History of the Warsaw United Methodist Church
Excerpts from “A History of Warsaw United Methodist Church, Warsaw, Virginia 1837-1994”, researched and printed by the History Committee. Many thanks to Mrs. Constance Gallagher for sharing this document and the rich history with us.
On the corner of Main Street and Ridgeway Road in Warsaw stands a small white church with simple lines, made of clapboard, home of Methodists. Its graceful steeple pointing heavenward beckons everyone to this house of worship. Within the walls of this church many generations have found solace, inspiration and hope.
The Warsaw United Methodist Church is the continuation of the congregational meetings of Methodists held at the Richmond Court House in Warsaw beginning as early as 1825. They last until 1832 and were affiliated with the Lancaster Circuit. Those extant records were forwarded to White Marsh Methodist Episcopal Church. Later it is believed religious meetings were held in the homes and many times were conducted by local preachers, since the circuit riders did not come very often.
The first reference to the establishment of a Methodist Church in Warsaw as a deed dated November 27, 1837 from Fereol Lemoine and Ann, his wife, to Joseph DeShields, Jr., William Edwards, William W. Brown, Stephen Persell, John Hunter, Benjamin Pursell and Williams Porter, residents of Westmoreland and Richmond Counties and designated as Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church South of the United States.
The deed from Fereol and Ann Lemoine convey to the seven trustees a tract of land described as being “on the main road leading from Clark’s Run to Richmond County Court House” and having an area of two roods, four perches and 64/100 of a perch. The deed specifies that the trustees shall erect, build or cause to be erected or built thereon, a house of worship for the use of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, in the United States of American for the following purposes to—wit: “The trustees shall at all times hereafter permit such ministers or preachers belong to the Methodist Church as shall from time to time be duly authorized by said church to preach and expound God’s Word herein, and administer the ordinances and sacraments according to the usages of the said church.” There is definite evidence that a church was erected on this lot and was dedicated in 1874.
In the early history of Methodism there were Methodist Episcopal and Methodist Protestant churches. Many Methodist Protestant ministers became members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1870 when the Virginia conference of the Methodist Protestant Church voted to disband and join the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The plaque on our front stoop indicates we were a Methodist Episcopal Church.
Very few records have been located for the period 1837 to 1856 but Sunday School records of 1856 show that meetings with preaching monthly were held. It is not certain where these meetings were held but in 1868 reference is made to Sunday School being held at Laurel Brook near Clark’s Run in a small frame building there. Laurel Brook Church was a Christian Church built by followers of Alexander Campbell and known locally as Campbellites. During this period 1867-1869, Sunday School was held in the morning and lasted until about 2:00 P.M. The attendance was greatly affected by the weather and usually there was no service on rainy or snowy days. Location or public speaking was emphasized in the classes.
As there were no public schools at this time, the Sunday School played a significant role in the education of the youth A list of books on hand in 1860 listed 11 Testaments, 46 hymn books, 11 spelling books, 17 question books, 11 Catechisms and 75 Readers Mark J.L.No. 2. From late 1867 the Warsaw Sunday School maintained a library and elected a librarian. Only one volume No 17, dated 1868 remains today, “The Memoir of Anson B. Daniels” published in 1840. The early hymnals were very small books so they could fit in the saddle bags of the circuit riders The church has on display one of these hymnals.
Our oldest pulpit Bible has on the inscription “Property of the Warsaw M E Church presented by Col. Wm. V. Garland in the year 1866.” This Bible has been restored and is displayed in the church sanctuary. The Church also has in its possession a Bible presented to the Warsaw Sunday School in 1868 by Bishop Payne.
From the time the church was established in 1837 until 1921, there were only two churches in Warsaw, the Methodist and Episcopal. Many Baptist families came to the Methodist Church and were members of the Methodist Sunday School until the Baptist Church was build in Warsaw in 1921. So in the early history of Warsaw, the Methodist Church played a very important role in the religious life of the community.
When the present church sanctuary was built it had two doors on the front, one side for men and the other for women. The church pews were also divided with a partition down the center. Couples would come to church together and part at the front door, the women sitting on one side and the men on the other. When the church was remodeled in 1953, the front was changed to having just one door The interior was also changed and the partition removed.
The history of our church would not be complete without mentioning “Camp Meeting Days” at Marvin Grove, the Methodist retreat near Farnham and Rainswood. The campground was founded in 1878 and until its destruction by fire in 1930 was the “vacation” home for Northern Neck Methodists during the month of August. Family members from our church lived in cottages (or “tents” as they were called) which were built in a horseshoe design around a huge tabernacle. A great deal of nostalgia attends the memory of those days at hallowed Marvin Grove, where as many as 2000 would attend religious services during the day and night. In the evening after services that famous promenade around the tabernacle provided the social life for the entire area. On approaching the campground a great cloud of dust could be seen a mile away as a a result of the promenading.
A Building Fund for the remodeling of the church had been started in 1950 while The Rev. H. C. Gregory was pastor and on December 13, 1953 ground was broken for the addition of Sunday School rooms and a pastor’s study.
Only the outer shell of the present structure bears the resemblance of its former self. On the inside, new flooring and plastering were installed throughout and a heating system was installed. The altar was rebuilt but the original communion kneeling rail was retained. On each side of the altar a choir loft was added and new pews provided a wide venter aisle leading in from the narthex, also and addition. New lighting was installed to blend with the changed interior. The original Communion Service, consisting of a silver pitcher and cup, was resilvered in 1960 and is displayed in our sanctuary.
During 1968 the Methodist and the United Brethren denominations were united and it was at that time the name of our church was changed to Warsaw United Methodist Church.
In 1979 construction was begun on the education building including fellowship hall, kitchen and classrooms. Contributions in the form of memorials were made for the fellowship hall and classrooms. Work on the steeple was begun in the spring of 1981 and completed that fall. In may of 1986, through the generosity of William B. Clopton, the balance of the debt on the steeple and education building was paid in full. Mr. Clopton also established the William B. Clopton Fund in May, 1991 with the understanding that only the interest and never the principal of the fund can be used.
And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevent against it. St. Matthew 16:18