In the Beginning...
Montgomery United Methodist Church traces its history to 1844 when a group of dedicated Christians began to meet for worship and prayer. In 1846, these pioneers erected a small log cabin on what is now Browns Church Road. Called Brown’s Chapel, this non-denominational church was first served by local laymen and, occasionally, by a circuit rider. Meetings were lengthy, sometimes lasting until mid-night. Transportation to the chapel was by oxen, horse and on foot. Lighting was provided by candles and kerosene lamps.
Brown’s Chapel remained non-denominational from 1846 until it was deeded to the trustees of Brown’s Chapel, Methodist Protestant Church in 1860. As the church’s population increased, the congregation separated, building the Howard Chapel church near Long Corner and the Montgomery Chapel in Claggettsville. The Montgomery Protestant Methodist Church, built in 1871, was the first church constructed in the fork of what are now Routes 27 and 80, formerly Buffalo Road and Quaker Road.
The Brown’s Chapel log cabin decayed and no longer exists. In 1993, a stone marker stating "Site of Browns Chapel – Founded in 1846" was placed at the historical site of the original log cabin.
A Fork in the Road...
The Montgomery Chapel Church, or Montgomery Church as it was known by the local folks, was built using lumber from surrounding farms and labor was furnished by local carpenters and masons. The men sat on one side of the aisle and the ladies on the other. On the men’s side, some spots on the floor were of a darker color due to many bad aims towards spittoons. A step up from the old Brown’s Chapel, this building had a balcony.
In 1884, the Browningsville Band was formed and entertained at the annual church picnic, which was always held the third Saturday in July. This tradition continues today at our August church picnic, more than 130 years later!
In 1882, three-quarters of an acre of land, adjacent to the church, was purchased and became the Montgomery Cemetery. Before that time, most families had their own burial grounds.
In 1882, three-quarters of an acre of land was purchased and became the Montgomery Cemetery. Before that time, most families had their own burial grounds.
The choir was quite large and sang acappella since musical instruments were considered sacrilegious in those days. Several years after the church was constructed, an organ was purchased with the salesman serving as organist for a time while some of the members of the congregation were trained. In 1904, ground was broken for a new church building, also at the fork of routes 27 and 80, but further into the triangle where the present brick church now sits. The new building was dedicated in 1905 and the tenure of the "1871" version of the Montgomery Chapel Church came to an end.
A Church by Any Other Name...
The 1905 church was a frame building with weatherboarding and cost approximately $4000 to construct. It was built, for the most part, by local congregation members. This church had a tall steeple that housed a bell which was donated by one of the lifetime members. A few of the interior accommodations were transferred from the old building, some were factory-made, but most were hand-built by parishioners. The old foot-pedal organ was moved from the previous building and remained in use until the early 1920’s when it was replaced by a piano (which was the trend in most churches at the time). By 1953, when organs came back into vogue, a beautiful Hammond electric organ was donated to the church by one of the members.
In 1926, Potomac Edison ran electricity to the city of Damascus and, shortly thereafter, the church was wired and electric lights were installed. This was a great upgrade from the old kerosene chandeliers which provided very poor illumination. Electricity was also used to help upgrade the heating system from the old hot air coal furnace. In 1941, the church was given a facelift. The Sunday school rooms were enlarged, a brick facing was added and the steeple was removed (a popular trend at the time), leaving the belfry open. About this time, the "his" and "hers" outhouses were replaced with indoor plumbing!
In 1959, a basement was added under the church and was divided into Sunday school rooms. In 1960, the bell tower was heighted and a canopy was added to protect the bell from the weather. During the tenure of this church, we also witnessed the largest unification movement in American Protestantism when, in 1939, The Southern Episcopal Methodist Church, The Episcopal Methodist Church and The Methodist Protestant Church combined to form The Methodist Church. Then, in 1968, The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren merged to form the United Methodist Church. Thus, we adopted the name of Montgomery United Methodist Church.
A Place to Feel at Home...
By the 1960’s, we were beginning to outgrow the building at Routes 27 and 80 so additional land was purchased to accommodate for future growth. In 1965, preliminary drawings were prepared and fund-raising began for a building that would house Sunday school rooms, a Pastor’s study, kitchen and a fellowship room. In 1969, it was discovered that a relocation of Route 27 would bring the road within a few feet of the boundary of our proposed new building. Our land was sold and we purchased an 11 ½ acre tract, with access to Route 80, where the present church stands. In 1972 ground was broken and the building was completed in time for Vacation Bible School to be held in June of 1973 and the annual picnic in July. Consecration of the building was held in September of that year.
The new building was known as the Educational and Fellowship Hall building. Worship Services and other activities were still held in the building at the corner of 27 and 80. By late summer of 1974, the congregation voted to begin worshipping at the new location as the nursery and Sunday school had already relocated. The Fellowship Hall served as the Sanctuary along with its other duties of gymnasium, dining hall and activities room. It seemed reasonable to bring most of the activities under one roof, not to mention that we were able to enjoy air conditioning for the first time.
The old 27/80 building was still used for weddings, funerals and other special services. However, in 1976, a fire caused extensive smoke damage to the Sanctuary and structural damage to the Sunday school area. After much deliberation, it was decided to sell that building to another church group. Using the money from that sale, plus insurance moneys from the fire, we were able to pay off the mortgage on the new building and begin phase 2 construction much sooner than had been planned. Phase 2 would include the Sanctuary, offices, meeting rooms, a Sacristy and formal chapel to be used for small weddings, funerals, retreats and personal prayer. Preliminary designs, for phase 2, were drawn up in 1988 and modified over the ensuing 3 years. Initial designs had the building continuing in a straight line but placement of an acceptable septic field caused us to change to the "L" shape of the current building. Phase 2 groundbreaking was in February of 1991 and the first service, in the new Sanctuary, was held in February of 1992. Formal dedication was in March of that year.
The Building Fund covered excavation and construction of the building. Nearly all of the interior furnishings and accommodations were donated and/or purchased by our gracious congregation. One parishioner went above and beyond by covering most of the cost of a beautiful pipe organ, the last one ever built by the Moller company.
The "Outback" building, located in back of the church, was built in the late 1980’s to provide more Sunday school rooms and much needed storage. All labor to build the facility was donated and, again with generosity of church families, the cost of materials was very small. The building was also used for the Pastor’s office during phase 2 construction and now is used as a meeting venue by our youth groups.
In 1995, five additional acres, adjacent to the property, were purchased for possible future expansion and to provide recreational and sports areas. "Bill’s Memory Trails", a walking and prayer trail, has now become part of these five acres and is a work in progress to provide a quiet, meditative, prayerful area to feel God’s presence and further enjoy His creation.
In 2000, a pavilion was constructed in the wooded area near one end of the building. An outdoor chapel with stone altar and wooden benches is also located in that area. This provides a beautiful setting for occasional worship services during the summer months.
God has indeed richly blessed this church family. For over 170 years the congregation of Montgomery United Methodist Church has continued to build on history, heritage and family values and have endeavored to "go and make disciples of all men". We have expanded ministries to local and national levels and have supported missions throughout the world. We are rich in history, serving the present and reaching for the future.