Concord United Methodist Church History

The ministry of Methodism in the area of what is now Athens began in the homes of the early settlers, among who were the Fannings, Martins, Vermillions and others.  The regular meetings were usually conducted by local-preachers or lay-preachers until an itinerant preacher, otherwise Concord United Methodist Church known as a “circuit rider”, could pay his occasional visit.  In addition to these regular meetings, annual “camp Meetings” were conducted that lasted a week or more and these were the occasions for the itinerant evangelist to keep his appointments in this sparsely-settled area.  There were no church buildings, but this was Methodism being ministered in this wilderness area.

It has been said that at one of these annual “camp meetings”, a decision was made to build three churches, one of which would be located in what is now Athens.  By Deed dated July 25, 1858, a lot was conveyed by William H. French to trustees Adam Martin, James Vermillion, William H. French, William E. Martin, David Martin, John Garretson, George Martin and Benjamin Fanning, upon which lot a house of worship shall be built for members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and in further trust that when said building shall not be occupied by the Methodist Church for preaching, that the liberty of preaching be granted to all other professing Christians in the house of worship.  This lot was 83 square poles and is located at the intersection of what are now Vermillion and Church streets, the present location of the Concord United Methodist Church.

In 1858, a house of worship for members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South was erected, and it was used by two other Christian Denominations.  In 1886, a second structure, complete with a steeple and bell, was built to replace the original structure, and by 1907, a third church building was completed which included a furnace, stained glass windows and other facilities.

This third building is the present structure, now with many additions and renovations.  In the mid 1930’s, the two-story frame Educational Unit was erected and later remodeled along with the chancel in 1954.  In 1958, the brick-structured Anderson Hall was built, and two lots in back of the church property were acquired for parking.  In 1983, a lot adjacent to the church property was acquired and improved, which greatly enhanced the appearance of the church facility.

From the time of its dedication in 1858, until the adoption of the “Declaration of Union” by the Uniting Conference at Kansas City, Missouri on May 10, 1939, the Athens Methodist Episcopal Church South was in the Holston Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.  By action of the West Virginia Conference at Fairmont, West Virginia in 1939, the present Bluefield District was formed from the Holston Conference, and the Athens Methodist Church has been in the Bluefield District since that time.

On September 12, 1984, at the Charge Conference in response to the year-long denominational observance of the bicentennial of American Methodism, it was decided to “go back” and retain the congregation’s original name -- Concord United Methodist Church.

It would be fitting at this time to also “go back” and give credit to those who made Concord United Methodist Church what it is today.  Recognition should be given:  to the itinerant preachers who brought Methodism to this area;  to the lay-preachers and local-preachers who carried the daily burdens of church work;  to the families who opened their homes for church services;  to congregations who supported the work of the church;  to Conferences for the leadership and aid they gave;  to individuals who served as officers of the church;  to individuals who gave that extra bit of help when and where needed; and to those who were appointed to conduct the ministry of the church.

At the beginning and during the early years of the Church, the most influential person was, perhaps, a local preacher whose name was William Holroyd.  It has been said that he and Thomas Pritchard, a carpenter, had charge of the construction of the first church building.  William was a young man of 34 years, and his wife, Sarah, was a young woman of 30 years.  Sarah Caulkin Holroyd is given credit for naming the new church, when she said, in effect, “This church is where all denominations shall worship together in harmony, sweet fellowship and concord.”  The Church was thus called Concord Church.

It should be noted here that the first parsonage property for the benefit of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in the Town of Concord, Mercer County, West Virginia was purchased in 1879 from A. W. Gore and his wife Sarah E.  For some reason, this Deed was lost and never filed.  On April 25, 1886, another Deed was made in lieu of the previous one.  The description of this property was that it contained 2 Acres and 47 rods, more or less, and was located adjacent to the Normal School lot.  A house was on this lot when purchased.

The Reverend William Holroyd, a local-preacher and a hotel keeper, served Concord Church and probably other Methodist Churches in the area for many years.  No doubt, there were other local-preachers who served in this immediate area; however, to date, I have been unable to find any records to substantiate this.  In the absence of such records, it is reasonable to assume that during about the first twenty years of Concord Church, the burden of providing the ministry for the church rested upon the shoulders of the Reverend William Holroyd;  however, it is also reasonable to assume that he received valuable assistance from the men who were assigned by the Holston Conference to the Princeton Circuit, of which Concord Church was a member.  These men would include Daniel H. Carr, A. T. Brooks, L. W. Thompson, G. W. K. Greene, W. H. Barnes, P. S. Sutton, L. M. Renfro, Ayres Kincaid, R. A. Giddens, W. P. Doanne, George W. Martin, George W. Penley, J. R. Payne, and possibly others.

The following is an incomplete list of minister appointments to Concord United Methodist Church.  Indicated after each name is the number of one-year appointments received and the year(s) of service:


Brent Sturm (4, 1992 – 1995);  K. Almond (4, 1988 – 1991);  Roy D. Knight (6, 1982 – 1987);  Ray Conrad (4, 1978 – 1981);  Steven E. Dorsey (4, 1974 – 1977);  Maurice Miller (6, 1968 – 1973);  Rolla J. Matheny (3, 1965 – 1967);  G. Charles Roth (4, 1961 – 1964);  John Q. Geiger (1, 1960);  Robert B. Engle (4, 1956 – 1959);  O. William Lynch (4, 1952 – 1955);  Paul McKain (2, 1950 – 1951);  Clayton H. Witt (4, 1946 – 1949);  James Roy Belcher (6, 1940 – 1945);  John C. Patty (1, 1939)


Athens – Bluefield District

James C. Patty (2, 1937 – 1938); George B. McCrary (3, 1934 – 1936);  Onnie C. Wright (1, 1933)

Athens – Radford District

Onnie C. Wright (2, 1930 – 1932);  W. I. Hanna (2, 1928 – 1929);  Isaac N. Munsey (1, 1927);  A. S. Ulm (1, 1926);  Arthur B. Moore (6, 1920 – 1925);  Stephen W. Bourne (2, 1918 – 1919);  David T. Miles (2, 1916 – 1917);  J. F. Jones (2, 1914 – 1915);  Charles E. Painter (3, 1911 – 1913);  George M. Moreland (1, 1910, Appointed October 1910), Erastus H. Bogle (1, 1910, Appointed March 1910);  James K. P. Dickson (2, 1908 – 1909);  Roy E. Early (1, 1907);  Terry R. Fulton (2, 1905 – 1906);  Robert S. Umberger (2, 1903 – 1904);  Stephen W. Bourne (2, 1901 – 1902);  G. A. Garner (2 Athens Circuit, 1901 – 1902);  William P. Buhrman (1, 1898); Edward A. Shugart (1, Athens Mission, 1898);  Frank Y. Jackson (1, 1897);  G. M. Johnston (1, Athens Mission, 1897)

Concord Circuit – Radford District

J. B. Simpson (2, 1895 – 1896);  T. D. Strader (2, 1893 – 1894);  John M. Paxton (1, 1892); C. B. LeFew (1, 1891)

Concord Circuit – Jefferson (Tazewell) District

David McCracken (2, 1888 – 1890);  J. J. Henley (1, 1887);  Samuel R. Wheeler (2, 1885 – 1886);  TBD (1884);  Casper E. Wiggens (2, 1882 – 1883)

Prepared by:

Charles K. Baxter
Athens, WV
July 1985

Research Sources:

Concord United Methodist Church Records
Holston Conference Archives, Emory, VA
West Virginia Conference Archives, Buckhannon, WV
Walter E. Smalley, Tazewell, VA
J. Arthur Butcher, Athens, WV
Mercer County Courthouse, WV
Roy D. Knight, Athens, WV


1895 Athens Methodist Church Sunday School Class

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