Wayne United Methodist Church
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.
Backstory and Context
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 1840.
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.