Milton History

a pictorial history of Milton, PA

Methodist Church

Methodist Church 107 S Front Street

This church is on Front Street, just south of Center Street.

From Bell’s History of Northumberland County 1891: The itinerant system of this denomination is well adapted to the extension and sustentation of its organizations, in sparsely settled districts, and hence at an early period in the history of the church in this section its enterprising clergy had penetrated the valley of the West Branch and established small but permanent societies. One of these was at Milton, but the exact date of its organization and its constituent membership can not be ascertained, although it is known that the family names of Bennett, Buoy, Chamberlin, Clark, Covert, Cowden, Crouse, Evans, Forest, Gillespie, Goodlander, Harris, Henry, Hetherington, Hougendobler, Huff, Jones, Kepler, Longan, Markle, Mears, Mervine, Murdock, Moody, Patterson, Randolph, Reeder, Strine, Tharp, Sweney, Trego, Wheeland, White, Wilson, Woods, etc., were conspicuous in the early records, although few of them are represented at the present day. The first services were held at private houses, and the introduction of Methodism therefore antedates the year 1796, when the first school house of the town was erected. From that time until 1807 this school building was occupied; in the latter year upon ground donated by Andrew Straub a one-story log church was built on the north side of Lower Market street, and the first ministers who preached here were Reverends Nicholas Willis and Joel Smith. This was the place of worship during the ensuing thirty years, and in a burial ground at the rear many of the older members were interred, The location of the building was somewhat elevated, and as the eastern wall was only partially constructed, there was an open space beneath the floor, in which it is related that a flock of sheep sometimes retired on sultry summer Sundays, confounding the eloquence of the pulpit in a manner scarcely less exasperating than amusing. The story is also told of a clergyman from Virginia, who remarked the number of dogs in the audience and the absence of children, admonishing his hearers that the canine element might well be dispensed with entirely and much more attention bestowed upon the juvenile portion of humanity. These incidents may serve to illustrate the humorous features of the somewhat uneventful current of religious life in an inland village half a century ago. But the growth of the congregation at length exceeded the capacity of this old church, and in 1837 it was sold to B. Bowers, by whom the materials were removed and converted into a dwelling house on the north side of Lower Market street, which was burned in 1880. A one-story brick church was built on the ground now occupied by Center street where it crosses Filbert on the east side of the canal; there was a basement beneath, in which the Sunday school was conducted, and here the congregation worshiped twenty-one years. In 1859 the lot was sold to the borough authorities, and in the same year the third church edifice of this congregation was built on Arch street above Broadway on the lotsubsequently occupied by the residence of John J. Fausnaught. In the construction of the second edifice Thomas Evans had been chairman of the building committee and the moving spirit; in the erection of the third this position devolved upon Moses Chamberlin. The latter building was substantially constructed of brick, two stories in height, without tower or dome, and was the place of worship until destroyed by the fire of May 14, 1880, a period of twenty-one years. As it was thought that a more central location was desirable a site was secured on the east side of Front street below Center, and in the summer of 1880 the erection of the present church edifice was begun thereon. It is a stone structure in the Gothic style of architecture, ample in extent, and conveniently adapted to the various purposes of a large congregation. The chapel was dedicated, November 27, 1881, Bishop Andrews, Reverends Swallow and Yocum, officiating. William K. Wertman, S. W. Murray, and Moses Chamberlin were largely instrumental in the success of this enterprise. The Northumberland circuit, embracing the entire West Branch valley with other extensive territory, was formed on the 6th of May, 1791, at a meeting of the Methodist Episcopal conference at Baltimore, Maryland. Milton circuit was formed in 1841, and this church became a station in 1858.

In the drawing below (courtesy of George Venios), the old Methodist church, built in 1859, is seen facing Locust Alley, with the canal running behind it. To the left is the ramp to the bridge that carried Center Street over the canal.

Old Methodist Church