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Another Useless Conshy File (This one involves an Indian Chief, a Train and a Sanitorium)December 14, 2023
What’s A Church To-Do,
When Celebrating Their 175th Anniversary?
TAKE A WALK!!!
By Jack Coll
The Conshohocken Methodist Church located at West Sixth Avenue and Fayette Street is proudly celebrating their 175th Anniversary. Founded in 1848, two years before Conshohocken was incorporated as a borough, a group of Methodist residents met in an open field in the location of Maple Street just below West Elm Street and just above the now long-gone Marble Street.
On Sunday, December 3, 2023, at 9:00 a.m., parishioners of the Methodist Church and welcomed members of the community will recreate a walk, that happened more than a hundred years ago.
The group will meet at the original location of that first meeting where services were held under a tree, at nine o’clock this Sunday morning. You’ll find them by reporting to the intersection of Maple and Elm Streets. Also, the original location of the old Presbyterian Church where the Methodist congregation met for a time. The group will depart at exactly 9:00 a. m., and walk towards Fayette Street and view the original location of their first church building once located on the northwest corner of Elm and Fayette Street.
The group will proceed up Fayette Street to West Third Avenue, and turn left to West Third Avenue to Forrest Street to view the one-time Women’s Temperance Building where the Methodist first met in a sheltered space before their original church was constructed at Elm and Fayette Streets. The building later served as headquarters for the George Smith Civil War Veterans Post Home.
From Third Avenue and Forrest Street the group will walk back to Fayette Street and march up Fayette to their current church at West Sixth Avenue, a location they’ve called home since 1906.
In 1856, under the direction of Pastor Reuben Owen the church purchased property at the corner of Elm and Fayette Streets costing $666.66. A year later construction began and the cornerstone was laid on August 1, 1857. It would take a few years to finish building the church due to finances and the outbreak of the Civil War.
The new Methodist Church was finally dedicated in 1867 and it was Bishop Simpson, a Methodist Bishop of Philadelphia who came to Conshohocken and delivered a heartwarming dedication speech to the members of the Conshohocken Methodist congregation.
It was Bishop Simpson who stood over President Lincoln’s grave and delivered what became known in history as the ”Great Eulogy” in front of thousands of mourners. President Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, shortly before the war ended in 1865. Lincoln was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield Illinois on May 4, 1865.
Simpson was good friends with President Lincoln, the President would often summon Bishop Simpson to the White House for his opinion on important matters, stating that the Bishop was more in touch with the common American and would understand the reaction to the situation helping Lincoln to make decisions.
A Conshohocken resident, Stephen Miller, was an enlisted man in the Northern forces stationed in Washington D. C., when Lincoln was assassinated. Miller was selected as a member of the Honor Guard in the President’s funeral procession and was at the graveside with Bishop Simpson, when he delivered the eulogy, the Methodist Bishop of Philadelphia gave many lectures and sermons around the country during the Civil War. He was a supporter of the Union emancipation and a good friend of President.
Stephen Miller was the father of Mrs. William Murray, who resided at 223 East 10th Avenue, who was a teacher for many decades at the Conshohocken Methodist Sunday School. Mrs. Margaret Bate, daughter of Mrs. Murray and granddaughter of Stephen Miller, was a secretary of the Conshohocken School District for many years.
Two years after President Lincoln’s funeral, Stephen Miller would hear Bishop Simpson speak once again, this time at the new Conshohocken Methodist Church dedication in 1867, it was said that Bishop Simpson gave a heat-warming speech and perhaps afterwards Miller took the opportunity to once again spend time with the Bishop.
Stephen Miller was honorably discharged from the Army of the Potomac in 1867, and settled back in Conshohocken.
In 1902, the Methodist congregation had outgrown their church and was looking to purchase property to build a bigger church more centrally located as the town’s population had grown and started to populated the upper portion of the borough. John and Mary O’Brien owned a house and property once located on the northwest corner of West Sixth Avenue and Fayette Street where he owned and operated a brick yard. When the best clay became exhausted, John opened another brick yard along the Plymouth Railroad and was looking to sell the West Sixth Avenue property.
The location was just perfect and the Methodist congregation purchased the property for a reported $6,500, for the purpose of building a new church. Rather than demolish the house, officers of the church had the house moved from Sixth Avene and Fayette Street, one block west at a cost of $2,000 to Sixth Avenue and Forrest Street where the former O’Brien house currently serves as the parsonage for the church.
On August 21, 1906, Methodist members broke ground for the new church, and celebrated the laying of the cornerstone highlighting the year, 1906, the cornerstone can be seen at the main entrance to the church. The building was built using Hummelstown brown stone, the highlighted features at the time was that the building would be lit using electricity, and heated with steam.
On Sunday, January 10, 1908, it was a proud day for the Methodist congregation as they dedicated their new church where they continue to worship to this day more than one hundred and fifteen years later.
On that cold January day in 1908 members of the congregation proudly stood out in the intersection in front of the church and took a group photo, a photo which will be recreated this Sunday, December 3. Officers and members of the congregation and general public are invited to be part of the group photograph to be taken on Sunday at 9:30 A. M.
Be sure to take a few minutes before or after the festivities and walk around to the Forrest Street side of the building where you’ll see two, rarely recognized cornerstones set together at the back of the Sunday School building. One cornerstone is dated 1857, the original cornerstone laid in 1857 for the church at Elm and Fayette Streets, and a cornerstone dated 1939, when the parsonage was renovated along with construction to the Sunday School portion of, the building.
The two blue marble cornerstones, 1857 and 1939, were both quarried from Pott’s Quarry, once located on Cedar Grove Road just outside of Conshohocken. The blue-marble mined at Pott’s Quarry before the 1900’s was mainly used in the Philadelphia region that included hundreds of fire place mantels, including the fie place mantel at Independence Hall and the entire foundation of Philadelphia’s City Hall, not to mention thousands of front stoops leading up to houses throughout the Philadelphia area that are still in existence today.
The Conshohocken United Methodist Church has a strong congregation giving them a lot to be proud of, a lot to celebrate about, and with eyes on the future, a lot to look forward too.
That future starts on Sunday December 3, as they celebrate their past, and look ahead to their next twenty-five years.
See you on Sunday!!!