History of First Baptist Church of Weston, WV
There was no Baptist Church in Weston in 1867. In response to an invitation made by members of Baptist churches living in or near Weston, a council of ministers and members met in the Court House at 10:30 a.m. on September 14, 1867 to consider the possibility of organizing a Baptist Church in Weston.
Churches assisting in the organization were: Broad Run, represented by Rev. J. A. J. Lightburn, Murphys Creek by Rev. H. Langford and Mr. James Jarvis who represented the Freemans Creek Church.
At this time a covenant was adopted embracing the Articles of Faith of the Broad Run Association. This church covenant was prepared by C. C. Dennison, William R. Dennison and William A. Depriest. Many Baptist churches have used what is called the Brown covenant as a basis for writing their own covenant. Some churches felt that Brown's covenant did not focus sufficiently on moral issues, other than intoxicating drinks; Baptists at times have made additions to it. The Weston church adopted the covenant in 1867 with the following revisions: to abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating liquors and drinks as a beverage; also, from cards, theaters, and dancing, believing they detract from our spiritual growth.1
On October 28, 1867 C. C. Dennison and William A. Depriest were elected deacons, and W. R. Dennison was elected church clerk.
In February, 1868 Rev. John Woofter conducted a nine-day revival service; four members were added to the church roll, which already contained fifty-four names. At a meeting on February 23, 1868 a call was extended to Rev. John Woofter; he accepted and became the first pastor of the Weston Baptist Church. It was during this time that the church was received into the Broad Run Association. The pastor received an annual salary of $300; the sexton, John Dawson, was paid $12 per year.
Those early years were marked with hardship and struggle. The minister preached in a lodge hail, in the homes of members or in some other church kind enough to loan its building.
A committee was appointed in late 1869 for the purpose of securing a lot and arranging preliminaries for building a Baptist Meeting House. The committee consisted of: F. M. Chalfant, W. A. Depriest, C. C. Dennison, J. W. Strickler and Charles Martin.
In February, 1871 a three-week protracted meeting was held; it was conducted by Rev. Pat Murray and the pastor. Seventeen members were added to the church roll, fourteen by baptism and three by letter. The committee which had been appointed to visit inactive members reported that they had seen three members and that two of them deserved exclusion. During the early days of the church if a member was not behaving as he should his character was investigated, and if he was found guilty he was asked to withdraw his membership. This practice of exclusion was strictly adhered to during these early years.
In spite of numerous obstacles, the church struggled along. When it was no longer possible to use the M. F. Church South, services were held in the Court House. A committee was appointed to remove the property belonging to the Baptists to a place of safety. The organ and lamps were stored in the Jackson Stables.
On August 8, 1874 Rev. J. A. J. Lightburn met with the church and accepted the call as pastor. Rev. Lightburn was a noted General in the Union Army during the Civil War. Rev. Lightburn was employed for half time and paid an annual salary of $30.
After the report of the building committee, in November, 1874, it was agreed that a building be erected on the lot donated by F. M. Chalfant. Apparently the committee was not able to carry through with this agreement, because the next reference to a proposed building is not mentioned until August, 1877; at that time the records state that, because of a lack of funds, the room above the Kitson Shop would be used for services.
In 1877 Rev. Lightburn resigned, and Rev. John S. Fisher was called to the pastorate and served until 1883. (Rev. Fisher was the grandfather of Judge John S. Fisher, who donated the land where Fisher Camp is located. This camp is owned and maintained by the Broad Run Association. Rev. Fisher is buried in a family cemetery off the Dutch Hollow Road on Gee Lick.)
Protracted meetings were held regularly. These meetings aroused a lot of interest and were well attended. During these meetings people enjoyed hearing about the redemptive power of the Gospel and sharing the latest neighborhood news.
The church records are incomplete from 1872 to 1888. During the 1880's, building committees were appointed but no action was taken. There was no regular pastor; however, in October, 1884 the church accepted an offer extended by Rev. Giltner. He offered to preach in the church without pay the first Sunday of each month, when it was convenient for him. On this same date a committee was appointed for the purpose of settling the debt due Rev. J. A. J. Lightburn; the committee reported as follows: We your committee appointed to see and settle with Brother Lightburn report that we find the amount due him is $72, and that Brother Lightburn donated that amount to the church, therefore releasing all claim to the debt.2
In order to create more interest in the church and make a wider appeal to the young people of the community, a Sabbath School was begun in April, 1880. The first officers were: Mr. Burbach, Superintendent, Hamilton Tallman, Assistant, W. E. Kitson, Librarian and J. W. Depriest, Secretary.
After a meeting held in Weston August 23, 1888, the twelve members present, concluded that: because of a lack of interest the best thing to do was to drop the church from the Broad Run Association.3
FINALLY - FIRMLY ROOTED & GROWING
For some unknown reason, in June, 1895 the membership of the Weston Church took on new life. A request was sent to the Broad Run Association asking that the church membership be restored; this was done. In 1897 the association passed the following resolution: This Association has learned with satisfaction of the desire to build up the church at Weston and it suggests that a collection be taken for the church.4 The collection was taken and by this time the Weston Church had finally established firm roots; from this time on the history is one of steady and continual growth.
In the same year, the Weston Church sent a letter to the Broad Run Association stating: By agreement with the Episcipal Church, which agreement was afterwards satisfied by due process of law, the vacant lot held in trust for us was exchanged for the Episcipal Church lot and building thereon. This is a substantial frame building in fairly good repair. By virtue of said agreement we occupy this meeting house one Sunday in each month until the Episcipal Church shall build and have ready for occupancy their new house of worship, which is now in the process of erection and is believed will be completed by the end of the present year. It is devoutly to be wished that the hand of our long-suffering Heavenly Father is leading us in this matter; and we trust that this provision once more of a place in which to worship His name has been of His choosing, and take from us, to some extent at least, the reproach of being unprofitable servants. We invoke your prayers on our behalf and unite with you in a petition to Almighty God to be one in your midst; to counsel and direct you in all your deliberations at your next session.5 This was signed by Thomas Hunter, Church Clerk. Within the year the frame structure was painted and papered. At this time the church paid three-fourths of the pastor's annual salary which was $250, and the State Mission Board paid $120.
At a business meeting in January, 1899 the envelope system was adopted. It was agreed that the Lord's Supper would be served every three months, on the Sunday after the first Saturday. In June of that same year the Ladies Aid Society was organized. Mention is made in the church record July 19, 1902 that Miss Lummie Gibson be paid $1 each Sunday for her services as organist.
In 1903 the church clerk had this to say, regarding the progress of the church, in a letter to the Broad Run Association: During the past year a parsonage had been erected and the condition of the church is steadily improving.6
In the church minutes of June 29, 1904 is an interesting note: The pastor was pleased with the progress of the church and he recommended that for the general good of the church the pastor's salary should be paid promptly each quarter.7
The church responded by undertaking several money-making propositions. In December, 1904 the church sponsored an entertainment at the Opera House. In June 1908 the church accepted the invitation of the Weston Drug Company to take charge of their ice cream department during certain clays of the week; in return the church would receive the profits.
In 1905 another organization, the Baptist Young People's Union (B.Y.P.U.) was added to the church. More recently the name has been changed to the American Baptist Youth (A.B.Y.). Many of the early members of this organization have become present-day church leaders.
In early 1908 the church voted to become self-supporting. Subsequently, a letter was sent to the State Missionary Board and the American Baptist Home Missionary Society informing them of this move.
After six and one-half years of fruitful service, Rev. J. M. Criswell resigned in 1913. In 1914 Rev. E. E. White became pastor of the church. At that time the church had a membership of 140 and the expenditures totaled $2,564.03. One hundred eighty-three were enrolled in Sunday School; the average attendance was 71.
BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE
The proposition of a new church building was first put before the church December 9, 1914. After discussion by several members, on motion of Roy V Chidester, (father of Virginia Dolan Barnett) the church voted unanimously to proceed to the erection of a new and suitable church building on the old site. A letter from the Ladies Aid Society was read at the meeting indicating that the women meant to do their part in the new enterprise. (Virginia stated her Mother did her share by baking numerous angel food cakes.) In January, 1915 the architecture of the new building was explained to the church. The question of building a parsonage was indefinitely postponed.
On June 9, 1915 the corner stone of the new church was laid. Rev. E. J. Woofter, pastor of the Salem Baptist Church, delivered the ceremonial address. A number of timely articles were placed in the corner stone, including current newspapers. During the building of the new church, services were held in the high school building.
The following statement by an older member gives us some idea of the sentimental feeling attached to the old church: This old frame structure was used for many years, and while we realize the need of a new church on account of the crowded conditions of both Sunday School and Church that caused us to be loath to give it up, yet we rejoiced in replacing it with this modern building. Many pleasant memories and many sad ones are connected with the old church; such as the good sermons, happy conversions, baptisms, Sunday School and weddings; then the sad funerals of the loved ones who have gone from us during the passing years.8
Excerpts from newspapers of December, 1915 describe the building of the structure and its construction:
On the first of March contractors began work on the construction of the church. This was the first real church the denomination ever owned in Weston. The building was 50x72 feet and 6 inches, two stories high. Columbus gray-speckled brick, laid in white mortar, was used for building purposes. The roof was of green Spanish tile with copper corners. The architectural design is Gothic, with all windows art glass with landscape design of a most attractive appearance. There was one each of the larger ones including the birth, life and crucifixion of Christ, and the other the parable of the sower, elegantly portrayed by the artist. A splendid pipe organ was built in the church as a gift from the Ladies Aid Society.
Sunday was a great day for the Baptists of this city and county, and in fact the dedication of the beautiful new house of worship, corner of Second and Center, brought to Weston numerous members and friends of the Church from adjoining counties. Though a little rain was drizzling in the morning, 378 members of the Sunday School assembled at the High School Auditorium. From that room they marched in one solid and inspiring body to enter and possess their new church home.
At the morning preaching service Rev. E. J. Woofter was the speaker. Special music for both Sunday services was rendered by the church orchestra and choir. (The choir continues to be a significant part of our church worship, and the congregation appreciates the importance of music in our church's ministry.)
The balance of a sum sufficient to clear the church of the entire indebtedness was raised. On that day eight thousand, nine hundred and some odd dollars was raised. This covered not alone the building proper, but the seats, pipe organ, carpet, paving,
The building was then formally dedicated by Pastor E. F. White, assisted by Dr. Woofter. Then the doors of the church were opened and nine persons presented themselves for membership. The edifice complete and furnished cost in the neighborhood of $25,500.
One newspaper item had this to say: It is a church for any congregation to be proud of. Though it was designed for its utility rather than for beauty still it so appealed to one of the ministers that he remarked that in traveling over a number of states and in preaching in 150 different buildings, he believes the Weston Church to be the prettiest structure he has ever been in.9
In 1921 a parsonage was erected at a cost of $7,383.41. Evidently the parsonage was not used as a home for pastors at that time, because in the minutes of October 8, 1930 mention is made that the Sunday School classes were ordered to vacate the parsonage in order that the pastor might occupy it. In 1953, a house on Court Avenue was purchased for a parsonage to replace the old one adjoining the church. Later the Court Avenue house was sold, and in 1968 a house on Locust Avenue was bought.
The church began sponsoring a Boy Scout Troop in 1927. Mr. F. E. Ervin and Mr. Miles Hamilton were active during the early years. We are indebted to others who have helped with scouting during the years the church supported a scout troop. Mr. Hamilton once remarked that scouting was all right until the boys got old enough to notice the girls, then it seemed there were more important things to do than learning to tie knots.
Rev. Floyd J. Waldrop served as pastor from 1928-1942. As a part of the church�s outreach ministry, a Sunday School was started in Shadybrook September 4, 1929. December 18, 1940 Rev. Waldrop wrote in the church letter: Let each of us spend part of the day on his knees in prayer for peace - and let's go to the church to pray. The church will be available all day for this purpose.10 It was during Rev. Waldrop's pastorate that many members accepted the idea that the church should be supported by contributions rather than bake sales, rummage sales, dinners, etc. This policy is still in effect today.11
In January, 1943 Rev. C. C. Caverlee became pastor of the Weston Church. At that time the church had a budget of $6,000. During 1944, missionary giving amounted to $2,514.50. A special drive was conducted in the winter of 1943 for the relief of the suffering abroad; the church raised $625.
After the resignation of Rev. Caverlee in November, 1948 the church called Rev. James Harvey, pastor of the Mannington Baptist Church. During his pastorate several noteworthy projects were completed including: the rebuilding of the pipe organ, new front door, remodeling of the kitchen and a new heating system. Under the leadership of Bill and Sylvia Stevens, two inspiring and successful evangelistic meetings were held.
In 1950, Weston experienced a severe flood. No lives were lost but there was considerable damage to the church, the basement was covered with several feet of water. Since then the church has suffered property loss during the floods of 1963 and 1985. Each time the trustees, as well as others, have done an excellent job of cleaning up and restoring the church property.
Under the leadership of Rev. Stanley Beaumont (1956-1962), a three-story educational wing was added to the church structure in 1962; an additional lot was purchased from the Bennett family and the debt on the parsonage was paid off two years ahead of schedule. The educational unit was dedicated in March 1963.12
While the Rev. James Crouch (1962-1968) was our minister, new furnishings were purchased, which included: pews for the sanctuary and choir area, pulpit chairs, communion table, pulpit desk, and carpeting.13
After the resignation of Rev. Crouch, Rev. Charles Jack became the pastor (1969-1973). During his pastorate the church records from 1947-1973 were put on micro film.
Rev. John Lares became pastor in 1974. While he was pastor a new furnace, a new public address system, a large dishwasher, and a chair lift were purchased.
The tower room was once used as a young people's Sunday School Class. One hot Sunday Morning in 1947, Robert Morrissette made a small contribution toward an air conditioning unit. Wetzel Goff, the teacher, encouraged contributions to the fund, and in 1977 the air conditioning was installed.
From June of 1991, Rev. John Simmons was our pastor until the late 90's when he was called to the missionary in Thailand. Under his guidance we have reconditioned the organ and the educational unit has received a new roof.
Throughout the years the Weston Baptist Church has financially supported many Christian Ministries. The church has regularly made contributions to Alderson-Broaddus College (this college is related to the West Virginia Baptist Convention). The young people of our church have benefited from their camping experiences at Fisher Camp and Camp Cowen. Parchment Valley, a 1200 acre West Virginia Baptist Conference Center located near Ripley, continues to receive financial support from the church.
The Alice Randall Missionary Society, now called American Baptist Women Ministries, has been a dedicated supporter of the church's missionary program. Some of the projects the women have supported throughout the years include: Leota Campbell's work with the people in Southern West Virginia, Betty Killian's ministry at the Weirton Christian Center. Each year the women prepare and send out White Cross quotas to home and foreign mission fields.
The Ladies Aide, once an active organization in the church, was discontinued several years ago.
125 YEARS AND STILL GROWING
The Weston Baptist Church has been fortunate to have had men who were called to be ministers who were dedicated in their service to God and to the Church membership. In good times and in times of crises, they have been pastors who were ready to rejoice, to comfort, or to counsel as needed. They have been faithful in preaching the Gospel. They were concerned with winning souls to Christ and under all of their ministries, evangelistic meetings were held regularly. Our church has indeed been blessed by their leadership.14
Scores of members have served the church faithfully in various capacities throughout the years. The church has been spiritually strengthened by having conscientious persons to serve on the Deacons Board. Many have served on the Board of Trustees who have generously given their time and talents to keep the church in good condition. When we look around the church their work can be seen and appreciated.
Others have served unselfishly on various boards; and many have silently served the Lord in significant ways. The beautiful stained-glass windows beautifully portray familiar Bible Stories; and the names on the windows indicate the love and devotion these families and Sunday School Classes had for their church.
CURRENT HISTORY 2001-2014
In March of 2001, Reverend Richard A. Farmer, Senior Pastor from Goshen Baptist Church in Morgantown was called on to become the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Weston. During his three year pastorial time many noteworthy things were done, a computer projection and video system was installed in our Sanctuary, high speed internet was installed and wired throughout the church to help design the webpage and give internet access to staff and our Media Department. Also with Pastor Farmer's help, our youth, and Trustees, a church web site was published through thischurch.org. Also under his Rev. Farmer's guidance we were able to begin audio tape CD ministries of sermons each week. On Thursday, January 29th, 2004 Rev. Farmer left our church as Senior Pastor to become the Minister of the First Baptist Church of Fairmont. Pastor Farmer's wife Kim was our Youth Director and she also tendered her resignation. 15
On Wednesday, March 10th 2004, Rev. Jim Crouch, former pastor of our church in the early to late 60s accepted the call to serve as our Interim Pastor until the search for a new pastor was completed. He also served as our Interim Pastor after the resignation of the Rev. John Simmons in the late 90s.
On Sunday, September 19th 2004, Rev. Kenneth A. Miller, Senior Pastor from the First Baptist Church of Ravenswood, was voted on to become Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Weston by an overwhelmingly majority. His wife Allison, and his two children Mallory and Nolan also attend our church.16 With Rev. Miller's guidance, we have been able to do many noteworthy projects such as the installation of the new chair lift and the church family also undertook the remodeling of the Pastoral offices. The church is also being equipped with an elevator to provide better access to church floors. Also with Rev. Miller's guidance, we have been able to renovate and remodel our fellowship hall to bring it up to current standards which include increasing the size of the fellowship hall to accomdate 150 persons. We have also been able to complete the restoration of the exterior of the church to prevent further damage from the elements. Rev. Miller is leading our church through many important projects and mininstry of the local area and we are proud to have him serving as our Minister.
Pastor Miller also lead our congregation in the hiring of our new Associate Pastor Eric Kendall. Eric is a graduate of West Virginia University and the Master of Divinity program through Palmer Theological Seminary. In his fours years of service, Eric has created several new outreach events like our Fifth Quarter gathering that is held after every home football game of the Lewis County High School. He as also implemented a new vision for the youth ministry and is currently in the process of restructuring the youth minstry know as STRIVE Student Ministries so that we may better serve the youth of our community.
Throughout the years the spirit of the Church has been exemplified in its Christian dedication, its unwavering faith in God, and in its sacrificial giving.
As we continue in this spirit we will grow "in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man." Luke 2:52
1. Minutes, First Baptist Church, Weston, WV, September 1867, 23-24.
2. Weston Baptist Church Record Books, 1888-1914
8. Weston Baptist Church Record Books, 1913-1931
9. Weston Newspaper Clippings
10. Hazel Long: Memorabilia
11. Margaret Golden: Our Story
15. February 2004 Newsletter
16. September 2004 Newsletter
The Record Books of the Weston First Baptist Church were the primary source of information for this church history. Other sources have been acknowledged in the footnotes. I wish to thank Adelene Spiker for her help in correcting the punctuation and to those who have substantiated certain historical facts.