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Beaver United Methodist Church

By Mr. Richard Pow

Methodist preaching in early Beaver County was performed by itinerant ministers, commonly referred to as circuit riders, who traveled on horseback to their several preaching places, which were sometimes as many as twenty, and which they visited in rotation, preaching sermons and administering the sacraments. In the absence of meeting houses for public worship, religious services were held in homes, in barns and, weather permitting, in woodland groves.

The first volume of minutes of the Pittsburgh Conference of the Methodist Church reports that about 1820, circuit rider William Cunningham, under the direction of William Swayze, presiding elder, began to gather together a little company of Methodists in Beaver, and organized them into a class, which assembled in a house known as Coulter's Tavern, located on Second Street, near College Avenue. This class, together with a class in Bridgewater, and one in Sharon (the upper end of Bridgewater) worshipped in a church located at Sharon, standing upon the hillside nearly opposite the south end of the Sharon Bridge, and close to the present right-of-way of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. This is believed to have been the first Methodist Church in Beaver County.

During a public address in 1896, the Honorable Daniel Agnew, ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, remarked that he remembered well this little frame church on the hillside, which he used to attend in company with his fiancee, but only as far as the door, since it was customary for all men to sit on the right of the center aisle, and the women on the left.

It was in 1829 that the Methodists, under the direction of pastor Jonathon Holt, began to construct a church building in Irvine Square, fronting on Third Street, and in close proximity to the present site of the Beaver Trust Company. The land had been obtained by an Act of the Pennsylvania Assembly on April 10, 1826, designating Benjamin Adams, Robert Darragh, Milo Adams, Joseph Vera and John T. Miller as trustees of the Beaver Methodist Church. The new church was completed in 1830, and dedicated for worship during the pastorate of George S. Holmes. It was a plain frame structure, one story in height, about 45 by 60 feet, with but one room. While the cost of the structure is unknown, the largest single subscription was $75.00 from Robert Darragh, who happened to be in charge of contributions. Interestingly, the record indicates that Father Frederick Rapp of the Economy Society contributed $25.00. This first church building was served by 29 different ministers between 1831 and 1872, who were rotated regularly at intervals of one or two years. Joshua Monroe, the minister in 1833 and 1834, became one of the founders of Beaver College, serving as President of its Board of Trustees for a number of years. Jacob K. Miller, minister in 1855, spend his latter years in Beaver running a small book and stationery store on the main street.

During the pastorate of James Hollingshead in 1868 and 1869, the original church was torn down and the congregation began the erection of a second, and larger church building on the same site, services being held in the Courthouse during the period of construction, which lasted until 1872. Noteworthy in the church's records is that the June 30, 1872 dedication produced subscriptions totaling $7,100.00 all in that one day; also that while the records are incomplete, it appears from available subscription papers that more than half the entire amount needed was given by one John F. Dravo, his subscription amounting to about $17,000. John Dravo had been a very notable preacher at Dravo Chapel in Vanport for approximately thirty years. A fire from an overheated furnace put the second church building out of commission on the first Sunday in December of 1895, although it was subsequently repaired and remodeled at a cost of $2,431.64.

Around the turn of the century, the matter of building another church came to the fore, one incentive being a bequest of $5,000 for that purpose, from the estate of Judge Agnew. Bowing to public sentiment to vacate the Park, as the Presbyterians had done in 1890, land 120 by 120 feet was assembled at the corner of Turnpike and Elk Streets, now College Avenue, immediately across Turnpike Street from Beaver College. A contract was let to Anderson and Cook for $28,693 to construct his, the third church building of the Methodist congregation in Beaver, ground being broken on April 4, 1904. The last services were held in the church on the Park on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1905. An educational building was added to the present church in 1961, and the sanctuary was last remodeled in 1968.

The Methodist Church of 1829

in Irvine Square, Beaver's second church.


Current Methodist Church

College Avenue at Turnpike Street