Market Street Church
By J. Pinkey Williamson, Esq. 1916
Being the oldest member of this church, connected with it from the day of its organization, I was requested from several friends that I leave them a little sketch of its history is hereby compiled with. I will look back from my 87th mile post of time and memory and give some facts which may be interesting.
More than a century ago a little tree of Methodism was planted in this town. After our great struggle with the mother country we were left in spiritual as well as material poverty. John Wesley, and others in England, who had found the Truth, looked upon America as a great missionary field and came over and preached the true gospel. Among these was Bishop Asbury. His circuit embraced Virginia and North Carolina, and he endured many hardships for the sake of the souls of men. He came to the small town of Petersburg, where he found a few of the true faith. Among these may be mentioned Mr. Harding, for whom one of the streets of the city is named.
With these few friends he planted a little Methodist tree on his large circuit. In 1788 he purchased a lot on the suburbs of the town the lot now occupied by the Virginia Tobacco Warehouse at the corner of Friend and Market Streets (called Market Road at that time), for which he paid eighty dollars. With the aid of a few good friends a small Meeting House was built, not yet dignified by the name of Church. It was a small frame building with two doors in front one for men, the other for women, as they were not allowed to sit together in meetings. There were steps on the outside for colored people leasing to the gallery.
This served as a house of worship for 25 years or more. As the town grew the membership increased so rapidly that it had to swarm, and a nice brick church was built on the East side of South Union Street, on the lot now occupied by the firm of Roper & Company. The first General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, was held in that building on May 21, 1846.
Continuing to grow, it was necessary to swarm again, and Washington and High Street Churches were built.
In 1857 the Rev. John E. Edwards was sent to Washington Street Church. He had a great revival there and more than a hundred were added to its already large membership. Again it was found necessary to swarm and Market Street Church was planned. Rev. John E. Edwards was appointed to this new church in 1858. Its membership was composed largely of young families transferred to the branch from the parent street. In the stewards room can be seen a list of persons making up the first Sunday school, and practically the first Church roll.
Being mostly young people, we were dependent on our pastor and a few older members for guidance. The question of organizing a choir was quite a problem, as we had only raw material to draw from. You may form some idea of its excellence when I tell you that the writer was one of the members! His reputation as a vocalist has been abroad a long time. We employed a good brother, Bartlett, from the Presbyterian Church to instruct us and to give us the pitch with his tuning fork. The music thus rendered was not pleasant at all, and it was suggested that our part of the performance might be made more efficient and agreeable if we could get a small musical instrument to guide us, instead of Brother Bartletts tuning form. And then we had it!
The idea of this little, young, proud set of Methodists introducing instrumental music in the church, when there was no such thing in any other church in town, caused a commotion. There was talk and talk and talkmany predicting that it would be the death of the church. When our level-headed pastor heard it, he said the best thing to do would be to call a church meeting and ascertain the sentiment. So the meeting was held, with a large attendance. Those who favored having an instrument presented their views, and those opposed presented theirs. When the question was called, all but two voted for an instrument, and later it was made unanimous. We bought a little Melodeon, about as big as a sewing machine. In a short time all the other churches fell into line and followed. Market Streets lead. The present organ was installed in 1875, at a cost of $30,000.
1861 brought us to the awful struggle between the States. Many of our young men went out to battle, and many never returned. Much of the fighting was about this city, and much of the suffering our people endured. Petersburg churches were supplied by young men without families. When the struggle ended in 1865, J. C. Martin, who was our pastor, having run the blockade from Norfolk, deemed it prudent to go further south. In a short time, however, J. C. Granberry, who had been a Chaplain in Lees Army, walked in from Appomattox, and we induced him to fill the vacancy, the Bishop agreeing to appoint him to the charge.
With his help we mended up our broken walls, and took a fresh start.
Not very long after this a stranger came to the city to go into business. Some of our members passing heard him at family prayer. They invited him to come to our church and unite with us, which he did, and soon showed great usefulness. This was our lamented brother, Augustus Wright. With energy and faith and courage, he so lived that he left behind him a monument of good and faithful service. Though he has left us he still lives in the Sunday school, the Official Board, the weekly prayer meeting and all other activities of the church.
The writer has seen many of those depart who were with him in the early days, but he is not despondent, like Elijah of old, for he knows that there are more than seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal, taking the places of those who have passed over the river.
First Trustees appointed .. Jun 1857
Lot on which to erect church purchased . Nov 1857
Contract for building lot .. Jan 4, 1858
Dedicatory services Jun 12, 1859
Sermon by Dr. Lovick Pierce, of Georgia
Original cost ...$24,000
J. E. Edwards ..1858-1860
R. N. Sledd ..1860-1862
J. A. Proctor .1862-1864
J. C. Martin ..1864-1865
J. C. Granberry .1865-1868
W. E. Judkins ...1868-1870
C. W. Langhorne ..1870-1872
R. N. Sledd ...1872-1876
J. P. Garland .1876-1880
J. E. Edwards 1880-1884
J. W. Bledsoe 1884-1887
J. F. Twitty ....1887-1890
H. C. Cheatham 1890-1892
H. M. Hope ...1892-1895
R. T. Wilson ..1895-1898
W. W. Lear 1898-1900
S. A. Steel .1900-1901
S. C. Hatcher .1901-1905
W. H. Edwards ....1905-1907
J. T. Bosman ..1907-1911
G. H.Spooner .........1911-1915
M. S. Colonna 1915-1916
L. T. Williams 1916