The History of Ebenezer Church
By Rose Scarff
September 20, 1992
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying 'Thus far has the Lord helped us.'"
I Samuel 7:12 (NIV)
EARLY METHODISM IN MARYLAND
It is good to remember that Methodism was thriving here in rural Maryland in Upper Node Forest (now Harford and Baltimore Counties) for at least two decades prior to the calling of the Christmas Conference in 1784, which officially established the Methodist Church in America. Between 1763 and 1770 Robert Strawbridge and his helpers started three societies (or churches), one of hwihc was the Bush Forest Chapel Society near Abingdon in Harford County. From these early beginnings Methodism spread through the efforts of lay ministers.
One of these lay ministers was William Watters, of Thomas Run, who heard Robert STrawbridge speak and was converted at the age of 19. By the time he was 21, in 1772, he started to preach, travelling as a circuit rider until ill health caused him to locate in 1786. Later he returned to the circuit for a few years after 1801 and died in 1827. The William Watters Chapel at Coopstown was named for this first American-born Methodist minister.
There is also the Watters Meeting House, built on Watters’ property overlooking Thomas Run where the Conference of 1777 was held. Built in 1773, this quaint stone chapel was rebuilt in 1782 and still stands high on its hill—the oldest church in the Baltimore Conference, and probably the oldest Methodist Church in America. Meetings are still held there twice a year.
Into these beginnings of Methodism Francis Asbury arrived in 1771. His ideas clashed with some of those of the lay ministers, particularly Strawbridge, but they continued to build the church in faith. When Dr. Thomas Coke arrived in 1784 with the authority from John Wesley to ordain ministers in the Methodist Church it proved to be the mortar necessary to solidify the bricks already laid. On December 24, 1784 the Christmas Conference, attended by 60 ministers, met at Lovely Lane Chapel in Baltimore. Those present decided to form the Methodist Episcopal Church and the first deacons, elders and superintendents were ordained.
At the Christmas Conference it was also decided to form a college in Abingdon to be called Cokesbury after the two leaders. The cornerstone was laid June 5, 1784 for the first Methodist College in the world. It was in existence for ten years when it was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt. The college bell was salvaged and is now on display at the Methodist Museum in Lovely Lane Church in Baltimore.
During the first half of the nineteenth century Methodism continued as small societies, ideally no more than 12 members, gathered together under a class leader for spiritual guidance, prayer, Bible study, individual witness and disciple. The Methodists by their very name meant people who lived by the method laid down in the Bible. The early church had no way of confirming members as Wesley believed that anyone who was baptized was part of the church. The Methodists, however, wanted no backsliders in their midst, so class membership was by probation, at first two months, later extended to six months.
To these small groups came the traveling preachers, the circuit riders, with their word of God and the sacraments. Since churches were fortunate to be visited once a quarter by a preacher by necessity the tradition of quarterly administration of the sacrament of holy communion was begun.
From one of these small groups grew our present day Ebenezer Church. Our earliest records show Rachel Rockhold joining in 1804, Lyseas Hitchcock in 1808 and Sarah Parlett in 1822. In 1834 Lyseas Hitchcock was class leader and Averilla Parlett joined. Salem Pocock followed Brother Hitchcock as class leader and continued until his death in 1876. Others who served as class leaders were Hiram Ball, Joshua H. Scarff and J. Edward Beatty.
The land on which Ebenezer stands was contributed June 8, 1844 by Charles Baker Hitchcock and his wife, Mary, Dr. St. Clair Street and his wife, Ariel, and Lyseas Hitchcock. Given to the trustees of Ebenewzer for the sum of one dollar, it was described as being comprised of three different tracts, or parts of tracts, of land containing one acre and 67 perches. The trustees named on the deed are Lyseas Hitchcock, Salem Pocock, Joshua H. Scarff, Upton R. Maul, John Treadway, Jr., James West and John B. Henderson.
On January 23, 1841 the trustees drew up Articles of Incorporation. The Trustees named were Lyseas Hitchcock, Salem Pocock, Joshua H. Scarff, James H. Henderson, Archibald Henderson, John Treadway, Jr., James West, John B. Henderson and Upton R. Maul. The names of James H. Henderson and Archibald Henderson were omitted when the deed to the ground was given in 1844. Six of these brethren were of the McKendree neighborhood, but that was prior to the erection of McKendree Chapel.
This meeting of the trustees was held in a log building located on ground that has become part of the present day cemetery. From the language of the Articles of Incorporation it is evident that the log church was built before 1841. There is also mention, among the papers of Charles W. Pocock’s father, of a temperance meeting held in the “new” Ebenezer Church in 1842. The log church is now part of the Veri-Glad Thrift Shop at Hess Corner.
Before the existence of the log meeting house, Lyseas Hitchcock held class meetings in his home. Brother Pocock led the class meetings from 1841 until his death in 1876, a service of 35 years.
BUILDING THE CHURCH
In 1861 the present church building was constructed. The building committee was comprised of Salem Pocock, Joshua H. Scarff, Hiram Ball, John L. Hagley and William Galloway. Later Brother Hagley moved away and became a preacher. He was appointed to the West Harford Circuit in 1869. The labor needed to build the church was provided mainly by older men, women and children as so many of the younger males were conscripted into military service after the outbreak of the Civil War.
The church was dedicated in September of 1861. Dr. J. McKendree Riley preached the sermon from Psalm 16:2--”From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” The worship at that time was conducted with men on one side of the church and women on the other, the two gropus being divided by a partition about shoulder height. The slaves were confined upstairs in the gallery. The separation of men and women continued until the church was remodeled in 1905.
The design of the church to include a slave gallery (the pulpit/chancel area and the belfry were added later) indicated that although the Civil War was just beginning, the slave owners in the congregation were confident that things would continue as they were. Although a slave state, Maryland did no seceded from the Union, and President Lincoln at the time was declaring that the war was to save the Union, not to settle the question of slavery.
At the 1844 Conference of the Methodist Church there had been much dissension over the issue of slavery and the next year the Methodist Episcopal Church South was formed. Its existence did not exert much influence on the Ebenezer community until 1866 when the Reveren Walter W. Watts arrived in Jarrettsville. He gathered enough supporters from both the Methodists and the Presbyterians (including the pastor at Bethel Presbyterian Church) to start his own church. Begun in May of 1868 it was completed in 1869. This was the beginning of Watts’ Chapel.
In that same year land was purchased, containing a house and a wheelwright shop, for use as a parsonage for the West Harford Circuit. The shop was moved back from the road, remodeled, and used by the members in Jarrettsville for worship. This was the beginning of Asbury Church. Salem Pocock and Joshua Scarff are listed among the trustees on the deed given February 16, 1869. Joshua Scarff must have been either very generous or divided in his loyalties, for he is also listed as a contributor in the building of Watts’ Chapel that same year.
A committee consisting of the Reverend James L. McLain, pastor, C.C. Carman and J.E. Beatty were instrumental in the extensive remodeling done at Ebenezer Church in 1905. This included the construction of the bell tower and the recessed chancel/pulpit area, installation of the bell, repainting and carpeting the sanctuary, and providing new pulpit furniture and new pews. The 500 pound bell was cast of pure copper and tin at the McShane Bell Foundry Company. In 1964, the value of the bell was $1,234.00.
In the summer of 1905, after the renovations were completed, a re-opening was held. The men and the women now sat together.
“Substantial horse sheds” were built in 1912. These were used for more than horses, however. Some of our present church members can remember when they were used for the annual Strawberry Festival in early June and the Chicken Supper in early August given by the Ladies’ Aid Society. Each lady was given an extensive list of food items to prepare at home and bring to the church on the day of the supper. Water was brought in cans and the food heated on a woodstove in one of the sheds. In later years a portable kerosene stove was used. Meals were served on tables set up outdoors. Other tables held fancy goods, baked goods, candy and ice cream for sale. This tradition continued until the early 1970’s and was a major fund raiser for the church as well as a community social event.
In the summer of 1915 Ebenezer celebrated its 75th anniversary while the Reverend George W. Evans was serving the West Harford Circuit.
During the time that the Reverend E.L. Hudson was pastor, in 1921, the church was painted inside and out, the floor carpeted, a wood or coal burning furnace installed as well as an acetylene light plant, at a total cost of $1,322.82. Prior to this, coal oil lamps were used and resulted in at least one fire. This occurred at the wedding of Ada Carman and Latimer Ely on November 16, 1899.
THE DEPRESSION YEARS
The Reverend Raymond Hunter Brown and his wife arrived in 1929, at the very beginning of the depression. This was his first charge and he brought a swallow-tail coat to wear in the pulpit. The West Harford Circuit was not quite that formal, as he soon found out, but the congregations of all the churches welcomed him and his wife with pantry showers and many chickens.
Reverend Brown was quite a prolific writer and his quarterly reports are an excellent source of information on rural life during the depression as well as the church life of the West Harford Circuit. The passages in this chapter which are in quotes come directly from his reports.
In the first year he initiated a new form of worship. The winter was very severe, with impassable roads, but there was still a good attendance at church. In 1930 the Epworth League was organized from a group of about 33 young people. In March, for the first time, church bulletins were published each week. About this time sheet metal roofs were added to the horse sheds.
During Holy Week in 1931 envelopes were distributed and people were asked that those who were Christians deny themselves something during Holy Week and contribute that sum to someone less fortunate. At Ebenezer over 50% of the envelopes returned were from children.
The Epworth League was growing and the pastor and his wife gave instruction in “leading” to the young people one night a week. Reverend Brown then laments that once they are trained the young people leave for the city. Not all did, however, and many of these “young people” are still serving Ebenezer with their leadership.
At the wedding of Anna Ely and Arthur Nelson on August 1, 1931, the wooden steps in front of the church collapsed under the weight of the guests waiting to enter the sanctuary. Makeshift steps were improvised that day and later replaced with ones made of concrete.
In April of 1933 electricity was installed in the church at a cost of $83.50. “In addition to this, Miss Mary Thompson and Brother James L. Ely had installed at personal cost, the three-way switch at the side door. Mrs. Anna Thompson personally contributed the extra outside light on the side entrance to the church.” Reverend Brown also mentions that two wealthy members of the Hunt Club also assisted them financial in this project and he writes of their generosity on other occasions of need at Ebenezer.
Many repairs were also needed to the church sanctuary and in July money was raised for this by the Epworth League. Reverend Brown suggested that the balcony of the church be enclosed for use as a Sunday School, but apparently someone had a better idea. Part of the hose sheds were enclosed for this purpose, which indicates that at this time most of the congregation must have traveled by car rather than by hose and buggy.
The work was begun on September 1, 1933. Jonas Staniford, a carpenter, and the pastor supervised the world and all the labor was donated. The total cost was $326.12, most of which had either been paid or subscribed by the dedication on December 3. The District Superintendent, Dr. Clarence E. Wise, dedicated the unit and the Reverend Ralph W. Watt, pastor of Mt. Olive Church in Randallstown, gave the address.
The women of the church also wanted the building extended to include a kitchen. “This is to be done, but work has been delayed due to the conditions under which corn has to be harvested, on account of a disastrous storm this summer.” This reminds us, if we have forgotten, that all the labor was donated and most of the congregation were farmers. Still, the women did not get their kitchen until more than 20 years later and they continued to use the remaining horse sheds for their chicken suppers.
Throughout Reverend Brown’s quarterly reports he repeatedly stresses the need to consolidate the six churches within five miles of Jarrettsville. He could see that times were changing:
Churches are growing less in numbers, laymen seem to be moving to more thickly—populated centers, and the one-room church with its musty odor, its inadequate equipment, heating, teaching, social and devotional, can no longer endure. Our sentiment will not keep up with a church where there are no young people. Our modern youth is not contented to be faithful and loyal to a one-room church that does not meet his spiritual needs. Most of our boys and girls are attending a consolidated school or high school. They go five and ten miles to a movie, or to see a girl. They do not hesitate to go fifteen miles to Belair to do their shopping, or to Baltimore, 33 miles to see and do other things. With good roads, our people are no longer content to travel hub-deep in mud to worship God in a cold, uninviting church, with a few members, when within a few miles more on all good road, they can worship God in a warm church, with better equipment and more inviting surroundings and larger social gatherings. Christianity is social as well as spiritual.
Almost every year he observes that the worst of the depression is over yet the Spring of 1936 found him preaching at the CCC camps at Black Horse and Pretty Boy Dam. In November of 1937 services were curtailed at Ebenezer due to the work on the road past the church. The congregation temporarily worshiped at Providence and Friendship and repairs to the church were postponed until Spring because of this.
The much needed renovation was done, including painting the outside of the building, lowering the sides of the ceiling thus creating an arched rather than a square ceiling, replastering, laying a new floor, installing new window glass and new carpeting in the chancel and runners for the aisles. The total cost was $1,008.00. After the renovation, on June 12, 1938, with the Reverend Elmer J. Benson as pastor, the church held a celebration.
The following summer a church was redecorated inside and out. The pulpit furniture and pews were cleaned and refinished. This same year, in September 1958, the celebration of Homecoming was begun. For the first time the new Thomas Electronic organ was used.
A new education building and breezeway were completed in 1961 while the Reverend Ira Zepp was pastor.
In 1964, repairs were made to the bell tower of the church. On September 7 the wooden wheel was removed and taken to Martin Kurtz in Jarrettsville for repairs which he did within the week at no charge. The wheel was then painted and caulked before being installed back on the bell yoke. When this was attempted on October 10th both mountings collapsed due to rusted mounting bolts. The bell fell on the roof of the tower, breaking the toll clapper on impact, but with no other damage occurring.
All the collapsed parts (except the bell) were lowered to the ground and taken home to be repaired by Albert Byers of Lutherville. The next Saturday all parts were pulled up to the bell tower and remounted. Bearings were greased and the entire bell assembly was given four coats of white paint.
A month later the repaired toll clapper was reinstalled and all bolts were re-tightened and checked. The bell rope was put in its proper place. On November 28th the repairs were completed when aluminum extension spacer bars were installed in place of wooden spacers in the oak beams and prainted white to match the bell assembly. Albert Byers, with the help of some church members, accomplished this task. He also researched the oigins of the bell by contacting the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, where the bell was cast. The bell was orderd on December 9, 1904 and delivered on May 6, 1905. It weighs 500 pounds and measures 29 inches in diameter. The bell is marked “Taylor Maryland.” The estimated value in 1964 was $1,234.00.
The Reverend Charles Robinson was serving the church when a new organ was purchased in 1966 for $2,295.00. This was a Baldwin with two manuals and full pedal board. In 1969 new carpeting was installed in the sanctuary and two years later the church interior was redecorated.
EBENEZER ON ITS OWN
At a congregational meeting of the church on October 27, 1974, under the Reverend William Zimmerman it was voted 35 to 5 for Ebenezer to become a Mission Church. This ended years of speculation and discussion about the fate of Ebenezer as Jarrettsville Church grew larger and it became more difficult for one pastor to serve both churches.
A budget was discussed and it was decided that Ebenezer and the Baltimore Conference would each supply half the funds necessary to sustain a station church, with Ebenezer’s portion growing as the church grew. After discussions with Jarrettsville it was agreed that Ebenezer would receive its portion of equity in the charge in the amount of $6,000.
ON February 24, 1975 the congregation of Goodwill Evangelical United Brethren Church gave Ebenezer the church, parsonage, property and treasury of Goodwill Church as it closed its doors forever. IN 1968 the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodists had combined to form the United Methodist Church. As a small family church, Goodwill had been unable to survive the merger. When Ebenezer received Goodwill’s holdings in 1975 the church had not been in regular use for several years and both the sanctuary and the parsonage were in disrepair.
It was decided that the church building and its contents would be sold at auction after members of Goodwill were given their choice of articles from the sanctuary for keepsakes. The auction was held on October 11, 1975 and the church and its contents were sold for $4,500. An additional $500 was earned from a yard sale of items donated by members of Ebenezer Church.
John Shaul purchased the building and removed it after dismantling. The bell was retained by Ebenezer and was later incorporated into a monument for Goodwill which stands on the former site of the church.
At first it was thought that the parsonage at Goodwill could be remodeled for use by the pastor of Ebenezer Church. After receiving estimates for the work it was decided that it would be wiser to build a new house. Further encouragement in this direction came when a large tree toppled over on the old parsonage during a thunder storm. Bids were taken for a raised rancher with Walter Woolf, a member of the congregation, accepting to build for the price of the lowest bid, which was $39,621. Mr. Woolf donated the fireplace and the interior painting. Ground was broken on October 13, 1975 and in March 1976 the parsonage was completed.
The Revered Richard Hagenston arrived in June of 1975. He and his family moved into a rented house until the parsonage was completed and he began his work of helping Ebenezer Church to grow and become self-supporting.
That same summer extensive repair work was done on the church steeple at a cost of $3,900. Nelson Scarff was part of the renovation crew and he put up a cross to replace the ball on the top of the steeple. The cross was made by Walter Neas from copper donated by Nelson Scarff. The exterior of the church was also painted. That October the first Fall Bazaar was held.
The Goodwill monument was completed in September 1977. The bell from the church was cleaned, polished and sealed against the weather before it was mounted. Ebenezer Church owes the people of Goodwill a great debt for their help in getting us started on our own.
Before Richard Hagenston, Ebenezer’s first full-time pastor, departed in June of 1980, aluminum siding was added to the outside of the church building and the interior of the parsonage was repainted.
The Reverends Darcy R. Hunt and Mark C. Young came to Ebenezer in 1980. Darcy was appointed pastor but she and her husband, Mark, served together as a team. In 1981 Darcy was ordained an Elder and Mark was appointed as pastor. Mark was ordained to Ebenezer as a team ministry. In September of 1981 their first child, Bethany Noelle was born in the Ebenezer parsonage.
In 1981 the worship hour was rescheduled so that Church School began at 9:30 a.m. (later changed to 9:15) with worship following at 10:30 a.m. Under Darcy Hunt’s leadership the choir grew and improved, and new robes were donated in 1982 by Sue and George Young, Mark’s parents.
Numerous improvements have been made within the church facility during the past several years. The sanctuary was repainted and the narthex paneled, the organ was repaired, the exterior of the education building was painted, ceiling fans were installed in the sanctuary, room dividers were added to the education building, new tables and chairs were purchased for the Sunday School, drapes were provided for the windows in the education building, the front portion of the basement was converted into a Sunday School room with drop ceilings, new light fixtures, carpeting and a closet added, carpeting was installed in the education buildings, and the kitchen floor has been recovered with a closet and cabinets added. In 1984 the parking lot was enlarged and paved.
That same year Methodism celebrated its 200th anniversary and Ebenezer celebrated its 180th. At Homecoming on September 16th of that year, an old-fashioned day was held and everyone was encouraged to come in costume. Bishop Francis Asbury arrived on horseback with a fellow circuit rider and preached a rousing sermon to a large crowd. All in attendance that day signed a scroll which was put in a time capsule along with other church memorabilia and stored in the bell tower to be opened for the Methodist Tri-Centennial.
Improvements continue to be made to the facility. This year the remainder of the basement was converted into two rooms, one being used for a storage facility and the other remodeled as a much needed Sunday School room. Even with this additional classroom, the Sunday School continues to overflow the available space. Consequently the church is seeking to purchase some adjacent land with the hope of expanding our education facility. A new sign was been installed on the church lawn and the parsonage drive-way has been paved.
New members are continually being attracted by the warmth and caring of the Ebenezer community and the church is attempting to reach out in mission to our neighborhood and the world.
On Easter morning, 1986, the hymn “Christ the Lord is Risen Today” was the first to be played on the new Allen Digital Computer Organ. The organ qwas dedicated on April 27, 1986 during the morning worship service. Later that day a recital was gi ven by John Allen who demonstrated the many things this marvelous instrument can do. The cost of $16,800 was paid by the congregation within three months.
In 1987 a new piano was added to the sanctuary and a sound system was installed. The first Christmas-in-the-Barn service was held at Grace and Newton Walker’s barn on Charles Street, beginning an ongoing tradition.
On January 24, 1988 a special Charge Conference voted to establish a Building Committee to explore the feasibility of adding on to the existing Education Building. That summer we began a tradition of baptisms and baptismal renewals at Rocks State Park. This has been a meaningful part of our spiritual growth.
The year 1989 was full of activity and growth. The major effort was the erection of a new addition to our Education Building. Ground was broken on April 16th. The project was supervised by Dave Robbins and accomplished by the sustained efforts of a large segement of the congregation. As part of the building project, air conditioning was added to both the Education Building and the sanctuary. New choir pews were added to the sanctuary. Since they were cushioned, it greatly increased the appeal for singing in the choir. In June of this year Mark Young officially ceased his duties as co-pastor of Ebenezer Church. Darcy continued on as pastor while Mark pursued his Ph.D. in Pastoral Counseling.
In March of 1990 the Sunday School moved into its new classrooms. It was great to have real walls and doors at last. Members of the congregation requested that the Wednesday evening Prayer and Healing service be continued beyond the Lenten season. Thus this service of intercessory prayer and laying-on-of-hands became a regular part of the church week. At the September 16th Homecoming service the new Education Building was consecrated and a NRSV Pulpit Bible was dedicated. The first Church-wide retreat was held at Campe Hashawha in October.
By Spring of 1991 the Education Building was paid off, due in part to a generous bequest by Irene Dixon (who was present for the consecration of the new building). At the Pentecost celebration that year the mortgage was burned, leaving the church debt free.
The church continues to reach out in service to the community through involvemebnt in the JAIC (Jarrettsvile Area Inter-Church Council), volunteer work first at the Beans and Bread Soup Kitchen in Baltimore and then at the Manna House in Bel Air, and Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for needy families.
Through the years Ebenezer has grown in faith and in numbers. Membership has steadily increased since our first days as a mission church through the outreach work of our ministers and congregation.
This brief history cannot begin to mention all the labor and faith at work that has been instrumental in the continuing saga of Ebenezer Church. From the first Class Meeting in the early 1800s until the present day, the story of Ebenezer is really the story of the people of faith who wanted a place to worship God, and were willing to work for it.
As Raymond Hunter Brown recorded in 1934, “So the majestic hand of God moves on and on. Time goes on. Our little systems have their day, they have their day and cease to be. Let our prayer be constantly:”
O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home!
At the Uniting Conference in Kansas City in 1939 the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South were reunited to become the Methodist Church. The Baltimore Conference came into being that year and changes were made in the rural churches.
Although Ebenezer always stayed with the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Jarrettsville there was Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church North and Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church South (which had grown from the original Watts’ Chapel congregation). In 1934, Calvary Church was destroyed by fire. The Reverent Raymond Hunter Brown and the congregation of Asbury Church welcomed Calvary’s congregation and they worshiped together while Calvary was rebuilt. About this same time McKendree Chapel was asked to join with Asbury.
In 1939, after the Uniting Conference, Asbury and Calvary joined to formt he Jarrettsville Methodist Church. The West Harford Circuit was divided so that M. Diehl preached at Jarrettsville and Fairview and Mr. Milstead at Vernon and Ebenezer on alternate Sundays.
A kitchen was added to the education building in 1955 while the Reverent Ralph B. Mark was pastor. Two years later, when the Reverend Ralph G. Barrett was minister, a well was drilled and running water was installed in the kitchen.