History Record View

Title: Williams Chapel
File Attachment:
Attachment Type:

In 1966 a new church came into being in Steuben Township, Rev. Grover Williams, already a minister since 1947, wanted to erect a building for use by a congregation for worship. He had decided to erect it on a piece of ground he owned in Johnsville on the northwest side of the Wabash Railroad tracks. "Living by Faith", in the words of the old gospel song, he began without funding, materials, congregation, or conference backing. As the word of venture reached the ears of the community, many were found to volunteer. Some gave time and labor, many others gave cash donations. The following is copied from a yellowed sheet which was posted on the wall at the chapel in the early years, and is a listing of those who helped. The astericks denote materials given.

Thanks to all who labored, especially Grover William Sr., Levi Cronkhite and Glenn Kinney.

The trenches for the footings were dug by Mearle Inman with a backhoe belonging to Bill Inman. Mearle also hauled the blocks for the foundation, which was laid by Grover Williams Sr., Oscar Sprague, Grover Williams Jr., Mearl VanLeer and Richard (Tuffy) VanLeer. Many others helped during the early days in the hard work of construction, including Bill Jordan, Hazel Madison, Eugene Thompson, Randy Cunninham, Darrell Cunningham, Gerald Sprague, Wilbur Harrison, and undoubtedly others whose names may not be remembered here, but whose work and effort will not have gone unnoticed by God. The cost of the structure was $2,311.31. The materials were bought at Powell Lumber Co. (who always gave a 10% discount), C.V. Cantwell Grain and Lumber, Cook's Building and Material in Danville, Jenkins Concrete in Cayuga and Material and Fuel in Danville. The gravel for the drive and parking lot was hauled by Gerald and Francis Hargan with Francis' truck, and James VanPelt, with Garland Brasker driving Jim's truck. Gerald did most of the working down of the gravel as it was hauled. He also delivered the toilet to the back of the lot. It had belonged to the Hargans. The Warren County Highway Department donated and installed the long culvert under the driveway.

The first wedding was held before the building was completed. Christmas Eve 1966 saw the first candlelight service, and there has been a service every Christmas Eve since that time. A severe snowstorm limited the attendance to the devoted couple, Tom and Johnnie Gassaway, one year, but they had a brief servie and got back home nearby afterward.

In July 1967 an ice cream social was held. A congregation was growing and Sunday school classes were formed. Mrs. Grover Williams took up the pastoral duties and was the minister through 1982, when Glenn Wesley from the Free Methodist Church in Attica became the second pastor of the church. He and his wife, Lorene, are now in their seventh year of service and are loved by the congregation.

In 1968 an addition for Sunday school rooms and kitchen was added on the east end at a cost of $1400. About this time the old oil stove situated at the northwest corner of the sanctuary, and around which we huddled on cold winter mornings, was replaced by a gas furnace which was installed in the new addition. The entrance addition was built on the west end in 1970 and added a great deal to the usefulness and appearance of the church building.

The pews were acquired by Grover Williams before the first building was complete and were stored in the building, always in the way. They had been part of the Gessie United Brethren Church, and Grover cut them down to fit in their new space. Through Paul Clem a pulpit was acquired which had once been used by Rev. Louis R. Hotaling in the Christian Church at State Line. In 1975 the ladies of the church refinished both the pews and pulpit, which had original blackened finish. All were found to be made of beautiful golden oak. The pews were padded and the entire sanctuary was carpeted soon after.
In November of 1971 the church group held its first chicken and noodle supper in the Sunday school annex. Margaret Inman has been the chairman of this event from the beginning. This has become a tradition, and every frist Saturday of November this has been held, invited to provide gospel music during the evening. Several friends of the church have not missed any of the suppers. This is one fund-raising event of the year, but has become so much more, as a night of fellowship, neighborliness and enjoyment.

In 1976 Johnsonville celebrated its centennial, which came the same year the nation celebrated the Bi-centennial year. The event was chaired by Francis and Betty VanLeer very successfully. It was held on July 10-11, Saturday and Sunday, and the weather was hot. The ladies of the church wore old-fashioned dresses for the occasion. Francis, Elton, and Howard VanLeer cooked a large kettle of soup beans in the back yard, which were sold as part of the lunch for a large group of people in attendanc. A large tent and other structures were set up on Francis and Betty VanLeer's yard, and the crowd went back and forth from one side of the tracks to the other. Rev. J.T. Meyers, a well-known old preacher, preached the evening service.

The congregation had not been able to afford the large expense of well and restrooms until 1985, when funds were raised by donations and an auction sale of donated articles (held on the church yard). A well was drilled soon after adn the south side of the entry room was partitioned off to make two restrooms. This also meant that there was now running water in the kitchen , much appreciated by the ladies at chicken niidle supper time.

In 1979 Bob Amos, brother of Margaret Inman, a long-standing member of the church, and jOhn McCoy, her niece's husband, tore out the make-shift shelves and counters which they made to order. Their labor was entirely donated, the only cost to the congregation being the materials. The music was first provided by a large pump organ which belonged to Grover Williams. His wife was the organist. A piano was funded by ten families giving five dollars each. Harold Hall, Jr. had a truck which was used to haul it home from Danville. It is still in use at the church. A small electric organ, also owned by Grover Williams, was used for some time. A large reed electric organ was used for a while as well, until it required too much repair to be practical. In 1987 a lovely Hammond organ was acquired and adds much to the music.

The steeple was a carved wooden hand pointing to heaven. It was made by Grover Williams from a walnut timber which came from the old covered bridge that spanned Pine Creek near Attica. It is patterned after the hand on the steeple of the Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, Mississippi. The bell was a gift from Bertha Fleming.

In 1988 stained glass windows were begun, to replace the draperies at the windows. Frames were built to go inside the existing original windows, and the glass crafted to fit inside these frames. The windows on the north side of the sanctuary are completed now, and the remaining ones on the south will be finished this winter. The work is being done by Grover and Millie Williams.

Vernon Taylor was the very first Sunday School Superintendent and his daughter, Frances Kay was the first Sunday School secretary. In the early days of the church a large group of young people was in attendance and took part in community sings and regular fifth-Sunday singspirations, which were held at Coal Branch Church, Christian Union Church and Williams Chapel.

Mabel Patton, who will be 98 years old in November, is the oldest living member of the Williams Chapel Community Church. She resides at the nursing home in Williamsport now, but has been a faithful member for many years. Following is a list of early members of the church: Anna Morlan, Tom and Johnnie Gassaway, Mearle VanLeer, Oscar and Elsie Sprague, Dean and Rose Hillyer, Larry and Patsy Hobaugh, Vernon and Maggie Taylor, Margaret Inman, Ron and Joyce Humphreys, Mabel Patton, Francis and Betty VanLeer, Mearle and Patty Inman, Bill and Barbara Glover, Grover and Anna Williams, Harold and Nellie Mae Hall, Grover and Millie Williams, Harold and Doris Hall, and Fred and Louise Hoskins.

This number also included, of course, the children of many of these families, who made up so vital a part of the congregation. We sincerely hope that names have not been left out; if this has occurred it has not been intentional but a result of flawed memories.

William Chapel is basically a Methodist Church in doctrine and teaching, but is independent, because it is not part of any conference. At this writing Glenn Wesley is the minister, Margaret Inman the Sunday School superintendent, Betty VanLeer, song leader; Huw Williams, secretary; Lana Decker, treasurer; Millie Williams, organist; and the deacons are Francis VanLeer, Margaret Inman, and John VanPelt. Pearl Stiffler is the Remembrance Secretary. The congregation is smaller than formerly, but with strong faith in the grace of God, it hopes for revitalization and growth in the future, trusting to remain a vital part of the community in which it has been built.

Date: 8/1/1989
Origin: Good Ol' Days
Author: Revs. Grover and Millie Williams
Record ID: 00000136
Type: Book
Source Archive: Williamsport-Washington Township Public Library
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Entered By: Amber M Knipe

Information in this record is provided for personal research purposes only and may not be reproduced for publication. If you have questions about copyright issues contact the archive source listed above.