History of the Dewey Avenue church of Christ 1906-Present
First Efforts in Pleasants County
About the middle of the nineteenth century, pioneer preachers of the Restoration movement began their efforts in Pleasants County. Among those who first preached the gospel and established the church of Christ in this county were: Daniel Sweeney, Evangelist Lauck, Frank Strickland, William Strickland, David Parks (sic-“Park”), Adam Archibald, and G. W. Varner. These men were true and faithful. They received little or no remuneration for their preaching but they labored for an imperishable crown, and being dead they yet speak.
As a result of the faithful and zealous toil of the above named pioneer preachers who blazed the gospel trail in Pleasants County, many of the congregations were established. The first Church of Christ in this county was established at Pine Grove, near Hebron, about the year 1856. Later congregations were established at Mount Nebo and Bethel, near Raven Rock; at Mount Zion on Rock Run:, near Adlai P. O.; at Cloverdale; at Union Chapel, near Meadville; Naish Spring, on Horseneck creek; at Schultz; at Greens Run; and Mount Olivet, near Federal. Many of these congregations are still in existence. Among those that remain is the Pine Grove congregation, the first established in the county.
First Efforts in St. Marys
The first effort of which we have knowledge, to establish a congregation of the church of Christ in St. Marys, was made in 1902. Brother F. F. Morgan, who came from the Pine Grove Congregation and S. M. Bumgardner, who came from the Rock Run congregation, with other brethren whose names are not known, called N. W. Cramblett, of Harrison County, Ohio to hold a series of meetings in the Baptist church house. Brother Cramblett was a preacher of great power and lead thousands to Christ during his long ministry. No one obeyed the gospel during this meeting and no attempt was made at organization.
First Congregation Established in St. Marys
During the year 1906 certain brethren began meeting for worship in the old M. E. church house that was moved from the foundation on which the St. Marys Methodist church now stands.1 An announcement in the Pleasants County Leader states that “The Christian denomination will hold services in the M. E, Church on Sunday Sept. 2. 2 The services will be conducted by George W. Varner”. The old M. E. church was moved to George Street (and now serves as the George Street Church of Christ). Among this number was Marcus Bayless who wrote Brother C. D. Moore and requested him to come to St. Marys for a meeting. Brother Moore could not come and referred the call to J. W. Bush of Fairmont, who came and held a meeting which resulted in four additions to the small band of worshipers. Brother Lauck held a short meeting soon after the one held by Brother Bush and five more persons were added to the little band.
The disciples worshipping in St. Marys now number thirty-one and these constituted the charter membership of this congregation. Their names follow: John Riggs, Laura Riggs, C. T. McCullough, Allie McCullough, R. L. Shuman, Orpha Gatrell, W. H. Masters, Marcus Bayless, Mary Bayless, Mary McCullough, Flossie McCullough, Rosa McCharten, Ida M. Cooran, W. A. Wilson, Amanda Wilson, Ida Dillon (Sheets), Ella Lamp, Minerva Lucas, Arah Lucas, Mrs. L. Hanlon, Mrs. L. E. Smith, Ella Reed, Jerry Wise, Mrs. Rachel D. Bonar, Eddie McKnight, William Barnhart, Anna Bayless, H. L. Lamp, Emma Hodge, M. M. Sauer, and H. L. Riggle.3
Rachel Delong Bonar was the last surviving charter member of the Dewey Avenue Church of Christ. She was a Bible school teacher here for 34 years. She died in 1972 at the age of 98 years 4 months.
J. W. Bush appointed the first officers of the new congregation. Marcus Bayless and C. T. McCullough were selected elders; later W. E. Clovis and T. J. McFarland were appointed elders. W. A. Wilson and W. H. Masters were appointed deacons. Thus the first Church of Christ organized in St. Marys. The nucleus of the membership of the Dewey Avenue congregation came from the faithful members of the churches that were established at an earlier date in Pleasants County. Many came from these congregations located in the interior of the county and took up their residence in St. Marys, the county seat of Pleasants County..
During the years 1907 and 1908 Evangelist C. E. Fogle and J. H. Pennell protracted meetings for the congregation and the membership increased to 60. In the year 1907 the congregation rented the U. B. church located at the corner of Locust and Dewey Avenue. The church continued in the former U. B. church building until 1909.
First Efforts to Build a Church House in St. Marys
On January 1, 1907 a meeting of the members was called for the purpose of discussing plans for the purchase of a lot and erection of a church building in which to worship. Brother C. T. McCullough called the meeting to order and was afterwards selected permanent chairman. Brother H. L. Riggle was selected treasure. A building committee was appointed consisting of W. A. Wilson, C. T. McCullough, Marcus Bayless, W. I. Meyers, W. E. Clovis, John Riggs, William H. Masters and Joseph Masters.
A Lot on Third Street, known as the Aaron Bills lot and which jointed the John White property, was purchased for the sum of $350.00 and 13,000 feet of lumber was ordered from Locke Brothers, on McKim Creek.
Before a building was begun on this lot, the building committee offered the U. B. Conference $2400 for their building in which the church of Christ had been worshipping. This offer was rejected and the United Brethren meeting house was sold later to the Catholic Church and is now owned by the Calvary Bible Church.
In 1909 the Aaron Bills lot was sold for $350.00 and the lot on the corner of Sycamore Street and Dewey Avenue was purchased from the Gallagher Estate for the sum of $300.00. The lumber was moved to this lot and the building was erected during the summer of 1909.
“ A financial statement signed by M. Boyles and C. T. McCullough, elders of St. Marys (W. Va.) congregation, shows a total indebtedness incurred in erecting the new house of $3, 279.53, with subscriptions paid to the amount of $934.50 leaving a balance of $2,245.04 unprovided for. Doubtless much of this will be lifted by visiting brethren when the house is opened on the 24th.”4
The new church was opened for worship on October 24, 1909. Brother Charles E. Fogle and J. M. McCaleb, one of our Missionaries to Japan, conducted the services on that occasion. Later the property was improved by the addition of a large and beautiful home for the preacher.
J. M. McCaleb wrote in the November 30, 1909 issue of “Christian Leader and the Way” the following:
St. Marys, W.Va. Â– According to promise, I was with the church here over the fourth Lord’s Day. It was given out that there was going to be a church dedication. All we did was to open the house for public services. I hope, however, the brethren will consider the house dedicated enough to keep it decent and clean and will leave tobacco and all other such filth on the outside, so that the floor will not become, as in some places, too foul to kneel on. The house was filled three times on Sunday, and the meetings were continued by the writer ‘til Wednesday night. Brother Fogle remains to continue the meeting indefinitely. This was my first visit to West Virginia, and I must say I was very favorably impressed with the kindness and hospitality of the people. The little church at St. Marys is full of zeal and energy, and if they continue as they have begun, bright are their future and a great work will be done by them. They have started right, and are determined to preach Christ where he has not been named, both at home and aboard.
St. Marys has a flourishing school of about four hundred students. It was my privilege to speak to the school on Japan and the Japanese, and especially along educational lines. I had a very appreciative audience, for I spoke to them room by room. The superintendent showed me every courtesy, and gave me a pressing invitation to come and lecture to the school again.”5
Again in the November, 1909 issue of the “Christian Leader and the Way” Charles E. Fogle writes the following:
St. Marys, W. Va. Nov. 16Â—“The meeting here, following the “dedication” of the new house, closed the evening of the 14th. With seventeen additions in all, nine by primary obedience, and the others by former obedience. This was a good meeting in many ways, and much prejudice was removed. The attendance was fine, and the attention all that could be desired, and many who had never before heard the pure Gospel were almost persuaded to accept the truth.
These brethren need a good house-to-house worker here, and if some preaching brother will locate here they will support him a part of his time. And now, if the brethren at large will help the faithful here to carry a part of their financial load, they will soon be in shape to make sin and sectarianism tremble here. Send to C. T. McCullough, St. Marys, W. Va. From here I go to Bert (sic Â– “Burt”), W. Va. (Wick P.O.), for a short meeting. Heaven bless us all.
Ben’s River (sic Â– “Ben’s Run”), W. Va., November 20 — After closing the meeting at St. Marys, I preached two nights for the brethren at New Bethel, I then came here (Mount Nebo) and spoke Thursday night and last night. I appointed an elder and a deacon last night, had one restoration and six conversions. We go to “the beautiful” Ohio this morning to baptize, after which I board the train, in order that I may reach my appointment with brethren at Bert (sic) (Wick PO), W.Va.” 6
The Church Continues To Grow
Brother Fogle conducted a meeting, following the dedication of the new house of worship and 14 members were added to the membership of the church. Preachers C. E. Fogle, A. A. Bunner, G. W. Varner, and A. E. Harper labored with the congregation during the years 1910-1911 and the membership increased to approximately l00. 7
G. W Varner (1839-1921) “began preaching at age 45. Most of his preaching was done in his native West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Varner supported himself by working manual labor jobs during the day and preaching the gospel at night. Though this method he was able to “build up the cause in destitute places.” 8
Brother Varner was self taught in the Scriptures. He would spend his resting moments from manual labors to read and study his Bible. “ Years ago when he was physically well and strong he would haul saw logs all day, often in the rain and slush, and go home at night, sit in front of the fire, and while his clothes were drying, he would be studying the Word of God. Often his sturdy hand held the plow handle all day. When he would stop to rest his team, he would be reading his Bible while the team rested.” His knowledge of the Bible was thorough that seldom was a concordance needed when he was present at the assemblies of the church. 9
Brother Varner filled in at St. Marys for T. Q. Martin when Martin was away at meetings.
During a protracted meeting held by A. E. Harper in June 1911, the final indebtedness of the church building was paid in full. The amount raised and paid at that time was about $1000. Thus the church owned a property free from debt.
Brother A. E. Harper moved to St. Marys in April 1912 and began to labor regularly with the congregation. In the spring, he conducted a meeting and 32 members were added. He continued to labor with the congregation until the autumn of 1913. Within this period Evangelist Stephen Settle and L. S. White conducted meetings and 25 more members were added. During the ministry of Brother Harper approximately 100 members were added.
In the early part of 1914, Brother Charles E. Fogle moved to St. Marys and began to preach regularly for the church. He remained with the congregation in St. Marys until the autumn of 1917, during which time approximately 150 members were added to the church.
In the late autumn of 1917, Brother T. Q. Martin began to labor with the congregation and worked with the church until November 1929. During his 12 years with the church approximately 200 members were added. Along with Brother Martin, meetings were conducted by E. A. Elam, F. B. Srygley, F. W. Smith, T. S. Hutson, H. H. Adamson, A. J. Bachman, and C. D. Plum.
Brother Martin was loved by the church in St. Marys and by hundreds who were not members of the church of Christ. He endeared himself to the entire town and deep regret was felt when he decided to leave St. Marys. The church property was improved by the erection of the preacher’s house during Brother Martin’s ministry
On August 1, 1930, Brother A. E. Harper returned to S. Marys to preach one-half time for the congregation. In September he held a meeting which added 32 persons to the congregation. In all, about 40 members were added to the church in six months.
The Smith Male Quartet
“Many members of the St. Marys congregation expressed their desire on several occasions that a male quartet should be organized to sing at at funerals and on special occasions. After some consideration of the matter, Bro. Arthur Smith suggested to brethren Roy Bayless, Ray Dotson, and Clarence Ruckman that they meet and begin to practice some quartet music. On March 15, 1928 they meet at the home of Bro. Clarence Ruckman and practiced some sacred songs. They decided to continue their practice and met from time to time at the homes on the members of the quartet.”
“They sang for the first time in public on April 26, 1928. After their first public appearance they sang at funerals and at memorial services.. On June 24 1930 they assisted the Watson String Band in a musical program broadcast though radio station WMMN from Fairmont, WV, this being first broadcasted program. Following the program, the quartet was invited to broadcast an hour’s program of songs though station WMMN. This program was broadcasted on August 15, with Evangelist A. E. Harper announcing. They sang the song “The Valley of the Shadow” for the first time over the radio on that date.
“On September 7, 1930, the Smith Male Quartet assisted Evangelist A. E. Harper in broadcasting the first complete religious broadcast by the church of Christ in West Virginia. Again on October 26, they furnished the sacred songs for another religious program broadcast though station WMMN, at which time Brother Harper again preached. The same day the quartet and Brother Harper furnished a program for the Boy’s Industrial School at Pruntytown, WV. On February 1, 1931 they sang for another religious program broadcast from Fairmont, at which time Evangelist Foy E. Wallace, Jr., of Nashville, Tenn., delivered the sermon.”
The quartet has furnished several programs for the Kiwanis Clubs, Power Clubs and other organizations. They have received many letter of appreciation from those who heard them sing through station WMMN and have received many calls for engagements which they cannot fulfill.”
“These brethren who compos this quarter have furnished the musical part of Bro. Harper’s lecture programs at Pennsboro, Cairo, Harrisville, and Smithburg.”
On January 1, 193l, it was announced at the prayer meeting service that sufficient money had been subscribed by the members of the congregation to cancel all of the indebtedness of the church. This was an occasion of great rejoicing for it meant that the unpaid balance of the debt from erecting the house was to be liquidated and the beautiful church property was free from debt.11 In 1938, six additional classrooms were added to the church building.
Brother Charley Taylor worked with the congregation from 1932 till 1934. Brother E. G. Rockcliff came from Detroit in August 1934, and labored with the Dewey Avenue Church until 1954 when he went to the Newport, Ohio Church.
In 1949 Dewey Avenue Church of Christ published its first bulletin on September 1, 1949. A complete collection can be found in the library (except 1977and 1978).
George Hickey preached at Dewey Avenue for a short time from 1954 to 1956. Jesse Clayton came to St. Marys directly from college and worked until 1962. Denver Cooper began work with the local congregation in June 1962 and continued until March 1966.
A building fund was started in 1952 for the building of a new church structure on the opposite corner of the original church building, and at a later date the following building committee was appointed: A. E. Wilson, A. R. Wilson, G. A. Clovis, and C. P. Ingram. The new building was started in 1958 and completed in 1959. 12
Ground-breaking Ceremony, 1958 – Dewey Avenue Church of Christ, St. Marys, WV (Submitted by Rebecca Ruckman Boggs.)
Pictured, L-R: George Clovis, Evangelist Jesse Clayton, Byron Varner, G. A. “Tune” Smith, A. C. “Buck” Buchannon, Elmer Wilson, Asa “Ace” Wilson, Ross Williamson. (Old building in background.)
The first service was conducted on March 22, 1959 with Brother John T. Smithson, Jr. as the speaker. The total indebtedness was paid in full and a note burning ceremony was held on May 14, 1967 along with a gospel meeting held by John Smithson, Jr. The old building was removed in October 1967 and replaced with a parking lot. The old garage was torn down and replaced with a two stall garage with a full room overhead that served as a fellowship room and meeting room.
Earl Stevens began working with the congregation June 19, 1966 and continued until the fall of 1977.
The Twenty-second Ohio Valley Lectureships were held at Dewey Avenue Church August 7-11, 1967 with the theme “Many Infallible Proofs” Acts 1:3.
William J. Renner began his work with the local congregation in the fall of 1977 and continued until 1988. Brother Renner went to the Alkire Road congregation in Grove City, Ohio church upon leaving St. Marys. The new fellowship room was added to north wing in 1987.
Emanuel Daugherty came from Alkire Road congregation in Grove City, Ohio to serve as minister from 1988 thru 1994. Brother Daugherty left Dewey Avenue to serve as the Director of the West Virginia School of Preaching in Moundsville, West Virginia.
Dan Kessinger came from New Martinsville to begin as minister in February, 1994 and has served till the present.
Ben Jones was hired as part time youth minister in December 2005, and left in December 2007 to take the work for the new University church of Christ in Morgantown, WV.
Joey Barrett was hired in February 2008 to serve as youth minster while he was still a student at the West Virginia School of Preaching. Joey left in the fall of 2009 to continue his studies at Freed Hardman University.
Andy Jones was hired as a part time youth minster in the fall of 2010. Andy is a student at Ohio Valley University with a goal of being a preacher in the future.
The sixty-first Annual Ohio Valley Lectureships were held at Dewey Avenue Church August 13 thru August 17, 2006, with the theme “A Firm Foundation in Changing Times” Keynote speakers were Neal Pollard of the Bear Creek Valley Congregation in Denver Co. and Jim Dearman of the Gospel Broadcast Network in Chattanooga, TN.
The sixty-fifth Annual Ohio Valley Lectureship was held at The Dewey Avenue Church August 15th thru August 19 2010 with Mack Lyons as the keynote speaker.
Dale Parsley began as minister at Dewey Avenue in June of 2014 and continues to serve the Church today. Carlos Molina was hired in late Summer of 2022 as the Youth Minister for Dewey Avenue and continues to serve today.
PREACHERS OF DEWEY AVENUE
|Charles E. Fogle
|A. A. Bunner
|A. E. Harper
|G. W. Varner
|Charles F. Fogle
|T. Q. Martin
|E. G. Rockliff
|Grove City, OH
|Grove City, OH
|WV School of Preaching
|Mount Alto church of Christ
|University church of Christ
|WV School of Preaching
|Student- Ohio Valley University
|36th St. Vienna;
Crittenden Drive, Kentucky
WV School of Preaching
ELDERS AND DEACONS
|W. A. Wilson
|C. T. McCullough
|W. H. Masters
|W. E. Clovis
|T. J. McFarland
|G. A. Smith
|A. M. Smith
|C. R. Williams
|R. L. Dotson
|C. A. Ruckman
|G. B. Varner
|C. R. McCullough
|G. A. Clovis
|C. P. Ingram
|L. N. Proper
|L. E. Watson
|A. R. Wilson
|G. A. Clovis
|R. W. Ingram
|A. C. Buchanan
|G. B. Varner
|Robert Noland Sr.
|Paul H. Eddy
|O. S. Robinson
|B. J. Smith
|Robert Noland Sr.
|Richard Lee Davis
During the 100+ years, many have been brought to Christ. Many have been married here and others have been laid to rest from this church. Through the goodness of God it has been possible for this congregation to help missionaries in many lands throughout the world as well as helping to establish the Church in many places throughout the United States.
1 Harper, A. E. “History of the Congregation 1906-1931” 1931 Church Directory
2 Pleasants County Leader August 31, 1906 page 1
3Op Cit Harper
4 “Christian Leader and the Way, 10/19/1909
5 ”Christian Leader and the Way. 11/1909
7 Op Cit Harper
8 Martin, T. Q. “Grandpa “Christian Leader July 5, 1921
11 Op Cit Harper
12 Program from the Opening date of the New Building”, March 22, 1959 Dewey Avenue Church of Christ Library
Pictures from Pleasants County Historical Page