In the beginning.
The story of our church begins many years before it’s organization in 1868-1869, starting with the State Street Methodist Episcopal Church built on State Street, although the exact details of the origin of the State Street Methodist Episcopal Church are uncertain. There are various traditions s to the beginning.
These traditions say that members of First Methodist Episcopal Church (Stone) left their church, and became part of the new congregation. The reason for this is unclear, but may be because of the teachings of the pastor at the First M.E. Church.
The congregation continued to meet at Kightlinger Hall which was located on the corner of Washington and State Streets. The congregation became more devoted and enthusiastic followers of Christ.
The leader of this band of believers was the Rev. Hamilton, Reynolds McClintock. He was born on the John McClintock farm in the oil region of Venango County, PA on September 2, 1822. In early life he was a farmer.
Rev. McClintock was largely instrumental in the establishment of the State Street Methodist Episcopal Church. For about 15 years after arriving in Meadville, he was engaged in the oil business. After 1880, he led a quiet rather retiring life, doing little other than his chosen ministerial work. He was the eldest of ten chidlren, five boys and five girls.
The original trustees were: John McClintock, W. D. Sackett, Hamilton R. McClintock, F. L, Clark, and Hugh C. McClintock.
In September, 1869, the State Street Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated and received its charter.
The State Street Years.
Work on the new church building progressed rapidly. An article in the “Crawford Journal of July 28, 1869” states the following: “The Methodist Mission Church, near the corner of North and State Streets is also fairly under way. The frame is now up, and it is expected to be ready for occupancy next fall. Although a frame structure, it will be large and tastefully finished. The young congregation which has undertaken to furnish itself with a respectable-looking house of worship, deserves credit and substantial encouragement”.
At this time there were some changes in the life of the church. First of all, the State Street Church and the State Road M.E. church became a two-point charge. This means that both churches were served by the same pastor, and the quarterly conference meetings were held together, usually alternating between the two churches. The churches would also get together on other occasions. This relationship continued until 1892, when both churches became stations again.
On November 20, 1912, the Tribune Republican reported “Proposition to change the site of the State Street Church and erection of a new building discussed”…it was claimed that the location of the present church on State Street is not sufficiently central, and that it’s influence would broadened if a new church were to be erected at some point further west.” The corner of North Main Street and Randolph Street, and also the corner of North Main and North Streets were suggested as possible locations for the new church building.
It was the opinion of some that if a new church was built, the membership and attendance would be strengthened. the article went on to say. “The State Street M.E. Church as been one of the strongest church bodies in Meadville in its day and has witnessed some of the greatest religious revivals in the history of the city”.
On February 23, 1914, after a congregational meeting, a committee was formed to secure plans, specifications, and the cost of building a new church. On April 5, 1914, a subsequent vote was taken that approved of a new church.
In may of 1915, options on two lots were obtained, one on the corner of North and North Main Streets, which would cost $3,000, and the other across from the U.P. Church, which could be purchased for $2,800. The Official Board approved the purchase of the North and North Main Streets lot, which was 100 by 110 feet and which was owned by Mrs. Dr. Elliot. The primary concern was the matter of finances. Despite these concerns there was much encouragement and enthusiasm that the money could be raised.
The Grace Church Years.
Ground for the new church was broken on July 3, 1915 with nearly 200 members present. Music was provided by the Moose Band. Bishop James. M. Thoburn led in prayer and a message by the Rev. Shile E. Miller, pastor. Rev. Miller then turned over the first spade full of dirt, followed by the Official Board, and then by members.
On Sunday September 19, 1915, the cornerstone was laid with the inscription “Grace Methodist Episcopal Church” on its face. On the other two sides of the stone which formed a column effect were the inscriptions “1869-1915”.
Over the Next few years work to the new church began. In December, 1915, the Pittsburgh Christian Advocate reported that, “The walls of the new church building are up and the iron trusses for the roof are on the ground. Weather permitting they will be put in place this week”.
In April, 1916, the Official Board received the report that the roof was on and contracts for indoor work were about to be let, such as plumbing and plastering.
On May 11, 1916, the Meadville Electrical Supply Company was awarded the contract for wiring the new church at a cost of $139.00. It was at this time that the church changed it’s name to the Grace Church.
In April, 1939, after many months of meetings, three branches of Methodism-the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South-met together in Kansas City, M.O., to approve the merger of the three denominations to form a new church organization to be known as the “The Methodist Church.”
As a result, the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church was now the Grace Methodist Church. it remained as such until 1968, when the United Methodist Church was formed.
This information was complied by our church historian, William L. Waybright.