Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tales from the U. B. Church

by David Parmer

It stood gracefully, a white sentinel against the green hillside. The Orlando United Brethren Church was the spiritual home and religious bulwark for many Orlando folks in the early middle of the 1900s.

The days of our grandparents were more reverent than are present times. Orlando and its people were no different in the early 20th century. This little community was never one of wealth and grand churches, but, for a brief period of its history witnessed a religious energy which witnessed diverse churches to satisfy the spiritual needs of its inhabitants.
For facts about the church, see the May '07 entry
The History of Orlando's United Brethern Church

Right, above: The Orlando UB Church sits in a lightened oval in the far upper right corner of the panorama looking down the Oil Creek Valley.

Left: In the early 1950s photo of the congregation of the United Brethren Church, standing outside or on the steps of the church building are the following identified individuals:
On the left front are Jean Riffle and Dick Leggett who are the second and third from the left.
In the middle of the next to last row on the steps is Vergie Henline. On the far right is Kennard Bragg. The Goldie Posey family, Carol, Goldie, Bonnie and Frank are to the left of Kennard Bragg.
Behind the Goldie Posey family is Norma Jean Mick.
Max Hamilton is at the bottom left of the doorway. Ruby Bee is on the left of the third row from the top of the steps. The identities of the others are not certain at this time. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Building the Parsonage
In 1923, the United Brethren church members deemed it advisable to have a parsonage in order to attract pastors to serve the Orlando church. Toward that end, the trustees of the church bought a parsonage located near the Orlando school for the sum of $2800. Not having all of the purchase price to buy the parsonage home outright, one of the church officers, P. N. Blake, also known as Uncle Zeke, place a solicitation in his February 1923 Braxton Democrat column “The Buzzardtown News” seeking one dollar from each reader in order to help pay for the parsonage. Uncle Zeke promised each donor that he would “Give up a good laugh for every penny sent,” and “Fun, wit, and humor at my expense.” Uncle Zeke announced in a subsequent column that Lucinda Moyers of Cutlips, West Virginia made the first donation. The Uncle Zeke solicitation campaign put a small dent in the parsonage debt.

The parsonage was dedicated in September 1923 by Bishop William Weekley of Parkersburg, at which time cash contributions and subscriptions in the sum of $2000 was raised. Finally in June 1926 the debt was paid in full and at a meeting at the church the promissory note of the trustees for the debt was burned. This parsonage served as the home of the United Brethren pastors for approximately forty-five years.

Skinner Brothers Got Religion
In the 1920s and 1930s there was no television, and just a few radios, and virtually no competing activities to occupy the minds of the Orlando area folk. Church revivals at the United Brethren Church drew huge crowds of people with pent up emotions. Although most people came to the revivals for the spiritual benefit, there were some who just came to blow off steam.
Dale Barnett recalls one such incident at a United Brethren Church revival in the early 1930s. Apparently Lee Skinner and his brother Bert became a little over zealous during one revival and became so engrossed in the experience that they became somewhat out of control. The Skinner brothers would not leave the revival and were causing such a commotion that they had to be wrestled out of the church. Lee and Bert were then manhandled down to the Orlando school house where they were both tied to the school house porch columns for the rest of the evening. Reportedly, as remembered by Dale, the rope for the school bell at the school was cut off and was used to hog-tie the two brothers. Mildred McNemar however advises us that it was not the rope to the school house bell which was used to bind brothers Lee and Bert, but rather the school house flag pole rope, according to Mildred’s foster father, Bill Henline. Mildred also recalls that the account of the incident she had been told was that Lee Skinner was jumping from pew to pew, chanting “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs, Preacher in the pulpit, steal my wool.” Now whatever the meaning of that demonstration may have been we don’t know, or if it meant anything at all.

Uncle Zeke, a faithful United Brethren Church member, reported in his newspaper column of February 11, 1932 that Lee Skinner and Bert Skinner of Orlando were adjudged insane and lodged in Weston State Hospital. Presumably, the brothers had a short stay in the State Hospital until they lost their religion, or at least their religious zeal, at which time they were discharged as “normal” and resumed life in Orlando.

Union Revival Meetings
It was common for the Methodist and United Brethren churches in Orlando to have a “Union revival meeting”. In a February 1921 column of the Buzzardtown News, Uncle Zeke reported that the Reverend Bennett of the M.P. Church and Reverend Stead of the U. B. Church were going to have a Union meeting “so it looks like the devil might as well cover up the fire, call his dogs and skeedaddle.” Of course a lot of younger children eagerly anticipated revival meetings in the community because they got to watch grown-ups act, shall we say, “out of control”. ‘Goings on’ at revival meetings undoubtedly were choice dinner table and behind the barn discussions for several months after “the devil was made to skedaddle.”

Preacher Keller Retired In Orlando
One of the earliest and longest serving pastors of the Orlando U. B. Church was Reverend E. F. Keller who came to Orlando from Cedarville in 1924. Pastor Keller served until 1928 and was replaced by Reverend A. P. Zinn who served the Orlando Circuit for about one year. Reverend Keller returned again to Orlando and served until 1933. He was the only ordained minister to make Olando his home..

In addition to “hellfire and brimstone” preaching, Pastor Keller was a noted carpenter and was involved in construction projects around the Orlando area. The Preacher also raised a few sheep which he would castrate, butcher and sell, and which, it is said, were “quite delicious.”

“Preacher Keller,” as he was known, retired in Orlando and lived the rest of his life on the Oil Creek Road between Posey Run and McCauley Run in a house on the hill above the B & O Railroad tracks, beside the present residence of Carl Fox, grandson of Preacher Keller.Preacher Keller died in 1956 and was buried in the Orlando Cemetery. Here are two photos of Preacher Keller.

Preacher's Kids
The children of preachers play a special role in a close knit community. Maybe we look at them to see how the sacred and worldly meet. All eyes are on them to see how the child manages to live the Preacher's sermons in the real world.
Boyd Scott left and his sister Pauline Scott right, children of Reverend Scott. both graduated from Burnsville High School in 1936. Boyd was President of the Youth Group of the U. B. Church in Orlando while his father pastored there.

J. C. Foster. Jr.
J. C. Foster was the son of Reverend J. C. Foster of the E. U. B. Church in Orlando. As with most preachers, they never stayed in one place for any length of time. so young J.C. did not graduate from Burnsville High School. He was, like any healthy preacher's kid, "mischievous" but J. C. followed in his father’s footsteps and was a preacher throughout southern West Virginia.

Evelyn Smearman
Reverend James J. Smearman served the Orlando Circuit in the mid-1940s. Preacher Smearman’s daughter, Evelyn Smearman, taught Jimmie Henline to play the piano. Evelyn graduated from Burnsville High School in 1945. See the Jan '07 entry, Jimmie Henline. Evelyn Smearman's high school picture is to the right.

Eugene Parrish
In the late 1940s and early 1950s Eugene, the son of Preacher Charles E. Parrish, served as drum major of the Burnsville High School band in 1952. His ability to toss a baton high into the air and catch it on the way down is well remembered by the writer during Friday football games at Burnsville. It was recalled by Mildred McNemar that Eugene was also a piano virtuoso and was particularly adept at playing “gospel boogie” music when the adults were “not around.” Of course when the adults came into the church, the piano music became more sedate, mainstream, and more befitting the United Brethren.
To the left is Eugene Parrish, preacher's kid, drum major and master of gospel boogie.
Katie Keller
The youngest child of Preacher Keller and his wife, Theodosia, was Kathleen, known as “Katie.” Pretty Katie is pictured to the right. Uncle Zeke, on the back of an old calendar, penned the following poem about young Katie Keller.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .There is a maid in our town
A jolly maid is she
She is a friend to everyone
And a real friend to me.

She is fair in form and feature
And she’s past her sweet sixteen
She’s a lovely little creature,
Fair enough to be a queen.
Now this maid is not an angel
Nor has she an angel wing
But I hope some day in Heaven
She will with the Angels sing.
Of course you want to know her name
But don’t tell a living feller
I promised that I would not tell
But her name is Kathleen Keller. .

Uncle Zeke was a faithful member of the United Brethren Church during his entire lifetime. Using the power of the pen, he often railed about non-church-goers in his Buzzardtown News column, and on occasion even railed against the church members. In a 1922 column, Uncle Zeke mourned bitterly that some church goers were moonshining and that “even the class leader was caught with a 60 gallon barrel of booze in his possession.” Uncle Zeke had no truck for those who drank the “devil’s water,” nor for those who neglected to attend church.

One informant tells us Uncle Zeke was so fervent in his belief that when called upon to pray, he “blest everyone in the church, everyone who wanted to go but couldn’t, everyone who wouldn’t go, and everyone who went elsewhere.” “His prayers and praying went on forever.” .
Uncle Zeke (P.N. Blake) is pictured to the right.

Preacher Smearman Got a New Car
Junior Hurst was called upon at times to drive for Preacher Smearman of the E.U.B. Church who preferred someone to drive for him. Junior’s driving days for Preacher Smearman however came to an abrupt end when Junior forgot to set the handbrake on the Preacher’s car one day when he parked in front of Mike Moran’s garage on a rain slickened driveway. Despite being in gear, the 1931 Chevy coupe rolled down the driveway and over the hill onto the railroad tracks by the Catholic Church. Preacher Smearman did not think too harshly of Junior despite the mishap, particularly when his congregation bought him a 1939 Chevrolet to replace the 1931 Chevy coupe which went over the hill.

Preacher Ziegler Found a Bride
One of the United Brethren pastors serving the Orlando Circuit married a local girl. In 1945, Reverend Nestor was assigned to the Orlando Circuit. Reverend Nestor only served Orlando about six weeks because his asthma and the weather in Orlando didn’t quite make a good fit.

Reverend Nestor was replaced by Joe Ziegler, a young man just entering the ministry. Although only serving the Orlando Circuit for about ten months, Pastor Ziegler found his future bride, Pauline McCauley of Burnsville, while serving Orlando. After leaving Orlando (and probably thanking the Lord for asthma and the Orlando weather), Reverend Ziegler and his wife Pauline moved to Jackson County. Eventually, Reverend Ziegler and his wife made their retirement home in West Union. Left: Reverend Joe Zigler

Ladies' Aid Society
Another activity followed by the women of the United Brethren Church was the Ladies Aid Society. Once a month the ladies of the church would meet at a member’s home for a meeting to discuss church activities and to socialize. The ladies dressed in their Sunday best and enjoyed good food and drink. Each monthly meeting was eagerly awaited by the ladies and was a welcome break from the usual household drudgery.

To the right, Virgi Henline, Josie Beckner and Irene England, the preacher's wife. This 1950s photo of three UB women was taken not at a Ladies' Aid event but at a school event in Orlando event.

Uncle Zeke, it should be no surprise, had a few words about the U.B.'s Ladies Aid:

The Ladies Aid
One day I called on the Ladies’ Aid,
It was two o’clock p.m.
I don’t recall how long I stayed,
That was left up to them.

They treated me so nice and good,
On that particular day,
I said I’d help them all I could,
So they called upon me to pray.

Lottie Henline, the president,
A lady that’s worthwhile,
Arose and said, “All be content,”
Then smote a little smile.

A song was sung by all the crowd,
If I make no mistake—
Maud Freeman sang so very loud,
They had to draw the brake.

Minerva Mick then called the roll,
And to my sad surprise,
Virgie Sharp and Carrie Goad,
Stayed at home to bake some pies.

Pearl Edgell then a poem read,
Georgie Hamilton did the same;
Then Uncle Zeke arose and said
“I’m truly glad I came.”

Gladys Helmick was present just the same,
(She always is unless she’s sick);
I hope she’ll never change her name
“Twould be Hel without the Mick.

Effie Skinner and Annie Scott,
And Lillie Fox came late;
I hope that they will surely not,
Be tardy at the pearly gate.

There is Biddie Riffle and Josie Beckner,
With their pleasant smile;
Then Opal Chrislip and Ruth Strader,
They come once in a while.

Joe Skinner and Cora Riffle,
I declare I most forgot;
And don’t let me forget to name,
Charles Wesley, Preacher Scott.

I’ve often wondered how I’d feel,
If I was a U. B. preacher,
If a cup of coffee I could steal,
From another human creature.

The Ladies Aid is doing fine,
So join them sister, brother,
And add another star in your crown,
By helping one another.

Orlando's UB Church Closed in the 1960s
Television, automobiles, and people moving away proved too much for the small white church on the green hillside in Orlando in the 1960s. Church attendance dwindled, the faithful members passed to their Heavenly rewards, and Methodism proved too tempting an alternative to the more youthful or pragmatic United Brethren members. Even the purchase of St Michael’s Church, the brick, former Catholic church building, by the Orlando United Brethren Church could not stem the drift in the direction of merger with the Methodist Church. By the end of the 1960s, the Orlando United Brethren Church had answered the call of the roll and sang its last hymn. The small white church, less its steeple and its mission, now stands mute on the green Orlando hillside, with no Sunday hymns to comfort the memories of the founders and members who lie in the cemetery on the opposite hill.

comment 1 Patsy (Morrison) Reckart
The annual Christmas Pagent at the U.B. Church was a big event. I remember the Three Wise Men were played by Bill Barnett, W.D. Brown and [ ]. They would come down the isle from the back of the church. They were wonderful.

comment 2 David Parmer
The following is a tale written by Uncle Zeke detailing part of the move of Preacher Keller from Cedarville to Orlando in October 1924.
“Last week as some good folks were moving Reverend E. F. Keller from Cedarville to the Orlando charge, things progressed very well until they were passing the home of John Davis, below Burnsville, when suddenly the cow, that was driven by a man whose name was John, made a bee line for the house. Around the house went ”Bossy” and landed in Uncle Johnny’s kitchen. The driver, by the help of the family, soon got her out into the yard. She noticed the barn door standing open and soon was inside the barn. John (not John the Baptist) made haste to the barn in time to find “Bossy” trying to get up in the barn loft. I didn’t hear any printable language used as they were doing the work of the Lord.

"It is thought that Henry Cole will be in with the load of the preacher’s household effects by election day, or soon thereafter. Henry is noted for his swiftness. Anyhow, the preacher is located in the parsonage at Orlando and we hope for him a prosperous year.

comment 3 Donna Gloff
Henry Cole, who helped move the Preacher's belongongs in 1924 (see comment 2) died in 1926 when he ran into a burning building to rescue someone. See the Jan '07 entry Henry Cole Died a Hero

1 comment:

  1. Dave, I think the gentleman on the center of the steps with glasses, white shirt with black bow tie is Bill Beckner's father. I know the woman to the left of him is Aunt Evelyn Mitchell Wimer.