History of First United Methodist Church

The Old and the New Church; 1854-1905

The Old and the New Church; 1854 and 1905

From the Mount Vernon Sun Newspaper, September 12, 1905


     The following article giving our readers a few facts concerning the history of the old M.E. church in this city in 1851 (1854), which has lately been abandoned by that congregation and sold to the Knights of Phythias Order … (missing text)…was carefully… (missing text)…street who with the exception of other men in our city, are the only ones known to be alive who assisted with the building of the church? The article was written last spring but has been published before owing to the fact that it was to have been published before owning to the fact that it was to have been published in a paper that was to be gotten out by the church choir, but failed to appear. The article is quite interesting and something that is well worth saving.



Mr. Edward Brown, the author of this sketch writes that 53 years ago he came to this place. At that time the dense woods that extended from the city limits on the east to Evansville, excepting from an occasional clearing, across Mill Creek on Second street was a long covered bridge, Main street had three blocks macadamized (Gravel).

     Soon after coming here in1851 the road to New Harmony was planked with white oak timber 8 feet long by 3 inch thick. A short time before the lower Harmony road was changed as it forked at 6th and Main streets and then the Meadow was platted.

     The early history of the M.E. church at Mt. Vernon is nearly lost in obscurity. I have not been able to find any written matter to give sufficient facts, so have depended on tradition. The ancestors of our present congregation came here at an early date. James Black, the father of Milton Black, came in 1806. He settled on the land owned by Edwin Spencer, Jr. His children were all Methodists. He, like the McFaddins, came from North Carolina.

     The first settler in this county was Thomas Jones, an Irish man who settled near Bone Bank on the Wabash river. He came about 1794. The McFaddins settled near the present site of Mt. Vernon in 1803, from whom the place took its name, being called McFaddin’s Bluff. The first preacher to hold services in this town was Rev. Samuel Jones, a Baptist.

     The first M.E. church was established at the house of John Griffin in Gibson County in 1814. Shortly after Rev. Thomas Davis was sent to this county in 1814 for circuit (rider) work and during that same year Rev. John Schrader became the first minister in Gibson county …(missing text)… Rev. John Scripps …(missing text)… as this part of the state was only circuit (rider) and continued until about 1810.

     Before the erection of churches, people assembled in private houses where services were held. Among the early settlers was a preacher by the name of Thomas Templeton who came here the 7th of June 1815. He settled in the Todd neighborhood but soon after entered land that surrounds the Templeton graveyard. He built a two room log house and held services at his home for several years. He was the great grandfather of Bro. Armenius Templeton and grandfather of Wm. W. Smith, Wm. Lenard’s history of Posey county says that a small house was built in 1814 on the Templeton land where divine services were held and the wolves were so plentiful and so vicious that the men had to take their guns to church for protection.

     In 1828 a little brick school house was built on the place now owned by G.W. Robertson, corner of 6th and Main streets. This was used by all denominations until 1837 when the Methodists erected a small brick church building on the lot now owned by Dr. Spencer heirs on 4th street between Walnut and Mulberry. The lot was deeded to the church society by Elizabeth Welborn for the sum of $50. No records regarding the building of this structure can be found.

     In 1840 The Christian church was built on the present site on 5th street between Main and Walnut. The lot was deeded to the trustees Wm. Hendricks, James Moore, and Elijah Goodwin by Aaron Baker. Mr. Goodwin preached the first sermon and occupied the pulpit for several years following.

     The M.E. church prospered so much that in the spring of 1851 it was decided to build the house now in use. It was on March the 12th that the official board met and resolved to build at an estimated cost of $5000. The board at this place consisted of Wm. Nettleton, Milton Black, Isaac White, Edward T. Sullivan, John A. Mann, Richard Barter and Wm. Lowery. Mr. Lowery was chairman, Richard Barter treasurer and John A. Mann secretary.

     At this time but a few of the members were considered wealthy. Messrs. Lowery, Nettleton and Black were considered the strongest financially.

     Rev. N. Shumate, pastor at that time, was appointed to secure subscriptions. On April 21st the board met with a committee from the German M.E. church to effect a transfer of the church building on the Spencer lot (4th street between Walnut and Mulberry) to the last mentioned congregation for the consideration of $1,200. Mr. Nettleton of the M.E. and Mr. Steihl of the German were appointed to make the transfer.

     For the new M.E., then under contemplation, Messer. Turley and Morelock offered to furnish 200,000 brick, two-thirds hard, to be delivered on the ground for $3.75 a thousand.

     Mr. Charles Hovey. a brother to the late (died in office 1891) Gov. Alvin Hovey (Methodist church member), offered to lay the brick; furnish sand, lime, poles and laborers for $3.75 a thousand.

     At that time bricklayers worked upon the outside of the building so it was necessary to have long poles. These were set in the ground and were about thirty-five feet high. To hold the scaffold, smaller poles were lashed at a suitable height. For lashings small hickory sprouts were laid with the end resting on the walls and on these the scaffold boards were placed. This sort of scaffold and support mast of necessity be rebuilt as soon as the wall had grown a few feet in height. On this particular building… (missing text)…the manner in which the mortar carriers carried the material up the scaffolds was by a long sloping scaffold which was necessarily wide so the men could walk in both directions.

     This was dangerous and difficult work especially after the wall was near completion. The church building was 47 x 75 feet, so it was quite a journey from the ground to half way around it. Then it is 33 feet to the top of the sidewall and 45 feet to the point of the gables. In those days brick was carried on boards instead of in hods as at the present time.

     On June 3rd the committee reported they had raised $3,750 including the $1,200 for the sale of the old church. The lot where the present church stands was bought from Samuel T. Scott, son of the celebrated Samuel Scott for $100. Samuel Scott was a veteran of the last war with England; he was wounded twice in the Battle of New Orleans under Gen. John Coffee and was a cabinet maker and had a large shop on the lot which the church society sold to Turley and Morelock for $30. The deed was made the 9th of June 1953.

     The land on which Mt. Vernon is located was entered by Gen. Wm. Henry Harrison. In 1819 the Mt. Vernon company was formed consisting of Aaron Williams, Samuel Gill and others. Mr. Williams laid out that part of the town that is now known as Williams part. Jesse Y. Welborn was appointed to sell lots and on July 8th, 1828 Mr. Scott bought the lot that he afterwards sold to the church, paying $60 for it.

     The lumber for the new church building was furnished by Soaper & Prince. It was sawed on the creek east of town and was all popular. They agreed to furnish it for $1.25 per hundred board feet and donated 20 percent out of that. The lumber it examined now would prove to be better than any that could be found in the county at present time. Samuel Armant, of Metropolis, Ill. Offered to superintend the work at $3 a day. At first the committee voted to accept the offer but afterward concluded to employ me (Edward Brown) at $2 a day, and I was to do what work I could.

     The first work I did was to make the plans, for which I received $2. This was about the 24th of June and the work commenced. I made all of the window frames and furnished the sash by contract. These were made by hand out of two-inch pine worked down to 1¾ inches thick and contained over 600 panes of glass. The present sash was put in since the old being sold to the foundry company.

    The first brick delivered were rejected as being too soft. This delayed the work and it was the 7th of October before much more was done. On Nov. 1st the board decided to finish the first story, put the second tier of joist on, cover the wall and wait until spring. All hands were discharged.

    In the spring of 1853 Mr. Jenkins of Evansville was employed to put the roof on. For lack of funds little more was done until 1854 when the audience room was finished. Henry Schultz, father of saddler Chas. Schultz, did the plastering.  The means of entering the audience room was not as it is now but was affected by means of a pair of winding stairs with two doors up stairs, one at the ends of each isle. The choir occupied the now abandoned gallery.

     Messers. John Hancock and Wm. Hendricks cased the doors and windows. I.W. White was employed to put in the seats. Messers. White and Downey laid the floor which was tongue and grooved by hand as we had no plaining mills then. Not until June 19th 1854 was the house completed. There is no record of the subscribers to this enterprise.

     On June 29th 1854 the debt for the first work was $156.00. Still due on the subscription about $106.00. I have no record of the dedication but the first service in the audience room was held in June 1854. Mrs. H.B. Reagin came here two weeks before the new church was built and attended the last service in the old church and had the pleasure later of being in the first service ion the new church. Of the persons who took active part in the building of the church there are but four living as far as I know; Bros. Milton Black past 95, Zergeibel 85, L.J. Larkin and myself 81.

     Mr. Black was an active member and was employed to measure and stack the lumber for which he received $2.00 a day. I have no record of any carpenter that were engaged to do work as the official board employed help occasionally and paid for what little was done by outsiders. In Mr. Hovey’s crew were James Bradley, Isaac Nester and Wm. Foshee, Sr. bricklayers. Mr. Zergeibel dug all the trenches and slacked all the lime before the bricklaying was commenced. He also carried mortar for the work, came nearly getting a dangerous fall from a high scaffold. A withe broke and let the scaffold drop with a crash but fortunately he held to a part of it and saved himself. The men were so frightened they could not work the remainder of the day. Mr. Larkin was a boy but carried brick, the other carriers were John Schnabel and Thomas Stanners, Jay Wilson and Wm. Clark did the painting.

     The first parsonage occupied was a small brick house on Walnut street nearly opposite Col. Owen’s old place. It was owned by Mr. Jenson. At the time of the first brick church, there was a house on the lot that was used for several years. This was sold and the house now owned by Mr. Ruminer on Mulberry street that was bought and used until the present parsonage was bought.

     The prominent members when the new church was built were, J. Lowery merchant, Milton Black, farmer, Wm. Nettleton, justice also first mayor of Mt. Vernon, Isaac W. White, carpenter, Richard Barter, merchant, John A. Mann and Edward T. Sullivan both young merchants, Joseph Showers, farmer and sheriff, Rhesa Knowles, retired farmer, Jacob Fisher, farmer, James Magill, blacksmith, Wm. Prince, carpenter, John M. Barter, hardware merchant and leader of the choir, John M. Lockwood and family came here in 1853 and in 1856 Grandma Thomas came and has been a very active member. Bro. Black, Mrs. Reagin and Mrs. John A. Mann of Dallas Texas are the oldest living members as far as I know.

     Thornton Neal came to Mt. Vernon seven years after the church was dedicated. The records of the church are so incomplete and lacking that nothing like a good account can be given and this fact must be recognized or else the public will think we are one sided in the narration, but this is not the case, we have endeavored to give that which was offered from memory that the older members entertain to regard to such history.

     As there is now a proposition on hand that a record be made of all members, subscribers and of the men who do the work. Fifty years hence such facts will be very interesting. Taking the average life nearly two generations has passed away since the present house was built. An old colored woman who came here with Mrs. James Black should be remembered. She was born a slave but after coming to the land of liberty considered herself as white to heart as any one and was always an active member, occupied the Amen corner and giving expressions to her appreciation of the services by frequent audible “amen.”  Her name was Pender and her living with Mr. Black caused her to be called Pender Black.

     This sketch has been made under difficulties as we have to depend upon the traditions of older people and my memory, but hope it will interest the members and others and is submitted and dedicated for future reference to our church history. Edward Brown.


     On April 4th 1904, the matter of the necessity for a new church was brought to the attention of the official board by Rev. Penrod, pastor of said church, which body realized the fact and lent their support. On April 10th, the proposition was presented to the congregation and on the evening of April 12th a meeting of the congregation and the general public was held, at which time it was decided to build a new church. On April 15th the official board met and gave their consent for a new church. April 19th the various committees were appointed. On July… (missing text)…the new site for… (missing text)… passed by Mr. Wm. Holton… (missing text)…the old church property was sold to the Knights of Phythias for $2050.

     August 25th bids were received for the construction of the new church and on Aug 26th W.A. McGregor & Co. were award the contract for $17,334.60 that being the lowest bid.

     The pipe organ which was placed in the church by the choir cost $2,000 and the furniture, carpet and other incidentals run the cost up about $7,664.50 more, which with other incidentals made the total cost about $27,000.00.

     On Sunday June 25th the new church was dedicated, Bishop McCabe being present and preached a most excellent sermon in the morning and Presiding Elder J.W. Turner preached another in the evening. This was one of the grandest days Methodism ever experienced in this city. Large crowds were present at both sermons and the $8,640 indebtedness that hung over the church that morning was quickly and easily raised as the people fully realized what a great blessing such a church would be to our little city which can now proudly state that we now have one of the nicest and most up to date houses of worship of any city its size in the state.

     Rev. S.S. Penrod, the present pastor of said church, who first launched the project for the new church and who labored so unceasingly and untiringly for the new church, deserves much credit and honor for the part he has performed in said project, while the members of the church have stood by him so closely and assisted in the work, as well as those of our citizens who contributed their means so liberally, are also deserving of a part of the credit. All of whom are now proud and rejoicing over their achievement.