27 January 2012

The History of Prospect United Methodist Church

 The first Methodist meeting house in Madison Township was held in Struthers Schoolhouse. In 1820, Rev. Jesse Roe, the Wheelan's and 13 other families organized what would be known as the Wheelan Church. In 1823, they built a 24 x 36 foot hewed log building on the “King Reunion Grounds” at the west end of Prospect Church Road. It was from the Wheelan Church that Prospect, Fairview, and Bethesda Churches were born. Rev. Roe died in 1828 and was buried in the cemetery next to Wheelan Church. Later, his relatives had his remains moved to a cemetery in Indianapolis.

People met with a Rev. Gilbreath in the home of R. Gilliurt in 1831 to organize Prospect Methodist Protestant Church; John Hurdle was elected class leader. The Prospect Sunday School, organized 20 May 1835, met in a log schoolhouse near the present East gate of the Prospect cemetery. Ben Thompson was Sunday School Superintendent.

Church meetings were held at John Walker's until a log church was built in 1838 on land transferred by Leonard and Mary Hurdle to Church trustees for $1.00. George King donated trees; men of the church cut and hewed the logs; John Collins used his oxen to drag them to the church; Leonard Hurdle dressed stones for the foundation.

A long pulpit, located on the north side of the sanctuary had iron candle stick holders at each end. Cuspidors were on the floor beside the pulpit desk. There were two entry doors, one for men and one for women, who sat on opposite sides of the building on benches made from slabs. The building was dedicated by Rev. Hazlett, grandfather of the late Anna Ohio (King) Williams.

A frame structure, on the same foundation, replaced the log building in 1862. The carpenters were George Thomas Sr., Alvin Fits and Bruce Liedig. Oil lamps and chandeliers replaced the candles.
In 1900, when Rev. S. T. Allen was pastor, new seats and pulpit were installed and an addition was completed East of the present entry doors to hold the congregation. During special services, the church would overflow, with some people standing. A large oak tree stood at the front and white paling fence enclosed the Church yard.

In August of 1925, the cemetery was leveled and graded. Effie Beers secured the names of graves which were unmarked and compiled a list of those buried in the cemetery. On 26 Jul 1938 Prospect celebrated its 100th anniversary with the Rev. R. C. Tolbert as guest speaker and in about 1940, the Ladies Aid had electric lights installed.

The cemetery provides a partial history of area families and one of them is John Hurdle, born in 1769, died 1846. He was the first class leader and father of Prospect's Leonard Hurdle. Two circuit riders, John P. King and Daniel Shirer also are buried here. About two thirds of the people attending the 1985 homecoming indicated they were related to the Kings and other early Prospect families.

In the 1960's, the coal company bought most of the land surrounding the Church and many families moved out of the neighborhood. The land has been strip-mined and most has been reclaimed and reseeded.

In 1983 plans were developed and a new addition, consisting of a social hall, and a full basement with kitchen and restrooms was built. Donations from members and friends of Prospect bought much of the material for the addition, and members of the congregation did much of the work. The addition was dedicated on 20 May 1984 with no building debt.

Credits: Materials for this history came from Effie Beers, Muskingum County Records, The History of Muskingum County, and Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Muskingum County.

I also want to thank my aunt, Rosalie Carnes, who gave me the original article this is based on because George Henry Thomas, Sr., one of the builders of the church, was my 3rd great grandfather.

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