Photos & History

Methodism Comes to Farmington
by Dorothy Sloan Anthony

The settlers of Farmington Township, most coming from Farmington, CT, in 1805
soon knew the thriving community they built must not only provide schooling for their
children, but must teach them the way of the church. At the beginning of the 19th
Century, Farmington, Connecticut, was a one-church village of less than 3,000. The
Congregational Church was the authority of social and political life as well as the
unquestioned orthodoxy of religion. One reason for migration was that many were
dissatisfied with Connecticut’s religious requirements, besides being lured by cheap land.
Until a Methodist Society began in the early 1800’s there was no organized alternative.
Great grandfather began Sabbath meetings early in Farmington, then known as Henshaw,
aware of the benefit of discipline.

A reawakening in religious zeal among the pioneers began as the Methodists
made progress. For the first few years a Sabbath service was held outdoors or in
someone’s log cabin without regard to the churchgoer’s denomination. All that was
needed was an elder who could ‘lecture’ or an itinerant backwoods preacher. First record
of an effort to plant a Methodist Episcopal Church in Trumbull County was in 1806 with
the first ‘class’ under the ministry of Rev. Obed Crosby at Vernon. Sent out by the
Missionary Society of Connecticut, prominent ministers received $40 to $80 annually.
These itinerant messages of God were expected to visit each ‘station’ on their circuit
every three weeks regardless of weather. This gave rise to the saying “There’s nothing
out today by crows and Methodist preachers”. Traveling through the frontier, these
saddlebag preachers had only cabins to preach in, puncheon floors to sleep on, corn bread
and milk to eat and the love of God in their souls.
The first subscription ever taken in Farmington for supporting the gospel was in
July 1816 in amounts from $.13 to $12.00 to be given annually often in measures of rye,
wheat, oats, and other produce. This would, along with neighboring villages, pay the first
“circulating” preacher.

By 1818 Rev. Ira Eddy, licensed to preach in 1791 was sent to the Western
Reserve and he established preaching in Farmington, Bristol, Bloomfield, Orwell and 16
other places. A class was formed in the log schoolhouse in East Farmington with seven
charter members: Eben Wildman, his wife and mother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Joel Hyde
and daughter, and Mrs. Moffat. Twelve years later a frame church/school house was
built on what was to become the East Farmington Cemetery. A deed from Eben
Wildman for a cemetery lot and the frame church is dated 1828. Members were steadfast
in continuing the doctrine. Other denominations have come and gone but the Methodist
Church has been the hub of the community for nearly 200 years.
Eddy formed ‘societies’ in all the “stations”. The backwoods preachers were here
to stay. They traveled tirelessly on horseback wherever they were assigned. One
preacher was heard to say, “With Love of God in the soul you can knock the devil out of
a lot of sinners.”

Rev. Eddy was reassigned to the Deerfield Circuit in Portage County, oldest
Methodist Society in the Western Reserve. Here in Franklin, church members couldn’t
agree about who were members and who weren’t, so Eddy threw the books in the fire and
told them they all had to join again if they desired membership.
Even though the strong willed Eddy had left Farmington, the congregation
continued to meet, including the new class organized in 1825 in charge of Elder Sweeny
at Taftsburg. This was a cluster settlement that had sprung up on Old State Road,
founded by the five Taft brothers Aurin, Daniel, Hervey, Chauncey, and Horace, who
arrived from New England shortly after 1815. Mr. and Mrs. Hervey Taft were active in
the Methodist Church. Chauncey, active in politics, was a strict temperance advocate,
held many town offices and though maybe not distinguished for his faith, was known for
his good works and his generosity to the church.

The Kincaids migrated from Pennsylvania to Farmington by way of
Youngstown and were all devout Methodists. The father, a licensed Methodist preacher
had nine children one of whom was also a Methodist minister. In the Wilson family,
which came early to Farmington from Virginia, one or two of their nine children became
Methodist ministers.

In 1827 when Farmington Methodists began getting grandiose ideas, they started
a building north of the Center, but contributions dwindled and they sold the structure to
township trustees. When the building was completed it was used for a town hall and
grange hall. As roads improved, the denominations began separating and the Center
church was mostly Congregational. The Methodist’ first meeting house in the village
was on East Main Street on the site of the present funeral home. The building was later
moved by Rodney Miller to the northeast corner of College and Third Streets and used
for some years for worship services. It then served as a dormitory for the seminary, then
a family residence, and in the 1950’s the structure was razed and a modern home erected.

Across the street the Congregationalists built the first cement building in town.
Early settlers subscribed to a fund to provide for visiting preachers and later as their was
need for more than the one-room schoolhouses, another fund was collected to build and
maintain an academy. Farmington Academy was established in 1831 across Main Street
from the present public school driveway. With increased enrollment it became
Farmington College, and in 1849 a three-story brick building was erected in the village
park. By 1854 trustees transferred control of the institution to the Erie Conference of the
Methodist Episcopal Church and changed the name to Western Reserve Seminary. It was
to be maintained as a first class school in which all sects and denominations had equal
rights and privileges. The campus consisted of nearly three acres of lawn and stately
shade trees and three three-story buildings. Sunday worship services were often held in
the seminary.

In 1861 when the seminary began to prosper, Methodists purchased land from
Rodney Miller, a trustee of the church, for $1,000 and an additional tract for $100 from
Chauncey Taft, another trustee. The property was a block west of the building at 3rd
Street and adjacent to the seminary.

By 1868 the present church was completed in the traditional New England style
of architecture with steeple and bell. Intentions were to have a brick building but when
the brick kilns were opened most of the bricks were faulty and there was only enough for
the ground floor walls. This necessitated making the rest of the building frame.
Carpenter and mason was Henry Keefer, craftsman living on State Road south of the
village. Deacon Allen Goff was the maker of the bricks for most of the brick structures
in the village. Goff was a ‘shouting Methodist’. He prayed loud and long for anything
he wanted and during a drought he prayed for rain: “Oh, God, send down the rain. Thou
knowest we need it. Not sizzle, razzle, dazzle but splickity splat. Send it right down, oh
Lord. Amen”.

With the larger congregation in the new church building in the village, the
smaller Methodist groups were joining it to form one charge. But the East Farmington
Methodists in 1874 joined North Bristol Disciples and together erected a building across
the road from the early church and worshipped together. While the church was being
built by the Farmington and Bristol men, one carpenter fell to the ground from the steeple
and by the time the other workers had gotten down, expecting the worst, the man was
climbing back up the ladder to complete the work.
Methodist ministers alternated Sundays with Disciple preachers. The pioneer
Wildman had donated acreage for a building for community meetings and religious
services, regardless of denomination. It was deeded in the names of 88 members of the
Methodist Church. The deed still contains all 88 names.

In the next few years a parsonage was built next to the village church, a row of
carriage sheds at the back of the grounds, and a stone slab buggy step still stands where it
was placed near the front entrance. Stained glass windows memorializing early families
were installed in 1927 at a cost of $75 each. Electricity came to the town in 1920 and the
old Bailey lamps were removed and the church building wired. An addition was built in
1954. Around the turn of the century a chimney fire burned the parsonage. No one was
home and an alert by members of the “Ladies Aid”, forerunner of the UMW, quilting in
the church basement, saved the fire from spreading in the March winds to the church and
surrounding college buildings. Adequate insurance allowed the parsonage to be rebuilt
and the pastor and his family, in July, move back in.

The seminary was northern Ohio’s first preparatory school. The advent of the
narrow gage railroad, Youngstown and Painesville, made the school accessible. Parents
wanted their young people to be under a Christian influence and the seminary occupied a
prominent place among educational institutions of Methodism.

When the conference took over in 1854 there were about 200 students. Pupils
came from distant cities as well as neighboring towns. In 1868, the same year the
Methodists were building their church in the village, three-story Cory Hall, was erected
just east of the academic hall, to be used as a girls’ dormitory. Young ladies could
receive young gentleman in the parlors from 1 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Some of the gay
blades were rumored to have climbed the pillars to the second floor veranda at off hours.
It took a certain amount of audacity for apprehension warranted expulsion. A young
men’s hall justifiably earned the title of “Thunder Castle”. There was one ‘live-in’
professor to somewhat subdue high spirits but there was always a rash of pranks.
Among the seminary’s brilliant collegians widely recognized were probate judges
in Cleveland as well as Trumbull County; a lieutenant governor of Ohio; Judge Lynn B.
Griffith who served 12 years as a member of the Seventh District Court of Appeals and
three years as judge of the Ohio Supreme Court; William Stewart, a senator from
Nevada; Newton Chalker, Southington benefactor and philanthropist; publisher of the
Cleveland Plain Dealer; editor of the New York Sun; assistant secretary of ware under
Lincoln; Junius Dana who established the Dana Musical Institute; C.E.W. Griffith, world
renowned elocutionist who committed to memory all of Shakespeare’s works; and
Clarence Darrow, renowned criminal lawyer.

After the turn of the century, centers of education changed with most towns
getting their own high schools. Enrollment dwindled and the last graduating class was in
1906. The Methodist conference gave up ownership of the property and buildings were
used for various businesses. All were short lived and the buildings were remodeled for a
summer resort, hotel, and restaurant. A series of questionable fires destroyed the
buildings and the abandoned basements on the grounds were filled and graded as a WPA
project in the 1930’s.

At this time it was discovered there was an error in the survey of park holdings
and the parsonage was half on the part grounds. Rev. C.R. Poulson, minister of the
church from 1935 to 1940, quipped from the pulpit, “I retire each evening in the
parsonage and Mrs. Poulson sleeps in the park.” The survey has since been corrected and
the entire parsonage now belongs to the church.

Church membership stays near 150 with the death of many of the oldsters but
with young folks joining the church family. The Ladies Aid and the Fidelis Circle have
become the United Methodist Women and though for moneymakers the ‘Aid’ had
chicken dinners, penny suppers, bake sales, bazaars and quilters, the UMW is known for
its roast beef dinners, personal coverlets for those in the children’s home, the Christmas
sock and mitten tree for the local elementary school and bereavement dinners whenever
there is a need.

The Epworth League which for many years was the life of the church, now the
MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), is no more. At one time they had get-togethers at
every holiday, Had the Easter Sunrise breakfast at sunrise, waited on table and did the
cleanup for the ladies’ dinners, put on home talent plays and programs, planned summer
picnics at Lake Erie and packed treats for Santa’s arrival after the Christmas program.
There have been 38 different pastors sine each has had one or possibly two
charges. Seven of these stayed five to ten years. In recent years additions to the church
have included automatic furnace, air conditioning, modern kitchen, automatic lift,
carillon, piano and organ, library, copier, and television.

Pastors - W. Farmington United Methodist Church
Aurthur M. Brown
W.J. Marshall
J.H. Starrett
E.J. Moore
J.S. Rutledge
J.S. Rutledge
S.H. Armstrong
W.H. Dye
L.O. Eldredge
A.B. Williams
W.K. Yingling
B.C. Peek
Henry A. Cobbledick
G.F. Hoover
I.R. Griffith
O.H. Pennell
J.L. Baker
E.M. Hughgart
Leroy Miller
B.H. Ryan
C.P. Poulson
Walter F. Hoffman
H.W. King
David Patton
Paul S. Haslett
William Hoffhines
Nevin Wertenberger
Fred Bell
Hugh Hubbard
Lemuel Stroud
Joseph Toth
Dan Jenkins
James R. Rice Sr.
Tom Fish
Paula Marbury
Diana Guyette
2005 - 2006
James George
2006 - present


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