A Brief History of LUMC

A Brief Church History

The plan to erect a building for worship in the manner of Methodists was conceived in Landenberg, or Chandlerville as it was then known, by one Peter Hart, who was a manager of the Chandlerville Mills owned by Joseph Ripka, and a few other loyal people.

Consequently, sixty-three years after the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in America, this small group of people met in Peter Hart's home in 1847 and planned construction of a new building. They were members by then of the "Chandlerville Methodist Episcopal Church," and raised $112.75 toward the expected cost of the building, $800.00.

A small lot was donated by Mr. and Mrs. John Ripka that faced the present Penn Green Road, and was downstream of the dam which supplied power to the existing mills. It was behind the aforementioned weave mill.

Stone was quarried by hand as Hart and his followers went nightly following their workday to a farm on Good Hope Road owned by Kennedy Crossan. Moonlight brightened their work place. It was a big undertaking to haul this stone from the site via horse-drawn carts to the building lot. Construction, itself, was probably under the supervision of Nathan McCormick who was a stonemason by trade.

The building, of raw, unplastered, fieldstone had no steeple and resembled a small stone farmhouse. It was heated with a pot-bellied stove, and lit with oil lamps.

Membership fluctuated, probably with the rise and decline of prosperity in the mills. It appears, however, that a certain few people maintained steady ties and maintained the Church through these various periods. That it was a social center is obvious from newspaper accounts of various activities that took place within its walls.

In 1871, on April 23, the first recorded Sunday School information was written and begins with "it's a clear, cool morning; quite a number present both members of this school and visitors. We had some very good singing in which all seemed to join with spirit." There was quite an interest and a hope for continued increase in Sunday School attendance which averaged 64 people that year, with a total offering average of 22¢ per Sunday.

In 1879, because of the many people who were being converted at the revival services, it was deemed necessary to enlarge the Church, and work was set to begin in the Spring.

Nine years later, the congregation considered a proposition to sell the Church and build elsewhere, but this was rejected. It was resolved, instead, to fix up the old structure with new and large windows, new pews, new paint, a remodeled pulpit and a new carpet. Repairs were estimated at $600.00, but in the way of construction work, came closer to $3,000.00, including a new steeple. It was decided to add a bell to the new steeple. The bell was given by the Ladies Aid Society and others and cost $200.00. The fact was well-noted by the local press and many people were on hand to see it delivered -- probably by train since the Wilmington and Western Railroad and its successors had been operating for sixteen years to Landenberg (by now renamed for Martin Landenberger).

By 1909, one hundred boys and girls were working in the new mills, and several families moved to Landenberg to increase the work force. Three or four years later, however, in 1912 or 1913, the mills closed and both the Village and the Church experienced a sad day. The parsonage was in need of extensive repairs and still had a mortgage of $400.00, and people were discouraged. The Reverend Willis A. Lewis arrived in March, 1914 and took hold of the work with a vim and a determination to save the situation, and did just that.

With the threat of World War I, a rebirth was experienced within the Church. Extensive repairs were completed, and paid for, on the parsonage.

This major increase in membership saw a rise from 68 members to 135, with 73 baptisms administered in one year including 37 adults, 22 children and 14 infants.

Attendance, again, dropped, along with morale. From 1919 to 1927, there are a total of eight Pastors listed, and by 1929 the Church was, again, in poor physical condition, too. The Reverend Edward W. White, who arrived in April, went to work "with a will and the cooperation of the members" and led a

project to have repairs made. The Church was painted inside and out, hardwood floors were laid, new pulpit carpet installed, new choir chairs purchased and new electric light fixtures installed, at a total cost of $1,000.00 which was raised at the reopening services on the 82nd Anniversary, held October 20, 1929.

In 1952, it was reported the spiritual life had increased and deepened in the congregation, and plans were made to build an addition that would furnish sorely needed additional Sunday School space. A building committee was appointed, with Elwood Crossan as Chairman, and ground broken. Over 700 concrete blocks were sold at $10.00 each to raise $7,000.00 for materials and supplies. Volunteer workers spent nine months of their spare time completing the new Annex, only to have a fire destroy the Church and put a stop to their work.

It was decided to complete the Annex as soon as possible and this was done by Kennedy Crossan and Sons, a grandson of the Kennedy Crossan from whose farm the stone had been hauled for the first Church building. Until the Annex was completed, worship services and Sunday School were conducted in the Community Hall located just across the road.

"After much discussion a Congregational vote was taken on Sunday, February 21, 1954 for the building of a new modern Sanctuary.

A donation of $8,000.00 to the Annex and Church was made by the Philadelphia Conference Board of Missions and Church Extension and over $10,000.00 was contributed by many generous friends, members and organizations.

Upon completion, a new Wurlitzer Electric Organ was added, and the Reverend Mr. Smith quoted the value of the property at more than $40,000 with a debt at "the West Grove Bank of $9,500.00. The mortgage was paid off in 1963.

The emphasis placed on education was to be found within the Church School, also. No longer was it considered adequate to have classes grouped together without division by age and ability, or within earshot of one another. This fact, combined with the sale of the parsonage in 1964 created a need for additional classrooms and a Study where records and equipment could be stored since the Pastor at that time did not live in Landenberg. The newest addition was dedicated by District Superintendent Dr. John D. Herr on April 5, 1965.

 

Every year has brought problems and pleasures to this Church -- called by some the CHURCH BY THE SIDE OF THE STREAM and by others, THE LITTLE CHURCH IN THE VALLEY. Names are immaterial, but one thing is evident from all who read or heard of it. The families who started this Church did so through strong convictions regarding the place of Methodism in the religious life of their Country. The people who maintained it, one family after another through the years, have not always followed the original plan, but despite this, gave each and every time a part of themselves for whatever reasons. This Church was kept open under what must have been real hardship at times, and it would be impossible to capture on paper the determined spirit found, but that spirit has been an inspiration. It didn't exist each and every year, to be sure, but was renewed, and renewed again. Surely, we are aware that now, more than ever, such renewal must continually occur with a return to the basic principles of Christianity as set forth for us by Jesus Christ, himself.

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