Church History

Thornhurst United Methodist Church

 

                The embryos of most rural Methodist churches were “classes,” which were formed by the circuit riders.  These men were pastors and missionaries – lone preachers who rode horseback along wilderness paths from one primitive settlement to another, bringing the gospel to rural areas.  They organized the residents into groups, usually meeting in private homes or a school house, for prayer and study of scripture.  The leader was a local resident and occasionally, an ordained minister would met with the class.  In a way, it was a congregation without a clergyman or a church building.  One of these Methodist classes was founded as early as 1845 by an itinerant preacher at the Briar Patch Schoolhouse on Pine Grove Road.  Later, 1853, to be exact, Reverend W. C. Morse, the Methodist minister from Stoddartsville, held classes there.  It was from these classes that the Thornhurst Methodist Episcopal Church grew.

                The first building, erected in 1857, was situated across the street from the present church.  The contractor, failing to get all his pay, caused the property to be sold.  Sheriff Samuel Van Loon sold it to Josiah Lewis for the sum of $50.00.  on August 31, 1865 Mr. Lewis sold the property to the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Gouldsboro (Thornhurst) for $100.00.  The Church lot was 6 by 16 rods.  In June 1888, in consideration of $101.00 J. B. Finley and wife deeded a lot on the east side of the church, measuring 5 by 8 rods to E. J. Drum, J. B. Gardner, P. E. Williams, Jacob Blakeslee, Lewis Stull and P. J. Kinney, trustees of the Society at that time.  The sum of one dollar was paid down and a mortgage of $100.00 given by the Society.  In going over the records, it was found that the holder of the mortgage made a gift of the same, to the society a few years later.  The church had a seating capacity of 200 and cost about $1,000.00 to build.

                In 1880, its membership was 27 members, with 60 children in Sunday School attendance.  For the first few years, the same pastors served both the Thornhurst and Stoddartsville churches (John Stoddart built the first Methodist church in Stoddartsville in 1816).  Certainly in the winter months the trip between the two churches must have been a formidable one.  The first pastors are believed to have been G. L. Staples, Joshua S. Lewis, J. A. Baldwin and John L. Staples.  John Staples was pastor of both congregations in 1858.  It is interesting that during the Civil War, he was chaplain of the 168th Pennsylvania Volunteers.  His son, J. S. Staples, was the military substitute for Abraham Lincoln.  He received $650.00 for taking Lincoln’s place.  It makes one wonder if this J. S. Staples ever lived in the Thornhurst-Stoddartsville area when his father was pastor there or was he grown and gone from home by that time?

                The Parsonage which stands across the street from the present church was built in 1888 at a cost of $350.00.  in 1889 the Society purchased a lot west of the Church from Abial Leonard and wife, Fanny, paying $125.00 for the ground.  In 1924, after 85 years of service, the little white church was destroyed – by accident.  This first church, which stood beside the tiny cemetery, had no basement.  The trustees decided to excavate to make one.  A large boulder beneath the building was to be removed but, whether through misjudgment or misguidance, the charge of dynamite proved too large or was placed incorrectly.  The church was destroyed.  The Wyoming Conference Minutes of 1925, simply stated, ‘in 1924 while the pastor, Rev. Harry C. Roof, was at conference, the old Church was razed.’ (I often wondered where that phrase “RAZED” came from.   Can you imagine how surprised Rev. Roof was.  – All well that ends well –)

                By October 31st of the same year, the New Edifice was dedicated.  Dr. George M. Bell and Roof took charge of the ceremony.  The total cost of the church was $7,000.00.  the building is a frame structure 34 feet by 44 feet.  The Sanctuary is finished in Oak and is very attractive.  The basement has three sides above the ground and is equipped with a heating plant, kitchen and a large room for special purposes.  In October of 1925, Rev. Harry Roof was still the minister.  In 1927, Herbert Houser was the treasurer of the church.  He was also the store clerk for R. C. Frum.  In 1929, Elmer Moore was Sunday School Superintendent.  In 1932, Rev. Lyons was paid $4.95 for Sunday School supplies.  In 1934, Rev. Butler is mentioned for the first time.  The weekly Sunday School collections for July and August were $1.25, $1.35, $1.95, $1.50, $1.20, $1.44, $1.02, $1.31, and $1.02.

                The church was paying $2.00 per month for two janitors.  The collection at Pine Grove Church was $4.00.  This is the only time Pine Grove Church is mentioned.  In 1936, Fred Transue was Sunday School Superintendent.  In 1937, the church had a “Boy Scout Oyster Dinner.”  In 1938, Rev. Hilbert was paid $.70 for Christmas supplies.  In 1939, Andy Grab was paid $8.00 for coal.  By 1940 they were paying the janitor $4.16 per month.  Rev. Hilbert was still the minister.  He paid $2.50 for Bibles and $1.50 for five dozen oranges for the Christmas party.  In 1941, the church paid John Grab $16.00 for two tons of coal.  In 1942, Rev. Sheehan was still paying $4.16 for the janitor’s salary.

                The name of the denomination was changed in 1968 by the General Conference of Methodist Churches from Methodist Episcopal to United Methodist.  In keeping with the changes, the church is now called Thornhurst United Methodist Church.  In 1987, the Wyoming Conference of the United Methodist Church commissioned Mrs. Elda Bomba, Thornhurst resident and communicant of the local church, to write the history of this tiny congregation.  But she was limited to 250 words, so much of the ‘folksy’ information had to be left out of that account.  Henry Kretchmer, another Thornhurst resident and member of the tiny church, shared some memories of how things were at the church in the early 1920’s, when he moved to Bear Lake with his parents at not quite six years of age.  There were two active women’s organizations in the congregation: the Priscillas and the Ladies Aid.  Whether the two organizations had different functions is not known.  The groups met weekly in the members’ homes and quilted.  The revenue received from the quilt sales was very important to church finances.  The quilt sales, the proceeds from the many church suppers, and the weekly offerings (not large during the lean years) were all the income the church had.  No wonder when Harry Roof was pastor (1918-1929), each congregation of his three churches – Locust Ridge, Pine Grove, and Thornhurst – could pay him only $5.00 each per Sunday.  According to Mr. Kretchmer’s reminiscing, in the 1920’s and later, when the women’s groups met, some of the husbands accompanied their wives and, while the women gathered about the quilting frames, the men played pinochle around the table in the hostess’ kitchen, while the children who tagged along played games.

                The Thornhurst Church was important, not only for worship but for fellowship.  The women’s groups have always been well-known for the chicken, spaghetti, pork ‘n’ kraut, and ham suppers.  In 1924, when Herbert R. Drum and Gladys Drum sold land to the church for $1.00, the trustees were Rosa Hessler, Elmer Trump, and Elmer Moore.  24 years later (1948), the trustees were Austin Gregory, Elmer Trump, Elmer Moore, Walter Gregory, Percy Dutter, and Henry Kretchmer, Sr.

                In the early 1950’s the pastor of the Thornhurst Methodist Church, Reverend Robbins (good neighbor as he was) was helping Dick Jordan put a roof on his new home (now the residence of George Culver).  Also helping was Dick’s dad, Walter Jordan, Dick’s brothers Donnie, Wayne and your’s truly.  To get up on the roof we had to climb a ladder to a scaffold, where we raised ourselves onto the roof.  While we were working on the roof, several honey bees took it upon themselves to fly around our heads every now and then.  They were coming from a beehive that was about 30 feet from the house.  After a time, Dick persuaded me to climb down and move the beehive, telling me it was too hot for the bees to swarm.  I climbed down, put on a Smokey the Bear hat with netting around it and a pair of gloves, and started to move this three-foot-high beehive.  As I was carrying it, the bees began crawling up my arms and soon had them almost covered.  It wasn’t long ‘till there were several flying around inside the netting of my hat (now, that could make a young fellow cross-eyed).  Soon, one stung me on the face, and then another … you guessed it.  When the third stung me, I dropped the hive and ran for the river with some bees in hot pursuit. I dove into about 2 ½ feet of water, which makes for a hard landing.  I believed I could still hear those bees flying around my head, even with my head under water.  Meanwhile, back at the “ranch”, some of those bees decided to visit the others still on the roof.  After Dick got stung a couple of times, he jumped off the roof onto the scaffold plank, which promptly broke, dumping him onto the ground.  Without blinking an eyelash, he took off running, leaving Reverend Robbins, his brothers and his dad stranded on the roof top with the bees.  I think Wayne finally got them down.  After we collected ourselves, we discovered Reverend Robbins had three stings, Walter had three or four, Wayne and Donnie had some, Dick had two, and I had three on my face, several on my belt line, and quite a few on the cushioned part of my anatomy.  We must have been quite a sight, since we were in clear view of the road: the four of us with our shirts off and me with my pants down bent over a pile of wood while Reverend Robbins tried to remove the stingers from my backside.  These memories remain long after the passing of Reverend Robbins and Walter Jordan.

                On July 26, 1959, the Thornhurst Methodist church celebrated its 100 anniversary (two years late).  The guest speaker was Dr. Earl V. Tolley, Superintendent of the Scranton District, Wyoming Annual Conference; pastor was Rev. Evelyn P. Nickey; and church organist was Mrs. August Weitz.  And organ recital was present by Mrs. Earl V. Tolley, who had studied organ with Walter Peck Stanley of New York; taught organ and voice at Hartwick College’ and was church organist at the Boulevard Methodist Church of Binghamton, New York, for eight years before her marriage.  This accomplished woman also had a music studio and coached vocal pupils for Franklin Forge, New York.

                Through the years, many beautiful gifts have been given to the Thornhurst Methodist church.  If there was only a list of the hours of service and the names of members and friends in the community who have worked to make this church one of the loveliest.

                The following are some of the gifts —

  • Eight stained glass windows
    • Rev. H. C. Roof & Family
    • E. Trump & Family
    • K. & Anna M. Trump
    • Edward J. & Laura F. Drum
    • Presented by the Sunday School
    • & Mrs. Charles Hessler
    • Presented by the Ladies Aid
    • Presented by the community
  • The lovely Cathedral lights given by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fine, Wilkes-Barre (they owned the Brave Man Shirt Factory in Wilkes-Barre and made quality heavy duty work and hunting shirts. When they came to Thornhurst they stayed at Karls  Rhue where they had and maintained a cottage until Art Hitson, along with four other people bought Karls Rhue to make El Pocono Dude Ranch).
  • The lighted Cross, made by Mr. Ronald Landmesser and given in memory of both Mr. and Mrs. Landmesser’s families
  • The white Altar Cloth and the Piano Cloth made by Mr. Landmesser and given in memory of her daughter Evelyn Emma Drum
  • The two pictures on either side of the cross are in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton Heller and were given by their daughter Mrs. Edward James.
  • The picture on the side wall was the gift of Rev. Eldridge Brewster while pastor of the church
  • The three step Brass Cross and matching candlestick were gifts of friends.
  • The seven branch candelabras were given by the late Mrs. Redmond Melvin.
  • Pulpit Bible (S.R.V.) was given by Mrs. Charles McCarty and the Dietrick Family in memory of their parents
  • Large offering plates were given by friends of the late Miss Drucilla Berriman.
  • The Baptismal Bowl is in memory of Mr. Fred J. Mack and was given by his daughter Mrs. Jane M. Carey.
  • The maroon altar set was the gift of Mrs. C. Gerald Blake
  • The piano seat with its needle point cover was made and presented by Mrs. Pearl Berner.
  • The large Coat and Hat Rack was made by George Bonsal, Jr.
  • The new Wurlitzer Organ was made possible by the gifts of members and friends, of Mrs. Rosaltha Hessler, Chairman.
  • Organ cover, gift of Mrs. A. Hitson
  • The Kindergarten table and chairs were bought by donations from The Women’s Society of Christian Service, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ahlborn, Mr. and Mrs. Charles McCarty, Mrs. Pearl Berner, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Cole, Mr. and Mrs. Scott Mills, in memory of Marion Mills, Dr. Russel J. Hawke, and other friends.
  • The Kitchen equipment, stoves, water heater and refrigerators were gifts of Mr. Donald Mills, Mr. Scott Mills and ‘a friend’.
  • The Sanctuary carpeting was secured through the W.S.C.S., Mrs. Rosaltha Hessler and the late Miss Drucilla Berriman.
  • The Outdoor Bulletin Board was made and presented by Mr. Scott Mills
  • The kitchen linoleum was donated by Louis and Loretta Anthes in May 1989.
  • The new Methodist Church sign was donated from the Church in memory of William H. Smith, he was a trustee for many years.
  • A Candle lighter was donated by Ann and David McFadden in memory of Elmer and Florence Moore.
  • The shrubbery in front of the Church was donated by Bud and Meriabeth Moore in memory of Bud’s mother and father.

 

From 1980 to the present time many new items have been added to the Church, new pew cushions, a new organ to the tune of $11,000 or $12,000, renovations of the basement, plus an outside ramp in front of the church.  “Old timers” would be pleased at the changes made, as is the present congregation.

 

Taken from the book entitled, Thornhurst …  (to be edited properly at a later date)  pages 263-267