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Article: The Methodist Church History, Mansfield PA
Township: Mansfield Borough, Tioga County PA
Article by Chester P. Bailey 1997
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History of Mansfield United Methodist Church

by Chester P. Bailey

The decade of the 70’s was a very active period in the church. This period gave the congregation the opportunity to show their love for God and Country and take a renewed look at their history. Along with the activities of the church, plans were being made for coming anniversaries.

In 1971 the Mansfield United Methodist Church had been at the corner of Wellsboro and N. Academy streets, One Hundred Years. On April 17, we started a two-day Centennial Celebration of "One Hundred Years in One Building". Saturday evening we held a reception at the High School for all friends of the church, former pastors and out of town members, and resident members. Following the banquet an hour-long church history pageant was given in the school auditorium.

1973 brought about the complete remodeling of the sanctuary at a cost of $51,047.23. This included a new electronic organ, which replaced the pipe organ that had been rebuilt and modernized 25 years earlier. An outstanding change was the communion rail that had been included in the nave center.

Another celebration held in July brought the Community together again to celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the nation. In 1976 along with the other denominations of the community the Ministerium developed a program entitled, "One Nation Under God," a dialogue. It was presented in our church. We tried to make the sanctuary look like the 1776 period, with candle light and red, white and blue bunting hung from the balcony. The candles were placed on poles at the end of all the pews. That started our practice of using them in the center aisle during the Christmas season. It was not unusual for our church to be used for a community service as it has always been used as a community center, since our first church building was built in 1848. That Methodist friendly spirit prevails today. The celebration to our nation closed with a "Prayer of Dedication and Petition", to acknowledge before God, our willingness and concern to be a part of the continuing development of freedom and liberty in our nation.

It was decided that the parsonage next to the church on N. Academy Street, used since 1895, was no longer adequate by today’s standards, for the home of our pastors. In July 1980, a new parsonage was purchased at 17 North Hill Terrace.

The Academy Street house continued to serve as a religious center for University students until 1995, when it was taken down and the church parking lot enlarged.

An historic event involving one of our former ministers gave us an interesting project for the 1984 Bicentennial of the Methodist Church in American.

Reverend Parkhurst, pastor at Mansfield Methodist Church during 1873-1874 became the Pacific Colony representative. The following year he gathered a group from Mansfield together and they left from Corning, N.Y. by train on Monday, October 25, 1875.

Rev. Parkhurst became sick at Ogden, Utah and died. He was buried in the Morman Cemetery, November 13, 1875.

The First United Methodist Church of Ogden, Utah was contacted. They located the gravesite, unmarked. Plans had been to place a plaque on his gravestone. The Ogden Church had not known of the death and was very willing to help and offered a place in their church for a plaque. We had a plaque made and a ceremony was held in memory of Rev. Parkhurst during one of our services. The plaque was sent to the Methodist Church in Ogden. The church there upon receiving the plaque, also held a ceremony and placed the plaque in their sanctuary. They also placed flowers on the grave in memory, thus the two churches, hundreds of miles apart, joined together in a Methodist Bicentennial project.

Music has played an important part in our church life. On Sunday October 13, 1985, a "Festive Music" program was presented as we celebrated, "The Church By the Campus", 140th Anniversary of Ministry".

The Church School Choir, directed by Barbara McConnell, Mary Kathryn Farrer, piano and the United Methodist Singers directed by Jack Wilcox, Debra Gerhard, organist shared selections. The Sanctuary choir directed by Christina Locey, Carolyn Swinsick, accompanist, presented the anthem. Various soloists for the occasion were Stephen Fox, Dale Wood, Cretchen Carr, university students. Dr. William Igoe gave, The Review: "The Past is Prologue". Others taking part in this enjoyable program were Debbie Sexton, Charles Crowley, Barbara York, Ben Garrison and Pastor James T. Dawes.

Special honor was given to pastors who have served the church during the past 40 years from 1943 to 1982. They were Floyd E. Guiles, Stanley C. Robinson, Donald D. Cronk, Harry A. Sager, Jr., Richard F. Brenneman, Paul H. O’Brien, David L. Weaver, and Rev. James T. Dawes.

During 1990 and 1991, a large committee was appointed and asked to look to the needs of the church as it prepared to enter the year 2000. Many things were accomplished from that list. A new curtain drop behind the alter, refinishing the wall of the sanctuary and sanding and painting of the Sunday School rooms. The Engineering firm of Hunt Engineers was asked to give a priority list of structural needs of the church. This included the repairs of the North wall of the sanctuary and drainage system between the two buildings, a new electric system throughout both buildings, new windows in the education building, new heating system and repairs to the church roof.

An Executive Committee was formed to come up with special events. The theme "Reaching Out For Tomorrow" and a goal of $150,000. The committee chair persons: General - Robert Wooley and Lloyd Jacoby; Spiritual Emphasis – Kay Schwab; Publicity – Mary Bailey; Production – Ellen Evans; Home Visitation – Mary K. Farrer; Hospitality – Carolyn Swinsick; Advance Leadership – William Igoe, Gerald Schanbacher; Youth Rep. – Kelley Nichols; Finanace Sec’y – David Rundell; Building Committee – Chester Bailey.

Under Hunts guidance the priorities were accomplished and as the roof of the sanctuary was underway and almost finished, structural damage was discovered, September 1995. It was thought serious enough to move out of the sanctuary to the dining room for all church activities. We were out of the sanctuary for 10 months. Considerable repairs were made to beams, rafters and roof.

Before we could really get settled into the dining room, the furnace which was a large gas fired boiler quit. It had developed a leak in the interior and could not be repaired. This brought about a new heating system with zoned controls.

November 24, 1996, will live in the memory of the Mansfield United Methodist Church members. It was the day we reconsecrated the sanctuary, with Rev. William Lusk and District Supt. Rev. Sharon Halderman.

Almost as a thank you for our faith for returning our church to the service of the Lord, near the end of the service, a letter was read that revealed that several persons who wished to remain anonymous had established a foundation for the church of $176,280 to build a steeple and cross on the present belfry.

The steeple was placed on the belfry in 1997, lighted and with a cross. It is with much pride and love that we thank those who made it possible.

From the Genesee Conference History

Rev. Orrin Trowbridge – In 1848 the Genesee Conference was divided. Trowbridge was placed in the Mansfield-Covington Circuit. Eight years previously he had traveled the area with Rev. Townsend. Then the circuit began at Lawrenceville to Blossburg. Now he was in charge of Mansfield, Covington and Blossburg. Blossburg had been dropped. He picked up the remnants and built up hope of revival, harvest followed.

"At Mansfield we gathered up some financial strength and more of resolute purpose, and built a church and paid for it. Hororis deeds were preformed by these stalwart christians, who eight years previous were many of them stalwart sinners, now being strong in faith, they laughed at impossibilities and the thing was done. Thus the Lord placed the broad seal of his approbation’s upon their endeavors by crowning them with success and thus handing down to their children an inheritance of more value than silver or gold".

Rev. Trowbridge – 1848 – 1849 – In 1850 he was appointed to the Victor, New York charge.

Rev. W. C. Matheson followed in 1850 at Mansfield-Covington.

Rev. A. H. Curtails – 1851

Rev. W. Manning – 1852 – 1853

The Mansfield United Methodist Church has graced the corner of Wellsboro and Academy streets in Mansfield since 1871, one hundred and twenty-five years. Its days are now in question as to the building future.

The sanctuary building designed by S. E. Elliott was built during the first term of President Ulysses S. Grant. Many of its congregations were still having problems of adjusting from their Civil War experiences and had some difficulty in calling General Grant "President". Many of their names are on the rolls of supporters and on memorial windows. Also many of the same names were among those who supported the Classical Seminary soon after they built their first church building in 1849, which still stands at the corner of N. Main and Elmira streets.

Mansfield was recovering from the lean years of the Civil War. The Mansfield Soldiers Orphan School under the guidance of Professor F. A. Allen was enlarging and Prof. Allen started what he called "A new departure in Education". Five divisions of study and the purchase of a large farm to give practical training to the boys in farming and housework and sewing to the girls. The Borough Fathers were busy planning new streets and were encouraged with the building of several homes. A Mart King furniture factory, construction of a new Methodist church as well as a new church built by the St. James Episcopal Church people in 1870.

Chronological History of Mansfield United Methodist Church

1792 – Williamson Road Built – Many came over the road but few stayed because of the dense wilderness.

1793 – 1800’s – Permanent settlers – Corey, Lamb, Asa Mann and Methodist preachers on horseback visited the area and held meetings.

1832 – One of the first evangelists was a man known as Kimbal. These curcut riders attracted people from a considerable distance.

1841 – Methodists began holding stated meetings at regular intervals.

1845 – On February 20, the Methodist group incorporated under the legal title "The First Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Mansfield". Church was held in a wagon shop at the S.E. corner of N. Main and Sherwood streets.

1849 – The Methodist Society erected a church building at the corner of N. Main and Elmira Streets. The Rev. Orrin Trowbridge the pastor wrote, "At Mansfield we gathered up some financial strength and more resolute purpose and built a church and paid for it". Cost $1600.00

1853 – Joseph S. Hoard presented the idea of a school for higher education at the Methodist Camp meeting held on the Seeley farm in Sullivan Township and also at the Quarterly conference. The enterprise was launched and a school built under the East Genesee Conference. Named the Mansfield Classical Seminary. Dr. Morris donated land.

1857 – The Mansfield Classical Seminary opened for the school year but burned in April. Considerable money was raised and pledged by the Methodists and others in the area and the school rebuilt.

1862 – The Mansfield Classical Seminary became a part of the State Normal School System. Today it is the Mansfield University.

1871 – In April a new Methodist church at the corner of Academy and Wellsboro streets was built, cost $16,000.00. It was considered one of the finest church buildings in Tioga County. It was designed by S. E. Elliott.

1876 – Fire destroyed the home of Reverend S. C. Jones and most of the early church records were lost.

1894 – Memberships numbered 350 and in five years reached 563.

1895 – E. P. Clark home just north of the church on Academy street was purchased for a parsonage, $1500.00.

1912 – The Academy street vestibule was built. This made it more convenient to enter the ground floor and sanctuary from Academy street. The floor in the sanctuary was raised.

1920 – New oak floor and pews were placed in the sanctuary.

1927 – Beautiful high steeple was taken down. Some feared it was not safe.

1928 – The church school building built at a cost of $35,000.00. The contractor paid off, the treasurer had a balance of 30 cents but still owed the architect.

1944 – The mortgage on the education building was burned.

1948 – The church pipe organ, one that had been rebuilt and modernized by Prof. Russel Rose was rededicated on February 15.

1971 – The church celebrated "One Hundred Years in One Building".

1973 – The church sanctuary was completely renovated at a cost of $51,044.27, including a new electronic organ.

1980 – New parsonage purchased at 17 North hill Terrace, cost $48,000.

1991 – An engineer study of the structural conditions and needs of the growing church was made by Hunt Engineers. First, repairs to the north wall of the sanctuary and drainage system between the two buildings, Second, removal and rewiring of the electric system. Third, replacement of the windows in the education building. Fourth, new heating system, zoned. All of the above completed.

1995 – During repairs to sanctuary roof structural damage was discovered and considerable repairs had to be made.

1996 – February 6, Several donors who wished to remain anonymous gave through the Stewardship Foundation $176,280.00 for the benefit of the First United Methodist Church, Mansfield, to erect a steeple and a cross on the present bell tower. This is at present under construction, August 1997.

2005 Heritage Sunday at Mansfield United Methodist Church

May 1, 2005
Chester P. Bailey

     Church groups had a hard time getting started in north central Pennsylvania due to the dense forests.  Although the Williamson Road was cut through in 1792 not many settlers stopped in the area.  It was not until 1825 that Asa Mann cleared a large area that a village began to form.
     In 1841 Methodist meetings were held and in 1845 they organized a church and petitioned asking to be incorporated as a Methodist Episcopal Church under the East Genesee Conference of New York.
    The first meetings were held in a wagon shop on North Main Street and later in the White School House on Academy Street.  In 1849 with 50 members they saw the need and built a church at the corner of North Main and Elmira Streets.  That building is still used as a church.
     It was not long before these Methodists were to test their faith and concern for the children of the village.  Around 1852 or ’53 a business man advanced the idea that they should have a school of higher education so that the children did not have to go away for more schooling.  His idea was presented to the Methodists at a Camp meeting.   Public meetings were held in the Methodist Church and eventually the approval of the Conference was given.
     The Mansfield Classical Seminary was opened to the first class in 1857 the same date of the incorporation of Mansfield as a borough.
     The first building burned, but while the walls were still falling and the fire still lighted up the night, interested citizens assembled in the Methodist Church and resolved to rebuild.  The Mansfield Classical Seminary remained under the supervision of the Methodist church until 1862.  Most of the men who had worked to get the school started now were gone to war and with financial difficulty of the failure of the insurance companies it was turned over to the state to become a State Normal School.
The Mansfield Methodist church has through the years taken on the role of “a home away from home” to the students at the school it fostered, now the University.
     In 1871 a new Methodist church was built at the corner of Wellsboro and Academy Streets.  The church had more than tripled in membership.
     In 1927 the building erected over fifty years before seemed inadequate for the enlarged activities of the church.  The church consisted of 2 college classes, a men’s Class and a women’s class plus a full Sunday School.  To supply the needs of the church a large church school building was built in 1929 at a cost of $35,000, and at the height of the depression. Dr. Straughn , President of the normal school was building chairman.
     In 1938 the Methodists got the opportunity to help the students of the Borough High School.  The School Board had decided that the old brick school building built in 1880 needed to be replaced.  It was taken down in 1938 and a new modern High School building replaced it.

     August 25, 1938 the officials of the Methodist Church and Mansfield School District signed a contract in consideration of $1000.00.  The school had the use of the first and second floors of the church school building.  The lease started September 1, 1938 and surrendered possession at the close of the school year 1938-1939.
     In researching information for the Mansfield Church to tie into the 1984 Bicentennial of the Methodist Church in America we found information about a former Pastor, Rev. H.S. Parkhurst, who was here in 1873-1874.  He returned to Mansfield in 1875 and gathered a group together to go to the west coast. He was the leader of the Pacific Colony that left Corning, NY on October 25, 1875 for Hood River Colony, Oregon.  Rev. Parkhurst became ill and died at Ogden, Utah.
     The Ogden Utah First Methodist Church became involved when asked if someone could locate the grave so that a Bicentennial marker could be placed on it.  They found the grave where Rev.Parkhurst was buried but indicated that it was not marked.  The Ogden Church offered to make a spot in their church for a memorial.
     We sent the following plaque inscribed as follows:  Rev. H.S.Parkhurst. Leader Mansfield PA Colony to Hood River, Ore.  Died Ogden Utah. Nov.13, 1875 Methodist Bicentennial-1984.
     Thus two Methodist Churches join in the Bicentennial project.
     In 1927 the beautiful high steeple was taken down, but apparently this land mark and symbol to faith of  many was not forgotten.
     A letter from the Stewardship Foundation of the Central Pennsylvania was received in November 1996 stated that:  Several donors, who wish to remain anonymous, have given to the Foundation $176,280.00 for the benefit of the First United Methodist Church of Mansfield.  The money to be used as follows.  The first item was a steeple and cross to be erected on the existing bell tower of the church.
     By the year 2000 we had the present steeple.  It has already become a landmark for travelers coming into Mansfield from any direction.  It has renewed the spirit of the church and faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ and we thank those who loved it so much.

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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 22 DEC 2002
By Joyce M. Tice
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