set in a matrix of plastic cement). These faceted glass windows show Jesus Christ as the central figure of our faith along with grace (God’s unmerited love) both received and given.

The central window above the choir is the Christ window and contains the symbolism of giving, of love and of faith. Jesus Christ is shown as the founder of the Christian movement through His Divine Work, Word and Spirit. The hand of God over Christ’s head is a hand of blessing. The outstretched hands of Christ giving the Great Cup personifies the spirit of forgiveness with a lack of condemnation.

The other two windows symbolize grace, (grace received and grace given in action), which is not only the basic expression of Methodism, but is the basis of the name of our Grace Church. The grace manifestation in the Second Avenue window identifies the elements of the New Covenant – Christ, the gift of unmerited love. These symbols relate to grace received, the grace available to us through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

In this window we find the Supper symbols, the central image of grace. To the left of the Supper symbols the rebirth is symbolized in the water of salvation. Above, flames ascend around the dove, showing co-union and commitment whereby we are made one in fellowship in the body through water and spirit.

The third window, Grace Administered, facing the east, is a window showing action of the Christian, through the ministry of the word of Christ. To the right is shown the role of the society to be responsible to the needs of the fellowship of humanity, one to another. The four hands above, reaching, clutching, suggest symbolically the need, the hunger of the world, the underprivileged, the forlorn, the responsibility of we, the fellowship of Christ to attend to the needs of our brothers in sharing our blessings. It is our duty to meet the needs of our brothers not in justice but in the justice of Christ, members in fellowship in the divine plan, the mercy covenant which we have with Christ and which He in His mercy has given us.

The windows in the Chapel are of the traditional style in keeping with the idea of the Memorial Chapel. The window on the left is Christ Blessing the Children and the window on the right is Christ the Good Shepherd.

The faceted glass windows are the product of Lincoln Art Glass. Roy Calligan was the artist and creator of the windows. John Calligan, Roy’s son, fabricated and installed the windows.


Information in this article was compiled, in part, by Mary Niday and others.

Transcribed by Sandy Bledsoe