History of Asbury United Methodist Church
Rev. Dan Owen
In 1819, John and Elizabeth Wheaton signed a deed on behalf of
"the Methodist Episcopal Church in Millcreek Township . . . for a grave yard and for no other purpose." This cemetery was on the east side of Millfair Road, just south of Swanville Road. It is now marked by a large stone and plaque.
In 1823, Ruth Wheaton organized the first class meeting on a lot next to the grave yard, in a log building known as the Wheaton Meeting House. Once it became an official Methodist class meeting, Methodist circuit riding preachers would come regularly (though not every week) to preach, teach and serve communion. The Christians in the Wheaton Meeting House shared a preacher with other Methodists in Wesleyville, McKean and Fairview.
In 1846, money was raised to build a new church. On December 1, 1847 our current lot of land was purchased from Andrew and Eliza Nicholson (whose tombstones can be seen in our cemetery), for $80. The deed states that the land was "taken from the farm of Andrew Nicholson and bounded on the north by the Ohio Road, (now West Ridge Road), and on the east by Haggerty Road, (now Asbury Road), and on the south and west by the balance of the farm. To be used for a meeting house and grave yard purposes forever, for the use of the members of the first society of the M. E. Church in Millcreek Township."
The church was a wooden structure, painted gray. (A brick veneer was added later.) In the center of the worship space were rows of very straight pews, with a narrow aisle on either side. Short pews filled the space to the walls on the right and left of these aisles. The choir and organ were in the back. Around the pulpit were the "mourners' benches". ON each side at the back was a large wood burning stove. The walls were decorated with wallpaper, and the windows were large with many small panes of clear glass.
Outside, a low fence was built around the cemetery. A long hitching rail was installed in the front of the lot where horses were tied while their owners attended services.
In 1875, only 28 years after purchasing the land, the congregation was assigned its own pastor, the Rev. J. O. Osborne. A parsonage was built for Rev. Osborne on the north side of West Ridge Road, about a quarter mile west of the church. The membership at this time was 100, and the minister's annual salary was $600. The church property was valued at $3,300.
In 1894, the interior of the church was completely updated, with a wide center aisle put in place, the choir moved to the front (on the right hand side), a furnace installed to replace the stoves, oak woodwork installed and an arched ceiling built. In addition, horse sheds were built at the south end of the church, in the shape of a "U", about 100 feet long on each side. Once, travelers who camped in the sheds accidentally set them on fire, and they were completely destroyed. A belfry was also built. For many years the bell called members to worship. But the framework was too light, the bell fell, and was never used again!
In 1911, Rev. G. J. Squier and other men from the church made extensive alterations to the church. With the exception of future minor changes, the church building remained the same after that until 1965.
In the 1940's many people moved out from the city of Erie, and the church saw an increase in members. Plans were made for enlarging the church, under the leadership of Rev. Arthur Crawford. In 1948, a basement was constructed, to provide Sunday School classrooms.
In 1954, the present parsonage was built, with many church members volunteering their time in the construction, allowing it to be built completely paid for in only two years.
By the late 50's the church building was no longer adequate for future growth. It was decided to build an entirely new building. In 1957, almost four acres of adjoining land were purchased from the Nicholsons, for $19,600. Ground was broken in 1963 for the new educational unit and fellowship hall. Bishop W. Vernon Middleton consecrated the new building on November 17 of that year. Total construction cost was $200,000. Rev. Jack Ammon was the pastor.
The old church building was dismantled "brick by brick, board by board", in the spring and summer of 1965, by a group of recent Russian immigrants. The lumber and bricks were used to construct homes along West Ridge Road, near Swanville Road. Members were heard to comment, "No church was ever dismantled in a more loving way".
After the new educational unit and fellowship hall were paid in full, in May of 1970, (three years early), in 1973 plans were approved for the building and furnishing of our new sanctuary, at a total cost of $321,000. The first service in the new sanctuary was held on March 17, 1974, led by Rev. Donald Bloomster.
Ministers after Rev. Bloomster have been:
Rev. Harold Kelly (80-87),
Rev. Louis Pomrenke (87-96),
Rev. Brad Neel (96-07),
Rev. Dan Owen (07-present).