Patterson church celebrating its 200th year
Tue, 2013-10-15 08:02 Harlan Kirgan
(First published Oct. 3, 2013)
By PRESTON GILL
At least five former pastors of the Patterson United Methodist Church from six decades are expected to participate in Sunday’s (Oct. 6, 2013) observation of the 200-year anniversary of the congregation that meets in “the little white church on the corner by the old Patterson Bank” on 1204 Main Street at 10 a.m.
The Rev. Steven J. Porter said that is what the historic building is often better known as, although it has been there since 1888.
“After the services we will have a fellowship meal with lots of food,” Porter said. The public is invited to attend.
Porter provided copies of more than a dozen pages of records and documents from the church library.
According to those records:
—Elisha Bowman brought Methodism to Louisiana with a New Orleans arrival in 1805. In a letter Bowman said he “shook the dirt of my feet against the ungodly City of Orleans” and made a preaching trek that eventually took him to Opelousas, undoubtedly passing by Dutch Settlement (Patterson). He established preaching places in Franklin and New Iberia.
—The first pastor appointed to the community was the Rev. Richmond Nolley in December 1813. Nolley was traveling around Jena in 1814 and attempted to cross flooded Hemp’s Creek. An Indian found Nolley the next day lying dead at the foot of a tall pine tree. Church legend has it that knee prints in the damp earth showed Nolley spent his final moments on his knees in prayer.
Porter, Cary Rentrop, 83, and Ellen Scott, 80, talked about the church and its history this week. Porter said the two women are the longest enrolled living members of the church.
Rentrop and Scott have been members of the church since 1943. They recalled attending church together and even sitting together in the same pew, a practice they continue 70 years later.
With a kaleidoscope of colors filtering through the stained glass windows onto the floor, Rentrop’s face lights as she recalls the faces and events through the years. Looking at the windows and the original church architecture, she describes the joy she experiences each week in church.
“Every Sunday when I get home, I think, ‘You know, I am glad I went to church today,’” Rentrop said. “We have a beautiful church and we have had great ministers.”
Scott said she and her husband were married by a justice of the peace. One of her fondest memories in the church is when the couple renewed their vows in the church on their 50th anniversary.
“This added a spiritual and religious significance to our marriage,” Scott, who used to teach Sunday school at the church, said. “There is not just one thing I recall that makes this church special to me. Everything has been special.”
Porter said the small congregation of about 30, mostly older people, who assemble each Sunday at 9 a.m. is a “small close-knit group” that has a “sense of together worship.”
For the past couple of weeks, church members have been preparing for Sunday’s special services. They have been painting, cleaning and working the flower beds.
During the interview, the silver utensils used in the sacraments were placed on a table Porter said has been at the church since its construction. Behind the utensils is a King James Bible presented to the church by Brightman Kornegay in honor of his mother.
Scott said, “During the Civil War, the church buried the silver in the river to keep it away from the Yankees.”
Porter said with the exception of modern conveniences such as electrical lighting and air conditioning and heating, much of the church remains as it was built.
“These floors are the original floors and the pews are original,” Porter said.
Rentrop said a modern church event is something the community appreciates and looks forward to.
“We have a really good time with our rummage sale,” Rentrop said. “The people in Patterson like what we have because it is really clean and almost like new.”
Both women said the church is an important part of their lives and to their inner happiness.
Scott said one of her favorite hymns is “In the Garden.” With Porter nodding his head in agreement, she explained that the words help assure her that God walks with them as individuals. She said the weekly services and fellowship give her a spiritual boost.
“If you don’t come to church on Sunday, you have lost the whole week,” Scott said.
Porter said everyone has something going on in their lives in which they need assistance, support or direction, and the church services often help provide that.
“A message from God can touch all these things,” Porter said. “We are all working together to support each other.”
Although the church membership is less than in 1963, it has a number of members who were members back then: Cary Rochel Rentrop, Ellen Delaune Scott, Hugh C. Brown, Cleo Dell Scott II, Katherine Ann Risher Conley, Linda Rochel Crapell, Ann McMurray, Ernest McMurray, Ray Mendoza, Peggy Barr Darce and Harolyn Barr Boyles.
Patterson United Methodist Church timeline
The following events in the history of the Patterson (once known as Pattersonville) United Methodist Church are among significant dates submitted by the Rev. Steven Porter.
1813-1814 — The first actual preacher was the Rev. John S. Ford. On his way back from Opelousas and preaching at the Franklin Methodist community in October 1813, he was asked to stop by Dutch Settlement where several families resided, hoping for a preacher to come by. The first appointed pastor was the Rev. Richmond Nolley in December 1813 (Nolley died while serving his church). He crossed a swollen river trying to get to the next town and was found the next day further on the trail, frozen to death.
1841 — The Methodist Episcopal Church in America split north and south over the issue of slavery. This resulted in a new name for the local congregation, “Pattersonville Methodist Episcopal Church, South.” This remained the name until the reunification in 1939, when the denomination simply became The Methodist Church.
1844 — —The first Methodist Church building was completed in Pattersonville. Before 1844, the church was meeting in a building across from the school on Muggah property. The current sanctuary was completed in 1888 although some records suggest 1889 or 1890.
1860 — The Rev. Fisher T. Rawson was instrumental in establishing a church library. The church is still in possession of some of the early books.
1860-1861 — The trustees signed a document for the purpose of acquiring property for a parsonage.
1881 — Mrs. Ann Muggah Hooper sold a parcel of land to the church. J.P. Muggah also donated some land. This was done for the purpose of building a new church building.
1888 — The present sanctuary was completed (some references give the year as 1889 or 1890).
1891 — The first marriage held in the present sanctuary was for William Folse and Wilhemina Vetter on Nov. 26, 1891. It was performed by H.H. Wadsworth, one of several lay pastors who helped with the ministry over the years.
1893 — A new parsonage was built next to the present church building. This house stood until it was destroyed by a fire in 1927.
1905 — The biggest growth day for the Patterson Church was May 21, 1905, when 30 people joined the church, all by profession of vows (most likely a youth confirmation).
1954-1955 — The present educational building and fellowship hall was built with an office added in 1967.
1963-1964 — The membership for Patterson Methodist Church was 135, about the largest the church ever had.
1964 — The present parsonage was built on the corner of Catherine and Lee streets. The Rev. Larry Robertson and his family were the first occupants.
1983 — Stained glass replaced in windows with an attempt to stay close to original design.
1989 — Bayou Vista United Methodist Church closed its doors, with many of its remaining members joining Patterson UMC.
1994 — Hurricane Andrew blew off the steeple, along with other damage, not only to the church but to the whole area.
2013 — Although the church membership is less than in 1963, there remain a number of members who were members back then: Cary Rochel Rentrop, Ellen Delaune Scott, Hugh C. Brown, Cleo Dell Scott II, Katherine Ann Risher Conley, Linda Rochel Crapell, Ann McMurray, Ernest McMurray, Ray Mendoza, Peggy Barr Darce and Harolyn Barr Boyles.