The first sermon in the Territory was preached Sunday, July 10th, 1788, in the hall of the north-west blockhouse in Campus Martius by Rev. William Breck. Rev. Dr. Manasseh Cutler, who visited the colony the first summer, preached a number of times. In the spring of 1789, Rev. Daniel Story came out, having been employed by the Ohio Company. He preached for a number of years, as well at Belpre and Waterford as at Marietta. He received a part of his support from the Company and a part from the people.
THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH at Marietta was organized December 6th, 1796, composed of members residing at Marietta, Belpre, Waterford, and Vienna, Virginia. The first deacons were Dr. Josiah Hart of Marietta, Joseph Spencer of Vienna, Benjamin Miles of Belpre, and Nathan Proctor of Waterford. Rev. Daniel Story was the first pastor, installed by a council convened at Hamilton, Mass., August 15th, 1798. Rev. Samuel P. Robbins became the pastor January 8th, 1806; Rev. Luther G. Bingham, May 3, 1826; Rev. Thomas Wickes, D. D., July 28th 1840; and the present pastor, Rev. Theron H. Hawks, D. D., October 27th, 1869. The pastorate of Dr. Wickes extended from 1840 to 1869, being longer than any other in the county.
THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH at Belpre was organized in 1826, and that at Harmar in 1840. The Town Hall in Harmar was used for worship till November 27th, 1847, when the present church edifice was dedicated, having been erected on ground given by the late David Putnam, Esq. There are at this time ten Congregational Churches in the county.
THE FIRST RELIGIOUS SOCIETY in Marietta was formed March 2d, 1801. The original articles of association, with 128 autograph signatures, have been preserved. This society was incorporated by the legislature February 4th, 1807, two others being incorporated the same winter--an Episcopal society at Worthington, and a Presbyterian at Cincinnati. These were the first religious societies incorporated in the State. This First Society in Marietta was connected with the Congregational church, and worshipped in the "Muskingum Academy," till the present church was dedicated May 28th, 1809.
A PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION was gathered in Marietta very early, and Rev. Stephen Lindley was employed as minister in January, 1804. On the 18th of that month the SECOND RELIGIOUS SOCIETY was formed. The date of the organization of the church I cannot give, or the length of time that Mr. Lindley ministered to them. On the declaration of war with Great Britain in 1812, he became a chaplain in the army. January 25th, 1813, the legislature incorporated the "First Presbyterian Society in the town of Marietta, called the Second Religious Society." This society received aid from the ministerial funds derived from section 29, till 1818.
A Presbyterian Church was formed at Waterford at an early day. It is supposed to be the same as the present Cumberland Presbyterian church at Beverly, and is probably the oldest church but one in the county.
A Presbyterian church was organized about twenty-five years, though regular worship was not maintained during the whole period. The frame edifice on Third street near Greene was erected by them.
The Fourth Street Presbyterian Church was formed in 1865, and their house of worship on Fourth street near Wooster, was erected the same year. Both this and the one formed in 1841 were chiefly colonies from the Congregational church. There are now six Presbyterian churches in the county.
Besides the "First" and the "Second" Religious Societies formed in Marietta in 1801 and 1804, there were three other societies organized in 1805 and 1806.
The "RELIGIOUS MEETING HOUSE SOCIETY," organized April 15th, 1805, seems not to have contemplated the support of public worship, but simply "the important and laudable purpose of erecting a Meeting House in the town of Marietta, to be consecrated and devoted to the public worship of Almighty God." To this end the members "solemly and irrevocably transfer" all their dividends from the ministerial rents for the period of seven years. It was this society that commenced the erection of the large brick building on Third street below Greene. As some of those who were active in this societ were among those who in 1804 employed Rev. Mr. Lindley, it may be inferred that this edifice was ultimately intended as the place of worship for the Presbyterian church. But the building was never completed as a church. Both the "Second Religious Society" and the "Religious Meeting House Society" continued for some years to receive dividends from the rents of section 29; the former to 1818, and the latter to 1816.
The "FOURTH RELIGIOUS SOCIETY" was formed in 1805, and was composed of persons living east of Duck Creek. The last ministerial dividend to that society was in 1812.
The "UNION RELIGIOUS SOCIETY" was formed in 1805 or 1806, and its members were chiefly or wholly made up of residents of Harmar. It received dividends from the ministerial rents to 1818.
It will be noted that of the five religious societies organized in Marietta from 1801 to 1806, no one had a denominational designation, and that only one of the five is still in existence. The other four had become extinct before 1820.
The first METHODIST EPISCOPAL organization in Marietta was in 1812. The first house of worhips was built in 1814--the frame edifice on Second street north of Scammel, now occupied by the German Methodists. The church on Putnam street was built in 1839, and hence its name, the Centenary Church. The Methodist church in Harmar, now called Crawford Chapel, was formed in 1849, and the second charge in Marietta, or Whitney Chapel, in 1860.
The UNIVERSALIST SOCIETY was formed in 1817, and the frame building on Second street formerly used for worship, was built about 1842. For some years the members of this society have worshipped with the Unitarians, but they still maintain their distinctive organization. An act was passed February 2d, 1832, to incorporate the "First Universalian Religious Library Society of Marietta," Mr. John Delafield, Jr., in his pamphlet published in 1834, says, the "society devotes the property which annually accrues to its treasury to the acquisition of an extensive and valuable miscellaneous library." This appropriation of their portion of the ministerial funds long since ceased, and the library is not now in existence.
A Universalist Society was organized in Harmar in 1839, and continued till 1849. The church in Belpre was formed in 1823, and is said to be the oldest church of the denomination in the State. The present number of organizations in this county is nine.
A BAPTIST CHURCH was organized in 1818 in Marietta township. The first edifice in the county was the brick church near Cornerville, east of the Little Muskingum. The organization in the town of Marietta was in 1833, and the edifice on Church street was built in 1835. The present church on Putnam street was built in 1835. The present church on Putnam street was erected in 1854. Rev. Jeremiah Dale was one of the early preachers in this region, doing missionary work over a large territory. He died in 1831. Rev. Hiram Gear, who died in 1843, had been pastor of the church in Marietta for six years. There are at this time fourteen Baptist churches in the county.
A PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL organization was made as early as 1827 in Marietta, and an act "to incorporate St. Luke's Church" was passed by the legislature Jan. 9th, 1833. The church building at the corner of Fourth and Scammel streets was opened November 22nd, 1834, and occupied by this church till 1857, when the present house on Second street was erected. Rev. Dr. John Boyd has been here since 1850, making his continuous clerical service longer than that of any other clergyman in the county except Rev. Dr. Wickes.
The ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIETY was organized in 1839, and their present church edifice on Fourth street was erected in 1853. There are two churches in Union township and one in Ludlow.
In 1840, the first GERMAN CHURCH in Marietta was organized--The GERMAN EVANGELICAL CHURCH, ST. PAUL's. Though not in organic connection with the Lutheran Synod of Ohio, their present pastor is a member of that body. Their house of worship, at the corner of Fifth and Scammel streets, was built in 1848.
The GERMAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH was formed in 1842, and has occupied from its organization the house on Second street, built by the Methodist congregation now worshipping at the Centenary church.
In 1851 a third German organization was made, the GERMAN EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF ST. LUCAS. They occupy as their place of worship the house erected by the Protestant Episcopal church at the corner of Fourth and Scammel streets.
THE UNITARIAN CHURCH at the corner of Third and Putnam streets was erected in 1855. This edifice, which is the finest in the place, was built at the expense of Mr. Nahum Ward, and with organ and bell was presented to the society.
THE CHURCH OF THE UNITED BRETHREN was organized in 1857, and their house on Fourth street north of Greene was erected in 1866.
In 1871, THE AFRICAN METHODIST CHURCH first received aid from the ministerial rents, though they had maintained worship for some time before that. For some years they have occupied the frame building on Third street built for a Presbyterian church.
There were but few colored people in Belpre previous to the civil war. A colored man did not feel entirely safe so near the border of a Slave State. After the War and the abolition of slavery colored people gradually came in to engage in various employments until they became quite numerous, and they were usually law abiding and industrious citizens and also desired to worship God. Though usually made welcome in the churches they preferred to worship by themselves and in 1868 an African Methodist Church was organized. They worshipped for a time in the room used by the colored school. In 1875 a house of worship was erected on Florence street (Belpre). The church has increased in numbers and importance and regular services are held. They are supplied in connection with a church in Parkersburg.
A local preacher organized another colored church here in 1870, which flourished for a time and they built a house of worship on upper Walnut Street. This house was occupied for several years but it was found difficult to sustain two churches by the limited number of colored people in the village. The building was considerably injured by floods and about 1910 was sold and devoted to other uses. Most of the colored people now worship with the church on Florence Street (Belpre).
In 1812 a BIBLE SOCIETY was formed at Marietta, of which General Rufus Putnam was president. It is referred to by the correspondents of General Putnam as the "Ohio Bible Society," and bibles and testamentss were sent here from New York and Philadelphia, to be distributed at prominent points both in this State and in Indiana Territory.
In 1814 (October 10th), was formed the "SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION OF GOOD MORALS." The object was "to promote good morals, and discountenance vice universally; particularly to discourage profaneness, gross breaches of the Sabbath, idleness, and intemperance; and especially to discourage intemperance." The first officers were Rev. S. P. Robbins, president, David I. Burr, vice president, and David Putnam, secretary.
In the fall of 1818 a committee, consisting of David Putnam, Wm. R. Putnam, and James Whitney, wrote to Governor Worthington asking him to call the attention of the legislature to the subject of intemperance, which he did. They the memorialized the legislature on the subject asking for action, and saying, "It has been a subject of regret to your memorialists while perusing the statutes of this State, that no paragraph or expression can be found which censures this offence."
In 1817 this society voted to establish a Sunday School, and the records for 1819 show that three schools were in operation under its general care. One was at the "Muskingum Academy," under the charge of Mr. William Holyoke, one at the "brick house on Point Harmar," under Mr. William Slocomb, and one for small scholars at "Buell's school room" at the Point under the care of Mrs. Whipple and Mrs Merwin.
A TEMPERANCE SOCIETY was formed July 31, 1830. The officers were, president, Ephraim Emerson; vice presidents, Rev. Jacob Young and Robert Crawford; secretary, Rev. L. G. Bingham; treasurer, Wyllys Hall; executive committee, Caleb Emerson, Junia Jennings, Douglas Putnam, Samuel Shipman
(Sources: A History of Belpre, Washington County, Ohio by Cornelius Evarts Dickinson & Samuel Prescott Hildreth, c. 1920 & Washington County History - Transcribed by C. Anthony)
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