Mountain Valley United Methodist Church
The Little White Church in the Wildwoods
In 1729, Brothers John and Charles Wesley organized what detractors called the “Holy club” at oxford University in England. They were ridiculed as “Methodists” by the way they studiously followed the Scriptures in their habits and discipline. After a “heart-warming” experience on Aldergate Street, the brothers set their world on fire with a spiritual revival that swept across Europe and transformed even the budding colonies across the Atlantic. In America, Methodism grew with the nation, primarily as a lay movement, led by Robert Strawbridge, an immigrant farmer who organized societies in 1760 in Maryland and Virginia; Phillip Embury and Barbara Heck, who worked in New York; and captain Thomas Webb, who labored in Philadelphia in 1767. John Wesley sent lay preachers to America with the charge to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.” In 1784, Francis Asbury was ordained by Thomas coke and consecrated the first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America.
It was 115 years later that Mountain Valley Methodist Episcopal Church was established. In 1844, the issue of slavery had caused the Methodist Episcopal Church of America to split apart and the southern branch became the Methodist Episcopal Church South. There were other divisions and it wasn’t until 1939 that all the factions came together and changed the name to The Methodist Church. Then in 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined together with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church as we know it today.
When Mountain Valley was organized, it was affiliated with the Northern branch of the Methodist Church, but the deed specified that all other Orthodox Christian churches shall be permitted to hold religious services in the church at any time that does not interfere with the services of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Mountain valley has had good times and some hard times over the past 100 years. We have rejoiced in the good times and a faithful few have held on in the bad times. At present we have eighty members on the roll, some of which are fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh generations of direct descendants of Charles K. and Nancy Humphries who gave the land on which the church was built.
We have seen some of our young men go to war and felt blessed when they returned home safely. We have witnessed many marriages and celebrated many births in this small country church. We have sadly mourned the passing of many of our members who were promoted to Glory. Through it all, we have remained a small rural church, holding on to the Faith Of Our Fathers and trying to do what we can to “spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.”
The deed to Mountain valley United Methodist Church reads as follows:
This deed, made this 7th day of April on the year 1900 between Charles K. Humphries and Nancy M., his wife, of the County of Alleghany in the State of Virginia, parties of the first part and O.G. Humphries, H.G. Humphries, S.C. Bush, C.H. Tingler, H.P. Humphries, and R.B. Rose, Trustees of the Mountain Valley Methodist Episcopal Church, duly appointed as such by the Judge of the Circuit Court of Alleghany County, Virginia, in vacation on the 6th day of October 1899; parties of the second part.
(Recorded in Deed Book 23, page 261, in the Alleghany County Court House in Covington, Virginia.)
There was an article printed in the Clifton Forge Review, written by Oliver G. Humphries, in which he mentions that church services were sometimes held in the Dark Hollow School House, which sat across the driveway on the little hill at that time, in June 1896.
The following account is taken in part from a historical sketch written by Mrs. Edith B. Craft sometime in about 1977:
I have been told by people older than I, that the church was built in the year 1897. As I understand the deed, the ground was bought and the trustees appointed after the church was built. I would like a correction if anyone should know.
This building was erected by the good people in the neighborhood. This building was erected on ground owned by Charles K. Humphries and his wife Nancy. It was purchased for the sum of $1.00 in hand. Their son, H.G. Humphries, one of the Trustees of the church, was a man who believed in God and worked to that end. He was Sunday School Superintendent for a number of years and at the time he was stricken ill.
The people of the neighborhood worked faithfully to get the church built so they would have a place to worship. I could make known the names of some of those who helped with the carpentry work at the church, but I’m afraid I would miss someone and cause them to feel bad. So I’m just going to mention Mr. John Humphries, who lived in Covington, and was probably the head carpenter. He boarded in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Humphries (where my son, his family, and myself now live) and had a lot to say about Mrs. Humphries’ good huckleberry pie.
What you see today is the original building, except for the vestibule and restrooms which were added in 1974-1975 by the men of the church. I recall that Rev. Morriston was the first presiding Elder. We now call the District Superintendents. The first revival I remember being held in the new church was by Rev. William “Billy” Brown. I invited him to our homecoming the year of 1961, but he replied by letter saying with regret e could not attend due to his health. Since then I read of his death, probably in the Virginia Christian Advocate.
At this revival we had a wonderful time singing, praying, and shouting. That was spiritual food! Those were the “good old days.” One song I remember being used in the revival was “A Home Above,” and did this place sound out with song! We did not have an organ at that time, but a tuning fork was used to get the correct pitch. Sharp notes were used in our song books. Many of our folks cold read the music. One especially dear to my heart was my mother, Allie C. Bush. Not too many years later, the organ you see was purchased by donations from the people of the church. A music teacher came through the country and gave lessons in the home. Miss Rosa Lee Humphries took advantage of the opportunity and had music lessons. She was organist and later pianist until the time of her death in August 1962, at the age of 88 years.
Everybody worked hard to pay for the building. The ladies cooked one day and on the next day had an all-day pay picnic in the same spot under the same oaks and sugar maples where we now serve. Boxes and trunks were brought packed full of “good ole home cooking,” including salt-rising bread which I have never been able to master.
One sad incident I shall never forget was the time when four of our young men went to Covington by horse and wagon to buy a load of watermelons for one of the picnics. On their way back home that night, the horses ran over the brink of the road near what we call “Sheltering Rock” in Hayes Gap, and one of our men was killed. He was pinned underneath the wagon. His name was Frank bush. The others were Hes Wilson, Ed Arrington, and Allen Persinger. They escaped unharmed.
On a lighter note, I remember Mr. Posy Wright told me that he and Mr. A.K. Kirby of the Potts Creek and Paint Bank section, when they were young men, made the trip by horse and buggy to attend the dedication of the church. To be sure they were on time for the service, they came on Saturday night and camped in the road, just above the church, using their buggy robes as covers. They ate breakfast, which included native trout, with Mr. and Mrs. Henry Redman. A morning worship service was followed by dinner on the grounds; a day of wonderful fellowship. I might add that the furniture was three chairs, a table, carpet on the floor, pictures, a Sunday School register, and oil lamps. We stood on a stepladder to light the lamps. The Bible verse you see over the pulpit – “GOD IS LOVE” – was first placed there by Oliver G. Humphries, who was one of the first trustees. It was renewed in 1975 by his grandson, Teddy A. Humphries, Sr.
Rev. Oliver G. Humphries was one of the early ministers at Mountain Valley. He lived in Covington and worked at a meat market owned by Mr. Keck. He rode horseback to preach at Mountain Valley. On one of these trips he was thrown from his horse and kicked in the head. This required a long stay in the hospital at Clifton Forge and a silver plate in his head.
Another minister I remember was Rev. Richard “Dick” Morris. He had a favorite song that we could expect him to announce about every service: “Send the Light.”
At one time, the church was closed but reopened by Rev. Adkinson in 1929. He came here from Dunbar, West Virginia.
Rev. Harry Palmer married one of the local girls, Mary Bush, while he was preaching at Mountain Valley. Their daughter Harriet became a registered nurse and later married Richard Parker. They spent many years as missionaries in the jungles of Brazil. They returned to Colorado for a few years, but then went back to Brazil to follow God’s calling. Harriet passed away a few years ago, but Richard and some of his family are still serving as missionaries in Brazil.
Rev. Woodrow Hayslett said he proposed marriage to his wife while he was a minister at Mountain Valley. He called himself the “Ole Circuit Rider.” I read in the Advocate that he was having open heart surgery at one of the hospitals in Baltimore, Maryland.
Rev. Charles Snead served the Potts Creek Charge, as well as Mountain Valley, for eleven years. He also worked for the C&O Railroad. He had a beautiful voice and was often asked to sing. A favorite of his was “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” He and his wife raised a family of ten children. He was a much loved pastor.
Some of the other pastors I remember were (not in any particular order):
Mr. Decamp (not sure if he was ordained)
Rev. Key Rutledge
Miss Eliza Hollingsworth from West Virginia
Rev. M.D. Loar
Rev. George Amos and his wife Eva who held a revival
Rev. Darwood Rowan.
Rev. Pembrook Hall
Rev. James May
Rev. M.W. Mann
Rev. James McDade
Rev. H.E. Brisley
Rev. Joe Strock
Rev. Ray Tucker
Rev. F. Lee Dotson (1983-present)
In 1965, we replaced our pot-belled wood stove with a new Siegler oil circulator, and new scarves for the pulpit were donated by Mrs. Edrie Rose and her daughter Nancy Craft. We also received a donation of hymnals from Central United Methodist Church in Clifton Forge. In 1967, we bought additional acreage from Sam and Grace Wolfe. The church had acquired the old Dark Hollow School property in 1948 from Rex Humphries.
It was after Rev. Ray Tucker came to Mountain Valley in 1974 that work began to excavate a basement under the church. The vestibule and bathrooms were added to the front of the church. The basement was divided into four Sunday School rooms, the interior walls were refinished and painted, and new wall mounted lights were added. New carpet was donated by Mr. and Mrs. J. O. Tingler. A new forced air oil furnace heating system was installed and new pews were donated by various members and friends of the church. Later, a speaker system was donated by Mrs. Madeline Persinger in memory of her husband, Everette.
Mrs. Edith Craft, to whom we are indebted for her early memories of Mountain Valley, was born May 24, 1895 and went to be with her Lord March 3, 1983. She was appointed Church Historian at our charge conference in October 1977. She served in many areas of the church, including fund raising for renovations in 1975, and she often played the piano or organ for Sunday services. One of her favorite songs was “Rock of Ages.”
Mrs. Rosie Simmons and her sister, Miss Allie Humphries, were pillars of the church for most of their lives. They both taught Sunday school classes and Mrs. Rosie played the piano quite often. They sometimes walked all the way from their home to church on Sunday morning. Their father was one of the first trustees of the church and their mother, when she was 91 years old, told a reporter during an interview that she still sang in the choir at Mountain Valley Church. She said, “I does a body good.” Her name was Mary Margaret, but she was better known to everybody as Aunt Molly.
Since our present pastor Rev. F. Lee Dotson came, we have added fifteen new members. We have Sunday School at 10:00 am and morning worship at 11:00 am each Sunday.