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Wellsville couple gives tour of First United Methodist Church

Photos by Kathryn Ross
The interior of the First United Methodist Church in Wellsville.


WELLSVILLE — More people than Alan and Diane Forsberg expected showed up for a tour and history lesson recently at the First United Methodist Church in Wellsville.

The tour was part of the Thelma Rogers Genealogical and Historical Society’s ongoing effort to increase awareness of Wellsville’s history by offering programs other than every other month meetings for members. The events are open to the public.

The Forsbergs joined the church after moving here in the early 1970s and have done exhaustive research on the history of Methodism and the church in Wellsville. Both are members of the TRGHS.

To start the tour, Doris MacFarquhar played hymns on the church organ which was refurbished in 1999 exposing the organ pipes.

Alan Forsberg took the group back in time, discussing the founding of the Methodist Church and its split from the Church of England in the 1700s and including its development in the colonies which would become the United States.

Methodism was started by John and Charles Wesley in 1728 who in 1735 brought the teachings of the Anglican Church to the colonies. Unsuccessful in creating a foothold they returned to England where they formed Methodism within the Church of England.

Before the Revolutionary War, the church was reestablished in the colonies. However, after the war when the Church of England refused to send a bishop to start a new church in the colonies, a separate Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1784 in Baltimore, Md.

By mid-century, the Methodist Church had established schools, orphanages, a publishing company and churches throughout the country. It created a circuit riding clergy that carried its message into rural and developing areas including Wellsville.

Here Forsberg stopped and reminded the audience that one important thing took place in Wellsville that changed a population of about 400 rural farmers and lumberman into 2,000 business and progress-oriented citizens. In 1851 the Erie Railroad developed a station in Wellsville, linking the village to New York City in the east and Chicago in the west.

In 1853 the first Methodist Church was dedicated in Wellsville.

“People came from miles around to attend services,” Forsberg said.

In 1858 the church’s footprint was extended when Pastor Edward Rosa established a parsonage. In 1892 the original building on Maple Ave. was torn down and the church building was rebuilt in 1892 at its current location on Madison St.

Built from native brick and stone and with dark pine wood and including a bell tower, the new building had seating for up to 600 people and standing room for another 100 celebrants. It included meeting rooms, a dining room and kitchen. Electricity would be installed once it reached Wellsville. The cost was $15,000. A $2,000 organ was shortly purchased

“They must have known that where it was located it would have a commanding view from Main Street,” Forsberg noted.

The building was dedicated in April 1893 and all other churches in the village suspended services so parishioners could attend the dedication ceremony.

In 1938 the building was expanded. In 1952 an educational wing was constructed. In 1977 plaster was removed to accentuate the Rose Window and additional stained-glass windows were installed.

Diane Forsberg talked about the stained-glass windows. Commencing with there is no record of who created them. She said, “the window on the north side of the sanctuary is called the Mary and Martha window and depicts the story of Mary and Martha from the Bible story in Luke 10.

It was dedicated to long-time member Grace Stole and was given to the church by the Bayard Tuller family.

The south side window was dedicated to Pastor Edward D. Rosa 1858 to 1860 and depicts the story in Luke 24.

The Rose Window in the front of the sanctuary was designed by Otto Walchli and depicts the life of Christ with a cross in the center surrounded by symbols representing the nativity, baptism, crucifixion and resurrection. It is illuminated from outside to enhance the colors.

The tour of the facility included the meetings rooms, nursery — where members climbed into the bell tower and rang the 130-year-old bell, the basement area where they could see the original stone foundation and pine woodwork, kitchen, and dining hall. They returned to the first floor where they browsed the library and viewed the organ pipes.

It was also pointed out that the pinkish brickwork throughout the sanctuary is the original brickwork.

The next meeting the TRGHS will be June 1, the first Wednesday of the month, at 7 p.m. in the David A. Howe Library. Those wishing to join the group are welcome to attend the meeting where Cort Dunham is slated to speak.