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