Submitted by Eleanor Stout Courtney, Beaver Resident
Residents of Beaver County know that Beaver is a town of churches. Retiring pastors often choose to make Beaver their final home. Years ago the town had a nickname of “Saint’s Rest.” Though all Beaver residents do not claim to be saints, many of them go to church every Sunday.
Church historians label John Wesley as the founder of Methodism in England. His message finally reached Beaver when a group of his followers congregated at Colter’s Tavern on Second Street, near College Avenue. This group, together with similar groups in Bridgewater and Sharon (the name of a neighborhood in upper Bridgewater) included the first Methodists in the area. The Sharon group had a modest church building. This is believed to be the first Methodist Episcopal Church in Beaver County. In this church all the men sat on the right of the aisle and the women on the left. This was in the early 1800s.
In 1819 the first Methodist church building in Beaver was built in the park across from the present Huntington bank. In the original plan for Beaver, one of four squares in the center of Beaver had been laid out for a court house, a jail or for churches. The Presbyterians’ first church was in the same park but near Market Street. The Methodist building was a one-room frame structure 45 by 60 feet. Robert Darragh contributed $75 of the $400 spent on building this first church. A small debt remained for ten years when the same man Robert Darragh and another parishioner paid off the last debt of $85.
In 1868-69 this first church was torn down and a second building was erected on its site. There are no records of the cost of this church. However, in 1905 it was reported that half the entire amount needed for this church was given by John Dravo, his contribution being $17,000. He lived on River Road at the corner of Dravo Avenue, named after him. He was a dedicated and generous Methodist all of his life.
On December 14, 1870, the first church bell ever heard in Beaver was rung. This bell still exists in the present church on College Avenue.
In 1880 the population in Beaver was 1100. Beaver College and the court house were the main focal points in the town. There were no industries. Beaver had a very early reputation of being a town for residential living, a bedroom community for nearby Pittsburgh.
In December of 1895 a devastating fire at the church necessitated the congregation to meet in the court house until the church was restored at a cost of $2,431.64.
In December of 1902 the Methodist Official Board was authorized to choose another site for a new church building. The site chosen was the church’s present location on College Avenue (formerly Elk Street).
At a second congregational meeting, held on February 18, 1903, opponents of building a new church convinced the congregation that construction of a new church was not practical at the time. On March 17, 1903 a resolution was adopted reversing the earlier vote and authorizing the building of the present church with 118 members voting against 26 opponents. The present building was dedicated May 7, 1905. Its present pastor is Timothy Goodman, dedicated to increasing the church membership.
Author’s note: The information for this article was taken from a 1960s history of the church prepared by W.E. Clyde Todd, another dedicated member of the local church and also recognized as an expert on birds.