Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church
A HISTORY OF THE MT. PISGAH UNITED METHODIST
George S. Swann
One might think
that a small cinderblock church sitting on a hilltop in rural Cabell County
with no other buildings near it would have little historical significance.
Not so! This little cinderblock church sits in the middle of what was known
135 years ago as the town of Ousley's Gap, West Virginia. The church sat
next to the Ousley's Gap School and near the home of William Algeo, which
also served as the Ousley's Gap Post Office. Before going into detail about
the church, let's take a look back at the history of Methodism in the area.
The Guyandotte Methodist Circuit began in 1803. A Rev. William Steele of
Charleston, who was a Methodist circuit rider, came to the area to survey
the need for a church. The Guyandotte Methodist Church was formed in 1804.
Mud River Baptist Church was formed in 1807. The Methodist Episcopal Church
formed a congregation at Barboursville (which today is 1st United Methodist)
in 1824. Bethesda Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1839, and located
near present day Route 60 at Ona. Back Then, US Route 60 was known as the
James River Turnpike. A Methodist Episcopal congregation was formed at Salt
Rock about 1855. This church was with the Hamlin circuit. The people of
Ousley’s Gap had used the old cabin of David Woosley for a school and church
for several years. In 1866, Union veterans of the Civil War formed a small
congregation and began having services in the newly built Ousley’s Gap
School. This was done until 1874, when the Mt. Pisgah Methodist Episcopal
Church was built.
Several church denominations experienced strife in the years preceding the
Civil War. The Methodist Episcopal Church split in 1844. By 1858, the Church
was hopelessly divided. The Methodist Episcopal Church existed in two forms,
North and South, until 1939. This was 74 years after the War ended! The
congregation organized at Salt Rock became known as the Methodist Episcopal
Church South. It was located six miles south of the Gap. The congregation
at Barboursville became a South Church. Defectors moved to the other end of
town and formed a North Church.
Soon after completion of a log schoolhouse by Moses Hatfield in 1866,
Union veterans began holding worship services there. By 1874, they were
ready to build a church of their own. Armstead B. Howell owned an acre of
land adjacent to the school property. He had already moved to an area on the
Mud River that would today be known as Howell's Mill. A deed dated February
21, 1874 states that Armstead and Frances Howell sold 1/2 acre of land to
Rev. Samuel Steele, John T. Thompson, Archibald Peyton, Moses Hatfield,
Andrew Hensley, Adam Hinchman, James Eden, and all the county and state
trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church for $1.00 cash in hand. After
eight years of holding service in homes or the schoolhouse, Mt. Pisgah
Methodist Episcopal Church North would have it's own home.
The Methodist Episcopal Church North congregation that gathered in the
Ousley’s Gap school for worship included members all the pioneer families of
this area: Swann, Hatfield, Hinchman, Dial, Morrison. Also, there were Eden,
Peyton, Hensley, Childers, and later Yates, Barbour, Mays, and the list
could go on and on. The earliest record book of the Mt. Pisgah Sabbath
School dates from 1889. If record exist for the year 1866 to 1888, they have
never surfaced. The earliest preacher at Mt. Pisgah was Rev. Samuel Steele.
Another was Rolen Bias. Samuel E. Steele was born in 1832. He lived across
the hill on Smith Creek. He was a Methodist minister for over 40 years. He
helped to organize Mt. Pisgah. After retiring from the ministry in 1901, he
was soon called upon to help the struggling North Church in Barboursville.
Rev. Steele died June 13, 1913. The little church he helped those final
years was renamed Steele Memorial Methodist Church in 1939.
Roll of the First Male Class (1889) included “Teacher- Adam Hinchman /
Asst. Edgar Swann / J. G. Hatfield / Walter Thompson / Leeville? Thompson /
Edward Gothard / Alpheus Thompson / T. J. Gothard.” Next entry... “Third
female & male class combined. Teacher- Hannah Hatfield. Hattie Hatfield /
Laura Hinchman / Lillie Swann / Henry Swann / Albert B. Hatfield / Charles
Hatfield / Winnie Steele / Katie Swann / Ernest Thompson.”
Next entry: “ Aug. 25th... Mount Pisgah S. S. met at half-past 9 o’clock.
School opened by reading & singing and prayer by brother J. T. Thompson.
After which the roll was called. Officers present- 4, Officers absent- 2;
Scholars present- 24, Scholars absent- 10; Teachers present- 4, Teachers
absent- 2; Visitors present- 0. Total number present- 32, Total number
absent- 14. School closed by reading and repeating The Lord’s Prayer. J. T.
Thompson- Superintendent. J. A. Hinchman- Secretary.”
“Record of Sunday May 3rd 1891. Religious services conducted by the
superintendent: Rachel E. Algeo. Officers present- 3, Absent- 3; Teachers
present- 2, Absent- 3; Scholars present- 14, Absent- 29, Visitors present-
5. Collection- $0. Weather: cloudy and raining. Minutes: Edgar Swann, Sec.”
“Record of March 6th 1892. Mt. Pisgah S. S. was reorganized Sunday March
6th 1892. The following officers elected: Supt. Albert W. Hatfield / Asst.
Edgar A. Swann / Sec. Augusta Algeo / Asst. L. B. Thompson / Treas. Grace
Thompson / Librarian Nina Hinchman / Teachers: 1st Male Class- J. T.
Thompson, 2nd- J. G. Hatfield, 1st Female Class- Lucinda Hatfield, 2nd
Rachel E. Algeo, Juvenile Class- Walter Thompson. Collection: 35 cents.
Hour of opening school: 9:30 am. Augusta Algeo...Secretary.”
The minutes for April 16, 1893 mention that pastor J. F. Arnold was
present for the service. Minutes of June 4, 1899 mention the presence of a
Rev. Sturm. Albert Craig, whose address is listed as Box 140 Milton, is
occasionally listed as pastor between 1899 and 1901.
“Singing Sunday Evening June 18, 1899. Festival July 1, 1899. Opens at
7:30pm. All kinds of refreshments. Edgar A. Swann.” Most early entries
follow this same pattern. Collections were never any big amount. November
26, 1899 was 63 cents. It was the biggest offering of the year. Sometimes
many weeks would pass with nothing given.
The next preacher found in the records is C. F. Connaly in May 1908. He is
listed until April 1910, when E. J. Heller was named pastor. J. E. Johnson
became pastor in April 1911. The year 1912 lists J. P. Lambert as preacher.
Rev. Lambert remained there until April 1914. Then E. W. Wakefield became
pastor. 1915 lists George E. Richardson as pastor. Nov. 7th 1915 shows a
Rev. Elson as pastor.
In the election of officers for 1916... “Pastor- F. M. B. D. Mercer; Supt.
T. J. Gothard; Asst. J. H. Barbour; Sec. Ruth Hinchman; Asst. Georgia Mays;
Treas. Cassie Yates; Librarian Garnet Hinchman; Organist Myrtle Swann.”
Winnie Myrtle Swann (1892-1976) was an active member at Mt. Pisgah her
whole life. She was a schoolteacher at Ousley’s Gap for many years. She also
taught from Salt Rock down through Logan County. When she retired, she was
principal at Martha School. Miss Myrtle would play the pump organ and lead
singing in the services simultaneously. She taught classes and occasionally
served as Supt.
Church records for Sept. 3, 1916 indicate William Oliver is pastor.
Raymond Justice is listed in August 1917. J. A. Earle became pastor in 1919.
The next name found is Yie Justice in 1925. After 1927, the records are
missing until 1941. Harvey Sullivan is listed as pastor for a few years
beginning in 1941.
While searching the records of Mt. Pisgah Church, one name turns up
continually among the teachers. Beulah Dial is first listed on the “Cradle
Roll” in 1911. When still a teenager, she began teaching Sunday School in
1926. in 1992, Beulah was given an award honoring her for 66 years of
teaching. Myrtle was out of the county teaching and paid her cousin Beulah
to look after her parents, Daniel & Emily. After their deaths, she made her
home with Miss Myrtle. In 1995, poor health forced her to quit coming to
church after 84 years. She spent the last few years of her life in a care
home. Beulah passed away July 15, 1999 at the age of 90.
In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church North & South combined. The
Methodist Church combined with another denomination in the 1960’s. Today,
the United Methodist Church has overcame the differences that split it so
many years ago. Daniel & Emily (Hatfield) Swann went to the separate
churches. Daniel had gone to the Salt Rock church since a child. The
Hatfields all worshipped at Mt. Pisgah. When they married in 1879, Daniel
continued to go alone to the South Church. He walk a mile from the Gap to
the Guyan river and cross the river on a john-boat. From there he would walk
another mile to church. When Emily died in 1933, the church rang the death
knell, ringing 83 times, once for each year of her life. Daniel died in 1946
and ironically his funeral was held at Mt. Pisgah.
Viola Phillips (b. Dec. 25, 1913) is our oldest member. She joined the
church in 1950. In searching the old Sunday School books, it was discovered
that she began attending services at Mt. Pisgah in 1943. Viola is a WWII
veteran. After coming out of service, she lived in Huntington. She answered
an ad, placed by Myrtle Swann, for a border. Miss Myrtle ‘interviewed’ Viola
and decided to let her move in. She lived at “The Homeplace” for 50 years,
outlasting Myrtle and Beulah. The poor condition of the cabin forced her to
move to Barboursville in 1999. In 2000 she suffered a mild stroke and moved
in with her brother, in Gallipolis, OH. She has recovered from the stroke.
At 87, Viola is able to come in and attend church every couple months. She
has written numerous songs over the years. She used to sing and play the
guitar. Viola is a pretty good carpenter too. She built podiums for the
classrooms, which the church still uses.
Rev. Normal Nash was pastor three different times, beginning in 1952. He
was still here when he died suddenly in 1977. By 1954, the old church
building had deteriorated to the point it was almost unsafe. Rev. Nash was
pastor when the new church was begun, July 10, 1955. The old church was a
frame structure with a big pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room. It
had two doors on the front. One for men, and one for women. The new church
was to be built behind and to the left of the original church.
Wetzel “Doc” Hinchman (1909-1995) was converted at a 1954 revival at Mt.
Pisgah. He & his wife Winnie immediately joined and took active roles. Adam
“Judd” Dial (1905-1992) and his wife Lorena were active members for many
years. Doc, Judd, and Mayme Swann were church trustees when the new
structure was built.
Doc Hinchman was chairman of the building committee. The committee and
congregation relied solely upon their faith in God to complete this project.
No bake sales, no dinners, just living by faith. God rewarded Mt. Pisgah for
their faith. People donated hours of work, time, building materials, and
money. When time came for any certain thing to be bought, the money would
always be there. When the new church was dedicated on Feb. 28, 1956, Bishop
Lloyd C. Wicke of Pittsburgh, PA. came to speak. A news article stated that
the congregation had built and paid for the church within eight months. “But
my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by
Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19.
The bell of the church is the original bell from the old building. When
dismantling the old church, Doc instructed the men to “be easy with the
bell”, as he wanted it to be used in the new church. Ben and Woodrow Swann
removed the bell. But they hid it. When Doc came around to check on the
work, they told him that it got away from them and got busted. This saddened
Doc. But he didn’t get upset at all. He simply said arrangements would have
to be made to get a new one. Then Ben & Woodrow revealed the unharmed bell
to Doc. Everyone had a good laugh.
Viola Phillips related a story concerning Robert Swann, that occurred
prior to the opening of the new church. Rob was sick with cancer in the fall
of 1955. One day when Viola, Myrtle, and a few other women were inside the
new sanctuary cleaning and fixing the pews. Rob came down from his house and
entered the church. She said he never spoke to anyone. He just walked up the
aisle and stood near the altar for several minutes staring off, as in a
daze. He then turned around and slowly walked out. They all wondered why. He
died a few days later on Feb. 28, 1956, the very day the new church was
dedicated. Robert's was the first funeral to be held in the new church.
Viola felt that Rob had seen a vision of his funeral that day. For many
years, until about 1970, new converts at the church were baptized in the
Perry Lake, located on Tyler Creek Road near Enon Cemetery. Several church,
even as far away as West Hamlin, have come to the lake for this purpose. As
many as 30 people have been baptized at the same time there. Ruby
McCallister can remember going there with her family to be baptized.
The Methodist Church practices sprinkling as well as immersion for
baptism. One such occasion of sprinkling stands out in the minds of older
members. Winnie Hinchman related the account of Henry C. Swann’s conversion.
Every March Mt. Pisgah used to have a “Rally Day”. Some of the members
decided to honor Myrtle Swann, Henry’s sister, on the Rally Day on March 31,
1963. After finding out that she might be embarrassed, “Miss Myrtle Swann
Rally Day” was changed back to Rally Day. Over 90 people attended that day.
Doc Hinchman called to invite Henry and Maude Swann to the service. Maude
called him back in a few minutes to say Henry wanted to go. It surprised
Doc, as Henry had not come to church for some time. Maude had taught Sunday
School for several years. Henry attended church with her but had never been
saved. Doc brought them to church. Before the service began, Henry came
forward to Rev. Normal Nash and announced that he wanted to accept Christ as
his savior. Afterward, Henry would not leave the church without being
baptized. Someone ran next door to the old school and got a bucket of water.
And Henry was baptized on the spot.
Mt. Pisgah has maintained a working relationship with area Baptist
churches. In the late 1950’s, a joint revival was held with Hebron Baptist
Church on Tom’s Creek. Wendell Wickline came to Mt. Pisgah to preach while
Normal Nash would preach at Hebron. Grover C. Hutchinson, pastor of Mud
River Baptist, came to Mt. Pisgah to preach Wirt Algeo’s funeral in 1938.
Hebron’s current pastor, Carl Merritt, is a son-in-law of Normal Nash. When
he was first called to preach, Mt. Pisgah gave him an open invitation to
come and preach anytime he wished. Tracy Mills, former Youth Pastor at
Beulah Ann Baptist and current pastor of Union Baptist as Milton, preached
Mt. Pisgah’s Fall 1998 revival. Hebron, Mt. Pisgah, Susannah Baptist, and
Cyrus Creek Baptist all participated in Saturday Night Fellowship services
in February 1998 & 1999. The congregations would all gather together at a
different church each Saturday to hear a different preacher.
Today the Swann, Dial, and Hinchman families are still well represented in
the church. Also the McCallister, Cooper, Collins, Workman, Griffith, Smith,
Wallace, Lingenfelter, and Goodall families. Some of our more recent pastors
have been Esker Groves, Ed Hood, Roby Fraley, Tom Nolan, and Jerry Ryder.
Being small congregations, Mt. Pisgah and Salt Rock had to share the same
pastor. He would alternate worship services between the two churches. By
1998, we had grown enough to be able to separate from Salt Rock, and Jerry
Ryder became our first full time pastor. Today Salt Rock is pastored by
David Cartwright and Mt. Pisgah by Greg Jordan of Milton.
Our Sunday School Superintendent is Eric Lingenfelter. This position had
previously been held by Melton “Babe” Smith. Babe, who passed away in 2000,
is remembered by many for his ability “touch Heaven” with his prayers. Wirt
McCallister said recently “Babe was always the same. No matter where I saw
him. And I loved to hear him pray. He knew how to talk to God.”
Our current teachers are: Adult- Deloris Griffith, Young Adult- Eric
Lingenfelter, Teenage- Paula Lingenfelter, Primary- Tammy Cooper. The Mt.
Pisgah Ladies Circle meets the last Tuesday of each month at a different
home for bible study & fellowship.
You have read about the history of our church. Come grow with us. Come be
a part of our future.
History of Ousley’s Gap- 1926 (unpublished) by Miss Myrtle Swann.
History of Mud River Baptist Church (c.1987) by Mary L. McKernon.
Personal Collection of George S. Swann.
Various manuscripts from F.B. Lambert Collection at Marshall University,
Recollections of Viola Phillips, Winnie Hinchman, Wirt McCallister, &