Hooked on History: 164-year-old Harrison County church torn down

Jon Baker
The Times-Reporter
The former Plum Run United Methodist Church south of Bowerston was demolished on Sept. 2.

The story of Plum Run United Methodist Church came to a close on Sept. 2 when the 164-year-old building was torn down.

The church, located about four miles south of Bowerston in Monroe Township, Harrison County, had been sitting empty for decades and was in poor condition. The congregation disbanded in 1994.

The church got its start when the congregation purchased land from John and Jane McCullough on April 22, 1836, for $5. The original church was built of logs. The first trustees were Hugh Birney, James Cummings, John Sterling and Samuel Patterson.

The second church was built in 1856 of frame construction. The seats were divided in the center. One side was for the men and the other for the women.

In the late 1800s, many of the residents of Plum Run Valley worshiped at the church.

Among them were Jeremiah and Anna Brown, natives of Ireland, and Andrew Greenlees.

In the 1890 Commemorative Biographical Record of Harrison and Carroll Counties, Greenlees was described this way, “Andrew is noted for his manliness, and at an early age united with the Plum Run Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he was soon made a class leader and superintendent of the Sunday school.”

Another prominent couple that worshiped there was John and Catherine McCauley, who owned a farm north of the church.

John McCauley was a native of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He came to America with his parents in 1833 and settled on a farm in Monroe Township in 1840. He was a class leader and trustee of the church.

His farm was the site of the first annual harvest home picnic of the Bowerston Methodist Episcopal circuit, of which Plum Run was a part. The event, held on Aug. 27, 1898, was well-attended.

“The Plum Run choir, the Uhrichsville Mandolin Club entertained with music,” the Bowerston correspondent for the Cadiz Republican newspaper wrote. “Prof. Wingate sang two solos. The Bowerston band added much to the music by their presence. Revs. McGaha, Walters and Stewart and Attorney Minteer helped out with choice speeches.”

A man from China spoke on missionary work.

Easter services at Plum Run were held a week late in April 1900.

“The program was carried to its fullest extent,” a correspondent for the Cadiz paper wrote. “A large and complete choir assisted by the congregation rendered the choicest of music, while the literary productions were given by Misses Emma Fowler and Nettie Utterback and Mrs. Cora Birney. The small members of the Sabbath School also gave many recitations worthy of mention.”

In 1903, the church was remodeled with one door at the front. New pews, carpet and a pulpit were installed. The pulpit was made and donated by John McDevitt. A new large Bible was a gift from Jane and Ellen Parker.

Plum Run was remodeled again in the years between 1956 and 1958 when two pot-bellied stoves were replaced with a modern fuel oil furnace. In the 1970s a vestibule and additional rooms were added.

By the time the church closed in 1994, it only had 16 members.

Plum Run had enough money to pay its bills, but it didn’t have enough to pay for needed structural repairs to the building, which were estimated to cost between $30,000 and $60,000. In addition, bees had made small holes in the side of the church. Spraying efforts had not worked to eradicate them.

So the congregation decided to disband.

The final service was held on June 25, 1994.

The cemetery surrounding the church dates to 1840 and is maintained by the Monroe Township trustees.

Jon Baker is a reporter for The Times-Reporter and can be reached at jon.baker@timesreporter.com.

The former Plum Run United Methodist Church was built in 1856.