A Self-Guided Historical Tour – Chapel Minimize

The following article was generated by Dr. John Kirn in 2005. The original material was based on the history of Mt Pigah written
in 1984 in celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the Methodist Church in America. It was composed by Oscar B. Watlington and Alice C. Newland and accompanied with art work by Nancy M. Adams.

The Fire:
In the early morning of July 10, 1925 (just over 89 years ago), Mt. Pisgah’s sanctuary and newly finished Education building burned to the ground. The fire was attributed to the spontaneous combustion of oil-soaked rags that had been used to finish the new floors in the Education building.

The Insurance: 
Worse yet, members found that the insurance on the building had lapsed! Despite the fact that they had no place to meet, and were $9,000 in debt, the majority of the members voted to rebuild.

The Debt:
The cornerstone of our present chapel was laid on April 18, 1927. The brick structure was completed at a cost of $13,000 and, in the midst of a Great Depression, was dedicated, debt-free, on November 10, 1935.

All That Remained:
At the rear of the sanctuary is the only furnishing that survived the church fire of 1925. It was a picture of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South dated May, 1858 in Nashville.

The Rebuilding:
Many families made significant contributions to the interior of the new chapel. These included:

  • The Christ in the Garden stained glass window that is still located high in the front of the sanctuary was given to the church in 1956 by the family of Dr. and Mrs. John Bowler in honor of their parents. Dr, Fisher was chairman of the committee which built the sanctuary and a physician who practiced in Midlothian and neighboring counties for almost 60 years.
  • Dr. Fisher’s daughter, Francis Hardesty, was the first woman married in this sanctuary. She gave the two bronze plaques at the front of the church (The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23) in honor of her husband Lorenze M. Hardesty in 1963 and 1964 respectively.
  • The stained glass windows along the pews were given by various members of the congregation in 1967 in honor of loved ones.
  • The Memorial Gift Album located on the glass display case near the altar lists these and other memorial gifts given for the chapel. Also on the display case is a church scrapbook that contains the receipt for the windows.
  • The Display Cabinet itself was given to the church by Mr. and Mrs. Carroll Irby in 2002. Look inside! You will see several church plates as well as a relief of John Wesley, circa 1850, given to the church by John Gates, Jr. of Gates Antiques, Ltd.
  • The pews in the chapel are interesting. They are not interchangeable. The chapel floor purposely slopes downward four to five inches from the back of the sanctuary to the altar. The seats are perfectly level, but the sides of the pews are progressively taller to disguise the: stadium seating” and to give the illusion that the floor is level.
  • The Chapel has undergone changes over the years. Folding doors to the right of the altar once opened to the P. Manning Bible Class (now the Pastor’s office). Folding chairs were often set up in this area during services to provide extra seating.
  • Following completion of the new sanctuary, room dividers were used between the years of 1985 to 1996 to convert the chapel into badly needed classroom space. With the completion of the Education Building, the chapel was restored to its former glory.
  • The pews were pulled out of storage and memorial gifts were given by individual members of the Fellowship Sunday School Class to purchase new pew cushions, lay new carpet, refinish the Bishop’s Chair, and to install new Chandeliers among other things. The original Heart of Pine floors have been preserved.

The Chapel was rededicated on February 1, 1998.

Robert Stowell, Ed.D