Watercolor Church Histories – Arbovale United Methodist Church
Green Bank, WV – Green Bank artist Dorothy Sutton has created watercolor paintings of four northern Pocahontas County churches, to be auctioned off on December 16th at the Green Bank Artisans Co-op open house. During a recent reception for the paintings, volunteers shared some the history of those churches. We’ve heard from David Rittenhouse about the Boyer Community church, from Kestra Pritchard about Baxter Presbyterian, and from Becky O’Brien about Liberty Presbyterian. In the last of our four story series, we’ll hear from Harold Crist talking about the Arbovale United Methodist Church.
Like Liberty Presbyterian, the Arbovale UMC owes its origins in a manner of speaking to the Deer Creek Union church that once stood on what is now the Arbovale cemetery. Crist says in the early 1800’s when both the Presbyterians and the Methodists used the church, they added a balcony of sorts. Dissension over what to call the balcony area, referred to as the anxious’ bench by the Presbyterians and the mourners’ bench by the Methodists eventually lead the Presbyterians to leave and form Liberty. Crist says in 1855, members of Deer Creek Union left to form the United Methodist church at Green Bank. Deer Creek was used for camp meetings for various groups up until about 1858. He says the coming of the Civil War signaled the eventual demise of Deer Creek.
“1861, the Confederates and the Union soldiers came through here, the Confederates especially,” says Crist. “They took the ceiling out of this old church and took it up on top of Allegheny and helped build their camps for the winter. Well, that kinda weakened the old church and that winter a storm came up and flattened it, and that was the end of that church.”
Crist says with the loss of the Deer Creek Union church, residents decided they needed to build a new one and they chose Arbovale as the location. Arbovale United Methodist church was dedicated in 1895. Because Crist lived next door to the church, he got the job of lighting the fires in the church’s two wood stoves.
“And I remember we got a new set of stoves in there,” he says. “And Phillip Sheets and Jane, they walked to church in the morning. They came in and said oh, we got new stoves. So we built the fire, and you know what a new stove does; we had to leave because the smoke from that new stove was smoking and stinking so you couldn’t stay in the church! It took maybe three or four Sunday’s to get all that smoke out of there from those new stoves.”
He says the space near those stoves was special to both Dorothy Sutton’s ancestors as well as his own.
“Dorothy’s granddad, he has his pew right beside the stove, my granddad had one right on the other side of the stove,” says Crist. “And if anyone came in and got that seat, boy you were in trouble! [laughter] Everybody knew where [they] had a seat.”
When Crist was 14 years old, he was paid 25 cents a month to start up a direct current Delco generator so that the church would have power for the Wednesday night prayer meetings. World War II was raging in Europe at this time, and it was during one of these meetings that he showed that a bored 14 year old and his friends can be a bad combination.
“We got the bright idea to maybe give them a little scare,” says Crist. “I filled my mouth with kerosene and I held a match up beside the window and spewed that thing and a fireball shot up through there and the church cleared out right then! They thought the Germans was all ready to attack!”
Crist says the Arbovale church has been a part of his life for a long time.
“I’ve lived here all my life except for going to college and things like that, so I have been kind of a permanent fixture in that church,” he says. “It’s a great landmark for me and it has good memories and it’s still a beautiful place.”
Dorothy Sutton says she too has strong association with the Arbovale church starting with a donation of land for the church by a Sutton ancestor. After the presentations were done, she thanked all those who took the time to illuminate the history of these churches.
“They were wonderful, I love all these stories, information and facts about these churches” says Sutton. “I thank y’all so much for doing that for us.”
The four paintings are on display at the Green Bank Artisans Cooperation through December 16th. Minimum bid on the paintings is $50.00 and all proceeds will go back to the churches.