First United Methodist Church
The First United Methodist Church of Ironton was built in 1893. It was originally home to the Spencer Methodist Church, which later consolidated with the Wesley Methodist Church in 1913. The church was designed in the Victorian Gothic style and features stained glass windows, a curved chancel rail (also called an altar rail), and balcony seats from the first Spencer Church, built in 1852. Since its erection, only one addition has been made to the church: the Education Building, finished in 1967.
Backstory and Context
In 1850, a year after the founding of Ironton, local Methodists organized what would become the Spencer Methodist Church. During 1851, over two thousand dollars were raised to build a church on land donated by the Ohio Iron and Coal Company. The main part of the church was dedicated in the summer of 1852. It was likely named after the presiding church elder, Robert O. Spencer. Reverend W. C. Hand was pastor, and the church saw exponential growth. When the congregation had finally outgrown the church, a new one was built on Fifth and Center Streets. A “Feast of Dedication” was held there on May 7, 1893.
The Wesley Church was founded by a group of Welsh immigrants who had come to Ironton to mine iron ore. The Ohio Iron and Coal Company also gave land to this group in the winter of 1852. A chapel was completed there in August 1853. John Ellis from Cincinnati served as pastor, preaching in Welsh, until 1859. At that point, many of the Welsh immigrants spoke English, so an English-speaking reverend, J. P. Lacroix, took over. As the “Wesley Chapel” grew into the “Wesley Church,” a bigger home was needed. So, the new Wesley Church was built on Fifth and Etna streets in the late 1860s. It was in use from 1872 until February 1913, when a fire destroyed it.
June of that same year, the two Methodist churches joined together to become the First United Methodist Church. Wesley Church added its 380 members to the 493 of Spencer Church. To make the transition easier, all former trustees of the churches resigned and a new election was held to choose members of the board. Wesley’s Rev. J. W. Blair and Spencer’s Rev. B. D. Evans both preached at the church until October, when Evans was chosen to take over. The congregation became one of the biggest in the Ironton area.
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