A History of Mt. Sharon Church
|1131 Mt. Zion Road
Fairmont, WV 26554
Pastor Harley Mayfield
Mt. Sharon Free Methodist Church received its beginnings a few years before the turn of the century when a
group of gospel workers led by May Bruner and known as the Pentecostal Band evangelized in the community. A six week
meeting was held at Mt. Zion Methodist Episcopal Church. According to an earlier church history furnished by Reverend
C.L. Page, "a gracious outpouring of the Spirit resulted in a number of conversions but not organization was effected at that
time". The Methodist church, however, then received a pronounced holiness preacher and under his ministry several were
sanctified and led, in February 1901, to organize a Free Methodist Society. The word "free" had been chosen for this new
denomination because the founding fathers believed in freedom of the slaves, free pews for worshipers, and freedom of
the Spirit in worship.
Reverend John Spears was appointed pastor, and on Thanksgiving Day 1901, the cornerstone was laid for a new church.
It was dedicated on June 1, 1902. Until the church was completed, Reverend Spears conducted cottage church services
in various homes within the community. Rev. Spears was a miner by occupation, and had begun to work in the mines as
a child. He had little or no formal education, but was granted a local preacher's license after his conversion. His wife,
Malinda Spear, was also a "preacher of much ability".
The original Mt. Sharon Church was built on land which had been donated by a Mr. Swisher, and faced the same direction
as the newest sanctuary. It was built mainly through the efforts of Hindman VanGilder and Charles Moran (father of Stella
Moran) as well as M.S. VanGilder, Freeman VanGilder, and Brooks Morgan. It was constructed of rough clapboards which
were painted white, and the one-room interior was made of wainscoting halfway up the walls, with white painted walls
above and to the ceiling. Slatted benches made by congregation members were used for pews, and were arranged with a
center aisle. Men sat on the right side of the room, and women sat on the left. Heat was provided by a pot-bellied stove
which was placed near the front and center of the ladies' section. Light was provided by oil lamps which sat on small
wooden shelves placed on the walls around the room. The invention and subsequent use of Aladdin Lamps in later years
greatly improved the lighting.
The pulpit was constructed by church member Charles Moran. It was in constant use until the move in April 1998 to the
newest sanctuary. It is now found in the entry hall leading into the sanctuary. The alter was made of one straight board or
bench-like structure which was held up at each end by crude supports. Two bathroom facilities were available - one for
males, and one for females. These were of the outdoor type and were shared with Forksburg School which was situated
where the current parsonage stands. Water too was shared with Forksburg and was accessed through the use of an
outdoor hand pump which still stands behind the parsonage.
Sunday services consisted of both Sunday School and worship time. Sunday School services were conducted in various
parts of the one-room church with different age groups going to different areas. Small children were taught at the front of
the church by sitting around the teacher. Worship services, according to Stella Moran, were "not at all brief". Services
were well attended and the church was often filled. Singing was incorporated into the Sunday services, but songs were
sung without the assistance of musical instruments. It was felt at the time that the person playing the instrument might
begin to develop feelings of self-importance since he/she was doing something that others couldn't do. In addition, the
non-musical attendees could develop feelings of jealousy toward the musicians. Singing teacher Ezra Morgan held
singing school to teach the hymns that were sung in the church. The hymns were in a hymn book and the earliest ones
were ballad-type songs.
Other than Hershell Kincaid, who brought his mother-in-law Minnie VanGilder Keener to church in his Ford car when Stella
Moran was seven or eight years old, no one had an automobile. Instead, people arrived by waling, on horseback, and in
buggies. Horses were tied to the fence which stood between the church and Golden Page's garden. One of the stones
used to mount the horses is still at Mt. Sharon. Those who chose to walk did so by walking through the fields as well as
on the roads. Fields were often preferred for travel rather than roadways, especially in winter and spring, due to the fact
that the roads were often very muddy. In spite of the "not at all brief" services and the lengthy walk home, church-goers
went home for dinner rather than bring it with them to eat at church. Food was not, and still is not permitted in the
sanctuary of the church. Other practices which have since been disregarded included: not wearing jewelry for men and
women, ladies wearing only dresses and cutting their hair, and no neckties for men.
In 1951, it was decided that a new sanctuary was needed. This was due in large part to the successful and enthusiastic
leading of Reverend H.E. Cooley, who traveled the community on Sundays with a loudspeaker attached to his car
announcing that it was time for church to begin. Rev. Cooley, however, was scheduled to leave, and the new building was
erected during the pastorate of Reverend G.J. Brown. It was placed closely adjacent to the old building but faced the main
road instead of sitting parallel with the road as the old building did. When the new building was almost ready for
occupancy, the old building was torn down, and the entrance to the new building of the new church basement, it was found
that part of the church was being placed over a solid rock area which could not be removed in order to make room for the
basement. Therefore the back area of the basement was made slightly higher than the remainder of the basement, and is
access by stepping up one step. Our church, then, is literally built on Solid Rock!
The Wooden pews in the new building were found to be much more comfortable than the old pews. This was mainly
because they were made of solid board seats and backs instead of the slatted benches found in the previous church. In
the late 1960's or early 1970's, these pews were given a face-lift by painting them bright blue to match the light blue on the
church walls, and accenting them with gold along the back rim and armrests. The pews in the 1951 church were arranged
in three sections which made for two side aisles instead of one center aisle. Electric lights were used, but heat was still
provided by a pot-bellied stove which was placed in the right front section of the church. This stove was upgraded in later
years to a gas furnace. The alter was constructed by member John Baker. One thing that did not change was the
bathroom facilities. The original outhouses which serviced the first church and Forksburg School were deemed to still be
in good working order and continued to be used by the hardy souls who were desperate enough to make the long march
to reach them. Water, when absolutely necessary, could still be accessed from the hand pump. Since water was not
used on a regular basis, the water had to be pumped for quite a while before it changed from a brown rust color and ran
clear. It provided a source of entertainment for children in the 1960's and 1970's who enjoyed taking turns pumping the
handle and playing in the water.
In the early 1980's, the church was modernized by the addition of indoor bathrooms with running water and padded pews.
Mt. Sharon Church survived a difficult time in the 1970's and 80's with a declining attendance sometimes down into the
teen numbers, but the prayers and dedication of those who remained in attendance and those who had gone on before
upheld the church until a new outpouring of the Spirit brought it once more to life.
In 1988 a new minister named Wayne Whoolery was introduced to the Mt. Sharon congregation. Through God's guidance
and Reverend Whoolery's leadership, Mt. Sharon again became a vivacious, loving growing congregation. Due to
overcrowding and well attended church services, it was decided that the 1951 structure was too small for comfort and
another new sanctuary should be built. On December 26, 1996, ground was broken for the newest sanctuary. This was
accomplished by connecting the new structure with the old, and allowing the older structure to become fellowship hall and
children's church. The newest addition was constructed by volunteer labor of member s of the church and surrounding
community. No money was borrowed for the completion of the addition, and purchases were made as the Lord gave the
necessary funds. During the entire process, there was not one time when building had to cease due to lack of funds and
the newest building was rededicated debt-free in October 1998. It was truly a building of the new upon the old.
The charter members of the Mt. Sharon Free Methodist Church were: Minnie Keener, Fannie Moran, Brooks Morgan,
Elizabeth Morgan, Helen VanGilder Morgan, Freeman VanGilder, Hindman VanGilder, Matilda VanGilder, M.S. VanGilder,
Olive VanGilder, and Susan VanGilder.
Some items of interest:
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