Carrying on the long tradition of the Methodist religion in West Virginia, the Wayne United Methodist Church has been continuously serving the community for 169 years. It was founded by retired circuit riding preacher Reverend Burwell Spurlock in 1846. Although the original church building no longer exists, the church today still stands on the same lot of land where the original church once stood.
The Methodist Church has a long history in the Mountain
State. When West Virginia was established in 1863 it had the largest following
of any other religion, only challenged by Baptists. The churches were led by
clergymen who traveled over a particular geographical area called a circuit.
These clergy men were known as circuit riding preachers who would travel from
town to town preaching the gospel. These men were known to be dedicated to
their work. A common saying on occasions with bad weather was. “The only things
out tonight are crows and Methodist preachers.” Two Methodist circuits were
established in West Virginia in the 1780s. The first was the Redstone circuit which
included southwestern Pennsylvania and northwest West Virginia. This circuit
was subdivided into two categories, the Ohio Circuit to the north and the
Clarksburg Circuit in the south. The second circuit was known as the Greenbrier
Circuit in southeastern West Virginia.
The founder on the Wayne United Methodist Church, Reverend
Burwell Spurlock, began his religious career as a circuit riding Methodist preacher.
He was born in Montgomery County, Virginia in 1790. As an infant he moved to Bourbon
County, Kentucky, and a few years later, moved again to Greenbottom in present
day Cabell County, West Virginia. He received extremely limited formal
education as a child. In the spring of 1812 he converted to the Methodist religion and six years later he felt called to preach the gospel. In 1818, Spurlock
became a circuit riding preacher in the Ohio Circuit and traveled around West
Virginia and Kentucky. It is unknown exactly when Spurlock finally came to the present
day town of Wayne to settle, but records show he was first in the town around
In Wayne, Reverend Spurlock became a prominent member of the
community. He founded two Methodist churches in the area: One at the mouth of
Wilson Creek and in 1846, the Methodist Church in the town. In April 1861, on
the eve of the Civil War, the governor of Virginia called for a convention to
determine Virginia’s role in the war. Each county in the state had to send a
representative. Reverend Spurlock was selected to represent Wayne County. At
the time Spurlock was 76 years old and despite his limited education, it was
reported he could quote Homer and “could even captivate an audience by
describing the process by which a blade of grass grew.” Spurlock arrived at the
conference late due to the difficult journey across the mountains. However, he
was in time to vote against Virginia’s secession. Although it was determined
that Virginia should secede, Spurlock remained to participate for the remainder
of the convention.
Today, the Wayne United Methodist Church still stands on the
lot where Reverend Spurlock founded the first Methodist Church in the town. The
church has been continuously serving the community for 169 years. However, the
church which is used today is not the original building from 1846 and has had
many renovations over the years to modernize the building. Jacob Steele
is the pastor of the church today. To pay tribute to the man who founded it, a
painted portrait of Reverend Burwell Spurlock hangs in the church.