The Early Years
In 1998, Mt. Horeb celebrated its Sesquicentennial. Although we celebrated 150 years of Mt. Horeb history, the origins of Mt. Horeb actually go back 40 more years, to 1808. The seeds for a Methodist church in Bristersburg were planted some 24 years after the 1784 Christmas Conference, which organized the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the home of a Bristersburg resident, J.B. Cummins. It was in this home that a group of local residents began to assemble for services around 1808. This is revealed in a pamphlet called "Recollections of William E. Gaskins from 1890" in the possession of a Rev. M.L. Steadman, Jr., historian. In this pamphlet we find reference to Mt. Horeb.
Still another appointment was at the residence of the late Mrs. John Cummins, and from thence was changed to Mt. Horeb Church. It was at the hearth stone of Mrs. Cummins that the Rev. Beverly Waugh preached his first sermon. This home is believed to have been about two miles south of Bristersburg Road, near what is now called Courtney School Road.
According to a biography of Rev. Waugh, who later became a bishop, he had been assigned to pastoral charges within the boundaries of the Baltimore Conference from 1809-1828. From this we can infer that services for Mt. Horeb were being held in Mrs. Cummins' home prior to 1809. An interesting side note: J.B. Cummins was the uncle of John W. Eskridge in whose memory the late Joseph G. Eskridge bequeathed funds to build this current structure. Also, this church's first minister, Rev. Beverly Waugh became the first resident bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore.
With the new Mt. Horeb Church struggling to survive in what was then a very rural, isolated community; Methodists began facing some of the most turbulent times.
In 1828 a group calling themselves the Methodist Protestant Church broke off from the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of lay representation. These were the formative years of the new republic. A new experiment in government was occurring, yet the principles established by Wesley kept the spirit of Methodism alive. New hymns and folk songs also began to make their way into American homes and churches.
Division and War
With the Civil War being thrust upon the country, there was another division of the Methodist church in 1844 based on slavery and on the constitutional issue over the powers of the General Conference versus the episcopacy. The new church called the Methodist Episcopal Church South broke away from the existing Methodist Episcopal Church. Other splits occurred over other reasons, mostly regarding structure and authority. These new splits formed the Wesleyan Methodist Church (1869). Being a part of the Confederacy, Mt. Horeb became part of the new Methodist Episcopal Church South.
In the spring of 1848, Thomas W. and Susan Cowne deeded one acre of land to Seth Combs, J.B. Cummins, Gilson Mauzey, Reason H. Oliver, Silas F. Cropp, Peter W. Redd, Joseph Palmer, John Fant, and John T. Bayliss, Trustees. This trust was for the "cause to be erected thereon a house of worship for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, to preach and expound God's Holy Word therein." In the Bristersburg area, Mt. Horeb was established as a formal congregation.
Mt. Horeb could not have been formed in a more turbulent time. Civil War sentiments were brewing and the prospects of many of its young male members going off to war were not an asset to church membership.
It seemed that the Methodist church was in as much turmoil and disorganization as that of the nation.
Records during the time of the Civil War revealed other facts about Mt. Horeb. The earliest conference minutes show the Fauquier-Stafford Charge as being in the Fredericksburg district of the Virginia Conference in 1850 and Joseph H. Davies as presiding elder (district superintendent) and Mr. Covington a minister of the charge. Membership in the charge consisted of 335 whites and 11 blacks. No records are available on membership for Mt. Horeb at this time.
Conference minutes for 1863 and 1864 are understandably absent since Fredericksburg was within Federal lines. In 1865, the Fredericksburg District was abolished and the Alexandria District, the one we are now a part of, was created. William B. Rowzie was presiding elder and James H. Crown was pastor of the Fauquier Charge.
Healing and Reunification
The Civil War ended, and Mt. Horeb still remained in the Methodist Episcopal Church South. In 1882, another property of about 1 acre on the same road only about 1.5 miles north was given and deeded to the trustees of Mt. Horeb by J.H. and Cora A. George. A one room building was built, and the Rev. J.O. Tackett became the first minister to serve here. He was followed by J.L. Grant (1894-95), A.J. Adamson (1896), W.T. Gover (1896-1900), W.A. Sites (1900-1912), C.E. Simmons (1912-14), C.M. Sarver and C. M. Mark (1914-1924), and J.C. Thrasher (1924-27).
In 1927, on the same site, the Mt. Horeb congregation constructed a new, larger church building a few feet from the original one. In the records of the Fauquier Charge Quarterly Conference of 1926, the following was written: "We have succeeded in tearing down our church at Mt. Horeb and have started to rebuild, expect to have it finished by mid-summer." The new building, which is still standing today, was built of frame construction with a modest bell tower. It seated about 100 persons and had four classrooms, two on each side of the sanctuary. A cemetery is located on the south lawn of the church and contains the graves of several former members.
The three major Methodist churches were reunited in 1939 under a Plan of Union to become the Methodist Church. In 1968, the Church of the Evangelical United Brethren joined with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church we have today. The influence of this merge can be seen in many of our songs in today's United Methodist Hymnal and our responsive readings.
The “New” Church
In 1959, $75,000 was bequeathed to Mt. Horeb in the will of the late Joseph G. Eskridge for the building of a new brick church at Mt. Horeb. Eskridge was the great nephew of J.B. Cummins, member of the first board of Trustees. The church was to be in memory of Eskridge's parents, John W. and Henrietta Eskridge.
On March 16, 1964, Mt. Horeb Church officials approved and recommended to the Church Quarterly Conference the purchase of three acres of land adjacent to the Bristersburg School on Route 806. The property was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Ruffner. After approval, Mr. J. Jansends, Architect, Falls Church, was contracted to draw up plans and take bids for construction on the new facility. On October 28, 1966, the building was accepted by the Mt. Horeb Building Committee from the builder, Algar, Inc.
At first, worship services were held in the Fellowship Hall for several months until furnishings for the Sanctuary were purchased and in place.
Now a part of the United Methodist Church, Mt. Horeb experienced reorganization within its own neighborhood. In 1975, a plan was approved by the Annual Conference to divide the Fauquier Charge to form the Cedar Run Charge consisting of Trinity and Mt. Horeb. In June 2007, Mt. Horeb and Trinity each became station churches.
Today Methodists enjoy the fruits of a rich yet turbulent past that has in most ways made the church stronger, yet we have managed to maintain most of what Wesley would have wanted. Mt. Horeb shares in this rich history.
Mt. Horeb today is in many ways an old and a modern church. The old Cokesbury hymns might be played on an electronic organ as opposed to a pump organ. Our services, though still retaining most of the conventions set forth in Wesley's rules, might be flavored with a modern Christian song and an Evangelical United Brethren responsive reading. Above all, we still maintain that "social holiness" involving the love and service to others.