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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Zion, Part 3

[This is the third in a series of articles on the history of Zion Methodist Church. Click here to read Part 1, and here to read Part 2]

     Leota Pendleton's scrapbook contains another photograph of one of the ministers who served Zion during the last century. William Luther King was born in Patrick County, Virginia in 1870. He was the husband of New Jersey native, Mary Ann Waddington. Reverend King was pastor at Zion 1929-1932. Like the Pulliams, the Kings maintained ties with Spotsylvania after they had moved on. Both of them are buried in the Confederate Cemetery.

     On October 8, 1939, clerk of court and lifelong member Arthur Hancock Crismond donated to Zion a Bible that he inscribed:

     Just thirteen months later, on November 20, 1940, Arthur Crismond died of a heart attack. His death certificate was made out by his brother-in-law, Dr. William A. Harris, who was county coroner at the time. Crismond's funeral was officiated by Reverend Charles Lewis Stillwell, Zion's pastor 1940-1943. His obituary appeared in the November 23, 1940 edition of The Free Lance Star.

Arthur Hancock Crismond

     For the first 81 years of its existence, Zion was illuminated by four oil-lamp fixtures suspended by hooks from the ceiling. In 1940, the church was wired for electricity. The oil lamps were replaced by four incandescent fixtures suspended from the ceiling near the hooks, which were left in place. These new fixtures included the same frosted glass bowls that are still in use in the vestibule.

     At some time during the ministry of Reverend Wesley Astin (1978-1982), these fixtures were replaced with the four chandeliers now in use. In August 2010, Reverend Barbara Jacobs had replaced the chandelier in her dining room, and she donated her old one to the church, which now hangs over the pulpit. Just two weeks later, Zion acquired the large chandelier that now hangs in the middle of the sanctuary. Zion member Richard Reichert, an electrician, received a call for service from the Community Funeral Home in Alexandria, whose owner thought that his chandelier had stopped working. When Richard and his grandson arrived at the funeral home, they discovered that the fixture was still working, but the light bulbs had been partially unscrewed. Since the owner of the funeral home had already bought a new fixture, they replaced the old one. The owner was asked if he would consider donating the old chandelier to Zion, and he agreed to do so.
     Just as the Civil War had left its mark on Zion, the Second World War also had a profound impact on the church. A number of the male members of the congregation enlisted in the military service. Typical among them was Cary Crismond, who served as a second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. Prior to his enlistment, Cary had been the assistant clerk of court, serving in that role from 1932 until his father's death in 1940; then Cary was appointed to fill out his father's unexpired term. He resumed his duties upon his return home.

     Attendance during the war and in the years that followed declined sharply. At times, as few as 10-15 people showed up for Sunday service. In some years, the church was unable to meet the meager budget requested by the Richmond District. There was some anxiety as to whether Zion could remain open. During these lean years, Cary Crismond brought firewood on cold Sunday mornings and lit the stoves.
     During the 1940's another permanent mark was made on the church, this time by member Flaura Jett. One morning she showed up alone at the church, equipped with a crowbar and hammer, and removed the wooden partition that ran down the middle of the center pews. This partition, and the twin entries to the church, was a reminder of an era when male and female members of the congregation sat separately. What, exactly, motivated Flaura to take this dramatic step is not known. But she was known as a person of strong resolve. Years later, Flaura (who was a founding member of the Spotsylvania Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary) would routinely deliver lunch to the firefighters stationed near the courthouse. On one day when her car would not start, she would not be deterred from making her expected delivery. She loaded up the lunches in the cab of her son's semi and fed the firefighters.

Homecoming, 1956 (Leota Pendleton)

     The latter half of the 1950's witnessed an improvement in Zion's fortunes. In the autumn of 1956, Zion hosted its first homecoming service in at least fifteen years. Reverend George Burroughs preached the sermon that day, and held a revival during the following week.

     After the departure of Reverend Burroughs, Reverend Donald Durost served at Zion until June 1957. At that time, Reverend Cephas Haynes became pastor of the newly-formed Eastland-Zion charge. On the first Sunday he held services at Zion, only 13 people were present. However, Reverend Haynes brought a new energy to the church, and during his five year tenure there, much improvement took place. Attendance at the morning service grew to 40 people, and the Sunday school membership increased to 26. Reverend Haynes made it a priority to increase Zion's membership.

From Leota Pendleton's history of Zion:

     "A Vacation Bible School was held the summer of 1957 and was a great success. In August 1957 the interior of the sanctuary was redecorated in readiness for the second Homecoming Day to be held in a number of years. Guest speaker was a former pastor, Reverend Donald Durost. A week of revival followed that was conducted by Reverend Haynes. At this time the Eastland-Zion charge bought a parsonage located adjacent to Eastland Church. Zion's portion of this indebtedness was $3,000 with responsibility for one half of the upkeep.
     "Formerly, the ladies of Zion participated in a mission program called the Women's Missionary Society. This name, too, was changed. The new Women's Society of Christian Service (WSCS) was organized on October 18, 1957, with ten ladies present. Much enthusiasm was shown as plans were made to do mission work and create projects by which the church and building funds would benefit.
     "Shortly thereafter, the WSCS started serving dinners, having hymn sings, bake sales, etc. with the proceeds going to church expenses. The fear that the doors of Zion would close was pushed back gradually, as the will of God was pushed forward.
     "The people of Zion saw a growth in attendance along with a rise in finances each quarter 1957-58. The first quarterly conference for Eastland-Zion was held on November 24, 1957 at 2:30 pm with Reverend Doctor Carl Sanders, Richmond District Superintendent presiding. There was a good representation from both churches and brought much encouragement by Dr. Sanders."

     In 1957, the floor of the balcony was painted to cover up what were presumed to be blood stains still remaining from May 1864, when the church was used as a hospital by the Confederate army. The decision was made to use the balcony as a Sunday school class, and the painting was done as part of the effort to prepare the balcony for that purpose. At least one stain is still visible on the knee wall at the front of the balcony. In 2018, church historian Dennis Gallahan conducted a luminol test on that stain in order to determine the presence of blood. The results of the test showed that it was indeed blood.

Spotsylvania Post Office and car of Alice Graves Coleman (Charles Trigger)

     By 1959, attendance at the Sunday school class had grown to the point that the balcony could no longer accommodate it. A solution was proposed by Spotsylvania postmistress Alice Graves Coleman (patrons of the post office would know that it was open for business when the saw Alice's car parked in front). Although she was not a member of the church, Alice regularly attended services at Zion. Since she was about to retire from the post office after 25 years of service, she offered the small building, which she owned, to be used as additional space for the Sunday school. The building was moved from its location across Brock Road from modern Pendleton's Hardware to the church. There it was placed on a sound foundation and was connected to the church by a small passageway, which also served as another entry to the church. Today the old post office serves as the office of the pastor.

From Leota Pendleton's history of Zion:

     "In August of 1959 Zion celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the completion of its church by having a Homecoming Day with Dr. Carl Sanders, Richmond District Superintendent as guest speaker. In accordance with the Centennial, new hymnals were presented to the church in memory of the Reverend William Luther King and his wife, Mary Ann Waddington King by their children Esther V. King, Reverend Luther W. King and Norman G. King. These beautiful hymnals added much to the worship services and were most gratefully accepted."

Reverend Cephas Haynes and the discovered sword (Leota Pendleton)

     In 1960, the church decided to replace the original floor in the sanctuary. The National Bank of Fredericksburg provided a loan of $2,000, and work commenced. While the old wide-plank floor was being removed, workmen discovered a cavalry sword in the space beneath the church. Despite the fact that the sword had lay there for many years, it was in surprisingly good condition. The sword was presented to Reverend Cephas Haynes, the popular pastor at that time. Years later, after the death of Reverend Haynes, his widow returned the sword to Zion as a gift. The church had the sword handsomely mounted for display, and it remains in the possession as of this writing. 

The display for the sword found in 1960 was made by Zion member Bob Scott

     The enigma of why the sword had been placed under the church has been a puzzle since its discovery in 1960. Until the floor was replaced that year, the only access to the space under the church had been, and remains to be, six small voids left in the brick foundation, presumably for the purposes of ventilation.

     A theory has been proposed by church historian Dennis Gallahan, and it begins with a headstone in the church cemetery marking the grave of Charles R. Chewning, who fought with Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry during the Civil War. 

     Chewning kept a journal of his experience during the war. This diary is part of the collection of the Spotsylvania County Museum, and a transcription of its entries can be found on the museum's website. Chewning's entry for August 28, 1862 forms the basis of Mr. Gallahan's theory regarding the presence of the sword under the church.

     Mr. Gallahan believes it may be possible that the sword captured by Chewning on the day he was wounded is the same sword found beneath the church. Perhaps a comrade of Mr. Chewning put it under the church on the day of his funeral in 1912 as a fitting remembrance of his sacrifice during the war.


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Zion, Part 2

[This is the second in a series of articles on the history of Zion Methodist Church. Click here to read the first installment]

     Despite the widespread poverty that persisted throughout the region, money was raised to rehabilitate the sanctuary, and in due course the windows and roof were repaired. Reverends James Erasmus McSparran and Henry Chapman Bowles served at Zion during those first difficult years after the Civil War. Progress would be slow, but Zion was buoyed by a faithful congregation and some occasional good fortune.
     At the very reasonable cost of five dollars, Zion received a generous donation of land from Joseph Sanford, owner of the nearby hotel that bore his name. On January 1, 1868, Joseph and his wife, Quincy, signed a deed conveying once acre of land to John M. Smith and Dr. Fleming J. Hancock as trustees for the church. The deed provided for "the sole separate use and benefit of the Religious denomination known as the Methodist Episcopal Church South as a place of Religious worship."

Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond

     Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond was born in Caroline County on May 6, 1846. He was the second of three sons born to John B. Crismond and his second wife, the former Jane McDaniel. At some time before 1850, the Crismond family moved to Spotsylvania and settled on a farm just southeast of Zion. Crismond's father died on July 13, 1861. Two years later, Crismond and his older brother, John Jr., enlisted in the 36th Cavalry Battalion. Little of Crismond's military service is known, other than the fact that he was wounded near Woodstock, Virginia. Meanwhile, his widowed mother stayed with her youngest son, Horace.
     After the war, Crismond returned home and farmed for several years, and then worked as a merchant. In 1866, he married Sallie Carnohan, with whom he had two children, Dora and Arthur Hancock. It is not known when the Crismonds began to attend Zion, but they became devoted and generous members of the church. None more so than J. P. H. Crismond himself. In 1871, he underwent an examination by Reverends D. Claiborne Butts, James F. Twitty and former Zion pastor John Quincy Rhodes. He passed this examination and was licensed to preach. However, Presiding Elder Joseph H. Davis declared this examination invalid. Crismond was obliged to go through the procedure a second time, and his license to preach was approved.
     At the seventy-ninth session of the Virginia conference held in Norfolk in 1873, Crismond was appointed as a supply minister for the Spotsylvania Circuit. The records of Tabernacle Methodist Church indicate that Crismond served as a preacher there during 1873-74. In November 1876, he was elected as an ordained deacon at the eighty-second session of the conference held in Richmond. For decades to come, Deacon Crismond preached many sermons and officiated at many weddings and funerals. His growing popularity among the community he served made his entry into politics a logical move. In 1881, Crismond was elected clerk of the county court, a position he would hold until 1903.

Thomas Addison Harris (Courtesy of Richard Morrison)

     The life and career of another distinguished member of Zion, Thomas Addison Harris, paralleled that of J. P. H. Crismond. Harris's family came to Spotsylvania from New Jersey in the early 1840's; Thomas was their first child to be born in Virginia. At the outbreak of the Civil War, one of Harris's older brothers, William, returned north to fight for the Union. The other, John, enlisted in the 30th Virginia Infantry. Young Thomas Harris's allegiance was to the South. Shortly before his seventeen birthday, he enlisted for one year in the 30th Virginia Infantry, then joined the 9th Virginia Cavalry. The record shows that he was a brave and steadfast soldier. His horse was killed in action at Upperville, Virginia in 1863. During the Battle of Five Forks, he was seriously wounded while trying to save a family caught in a crossfire.
     Thomas Harris returned to Spotsylvania after the war. In 1867, he married Mary Elizabeth Poole, with whom he had eight children. His political career began in 1870, when he became Superintendent of the Poor for Spotsylvania County. He was elected deputy commissioner of revenue in 1879. Four years later, he was elected county sheriff, a post he would hold for twenty years. In 1903, he replaced J. P. H Crismond as clerk of court and held that office until his death in 1912. In 1891, three years after the death of his wife, Mary, he married Elizabeth Jane Eastburn.
     Although his parents and several other family members remained faithful members of Shady Grove's congregation, Harris and his family were loyal to Zion. One of his sons, Dr. William Aquilla Harris, married Crismond's daughter, Dora. They also remained members of Zion all their lives. There are two headstones dedicated to Thomas Addison Harris in Zion's cemetery. There is one provided from his family, the other ordered from the War Department by his daughter Roberta Harris Andrews to commemorate his military service. Roberta and her husband, Charles Robert Andrews, were also members of Zion. Buried near Thomas Harris are both of his wives and three of his sons.

     The Carner and Pendleton families also deserve their place in the collective memory of Zion Methodist Church. Allen Carner was born in Bedford County, Virginia about 1804. He married Elizabeth Spindle of Spotsylvania, and with her raised five children--Mary Jane, John William, Henry, Cornelia Anne and Martha "Mattie" Dawson. By 1840, he had received his calling to enter the ministry, and was "on trial" (that is, in a probationary period) as a preacher of the Methodist Conference. He was preaching in the Gloucester, Virginia area in 1842, and was assigned to its circuit the following year. From there, he went to Little River in Perquimans County, North Carolina, where he served as a pastor until at least 1850.
     At some time during the 1850's, Reverend Allen Carner and his family came to Spotsylvania, where he bought a farm near Andrews Tavern. Although there is no known record of his having been assigned to the Spotsylvania circuit, he did serve for a time as a trustee for nearby Lebanon Methodist Church. In the 1860 census, Reverend Carner's occupation is shown as "Methodist clergyman." He owned a farm valued at $1,800 and had a personal estate worth $6,000, a portion of which was tied to the value of the nine slaves he owned.
     Both of Allen Carner's sons served in Company I of the 6th Virginia Cavalry during the Civil War. After Henry's return home, he became a member of Zion and married Lucy Johnson in 1875. Henry and Lucy and three of their five children--Ethel Wilshire and Medwyn and Edna Carner--are buried at Zion.
     In 1884, Zion benefited, at least indirectly, from a deed of land from Sheriff Thomas A. Harris "and others." On June 23 of that year, one acre of land was conveyed to Oliver Eastburn, William Stapleton Hicks and Edmund Woodfolk acting as trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church. This one acre lot, which had been part of Sheriff Harris's farm opposite Spotsylvania Court House, was intended "as a place of residence for the use and occupancy of the M. E. Church South who may from time to time be appointed to the said charge." On March 7, 1898, Thomas Harris and his second wife, the former Lizzie Eastburn, deeded an additional eight-tenths of an acre for the parsonage to the above named trustees and also trustees Alexander Watts Massey and John G. Miller. Reverend John Thomas Payne, who served Zion 1883-1887, was the first pastor to occupy the new parsonage when it was built in 1884. Reverend Payne had just recently been licensed as a preacher by the General Conference, and the Spotsylvania charge was his first assignment. Reverend Payne's son, Maurice, was killed in action while fighting in France in July 1918. Reverend Payne never recovered from the shock of hearing the news of his son's death, and he died on Christmas Eve, 1918.

Reverend John Thomas Payne (Tabernacle United Methodist Church)

     Martha "Mattie" Dawson Carner, the youngest daughter of Reverend Allen and Elizabeth Carner, was born in Greene County, Virginia in 1853. She married Spotsylvania native Joseph Albert Pendleton in January 1876 and raised four daughters--Maxie, Edith, Carrie and Fannie. Joseph Pendleton was a farmer and an enterprising business man. For a time, the Pendletons lived near Roxbury Mills, which Joseph owned. Their house burned in 1893. A year later, Joseph built a new house near the courthouse and purchased 43 acres adjacent to Zion. By a deed dated January 4, 1899, Joseph and Mattie Pendleton conveyed one acre of that property to John M. Smith, George W. Blackley and Stuart Marshall, acting as trustees for the church. The survey for this land was made by John M. Smith, who was the surveyor for Spotsylvania County. This gift of land was intended for use as the church's cemetery and included "specific instructions that no member ever be denied burial there and that no gravesite could be sold." The deed was witnessed by another member of Zion, clerk of court Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond. Joseph and Mattie Pendleton (who was a teacher of the Women's Bible Class) and their daughter, Maxie Austin, are buried there.

Members of Zion Methodist Church, c. 1885-1886

     Shown above is a gathering of Zion's members taken during the mid-1880's. The caption for the photograph is believed to have been researched by the late teacher and historian, Robert Hodge. Something of interest could be written about each person in this picture; below are a few notes about some of the more noteworthy members. Not all of the relationships noted here existed at the time this picture was made:

(1) Fannie Andrews was the sister of (4) Buford Twyman Andrews and Charles Robert Andrews.

(2) Dora Crismond was the daughter of (22) J. P. H. Crismond and (23) Sallie Crismond. She was the wife of (58) Dr. William Aquilla Harris.

(13) George Washington Blackley was a long-time member of and trustee of Zion.

(17) Charles Robert Andrews was the husband of (38) Roberta "Bertie" Harris.

(22) Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond was a long-time member of Zion and an ordained deacon. He served as clerk of court for Spotsylvania County 1881-1903. He was the husband of (23) Sallie Carnohan Crismond.

(24) Arthur Hancock Crismond was the son of (22) and (23). He served as clerk of court from 1912 until 1940, and was followed in that position by his son, Cary Crismond. Arthur donated an inscribed Bible to the church in 1939.

(50) Clara Dabney was a daughter of former clerk of court, Robert Clarence Dabney. During the Civil War, Robert C. Dabney saved the county's historic records from destruction by Union forces by burying them near the courthouse.

(53) William W. Ashby was the husband of (50). For years he was a merchant and politician. He was appointed Consul to Colon, Panama, where he drowned in a boating accident in 1898.

     In 1899, Zion's finances had improved to the point where it was possible to make major improvements to the sanctuary. These included enlarging the area behind the pulpit and installing new stained-glass windows there. These windows were donated by J. P. H. Crismond in honor of his mother. A tin ceiling was installed, as were oil-light chandeliers. Reverend James William Heckman was pastor during that time.

     The prosperity and good fortune Zion enjoyed in 1899 continued through the Christmas season, when several of its leading members traveled to Fredericksburg to buy some things for the Sunday school celebration, as seen in the article above.

     In the early 1900's, Senator Thomas Staples Martin of Virginia introduced a legislative initiative, whereby compensation would be made available to the state's churches damaged by the United States' army during the Civil War. In 1904 a claims court was established to process these claims. Zion began the process to make application for compensation as reported in the October 18, 1904 edition of The Free Lance: "Zion M. E. Church last night took preliminary steps toward securing reimbursement from the U. S. Government for damages done to the church during the war 1861-65 by Federal artillery. J. P. H. Crismond and George Blackley, trustees of the church, were appointed a committee to formulate items of damage and employ attorneys to present the claims."
     The following summer, depositions were taken at Spotsylvania Court House to establish Zion's claims for damages. Granville Swift, who would later serve as commonwealth's attorney for Fredericksburg and represent the town in the House of Delegates, was engaged to represent the church. In the article below, George W. Blackley's name is misspelled as "Geo. G. Black:"

     In an open letter to The Free Lance dated May 31, 1906, Zion's pastor, Reverend Edgar Poe Parham, noted the progress being made in obtaining reimbursement: "Zion is rejoicing in the prospect of getting the sum appropriated by the U. S. Court of Claims at Washington for damages done to it by Federal soldiers during the war and expects to make improvements when the money is forthcoming next spring."
     In December 1906, The Free Lance reported that Zion was slated to receive $2,000 (the paper incorrectly indicated Zion as a Baptist church):

     It is not known when Zion received any money, but it was likely nearly a decade after the process began. St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at Culpeper Court House received payment in 1914. The Fredericksburg Baptist Church received its money in 1915.

     A number of Zion's congregation became adherents of the Spotsylvania Holiness Association, which bought land at the intersection of Brock and Piney Branch roads to establish a place where evangelistic camp meetings would be held. Reverend James William Heckman, Zion's pastor 1899-1902, was its founder and would be a frequent speaker at these meetings. This article from the April 11, 1903 edition of The Free Lance provides some insight into the religious fervor in Spotsylvania at this time and Zion's role in it:

     A photograph from one of these camp meetings survives:

Spotsylvania Holiness Association, 1907

     Shown in this picture are these people known to have been members of Zion, or associated with the church:

(16) Ethel Carner Wiltshire was the oldest child of Zion members Henry and Lucy Carner. She is buried in the church's cemetery.

(18) Reverend Thomas Evan Thomas temporarily served at Zion in 1909 after the regular pastor, Reverend George Henry Ray, suffered a stroke.

(22) Roberta Harris Andrews was a daughter of Zion member and clerk of court, Thomas Addison Harris. She was the wife of (45) Charles Robert Andrews. Roberta served as treasurer of Zion, was president of Zion's chapter of the Women's Society for Christian Service, and for many years was treasurer of the Spotsylvania Methodist Charge.

(26) Edna Clay Carner was the youngest child of Henry and Lucy Carner. Edna was murdered in Fredericksburg on October 3, 1939 and is buried in the church cemetery.

(27) Reverend George Henry Ray was pastor at Zion (1906-1909).

(32) Ellen Mae Burke Crismond was the wife of clerk of court Arthur Hancock Crismond.

(33) William Cary Crismond was the son of Arthur and Ellen Crismond.

(41) Carrie Pendleton Greer was a daughter of Zion members Joseph and Mattie Pendleton.

(48) Reverend James William Heckman was pastor at Zion 1899-1902.

(55) Fannie Pendleton Hilldrup was the youngest daughter of Joseph and Mattie Pendleton and the wife of (53) Robert Warner Hilldrup.

     By October 1906, preparations were underway to inscribe a granite memorial commemorating the death of Francis Asbury, and to transport it to the site of the old George Arnold property, where Asbury had died 90 years before:

     The stone marker was created and transported to the old Arnold farm in December 1906. In the meantime, lumber was salvaged from George Arnold's dilapidated house in order to build a small church, Asbury Chapel. Reverend George Henry Ray, Zion's new pastor, held Easter services there in April 1907:

     On June 27, 1907 the Asbury monument was officially dedicated. Standing five feet high, the granite marker was inscribed with these words: "On this spot stood the home of George Arnold, where Bishop Francis Asbury died March 31, 1816. Erected by the Epworth Leagues of the Washington District, Baltimore Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church South, December 1906." Reverend Ray and several members from Zion attended the dedication. He wrote this article describing the occasion in the July 11, 1907 edition of The Daily Star:

     A photograph was taken of the event:

Dedication of the Asbury Monument, June 1907

Several known members of Zion are shown in attendance that day:

(30) Maxie Pendleton Austin, daughter of Joseph and Mattie Pendleton.

(31) Elva Carner Alrich, (32) Edna Clay Carner, (33) Ethel Carner Wiltshire and (34) Cornelia Carner Tompkins were the daughters of Henry and Lucy Carner.

(43) Reverend George Henry Ray, pastor of Zion

(58) George Tompkins was the husband of (34) Cornelia Pendleton Tompkins.

Services continued to be held at the Asbury Chapel until 1915:

     Dr. Caleb Rosser Massey (1867-1907) was one of Spotsylvania's leading citizens. In addition to his flourishing medical practice, the popular Dr. Massey was chairman of the Board of Supervisors and chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee. He married Inez Colbert at Massaponax Baptist Church on February 17, 1897. During their ten years together, they raised three children--Mary, Lucille and Caleb Rosser, Jr. They became members of Zion Methodist Church, and Reverend George Henry Ray presided at the funeral of Dr. Massey.
     Inez Massey and her children continued to attend Zion, and after she married Arthur Lewis Blanton in 1912, they became one of the church's most important families. Arthur owned the Blanton Motor Company in Fredericksburg, and after his death in 1942 it was operated by his widow and his adopted children as Blanton-Massey Ford. Zion's pastor at the time, Charles Lewis Stillwell, officiated at Arthur Blanton's funeral. To honor his memory, his family donated to Zion a brass altar cross which is still in use today. Two brass candlesticks flank the altar cross; one was donated by the family of Dr. William Aquilla Harris, the other by the family of clerk of court Arthur Hancock Crismond. Other than the building itself, the cross and candlesticks are Zion's oldest artifacts.


     In January 1912, clerk of court Thomas Addison Harris slipped on a patch of ice and was seriously injured in a fall. He died on January 25. Six years earlier, Harris had been featured in the January 5, 1906 edition of The Daily Star, which provided an excellent account of his life and his service to his community:

Less than four months later, his second wife, Lizzie, succumbed to pneumonia and died on May 9, 1912.

Lizzie Eastburn Harris (Courtesy of Richard Morrison)

 Thomas Addison Harris, his wives Mary and Lizzie, and two of his young sons--Eustace and Rupert--are buried at Zion.

     Included in the scrapbook kept by Leota Pendleton are two photographs of Reverend Samuel Hunter Pulliam, who served at Zion 1917-1920. Born in Halifax County, Virginia, Reverend Pulliam was the father of ten children. After his time at Zion, he maintained close ties to the Spotsylvania area. He died in Snell in 1950 at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Clarence Payne. Reverend Pulliam is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Fredericksburg.

     The passing of Joseph Patrick Henry Crismond on May 2, 1925 in many ways marked the end of an era at Zion Methodist Church. Despite a professional life sometimes marked by controversy, Crismond was a beloved figure in the county, and his decades of devotion to the church helped to sustain Zion through difficult times. His funeral was held at Zion (incorrectly shown as "Mt. Zion" in The Daily Star article of May 4, 1925, shown below) during the ministry of Egbert Ray Degges. He is buried with his wife in the cemetery at Zion. In 1930, Roberta Harris Andrews ordered a headstone from the War Department indicating Crismond's service during the Civil War. It was placed in the Confederate Cemetery at the courthouse.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Zion, Part 1

Bishop Francis Asbury

          Born in Staffordshire, England in August 1745, Francis Asbury worshiped at the local Methodist church as a youth. At the age of 18, he became a lay minister. When he was 22 years old, John Wesley appointed him to be a traveling preacher. In 1771, Asbury volunteered to come to America, where for the remaining 45 years of his life, he traveled about the country, preaching to what were often very large gatherings.
     Asbury was ordained as a bishop in 1784. He continued to travel throughout the newly independent United States, averaging six thousand miles a year on horseback or by horse-drawn conveyance. During his lifetime, the Methodist church in America grew from 1,200 to 214,000 members, and he ordained hundreds of preachers.
     His travels in Virginia included a number of passages through Spotsylvania County, since what are now Courthouse and Partlow roads were once part of the primary connection between Fredericksburg and Richmond. When passing through Spotsylvania, he often stopped at the home of his friend, George Arnold, whose home lay just south of modern Travelers Rest Baptist Church.

George Arnold house, 1880's (Spotsylvania County Museum)

     During the last years of his life, Bishop Asbury suffered from tuberculosis and the infirmities of old age. He became increasingly feeble, and he could no longer deliver his sermons with the same power he once commanded. In the late winter of of 1816, Asbury stopped in Richmond, where he delivered what proved to be his last sermon on March 24. A few days later, he continued his journey north, his intention being to reach Baltimore in time to attend the Methodist quarterly conference, scheduled to begin on May 2. However, as he made his way through southern Spotsylvania County, both the weather and his declining health obliged him to stop at the home of George Arnold. He died there on March 31, 1816.
     Bishop Asbury was buried at the Arnold farm. When the general conference convened in Baltimore in May 1816, it was decided that his remains should be brought to the city for permanent burial. His funeral procession in Baltimore was attended by thousands of mourners. Asbury's body was brought to Eutaw Street Methodist Church, where it was placed in a vault beneath the pulpit. And there he remained for forty years, until he was removed to his final resting place at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Spotsylvania County, 1820

     By 1820, a meeting house was erected on the road once traveled by Francis Asbury. The Liberty Meeting House was located at or near the current site of Zion United Methodist Church. In the map detail shown above, the Liberty Meeting House can be seen on what is today Courthouse Road, just northeast of the location of the courthouse at that time, which was located on modern Lake Anna Parkway.
     By the early 1840's, Methodists in Spotsylvania County had already organized at least two churches, Shady Grove and Tabernacle. Although it is quite likely that Bishop Asbury preached at gatherings during his travels through Spotsylvania, the first mention of preaching at the Liberty Meeting House was found in an entry in the diary of James Pulliam dated May 1844. Previous research by members of Zion indicate that the Liberty Methodist Class--forerunner of Zion--consisting of twelve members, was organized on November 12, 1850. The meetings of this class originally took place in the homes of members in the vicinity of the current location of the courthouse.
     Over time, these gatherings became too large to be accommodated in people's houses, and services began to be held in the Liberty Meeting House. The first preacher of the church was John Wesley Hilldrup, whose father, Robert Taylor Hilldrup, was one of the founding members of Tabernacle Methodist Church. Seventeen-year-old John Wesley Hilldrup was licensed as an exhorter by the quarterly conference of the Spotsylvania Circuit in 1857. (Click here to read an excellent short biography of Reverend Hilldrup written by historian John Banks.)

John Wesley Hilldrup (Courtesy of Cindy Abbott)

     When the size of the congregation outgrew the meeting house, money was raised to build a new brick church, and construction began in 1857. When the church was completed in 1859 (at a cost of $2,800), it was named Liberty Methodist-Episcopal Church, South. Reverend Samuel Robertson was the minister at that time, and the names of forty members were on the church's rolls.
     The church was built on a plan that was common in the nineteenth century, with separate front entries for men and women. Inside the church, a wooden divider ran down the middle of the center pews, defining the seating areas off male and female members. The entrance on the left side of the building was intended for the use of the members' slaves, who would then take the stairs at the rear of the sanctuary leading to the balcony. The well-known photograph of Zion shown below was presumed to have been taken by Frederick Theo Miller, a photographer active in the Fredericksburg area 1860's-1880's. Miller's parents, John and Wilhelmina Miller, were early members of Tabernacle Methodist Church, and after the Civil War they donated one acre of land to erect a new church building for Tabernacle on Old Plank Road.

Zion Methodist Church

      In 1861, as the nation moved ever closer to civil war, Liberty renamed itself as "Zion Methodist-Episcopal Church, South." A large proportion of Zion's male members, both present and future, would enlist in Confederate regiments. Likewise, a number of Zion's pastors also volunteered for the Confederacy. Here is a list of those ministers who are known to have done so:

John Wesley Hilldrup served as a private in the 30th Virginia Infantry
James Erasmus McSparran served as a chaplain in the 11th Virginia Infantry
Henry Chapman Bowles served as a private in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry
Robert Blackwood Beadles served as a chaplain for the 55th Virginia Infantry
William Wilkerson Lear served as a private in the Richmond Howitzers
Richard Monroe Chandler served in the 9th Virginia Cavalry
William Amos Laughon served in the 30th Virginia Infantry

     When the South seceded, many in Spotsylvania were optimistic about the possibility of a speedy and favorable outcome to the war. Few could have foreseen the disruptions to the operation of the church that would remain a fact of life for the duration of the war. Fewer still could have predicted that the conflict would come to Zion's very door steps.
     The first occasion on which armed soldiers would enter Zion's sanctuary occurred in August 1862. On Tuesday, August 5, the brigade of Union General John Gibbon was divided into three parts. One of these, led by General Sullivan, included the 24th New York Infantry, commanded by Colonel Samuel Raymond Beardsley. At 5 p.m. that day, the three wings of Gibbon's brigade left their camps in Falmouth and crossed over into Fredericksburg. From there, they spread out to conduct a reconnaissance in force, with the intention of doing some damage to the Virginia Central Railroad, if possible.
     On Thursday, August 7, Colonel Beardsley and his regiment took up a position at Zion. "Our orders were to stay here & hold this point till this afternoon & then return to Falmouth," he wrote in a letter to his father that day. Beardsley and a number of his soldiers made themselves at home in the sanctuary, where he continued his letter: "I write this from the gallery of a country church which is situated in a grove about a half mile from the village (said village composed of a Court House, Clerks Office, and Tavern all of Brick, & one or two other houses of wood) which is a perfect bedlam below, as it is filled with soldiers some scuffling, some whistling, some playing cards on the little plain table in front of the pulpit, while one independent gentleman in his shirt sleeves occupies the ministers chair in the pulpit and is engaged in the laudable occupation of combing his hair with a pocket comb while he occasionally stops to admire his handy work through the medium of a little pocket looking glass."

Samuel Raymond Beardsley (

     Samuel Raymond Beardsley was born in Oswego, New York in 1814. Before the war, he worked as a merchant and miller, and in the 1850s was postmaster in Oswego. In 1863, Colonel Beardsley transferred to the 1st New Jersey Infantry. He died, while serving his country, in Stevensburg in Culpeper County on December 28, 1863. He lies buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Oswego.

     On the night of May 2, 1863, during the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was shot by soldiers of the 18th North Carolina Infantry, who had mistaken Jackson and his aides as Union cavalry. Doctor Hunter McGuire amputated his left arm later that night. Within a few days, Jackson was placed in an ambulance and taken to "Fairfield," the home of his friend Thomas C. Chandler, near Guiney's Station in Caroline County. As the ambulance drove past Zion, local residents lined the road to watch as he passed by, little knowing that their hero had but a few more days to live.

Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (Wikipedia)

     When the Union army returned to Spotsylvania County a year later, the consequences for Zion Methodist Church would be much more dire. On May 4, 1864, Union General George Meade led approximately 120,000 troops over the Rapidan River and into Spotsylvania. The following day, Meade's army was met in the Wilderness by Confederate forces led by General Robert E. Lee. And so began a series of engagements that would rage in Spotsylvania until May 21.
     The Confederate cavalry moved southeast down Brock Road resisting the Union advance toward Spotsylvania Courthouse. When the vanguard of Lee's army, traveling down Shady Grove Church road, reached Laurel Hill, they entrenched and awaited the first Federal assault. It would not be long in coming. Beginning May 8, the two armies were in constant contact with each other, and titanic battles occurred almost daily, resulting in over 31,000 casualties.
     By May 11, division commander Henry Heth had established his headquarters at Zion. That evening General Lee also arrived, and over time other general officers and their staffs came and went from the church. General Ambrose Powell Hill, who was compelled by ill health to temporarily relinquish command of the Third Corps, arrived by ambulance. General Jubal Early, who was named as Hill's replacement as corps commander, was also nearby. Over the next several days, Early's soldiers encamped between the courthouse and the church. The cavalry division of General William Henry Fitzhugh Lee also spent time at the intersection of Court House and Massaponax Church roads and on the church grounds.
     At least one, and possibly two telescopes were set up at the windows in the slaves' balcony, providing a good view of Union activity at Myer's Hill, about a mile away. In the map detail shown above, the line of sight between Zion and Myer's Hill is evident. Off to the left, it was also possible to observe the movements of General Ambrose Burnside's Ninth Corps.
     The coming and going of Confederate generals and their staffs, not to mention the presence of large bodies of soldiers in the immediate vicinity of Zion, attracted the attention of Union forces nearby. Soon, a fusillade of artillery and small arms fire raked the church and its grounds. The windows were shot out, and significant damage was done to the church's roof and brick exterior. Somehow in the midst of all this tumult, General Robert E. Lee found it possible to take a nap inside the church on May 14th, one of the few times during the war when he slept under a roof.
     As the fighting continued and the casualties mounted, the church's sanctuary was pressed into service as a hospital. All of the pews (most of the original ones are still in use today) were moved outside in order to provide space for the wounded and dying who were brought in for care. Operations, including amputations, would have been performed in the sanctuary. The blood of these unfortunate men, which stained the floors, would remain visible for almost one hundred years.
     On May 15th, General Ambrose Wright's brigade of Georgians was ordered to make a reconnaissance toward Myer's Hill. This movement was not well executed by General Wright, and upon encountering stiff resistance after marching a short distance down Massaponax Church Road, he led his brigade back to their starting point near Zion. An outraged General Hill met with Lee at the church, and demanded that a court of inquiry be convened to investigate Wright's conduct. Lee's reply to Hill exemplified the temperament and wisdom for which the Confederate commander was well known: "These men are not an army; they are citizens defending their country. General Wright is not a soldier; he is a lawyer. I cannot do many things that I could do with a trained army. The soldiers know their duties better than the general officers do, and they have fought magnificently. Sometimes I would like to mask troops and deploy them, but if I were to give the proper order, the general officers would not understand it; so I have to make the best of what I have and lose much time in making dispositions. You understand all of this, but if you humiliated General Wright, the people of Georgia would not understand. Besides, whom would you put in his place? You'll have to do what I do. When a man makes a mistake, I call him to my tent, talk to him, and use the authority of my position to make him do the right thin the next time."
     On May 21, the armies began withdrawing south toward the North Anna River. For all intents and purposes, the war in Spotsylvania was over. The final months of the Civil War would be fought in the trenches around Richmond and Petersburg and on the agonizing march to Appomattox. Although the fighting had ceased, it would be a long time before any normalcy returned to the lives of the citizens of Spotsylvania. The economy was shattered, money was scarce, a great many men had been killed or permanently injured, and a large number of farms and public buildings--including churches--had been destroyed or rendered unusable for quite some time. A long period of rebuilding had just begun.