West Virginia State Site

Harrison County West Virginia

Church Histories Records

Transcribed and donated by Barb Ziegermeyer

The church of England was the established church of the Colony of Virginia for many years after the landing at Jamestown.

The inhabited parts of the Country were laid off into parishes and the governing board was called a vestry, which had charge of all church affairs and the poor of the Parish.

The Minister had a fixed salary which was levied for upon the inhabitants of the parish by the Vestry, and was payable in tobacco. A parsonage was provided for him and not less than two hundred acres of land was set apart for his use, called a "glebe."

Marriages were required to take place in the churches and to be celebrated only by the ministers of the established church.

Catholic priests were not permitted to remain in the colony more than five days after receiving notice to depart.

All other ministers or non-conformists were prohibited from teaching or preaching publicly or privately, and were liable to be expelled by the authorities.

Severe laws were enacted against Quakers on account of their teaching "false visions, prophecies and doctrines and thereby disturbing the public peace."

At the coming of the Evolution all proscriptive laws in reference to religious worship and for raising money by taxation for the support of the Established Church were swept away, and absolute freedom and liberty of conscience in matters of religion permitted.

The strenuous and isolated life of the settler west of the mountains, his struggle to protect himself from the Indians, procure subsistence and subdue the forest, gave him no time to pay attention to religious matters and they of course were entirely neglected.

But it was not long after settlements west of the mountains were established, before the pickets of Christianity were on the frontier, and in the neighborhoods where a few could be collected together, a traveling minister generally Methodist or Baptist, would occasionally appear, deliver the cheering messages from the Master and recall to his hearers the teachings of the faith taught them in their earlier years.

The pioneer preacher's lot was not an enviable one, nor free from danger, and in his long journeys through the dim forest trails on horseback he suffered many privations and discomforts, but his motto was "Onward Christian Soldier," and nobly did he fulfill his Divine mission.

The Reverend Francis Asbury, Bishop of the Methodist Church in his journal speaks of visiting Clarksburg in his official capacity in 1788. He came on horseback from North Carolina by way of Bedford, Greenbrier and Pocahontas Counties to Clover Lick, and from there his journal reads as follows:

Thursday, July 10,1788

We had to cross the Allegheny mountains again at a bad passage. Our course lay over mountains and through valleys, and the mud was such as might scarcely be expected in December. We came to an old forsaken  agitation in Tygart's Valley. Here our horses grazed about while we boiled our meat. Midnight brought us up at Jones', after riding forty, or perhaps fifty miles. The old man, our host, was kind enough to wake us up at four in the morning. We journeyed on through devious lonely wilds, where no food might be found except what grew in the woods or was carried with us. We met with two women who were going to see their friends and to attend the Quarterly meeting at Clarksburg.

Near midnight we stopped at A-----s, who hissed his dogs at us, but the women were determined to go to the Quarterly Meeting so we went in.   Our supper was tea.   Brother Phoebus and Cook took to the woods, old ------ gave up his bed to the women.   I lay along the floor on a few deer skins with the fleas. That night our poor horses got no corn, and next morning had to swim across the Monongahela. After a twenty mile ride, we came to Clarksburg, and man and beast were so outdone that it took us ten hours to accomplish it.

I lodged with Colonel Jackson. Our meeting was held in a long close room belonging to the Baptists. Our use of the house it seems gave offense.

There attended about seven hundred people to whom I preached with freedom, and I believe the Lord's power reached the hearts of some. After administering the sacrament, I was well satisfied to take my leave.

We rode thirty miles to Father Haymond's after three o'clock Sunday afternoon, and made it nearly eleven before we came in. About midnight we went to rest and arose at five o'clock the next morning. My mind has been severely tried under the great fatigue endured both by myself and my horse. Oh, how glad I should be of a plain clean plank to lie on, as preferable to most of the beds, and where the beds are in a bad state the floors are worse. The gnats are almost as troublesome here as the mosquitoes in the lowlands of the seaboard. This country will require much work to make it tolerable. The people many of them are of the boldest cast of adventurers, and with some the decencies of civilized society are scarcely regarded. The great land holders, who are industrious will soon show the aristocracy of wealth by lording it over their poorer neighbors, and by securing to themselves all the offices of profit or honor. On the one hand savage warfare teaches them to be cruel, and on the other the teaching of Antinomians poisons them with error in doctrine. Good moralists they are not, and good Christians they cannot be unless they are better taught."

Mrs. John McCullough, maiden name Acres, told Luther Haymond who was born in 1809, that she when a small girl rode on horseback from Zack's Run to Clarksburg in 1788 to hear Bishop Asbury preach in Daniel Davisson's barn.

This barn stood on the West Side of Second Street between Main and Pike Streets.

Lorenzo Dow, the great traveling preacher preached in Clarksburg in the 30's. When he appeared at the Court House, he saw that it was not large enough to hold the crowd, and he announced that he would hold the service out of doors. He led the way down Main Street, followed by the large crowd across the bridge and preached his sermon in the grove near the Monticello Spring.

The history of the Methodist Episcopal Church by Stevens states that the first local preacher of that denomination in the neighborhood of Uniontown was Robert Wooster, and that the first conference was held there in 1781.

This was known as the Redstone Conference and was composed of Western Pennsylvania and Virginia and in 1785 numbered 523 members.

In 1786 a Society was organized at Calder Haymond's, on the Mo-nongalia River, about twenty miles above Morgantown. Some fifteen or twenty miles up towards Clarksburg a good society was formed at the house of Mr. Jonathan Shinn, the father of the afterwards celebrated preacher Asa Shinn.

Methodism could obtain no footing in Clarksburg for many years but some eight or ten miles up the West Fork was a flourishing Society headed by Moses Ellsworth.

In this neighborhood was Joseph Chevuront a local preacher of great usefulness and much loved by his people.   He was a Frenchman.

In 1786 there was also a society formed at Father Hacker's on Hacker's Creek and also at Buckhannon and in the Tygart's Valley.

The Rev. Henry Smith, who visited the Clarksburg Circuit in 1794 speaks of finding a good Society under charge of Joseph Chevuront fifteen miles from Clarksburg.

The congregation that attended to hear him preach were all backwoods people and only one man present wore shoes. The Rev. Chevuront wore Indian Moccasins. All the rest of the audience, men, women and children were barefooted.   The elderly women wore short gowns.

He speaks of traveling in all kinds of weather and dangers, wading deep streams, having to cross the Monongahela River seven times in his circuit and besides being ferried over several times; his food being mostly venison and bear meat, and the cabins in which he lodged very uncomfortable.

The following is an extract from a letter from Clarksburg in 1818, by the Reverend Ira Chase, a Baptist missionary from to Dr. Sharp of Boston, Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts, which gives a description of the condition of the town from a religious standpoint:

Rev. and Dear Sir:
As I mentioned in my communication to you, I arrived at this place on the 27th. of December, 1817. Clarksburg is the shire town of Harrison County, and situated on the West Fork of the Monongahela River, which affords water carriage to Pittsburgh and thence down the Ohio. The distance from that city by land is upwards of one hundred miles.

A Baptist church had once been constituted here, but many years ago the Pastor went to the West. No successor was secured and the flock was scattered. Nothing but the graveyard appeared where the meeting house once stood. A learned and Independent Minister from England, had, for nearly twenty years, supported himself principally by teaching in the Academy (the only one in this part of the State) and preached some of the time in the village to a few hearers, but with no visible success. About two years ago he was called to a better world. The people were now destitute. There were indeed residing here two Paedobaptist Preachers, but there was no preaching and no religious meeting. One of the men was in the practice of physic and the other a licentiate from New England, was teaching a school. He had come out with the prospect of taking charge of the Academy, and preaching in the place. But he had found it necessary to relinquish the Academy for the present. It was not now in operation and for want of encouragement he had suspended his ministerial labors. There was no church of any denomination and there were but few, very few, professors of religion, and some of these were not very correct in their morals. It was painful to see a village, containing so many immortal souls, thus abandoned to ruin. Perhaps, thought I, it is my duty to stop and endeavor to excite the attention of the people to their eternal interests. In this I was encouraged by two Baptist Brethren who reside in the place.

On Lord's Day I preached in the Court House to a very small assembly, and again in the evening. The next day one of the brethren, an amiable young man, undertook to ascertain the wishes of the people with regard to my stopping, and for this purpose circulated the following paper:

Clarksburg, December 29, 1817

We, the subscribers, as an expression of our desire to have the gospel preached among us, promise to contribute to the Rev. Ira Chase for the use of the Missionary Society by which he is employed, the sums annexed to our names, if he will continue his ministerial labors in this place five weeks.

The amount of the subscription was upwards of thirty dollars. The brother himself contributed my board, a deacon who resided a few miles in the country, my horse-keeping, and the sons of the late Rev. Mr. Tow­ers, the clergyman whom I mentioned as having come from England, generously opened to me their father's study and supplied me with other conveniences.

My duty was plain. I stopped. The assemblies, instead of dwindling away, as some had represented they would, increased constantly.

Though I endeavored to make the apostle my model as to the mat­ter and plainness of my discourse, yet instead of going away offended, they seemed conscious that what I preached was true and came again. In private I was generally received with politeness and affection, and sometimes found an unexpected willingness to converse on religion.

Yesterday was the last Sabbath I was to continue here, and to me it was a most interesting day. As I was returning from the first service I was requested to call at a house and converse with a woman under deep concern for her soul. Upon leaving her and returning to my chamber I found a servant waiting for me, and wishing to know if I would wait until this evening so that he and some other blacks could come and talk to me on religion.   I readily told him I would and I expect them soon.

Last evening I met my audience for the last time. The house was crowded, and all were attentive. I closed my message and bade them adieu.   O, my God, will not Thou bless my feeble labors?

9 o'clock P. M. The blacks have just gone. I am fatigued but I have had a very pleasant season. There were fifteen in all, male and female. I conversed with them all individually. Six or seven of them were entertaining a hope in Christ and had entertained one for years. They gave a brief relation of the work of grace upon their hearts, and a heavenly joy beamed in their countenances. Others were inquiring with different degrees of anxiety the way of salvation. The tears stole silent­ly down the cheeks of some and all were serious. I directed them to come immediately to Jesus Christ, as "the way and the truth and the life.1'

After endeavoring to impart to each the instruction they severally needed and then making an address to the whole, the interview was closed by singing and prayer.   I expect to depart on the morrow.

Ira  Chase

Bishop William Meade of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Diocese of Virginia in an address before the convention of his church at Staunton in 1835, refers to his visit to Clarksburg in 1834, and states that he remained there three days, preached five times, baptized one adult and twelve children and confirmed five. Rev. William N. Ward was assigned to have charge of the Clarksburg and Morgantown congregations in the fall of 1834.

The Bishop in a subsequent address speaks of visiting Clarksburg in 1842, and that the Reverend McMechen had established a female Seminary there and used a portion of the buildings for public worship.

During this visit he baptized one adult and several children and confirmed three.

The Reverend Robert A. Castleman built the Episcopal Church now (1909) still in use, in 1852 and 1853.

For a long time there were no church buildings and religious meetings were held in private houses, barns, Court Houses and frequently in shady groves. Later what was known as Camp Meetings were held by the Methodists and continued down to a recent period.

These camps were composed of log cabins, and were rude benches placed under trees and a primitive pulpit. Quite a number of preachers and leading officials of the Church would gather at these camps in the summer and hold service day and night for a week at a time. They were well patronized by the surrounding country and accomplished much good. But as the county became more settled and sufficient churches built to accommodate the people, the Camp meetings were discontinued.   

The earliest record of the building of a church in Clarksburg is contained in a deed from Daniel Davisson, the original owner of Clarksburg, dated June 21, 1790, which conveys to the "Congregation of Regular Baptist members of Hopewell Church and their successors" in consideration of ten shillings, a lot containing three rods and seven perches.

This lot is located on the South side of what is now Main Street, just west of Chestnut, and was used as a burial ground from 1788 down to shortly after the close of the civil war.

In a deed made by the same party on May 7, 1800, reference is made to the "little stream that runs down on the south side of the meeting house." This proves that sometime prior to the year 1800 a church building stood on this lot but its exact location and the time of its construction is not known.

The Methodist Episcopal Church built a small brick church partially on the ground of the Randolph Academy on the brow of the hill East of the present public school building overlooking First Street where they worshiped for many years. The date this church was built is not known. It is certain, however, that it was used as a house of worship in 1827.
In 1868 they built a new church building on the South side of Pike Street east of Second, and are now (1909) constructing another building on the North East corner of Second and Pike Streets at the old milestone

Presbyterian Church

The Reverend Asa Brooks undertook the building of a Presbyterian church in 1829 in Clarksburg, but he died before its completion and was buried under the building. This church stood on the South East corner of Second and Main Streets where the present church, built in 1893, now stands, on the site of the first jail.

The Catholic Church

The first services of the Catholic Church in Clarksburg were held along in 1852 and 1853, when the Baltimore & Ohio Railway Company commenced the construction of their road, for the benefit of the Irish laborers.

For some time the congregation met in a building that stood where the Waldo Hotel is now located. Father Brannon is remembered as among the first priests. The present church building was built in 1865, the lot having been deeded by James M. Jackson in 1864.

Father Daniel O'Conner was in charge of the congregation for many years prior to his death in 1903. He was a man of great executive ability, accomplished great good in his long pastorate, stood high with the officials of his church, and was much loved and esteemed by all who knew him, irrespective of religious belief.

In 1801 David Davisson conveyed 2j£ acres "to the present members of the Baptist meeting house on Simpson's Creek, adjoining lands surveyed for Joseph Wilkinson and their successors, and to all other persons adjoining thereto "for a house of divine worship to be erected thereon and for a burial yard, they to have the choice in the ground for that denomination to erect their meeting house thereon, and a second choice for a Presbyterian meeting house for divine worship.

This plot of ground is included in the 400 acres patented to Andrew, the father of David, in the year 1774, and near the present town of Bridgeport. At the time this deed was made, the meeting house was already built, but the time of its construction is not known

In 1801 the Seventh Day Baptist built a log church at Salem, two stories high, of hewed logs.

In 1858 this building gave way for a frame one, and in 1900 the present brick building was constructed on the same site.

In 1808-09 a church was built at Lost Creek by the Seventh Day Baptist, which was replaced by a brick building in 1870.

The Methodist Episcopal Church South was built in Clarksburg on the corner of Chestnut and Main Streets in 1854.

Samuel Clawson was an old fashioned regular fire and brimstone kind of a preacher, and has lurid style and vivid descriptions stirred the souls of his auditors.

Upon one occasion while preaching a sermon, one of the congregation smiled at his comments on the Devil. Turning to him the preacher said:

"I suppose you do not believe in a Devil, but thank God the time is not far distant when you shall be chained down to hell's brazen floor and the Devil with his harpoon shall pierce your reeking heart, and pile the red hot cinders of damnation upon you as tall as the pyramids of Egypt until it shall fry out the pride of your fat to grease the gudgeons of hell."

In 1852 a Baptist brick church was built on Pike Street, Clarksburg, which is still standing, but not used for worship. The congregation occupying a new building on the corner of Pike and Sixth Streets.


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