Tuesday, April 23, 2019

52 Ancestors - AT WORSHIP: Family Churches

Here is a look at some of the churches my ancestors and relatives attended.  

Bingham Church
The church dates back to 1795 when Henry Austin conveyed land to George Bingham for a church. Originally it was known as Austin’s Meeting House. Eventually it came to be called Bingham church, probably because George Bingham married MANY of the people of Greene County, Virginia, including the children of my 4X great-grandparents, James and Nancy Walker Jollett: Clarissa and John Sampson, Drada and George Sampson, Sally and William Sampson, Malinda  and Thomas Marsh, Nancy Glass and Simeon Jollett, and maybe others as well. I do not know what religion it served, but I suspect it might have been Brethren. Today the church is United Methodist.

Peaked Mountain Church
Scanned from a book
The church was torn down YEARS ago.
This church no longer stands but was important in the lives of the earliest settlers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. That includes my Armentrouts who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1739. When they migrated into Virginia in 1754, they were instrumental in starting the church named for Peaked Mountain, now known as Massanutten. The church served both German Reformed and Lutheran followers. The children of my 3X great-grandparents Fielding and Mary Ann Armentrout Jollett were all baptized in this church. I believe my Armentrout ancestors were likely buried in the church cemetery which has since been covered over by an elementary school.

Jollett Methodist Church
The Jollett United Methodist Church is located in Jollett Hollow, a community along Naked Creek straddling Page and Rockingham Counties in Virginia. The community was named for the Jollett family that settled there as early as 1830, probably earlier. The church sits on land given by my 3X great uncle John Wesley Jollett who served as minister there for many, many years. The cemetery lies on a hill to the left of the church.

Fields Methodist Church
Image from Google Maps
This church was the one my maternal grandmother’s family attended. It was formed in 1868 when John Fields arrived from Pennsylvania to work in the Forrer Iron Works in Shenandoah, Virginia. He built a church wherever he lived. The original building, parsonage, and cemetery were located on a bluff overlooking the Shenandoah River. A flood in 1871 washed the parsonage and bell tower away. In 1919, the congregation decided they needed a new church. They purchased a lot for $1000 at the corner of Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and met in the Episcopal Church while the current church was under construction.

Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB)
My maternal grandfather’s family were active in the EUB Church located at the corner of Third Street and Central Avenue in Shenandoah, Virginia. My great-grandaunt and uncle Will and Laura Jollett Sullivan were founding members in 1893. Laura and her sister, my great-grandmother Mary Frances Jollett Davis, joined the Gleaners, a women’s group in the church. The served in various ways including raising money for a church piano.
The Gleaners
You can see the architecture of the original building still
even though it has been bricked over.
Old Donation Episcopal Church
Wikimedia Commons
Old Donation Church is the oldest Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, going back to 1637. The story behind the name is a good one. The last minister to serve in colonial times left his home, slaves, and property to the church when he died in 1776 to be used as a free school for orphan boys. It became known as “Donation Farm.” The church was abandoned about 1842 when a NEW church was built in outlying communities known today as Kempsville. In 1911, an organization was formed to raise money to rebuild the church. A bell tower was erected in 1923. My great-grandfather Stephen Slade was one of the many who donated to the cause. His name is on a plaque in the church. My paternal grandfather grew up in Kempsville, Princess Anne County, so I must assume this was the family’s preferred place of worship.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church
My paternal grandmother’s side of the family attended St. Paul’s. My great-grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh was a devout Catholic woman, so she made sure all her children attended. As a little boy, my father and my grandparents lived with Mary Theresa, so a strong Catholic upbringing was to be expected. Daddy served as altar boy throughout his youth. This is the church I most often attended as a child before Vatican II when Daddy threw up his hands over the reforms. He thought the Church had become weak. He attended church less and less, and thus, so did I.

Cradock United Methodist Church
Image from Google Maps
My mother, on the other hand, was not a churchgoer as an adult although she had been raised in the Methodist Church. While I attended church off and on with my dad, my sister went to Cradock United Methodist Church with our maternal grandparents. When my children came along, this is the church we joined. We loved this church, the people, and the pastors. My sister and I were active in United Methodist Women and our husbands in United Methodist Men. When my children started school, we knew it was time to change churches. This church was in Portsmouth, and we lived in Chesapeake. If we wanted our children to go to church with their school friends, we had to make the change. It was sad to do so. Even sadder now is that Cradock UMC is no more. An aging congregation with no energy to perform the ministry of the church led to its demise.

New Creation United Methodist Church
This is our church now. The official name is “New Creation United Methodist Church,” but I still call it by its original name, Aldersgate. Why the new name is a long and painful story. Suffice it to say, we are lucky to have had some inspired and dedicated pastors here. There are many opportunities to serve, but my favorite thing is playing handbells.  

If you're looking for me, I'm far right, second row.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

© 2019, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. This was neat to read and see the pictures of the churches through the ages so to speak. A church we went to years ago had a hand bell choir. I thought it was pretty to hear the music they generated. Haven't been to a church that had them since then and honestly forgot about them until you highlighted your church's choir here. Good thing to be part of!


    1. I always loved the handbells, so when a spot came open I was eager to join. The downside is when you're playing, you can't always hear how it sounds together. One of the members has started live-streaming us when we play at church. Then I can hear it on Facebook when I get home.

  2. I was easy to guess the religious affiliation of a few of your ancestors by their names. :) What a good idea for a post. One of these days, I'll have to join one of these challenges. You are a busy blogger!

    1. You know what, I think you're right about matching the names to the denomination. You know those Irish will be Catholic and the Germans are likely to Lutheran or Brethren.

    2. And John Wesley something - a Methodist!

  3. You have some amazing history and photos of the places your ancestors worshipped.

  4. I enjoyed reading about the varied churches connected with your family,y history, I was also impressed that you managed to write for “52 Ancestors” along with the marathon A-Z Challenge!

    1. Well, A-Z wasn't very hard since my theme was family heirlooms. They were short and I wrote a bunch at a time and scheduled when they would post.