Mount Carmel Methodist Church
Near Berry’s Ferry (Clarke County), Virginia
Built (circa) 1760
Mt. Carmel Details
From: Baltimore Southern Methodists
Loudoun Circuit-Paris and Mt. Carmel
In this third article of historical sketches on the old Loudoun Circuit, I desire to call attention to our appointments at Paris and Mt. Carmel. Their history has so many points in common that they appropriately form the heading of this article. Paris is a beautiful village, nestling at the foot of the Blue Ridge, at Ashby’s Gap, and four miles from Upperville. From an interesting article which appeared in the Warrenton Virginian by Mr. B.C. Chappeliar I learn that this village was founded by Peter Glascock, who named it Paris as a token of esteem for Marquis De La Fayette. When the latter was on his visit to this country in 1824 he met with Glascock, who told him about the little mountain village, and why it bore the name of the great French metropolis. Upon receiving this information the old general replied: “My dear sir, in order to hold you in memory I shall upon my return home have a street in the town of La Grange named Glascock.” The streets of Paris were laid out with care, and certain lots were donated by Glascock to those who would build upon them. The choice lot in the village was offered to La Fayette, but he declined to accept it.
Methodists were found here at an early day, but for many years they were without a house of worship. They first worshipped in a school house, and afterwards in a Union Church. The nearest Methodist Church was at Mt. Carmel, in the Blue Ridge, two and a half miles distant, and some of the Methodists at Paris worshipped regularly there. The church at Mt. Carmel was erected soon after the Revolutionary War, and is probably the oldest Methodist Church now standing west of the Blue Ridge. Mr. Chappeliar says that Rev. Thomas Kennedy preached at Mt. Carmel as early as 1834. This information was given by the preacher’s son, William C. Kennedy, of White Post. But the facts of the earlier History are not at hand. That the church had an earlier history, however, seems evident. The land upon which the church was built was donated by Lord Fairfax, who held several large tracts in this section. Here he gave ten acres for church purposes. He was influenced to this noble deed by Mrs. Polly Ann Green, who lived at the time in the immediate vicinity of Mt. Carmel, and immediately on the Winchester and Alexandria turnpike. Mrs. Green was more active than any other person in the church enterprise, and was considered the founder of the church at Mt. Carmel. Prior to the building of the church preaching services were conducted at the home of Mrs. Green. She was a woman of great zeal and piety. It is said she assigned herself such religious tasks and prosecuted her religious work with such zeal as to cause her contemporaries to doubt her sanity. She would go to the homes of her neighbors and hold prayers, whether invited to do so or not.
“Greenway Court,” the home of Lord Fairfax, was in the valley about six miles from Mt. Carmel. It is a matter of considerable pride to the citizens of the community that this great personage built his final residence here and called it by the above name. On one occasion, Mrs. Green went to Greenway Court and told Lord Fairfax that she dreamed she had been in Hades and had met with his Lordship there. He was, doubtless, deeply impressed with the sincerity of her manner, and, upon her request being granted, she prayed for Lord Fairfax then and there. Tradition says she nursed him through a severe spell of illness and that the tract of land donated for Mt. Carmel Church was an expression of his gratitude for this kindness. It was also said that Mrs. Green nursed him in his last illness. Lord Fairfax died in December of 1781. Of course the donation mentioned must have been at an earlier date, and for this reason I conclude that the church was built very soon after the Revolutionary War, and is at least 125 years old.
This section was settled by people of English Extraction, who came from tidewater Virginia and formed the first English settlement in the Shenandoah Valley. The rest of the valley was peopled by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German Lutherans. It seems altogether fitting that the first Methodist Church in the valley should be built bin a section peopled by those whose ancestors came from a country which John Wesley was a native and a citizen. It seems highly probable, therefore, that these traditions are correct, and that Wesleyan Methodists first crossed the Blue Ridge at Ashby’s Gap and planted its standard at Mt. Carmel. As there was no other Methodist Church for many miles in any direction, Mt. Carmel became a center of Methodist enthusiasm. Large gatherings and great revivals marked many a year in its earlier history. Many souls long since gone “to that land that is fairer than day” can point to this old church as their spiritual birthplace.. Many more are scattered abroad in the land of the living who can look to Mt. Carmel and sing:
“O sacred hour! O hallowed spot,
But not withstanding the brilliant history of Mt. Carmel’s early days, when other churches appeared in the various villages and neighboring communities Mt. Carmel lost much of its former attraction, and did not draw the people from such a wide circle, though religious interest was still kept up by those living in the immediate community. But in recent years many changes have occurred. Many families prominent in church work have gone to other parts. Some have died. Some have gone to the cities seeking more lucrative employment than toiling amid the rocks and hills of the Blue Ridge. Some, again, have moved their membership to the towns and villages nearby, while others have been drawn aside by the ever-present “evangelist.” The membership at Mt. Carmel, therefore, has been greatly reduced though the work has not been totally abandoned. The fifth Sunday of the month is much enjoyed there by the pastor of Loudoun Circuit. But while the church in the rural sections seems to have lost much in modern times by the multiplication of other churches in all the towns and villages, there has generally been an improvement at the latter points, where the conditions are more favorable.
So in Paris we still have a substantial following. The M.E. Church, South is the only church for white people in this town. We have it all our way. But so far as afr as I can learn, it was not until 1869 that the Methodists in Paris took decided steps toward the erection of a church of their own. In December of that year a lot was deeded to the M.E. Church, South by William W. Rogers. The church was erected the following year, and a large number were gathered together from the surrounding community as charter members of the new church. The Methodists were greatly encouraged and the church prospered from year to year. At this time J.M. Rice was the class leader, Rev. David Shoaff was the preacher in charge and Revs. A.R. Martin and John Wolff were assistants. Dr. Alpheus W. Wilson was presiding elder, and even at this early date was ranked among the great preachers of the Baltimore Conference, and we remember “there were giants in those days.”
At that time Loudoun Circuit embraced a very considerable territory and twelve appointments. Brother Shoaff seemed to think that even three preachers could not do justice to such a great work. Some of the old people here speak of Brother Shoaff as an untiring pastor, a successful evangelist and a fine organizer. At the close of his term on this charge, March, 1871, he made the following entry as a footnote in the Church Register: “I have struck off more than 130 names in my two years, and yet the work is not completer; but my successor will have much less to do, and if additions are made to his numbers the fact will so appear. Though I have received more than one hundred into church fellowship, I shall hardly report as many as were reported two years ago. I have visited about 250 families, and yet there are some I have not been able to see. May this year end this six weeks’ plan, and may the wise men never allow another to be adopted, for no man can do justice to himself or the work.
For some years the parsonage was at Paris, though this was an extreme end of the work. From thence it was moved to Middleburg, where it was more central. But in 1876, during the pastorate of Dr. C.E. Carson, the parsonage was sold, and by an order of the Annual Conference the proceeds were applied to the purchase of a new parsonage located in the town of Upperville. Dr. Carson, therefore, was the first Baltimore Conference preacher to occupy the parsonage, where the writer of this article now makes his home.
Among those who have served as preachers in charge of the Loudoun Circuit since the days of Brother Shoaff I notice the names of others who have joined him in the Church triumphant: Baird, Hough, Kennedy, Ferguson, Carson, Crenshaw, Waugh and Dice; and as presiding elders, think of Martin, Head, Regester, Rogers, and Smithson. What precious memories cluster around these names! The mere mention of them is “ointment poured forth.” What a company is gathering on the other shore! I cannot but think what a meeting that will be when we all get home!
“Up to the bountiful Giver of life—
The old church in Paris served its purpose for well over twenty six years. But there was a growing demand for a more commodious church edifice, with vestibule, Sunday School Room, etc. So in 1893 the old church was torn down and the cornerstone of the new church was laid. Rev. J. Lester Shipley, the preacher in charge, took a lively interest in the new enterprise, to which he contributed liberally of his means. After some delay the church was completed in 1895. Rev. G.T. Tyler was the preacher in charge, assisted by Rev. L.H. Crenshaw. Rev. J.T. Williams preached the dedicatory sermon and about $1000 was raided or provided for on that day. In Brother Tyler’s report, February 1895, he speaks of the church being not yet finished, but when completed would cost about $3000. The treasurer of the building committee assures me that the figures foot up nearly $3600. But with its beautiful basement and tower, its exquisite vestibule in the left entrance and circular pews, its costly reflector and stained glass windows, it has the appearance of a church much more expensive. It is also a most convenient church. It has an entrance door on either side, a vestibule in the left entrance and a recess pulpit. The beautiful lot, with double iron gates and fence in front, makes an inviting appearance. Our church at Paris is certainly one of the neatest and most attractive of my acquaintance.
I am not sure of who first sprung the question of a new church, but without making individual distinction, I feel free to mention the names of Douglas Gibson, an extensive farmer and large cattle dealer, Lewis Strother, an old merchant and also a prosperous farmer, and William Kendall one of our oldest and noblest members, as essential factors in this successful and worthy enterprise. Both by their large liberality and wise counsel they encouraged the work and carried it to completion, though the cost went far beyond this first estimate. It is to be greatly regretted that the two first named gentlemen still remain out of the church. But they are blessed with Christian wives, whose names are read by all their friends and pastors in that beautiful list headed, “the salt of the earth.” What noble women we have at Paris! Fr. Hannon would say “Amen!”. So say many of --------- especially Dr. Gardner, for it was there in that beautiful “Roger’s home” he halted for rest and refreshment, and while sweetly resting he “gathered for himself a staff by this wayside to support him in his journeys.” No wonder the Doctor has ever since looked upon Paris as “the garden spot of the world,” because the “Gardner” himself plucked his very best fruit from that very spot. Another of our preachers found in this community a bride. I refer to the lamented Rev. J.C. Jones. His first wife was a niece of Mrs. Gardner and daughter of our valued friend Mr. Douglas Gibson. There are some distinguishing characteristics also among the men at Paris, some with interesting historical facts.
A few months ago we buried Lewis Martin, one of our oldest members. He claimed the distinction of having been married by the father of Thomas G. Hayes, ex-mayor of Baltimore. Paris is also the birthplace of Hon. James W. Marshall, one time professor of ancient languages at Dickinson College, consul to Leeds during the Civil War, first assistant postmaster general, and postmaster general under Grant, and member of the international committee that met in Cincinnati in 1880 to organize for the Ecumenical Conference of Methodism, which held its first meeting the following year in London. Brother Marshall still holds his membership at Paris and spends his summers here.. he owns quite a variety of valuable relics, some autographs of General Washington; an invitation from him to his father-in-law, Dr. Stephenson, to dine with him when he was president; a letter from Queen Victoria when he was counsel at Leeds , and also letters from other distinguished personages. A few days ago he showed me an old Persian gold coin, over 1000 years old, presented by Rev. Wesley Prettyman, who once was a missionary of the M.E. Church in Bulgaria. It was said that Mr. Prettyman obtained it from a friend at Constantinople who brought it from Damascus. I did not learn the intrinsic value of the coin.
Brother William Kendall, who has held almost every official position the church can bestow on a layman, still abides with us, though in age and feebleness. He is one of the oldest “landmarks” of Methodism in Paris. Through shadow and sunshine he has followed our cause in all its varied history For many years he was a faithful leader and steward. When the weather is favorable he is still found in the sanctuary on the Lord’s Day. He and his aged companion, at the pleasant home in Paris, are spending their closing years in quiet and peace. They rejoice to have their children and grandchildren around them, or near by, but they live in anticipation of a blissful immortality in that brighter clime beyond the radient sunset.
Here at Paris, we not only have a beautiful church edifice, but we are blessed with a reliable and substantial membership. The Andersons, Fergusons, Gibsons, Greens, Hanes, Kendalls, Pines, Rodgers, Reeds, Settles, Slacks, Stickles, Symons, Strothers, Robeys, Wilsons and others stand by their church and their pastor and constitute one of the choice flocks of earth.