METHODIST CHURCHES OLDEST IN FOSTORIA
Pix #1 - First Methodist Church
Pix #2 - Second Methodist Church
Editor's Note: The churches are important in any community, since the affect not only the spiritual life of its citizens but also the moreal fibre of all age groups of people; also the perspective for community growth, education and recreation.
From that viewpoint, the author of Potluck will from time-to-time present historical articles about Fostoria's churches, to divulge the time, money and hardships that Fostoria'a early Christians expended to advance Christianity. The articles will not deal with denominational fundamental or spiritual progress.
Today's article is the first in the series. It concerns the Methodist denomination, since it was the first organized Christian church in what is now the Fostoria area.
Space does not permit illustrations of all of the Methodist church buildings, except the two oldest.
This author is indebted to Melvin L. Murray, for his permission to extract data from his book, "History of the Methodist Chuch in Fostoria, Ohio, published in 1968.
STARTS EARLY 1800'S
Methodism was introduced in this area back in the early 1800's, before there was Fostoria, when Risdon and Rome were stuggling pioneer villages. That Protestant denomination reached Ohio as it spread across the Allengheny mountains into Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, then north across the Ohio River in 1812.
In April 1832, near the present village of West Milgrove, Rev. Andrew Hollopeter introduced Methodism to the William Shawhan household who lived on "Nestlerode's Island", settled earlier by Isreal Nestlerode, and so called because of the great amount of swamp land that surrounded the property. The Nestlerode property was in the vicinity of Pelton and Baird roads in Wood County. As a result of Hollopeter's efforts a church and cemetery came into existence near the present Union Methodist Church.
RISDON CHURCH 1833
Rev. E.B. Chase followed Hollopeter in introducting Methodism in the area, and in 1833 talked to the residents of Risdon about building a church there. It was built on the east bank of Portage Creek, on the north side of what is now Summit Street. That log structure, 26 by 36 feet, shown in the accompanying sketch, was the first Methodist church built between Bucyrus and Maumee River.
John Gorsuch, one of the pioneers of Risdon, was active in the early days of the Methodists, in that village. Gorsuch, Robert F. Caples, Livingston Thomas, Isaac Germond, William Shawhan, Reuben Brtant and perhaps others were responsible for construction of that first church.
At about that same time, James G. Wiseman, James Swaney, Elijah McRill and Oliver Day spurred on by Methodist circuit riders, built another church four miles west of Fostoria on the present Ohio 18. That church was later called "Ridge".
According to Murray's book, there was also another Risdon Methodist church located on summit Street, where Summit Chapel is now. Later the church was used as a school.
Thus Methodism was introduced to the Risdon area, and according to old records the membership in that Risdon church aried by years, but in 1836 there were 251 and in 1844 there were 425.
ROME CHURCH 1847
In the village of Rome, Methodism hadn't caught on as well as at Ridson. Rev. James Anderson began to build the first Methodist church in Rome in 1847, at the northwast corner of what is now, Wood and Tiffin streets. Murray's book says Rev. George W. Collier made many attempts to get the Methodist in the two villages to consider union. His efforts were successful and they decided to build a new church halfway between Rome and Risdon. The northwest corner of Fremont and Main was selected as the site.
Charles Foster donated the land for the new church and a new school adjacent to it. Fostoria probably had a stong influence for the site of the church, since the Rome church was the weaker church.
So, in 1854, the two-story frame structure, 40 by 60 feet, shown in the accompanying sketch, was built.
FIVE CHURCHES IN AREA
The church union provided the impetus for the joining of the villages of Risdon and Rome, which took place in 1854.
Methodism in the Fostoria circuit now consisted of five churches: The Risdon Church near Amsden; Union Church in Perry Township, Wood County; Arcadia Church; and the Ridge Church. Two and sometimes three ministers made up the group of pastors for preaching and overseeing the parishoners.
The next 25 years saw the new Fostoria Methodist Church outgrow the structure built in 1854.
In 1883, Rev. Richard Wallace overseer of the Northern Ohio Conference of Methodists, announed the ground adjacent to the (1854) church had been acquired and that $22,050 suscribed. Plans and specifications had been adopted and the contract to build a new church for $21,595 had been let. The latter figure did not include the stainglassed windows and seats. The church ladies subscribed $2,500 for other furnishings.
FOSTER WAS ACTIVE
When the 1883 church was built the Official Board consisted of Charles Foster, Andrew Emerine, P.D. Caples, J.J. Myers, J.F. Ritchart, John Noble and E.J. Padgham.
Historical data indicates Foster was the moving spirit on the board, and that without him the church would probably not been built. He was a ready donor, and his wisdom settled many deadlocked issues.
The (1883) church continued to serve the congregation until 1968.
Near the end of the 1950's it became apparent to the local congregation that an addition should be made to the building to accomodate the growing needs of the church school and the young people. Investigations and discussion of the needs resulted in a group of parishioners advancing the idea that a new church should be built away from the city's center, to meet the challenges of the times. Another group felt that the tradition and setting of the old church was equal to the demands of this age. After much discussion and balloting, about 60 percent of the congregation voted to build a new church in a new location.
VAN BUREN LAST SITE
The site for the new church was Van Buren Street.
Construction started and the cornerstone was placed in 1967. So, after 134 years, the Fostoria Methodist (Wesley United Methodist Church) returned to the area that was once Risdon, where the roots for Methodism in this area were put down and flourished.
Also, in 1967, the Methodist Church, nationally, voted to merge with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, under the name of United Methodist Church. In Fostoria there were two EUB churches and one Methodist. This presented a problem of what name each church would adopt. It was resolved when the original Methodist church chose "Wesley United Methodist"; Bethel UEB chose to be called "Bethel United Methodist"; and the First EUB decided on "High Street United Methodist".
Mel Murray's book on Methodism in this area provides a vast amount of information too voluminous to include in this article, including the names of many of the early members, also human interest stories from back then. A limited number of copies of the book are still available by contacting the Wesley United Methodist Church.
Charles Wesley, one of the great Methodist evangelists and hymn writer, wrote over 6,500 hymns during his lifetime.