Clarksbury United Methodist Church
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors
CLARKSBURY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, VIRGINIA

 
In the Clerk’s Office of the Circuit Court of Middlesex County, there is recorded a deed, dated June 28, 1838, from Warner C. Blake and Sara Blake, his wife, parties of the first part, to Robert Healy, William T. Fauntlery, Esmun R. H. Burritt, Thomas Hutchings, and John R. Creighton, trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the County of Middlesex, State of Virginia. The said Warner C. Blake and wife conveyed unto the said trustees, in and for consideration of one dollar, and to the successors in office forever for the following uses:

             In trust that they shall erect or cause to be erected or built thereon a House of Divine Worship for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America according to the rules and Discipline which from time to time may be agreed upon and adopted by the ministers and preachers of the said church at their General Conference; and in the further trust that they shall at all times permit the said ministers to preach and expound God’s Holy Work. (1)

             On the 20th day of May 1895, for the consideration of $10.00, Matilda Blake conveyed to S. Grinels, Thomas Shreeves, E. W. Mottitt, and J. F. Hancock, trustees of Clarksbury, one-half acre of land bounded on the north by the church lot, west and south by the land of Matilda Blake. (2) Later, one fourth of an acre, which was part of the school lot, became property of the church. (3)

             Tradition and research lead us to believe that Clarksbury was named for two men who were born in Great Britain and were destined to become leaders in the Methodist Church. Adam Clarke was born about 1762 in Londonderry, a County of Northern Ireland. Clarke was the product of a dual religious heritage, for his father Anglican and his mother Presbyterian. As a child he was instructed by his mother in the Scriptures, the Apostles Creed of his father’s church, and in the Presbyterian Catechism. In 1777, he was attracted to Methodism by an itinerant minister and later was invited to come to Kingswood School in Bristol, England by John Wesley. During the years after leaving Kingswood, he preached throughout England. Adam Clarke is also known as one of the English Wesleyan writers. (4)
 
            Francis Asbury was born near Birmingham, England in 1745. He became a local Methodist preacher at the age of 13. Asbury attended his first Wesleyan Conference in Bristol, England, in 1771; and when Mr. Wesley called for preachers to go to America, Asbury offered himself for work in this new country. He became the first circuit rider. His ministry included nearly 300,000 miles of travel along the Atlantic coast. He has been called “The Prophet of the Long Road”. (5) Bishop Asbury was the presiding bishop of the Virginia Annual Conference from 1786 to 1810. (6)

            Clarksbury was originally on the Gloucester Circuit of the Richmond District and was served by circuit riders who perhaps visited once in several months. Each minister was assigned a junior preacher or helper to assist in his ministry. There are no written records of Clarksbury prior to 1843. Kinchen Adams and Allen Carner were assigned the Gloucester Circuit on November 15, 1843. These two ministers are credited with incorporating the new Middlesex churches with the Gloucester Circuit. Forest Chapel, Lower Church and Clarksbury reported for the first time at a Quarterly Conference, which was held at Forest Chapel on May 11, 1844. Presumably for closer supervision, the Gloucester-Middlesex Circuit was divided into wards at a Steward’s Meeting on July 10, 1844, at which time Robert Healy was appointed to oversee Clarksbury and Lower Church. Warner C. Blake represented Clarksbury at a meeting of the delegates which had been elected from each society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the Gloucester Circuit and was held at Salem Church on August 22, 1844, to consider Bishop Andrews’ connection with slavery. (7) The Methodist Church was divided into the northern and southern branches in 1844.

             Clarksbury remained on the Richmond District until 1852. In 1852, Middlesex became a circuit; a swamp at the time separated the new circuit from Gloucester. (8) James T. Lumpkin was named a steward in 1866; John Woolridge replaced E. R. H. Burritt and James Lumpkin replaced John R. Creighton on the Board of Trustees. (9) From 1852-1862, the Circuit was transferred to the Fredericksburg District and from 1862-1867, back to the Richmond District. (10)
 
 
The building suffered from ill-use during the Civil War, and the Trustees made the following report:
October 30, 1866 - The church was very much injured during the war and was rendered unfit for worship but within the last year it has been repaired in part by the     donations of friends. The preacher in charge has occupied the pulpit regularly since his appointment to this circuit. In view of the monetary pressure of the country, we would not advise any additional repairs at present. The church is not enclosed. A good well is convenient. (11)
 
May 2, 1868, James T. Lumpkin applied for and obtained, license to exhort. During the period from 1867-1870 the circuit was placed on the Rappahannock District. (12)
 
Recovery from the war was slow as shown by the succeeding statements:
October 1, 1870 - Trustees of Clarksbury report that the title to the property is indisputably good and that the property is not encumbered with any indebtedness. The house needs repair beyond the pecuniary ability of the membership to make it what it should be. But the Trustees are pleased to report that some repairs have been made to the house to the extent at least of making it tolerable and comfortable as a house of worship. (13)
 
Class leaders were appointed and the instruction of children was stressed. At the Quarterly Conference on January 14, 1871, it was stated, “all Sunday Schools were suspended in the fall except Clarksbury, the brethren determined to continue their school during the winter. We are much indebted to Brother Towill, a Baptist minister, for our success in this school.” (14)

In 1884, under the pastorate of Mr. D. G. C. Butts, the Circuit was divided. He said, “The people were better satisfied with the service rendered by the minister; for each church had services twice each month when the weather permitted. Salaries were low. The substantial gifts of the well-to-do people filled up the larder and kept the preacher’s family in a cheerful mood.” (15)

The Middlesex Circuit was on the Randolph-Macon District from 1871-1890. The circuit included Forest Chapel, Clarksbury, Old Church (King and Queen), Hopewell, New Hope, Lower and St. Andrews. In 1884, the circuit was divided with Forest Chapel, Clarksbury, Bethel, Urbanna, and Lower becoming the Middlesex Circuit; and Old Church, New Hope and St. Andrews, the East King and Queen Circuit. (16)

In 1890, the Middlesex Circuit was placed on the Rappahannock District. Clarksbury was rebuilt in 1890 under the pastorate of Rev. J. H. Dalby. The following account was given in the Richmond Christian Advocate, October 9, 1890:
 
                                                                                                “Corner-Stone Laying in Middlesex"

             The corner-stone of Clarksbury Methodist church was laid on Saturday, 20th inst., by the Masons of Donivan Lodge, Worthy Brother Mathews, Master, and Right Worthy Brother Donivan, District Deputy Grand Master, having general superintendence of the craft; Rev. J. H. Dalby and this writer participating in several parts. The ancient Masonic ceremony was beautifully and impressively rendered. After an address, a handsome contribution was laid on the corner-stone by the Masons and the friends of the Church, which, together with the amount received by the ladies at the refreshment tables, footed up the sum of $160. The old church, built in 1838, had well-nigh gone to decay, and early this year Brother Dalby, though sick, started that man of energy and character, Capt. S. S. Grenols, to the task of rebuilding. He was ably assisted by the congregation, and it is now nearly completed at a cost of about $3,000, and will shortly be ready for dedication. It is one of the handsomest structures in my district, and reflects credit on the Methodists and their friends in the neighborhood.

            Rev. J. H. Dalby is closing his fourth year on Middlesex Circuit successfully and pleasantly. Although he had a severe illness during the year, his work has not suffered. All the interests of the Church have been conserved. Every debt on church and parsonage has been paid off by his skillful management during his term, and large accessions have been made to the membership. On the whole, Middlesex Circuit never was in better condition. Brother Dalby, too, is growing as a preacher. The Commonwealth’s Attorney told me that he hears no better preaching in the cities than he hears at home.  October 1st.  George H. Ray.”

             The East Middlesex Charge, consisting of Lower and Clarksbury, was established in 1906. The parsonage for the two churches was located across the highway from Clarksbury. This arrangement continued until 1918 when Bethel, Clarksbury, Lower, and Urbanna formed the Urbanna Charge. Clarksbury and Lower became the Piankatank Parish in 1955. Clarksbury become a one-church appointment in 1980.  There have been few changes in the sanctuary since 1890. A central chimney, with pipe extending from the ceiling in a triangular fashion to two wood-burning stoves, was replaced by two inside chimneys using coal-burning stoves. In the mid-1960’s, central heat was installed. The chancel was extended, the choir section raised, the lighting system changed, and the window panes replaced with cathedral glass in 1969. After several years of preparation, a much-needed educational building was added in 1952. The fellowship hall was refurbished and appropriately decorated in 1995. In 1997 windows with double panes were installed in the sanctuary.

            The Ladies Aid Society, which was organized in 1888, emphasized the physical needs of the church. Women of the church have been strong supporters of missions since the Woman’s Missionary Society was organized in 1906. They continue to expand their concepts of missions as United Methodist Women.

           We look back to the founding of Clarksbury with mixed feelings of pride and gratitude. Our church stands as a memorial to those people whose hopes, dreams, and prayers caused them to build a place of worship in this community. Its existence and growth are synonymous with the names of countless laymen and ministers who will increasingly be remembered on the pages of time.
 
            The old oak trees that stood in the churchyard bore marks of hooks that were placed there for hitching horses. Sundays found these hooks occupied whether at an 11:00 A.M. or 3:00 P.M. service. We live in another era; but as we go forward, may we accept the challenge from Matthew 21:28, “Go work today in my vineyard.”


Marguerite Bristow
 
Church Historian 
 
(Update: As of March 2011, that last old oak tree was cut down due to disease and safety issues should it have fallen.)