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Leesburg - Springfield Township 

Nazareth Methodist 

Episcopal Church

The history of Nazareth Methodist Episcopal Church  would be incomplete without mention of James Burns, one of the pioneer Methodists of Northwestern Pennsylvania. He was born in Florence Court, near Inniskillin, Ireland, in 1778. His father was a native of Scotland, and his mother of England. About 1794 or ‘95 be immigrated to America, and settled in Carlisle, Cumberland Co., Penn. The faith in which he had been reared was the Episcopal, but in Carlisle he connected himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church. in whose membership he ever after lived. After remaining a few years at Carlisle he removed to Brownsville, Fayette Co., Penn. In 1810 he was married to Mary Morrow,  near Bentleyville, Washington County, at which place he purchased a farm.

Remaining upon it but two years. he removed in the spring of 1812 to Slippery Rock Township, Mercer County, now Plain Grove Township, Lawrence County, and settled on the farm on which he died in 1864. There being no Methodist preaching in reach, Mr. Burns  supported and attended the Presbyterian Church at Plain Grove until 1818, whenhe withdrew from that congregation and, in connection with James McKean, William M. Stephenson and others, formed a class in Mercer. Occasional visits were made to his home, however, by itinerant preachers, and each time service and preaching were held. These services were in reality the inception of the present Nazareth Church, although no permanent organization was effected until 1828. Previous to this, however, Mr. Burns was visited by James Watts, Shadrach Rwark, D. D. Davidson, Samuel Adams, Philip Green, R. C. Hatton, James McMahan, Ezra Booth and others, in their passing to and from their appointments in the Shenango Circuit, as this region was then termed. In an old record appear the following names, constituting the members of Burns’ class, which place the date of organization about the fall of 1822: Charles Elliot, P. E., and Henry Knapp, circuit preacher, of Mercer Circuit; James Burns, Mary Burns, Michael Brown, Jane Brown, Sarah Gardner, James Palmer, leader; Isabella Palmer, Anne Nelson, Ed ward Hanna, Sarah Daniels and John Green. In the following year the Burns class was made a regular appointment, and met in the Burns house until 1840, when, as a more central location, meetings were held in a school-house, near the present location of the Nazareth Church. The class, though, being quite large, was divided several times for prayer meeting and class meeting purposes, one of which divisions met in the house of Henry Guist, of Leesburg. The appointment belonged until 1831 to the Butler Circuit of the Erie District of the Pittsburg Conference, but the Meadville District being formed in that year, and embracing the territory in which this appointment lay, it became a part of the Centreville Circuit. The class having grown quite large, and inconvenience being experienced in holding revival meetings, it was decided to erect a house of worship, which should be as near as possible to the center of member ship. The site now occupied was at length selected, Mr. Washington P. Sedwick donating an acre of ground, and the work of building commenced. The location was in a dense tract of timber, through which no roads but blazed paths passed. In the spring of 1840 the members worked steadily, hewing logs and preparing everything for the purpose, and in March the “raising” occurred, and the first Methodist Church building for miles about was erected. It was not dedicated until December, 1843, when services were held by Revs. William Carroll and I. Merahon, who gave the new church the title “ The first quarterly meeting held in the new structure took place 10th of September, 1848, and was presided over by B. O. Plympton, P. E. of the Meadville District. In 1859, the congregation having grown too large for its accommodation, a new building was erected, the present one standing just in front of where the old log one stood. The south wing of the class at this time withdrew, and built the Mount Pleasant Church, in Plain Grove, Lawrence County, about three miles south of the Nazareth Church.

The Nazareth Church possesses an interesting history. In early times, when services were held in the Burns house, itinerant revivalists were accustomed to hold prolonged exercises, two of whom, Revs. Thomas Thompson and John Somerville, in June, 1882, continued a meeting for two days. On the 8th of May, 1834, took place a debate which was famous at its occurrence for the depth of theological learning it displayed. The disputants were Rev. John Munson, of Presbyterian belief, and Rev. Alfred Brunson, presiding elder of the Meadville district of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the question at issue was: "Is the Doctrine of Predestination, Election and Reprobation, as held in the Confession of Faith in the Presbyterian Church, Scriptural or not ?" The discussion was held in the Plain Grove Church, and upward of 2,000 people assembled to hear it. As usual, each claimed the victory, and departed considerably firmer in his belief than before. Following is a list of the preachers who have ministered to the congregation since the organization of the class in 1823: 1824, Revs. Charles Thorn and Job Wilson; 1825, Rev. Job Wilson; 1820, Rev. John Chandler; 1827, Revs. J. W. Hill, L. D. Proser; 1828, Revs. J. P. Kent, J. Babcock; 1829, Revs. J. Somerville, A. McCamon, William Leeper; 1830, Revs. Isaac Winans, William Butt, John J. Steadman, supplied; 1831, Revs. Thomas Thompson, J. Somerville; 1832, Revs. John Scott, John Robinson; 1833, Revs. D. Richey, S. H. Ingraham; 1834, Revs. William Carroll, J. W. Davis, supplied; 1835, Revs. J. W. Davis, Ahab Keller; 1836, Revs. B. Peck, W. B. Lloyd; 1837, Revs. Charles C. Best, H. Hitchcock; 1838, Revs. J. A. Hallack, Isaac Schofield; 1839, Revs. Rufus Parker, D. W. Vorse; 1840, Revs. Rufus Parker, J. P. Blenn; 1841, Rev. J. P. Blenn; 1842. Revs. Joseph Leslie, E. B. Lane; 1843-44, Rev. I. Mershon; 1845, Revs. George F. Reeser, J. Wriggleswith; 1846, Revs. A. Himebaugh, William M. Bear; 1847-48, Rev. Thomas Benn; 1849, Revs. George Stocking, D. B. Himebaugh, supplied;1850, Revs. R. Norton, W. P. Bignell, supplied; 1851, Revs. J. W. Wilson, J. McComb, supplied; 1852, Revs. J. W. Wilson, J. S. Lytle; 1853, Rev. J. S. Lytle; 1854, Rev. I. Schofield; 1855, Revs. I. Schofield, F. Vernon;1856,  Rev. T. G. McCreary; 1857, Revs. J. T. Boyle, S. K. Paden; 1858, Rev. B. B. Boyd; 1859, Rev. W. R. Johnston; 1880, Rev. S. A. Milroy; 1861-62, Rev. John Abbott; 1883-64, Rev. B. Marsteller; 1865-66-67, Rev. B. Beatty; 1868, Rev. J. M. Groves; 1889-70, Rev. E. Bennett; 1871-72, Rev. Nathaniel Morris; 1873-74, Rev. J. L. Stratton; 1875-76-77, Rev. J. M. Crouch; 1878-79, Rev. J. M. Foster; 1880-81, Rev. N. Morris; 1882, Rev. W. S. Shepard; 1883, Rev. S. E. Winger; 1884-85, Rev. John Eckels; 1886-87, Rev. R. M. Bear.

The following are a few of the class leaders: 1823, James Palmer; 1826, Daniel Williams; 1828, N. D. Hall; 1829, William Albin; 1834, W. P. Sedwick; 1836, J. Ray; and since, H. Guist, Alexander Leslie, W. H.Morrow, James Guist, Jacob Winger. The present [1888] stewards, who have been in office for many years, are Mark Campbell and Jacob Baker.

Source: History of Mercer County, 1888, page 596-598

Nazareth Methodist Episcopal Church

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Nazareth M. E. Cemetery

(located behind the church)

Churches in Springfield Township

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