In April, 1890...
In April, 1890, the Reverend L. B. Weeks was appointed by the Wyoming Annual Conference to be pastor of the Clinton Street Methodist Episcopal Church and Lestershire. Mr. Weeks held Sunday Services in Clinton Street Church morning and evening, and in Lestershire at 12:30. Arrangements were made by Mr. George F. Johnson for Mr. Weeks to hold the first service in Lestershire in the packing room of the Lester Shoe Factory, later known as the Pioneer, on Sunday, April 20. Boot boxes were used as pews, and a boot box stood on end served for a pulpit. At this meeting it was agreed to pay Mr. Weeks three hundred dollars on his salary. Services were held the following Sunday at the home of Mr. George F. Johnson on Broad Street near the factory, and the next Sunday they were held in the storehouse near the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Station.
Mr. G. Harry Lester gave the Society the two lots on Main Street, valued at $ 1500, where the present church stands. It was decided at the meeting held in the storehouse to erect a temporary structure. A plain wooden building was built and ready for service by the next Sunday, May 11th. Mr. George F. Johnson, Mr. C. Fred Johnson, Mr. John Patterson often remembered with pleasure the time when they built their First church, graded the grounds, and had it all ready for service within six days.
The cost of this building, including organ and furniture, was five hundred dollars, which was raised at the first service in the new building. Mrs. Crary and her daughter Mary gave the altar and Bible for this church. At this time there were ten members, but by the following spring there were thirty-three.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Lestershire
The Church was chartered under date of January 31, 1889, with the corporate name of “The Methodist Episcopal Church of Lestershire.” The following trustees are listed in the certificate of incorporation: H. R. Clarke, E. B. Green, C. Fred Johnson, W. M. Fletcher, A. D. Rockwell, Law S. Brooks, and George Johnson. It is believed that these seven, plus Joseph Hartwell, E. Delavan Hills and Harry Weir made up the original ten members. The Society was organized on Sunday, May 11, 1890, with Mr. A. L. Smith as Superintendent of the Sunday School. He was later succeeded by William M. Fletcher.
Reverend H. H. Wilbur assigned as pastorate
On April 6, 1891, Bishop Bowman assigned the Reverend H. H. Wilbur to the pastorate of the new Lestershire Methodist Episcopal Church. As the new society had speedily outgrown the small six-day structure, a building committee was appointed consisting of N. B. Russell, C. Fred Johnson, and the Rev. H. H. Wilbur, to plan and provide a suitable house of worship. Plans for a new church were soon adopted and work began May 14, 1891.
The excavating was...
The excavating was done by W. D. Roberts, the foundation laid by E. Telleson, and the superstructure put up by G. M. Horton. The church was ready for dedication on January 5, 1892. Mr. C. Fred Johnson reported for the building committee that the Church, including furnishings and horse sheds, cost $5,296.64
The Reverend C. C. McCabe sang in his inimitable manner and voice ‘a long remembered hymn, “Papa ’Fot Will You Take For Me,” and preached from the scripture in Exodus 25:8.
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
Dr. Manley S. Hard preached in the evening from Acts 118.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The Reverend William J. Hill, D. D., in whose pastorate the parsonage was built, was present with other clergymen and took part in the service of dedication.
During the day $2,220.00 was subscribed, and this with the money previously raised, left an indebtedness to be carried of $2,000.00 The Ladies’ Aid Society paid the rent of the parsonage, furnished it, and gave the Trustees a check for $500.00 on the day of dedication. The Girls Society known as the “Willing Workers” bought the pulpit chairs and later purchased the altar table and communion set. At the end of that year the membership of the church numbered eighty-two with thirty-five probationers.
The church membership again outgrew its accommodations
The church membership again outgrew its accommodations, and in 1905 when the Reverend Martin V. Williams was pastor, the church was enlarged, veneered with brick, and a pipe organ was installed.
In 1916 the church membership had grown
In 1916 the church membership had grown until it numbered 635 members, so with much wisdom the church purchased the lot adjoining the east side of the church property.
The necessity for enlarged quarters, especially for the efficient administration of the ever-growing Sunday School, had been felt for some years and finally resulted in action when Mr. George F. Johnson offered to make a generous donation towards a new church if it were allowed to carry his mother’s name, Mrs. Sarah Jane Johnson. Mrs. Johnson was a member of the Church for some years, active in its affairs, and was a woman of beautiful Christian character. The Board readily agreed to grant Mr. Johnson’s request, and a building committee consisting of George F. Johnson, C. Fred Johnson, Samuel D. Leadbeater, Chauncey P. Taylor, John Patterson and the pastor, the Reverend William MacAlpine, was appointed to procure plans and proceed with the work. The committee selected Messrs. J. C. Fulton and Son of Uniontown, Pa., to be the architects. It was decided to erect a separate building for social purposes and to keep the Church apart and sacred for worship and Bible study.
The Social House
The Social House was started in October, 1924, and was completed in September, 1925. It was built by the Johnson City Construction Company under the direct supervision of its president, Mr. Leon Borden, a member of the Church. This company also built the Church itself. Immediately on completion of the Social House, the parsonage was removed to Arch Street, and work on the Church was begun with the building committee organized as follows: George F Johnson and C Fred Johnson, honorary chairmen; Charles F. Johnson, Jr., chairman; Chauncey P Taylor secretary; Charles A. Newell, treasurer; the pastor corresponding secretary, and Samuel D. Leadbeater. The cornerstone was laid on Sunday, April 25, 1926 and the box in the corner stone includes: List of membership, copy of church bulletins, copy of “Christian Advocate”, copy of “Morning Sun,” copy of “Binghamton Press,” memorial statement of Mrs. Sarah Jane Johnson, descriptive pamphlets of the Endicott Johnson Corp., and contents of box in corner stone of former church.
The official dedication of the new church building
The official dedication of the new church building took place Sunday morning, June 12, 1927, but the special services continued for the whole week. They included dedication of the organ and an organ recital, graduation exercises of the nurses of the Johnson City General Hospital, a fellowship night, a young people’s night, a former pastors’ night, and on June 19, the baccalaureate service of the Johnson City High School.
Dedicated June 12, 1927 The Church and Social house are built of Hummelstown Brown stone, quarried at Hummelstown, Pa., and is of Gothic design made to conform to modern needs. The tower, 112 feet high, with its open belfry standing high above the main church building, the gable roof with its side roofs over the aisles, the buttressed walls and pointed arched windows are reminiscent of the cathedrals of Europe.
The Gothic design is carried out in the interior with its arched aisles, high clerestories and dark oaken paneled ceiling. The interior wall surfaces are decorated with Travertine stone and the arches with Caen stone. The total design conveys the feeling of spaciousness, and instinctively one feels that this is a place for worship.
The Sunday School was constructed on the departmental plan and with the spacious high basement provided for future growth.
On the exterior walls of the building, high up near the roof, are to be seen various symbolic designs. On the west side, beginning at Main Street, they are as follows: Four fishes caught in a net, signifying God’s care over those who trust Him; the Anchor which is our faith in His Word; the Bible, and finally the Peacock, which is the symbol of immortality. On the east side, beginning at Main Street, they are as follows: Two fish, for as the draught of fishes on the west side shows his miraculous power able to supply all our needs, these show his daily provision; the Crown; the Ark which from the days of the Roman Catacombs has pictured the Church as able to ride through all periods of persecution, and the Lamp which is the light of His Word. In the panels between the two portions of the front window on Main Street are found cut in the stone the Star of Bethlehem, the Carpenter’s tools (for Christ was a carpenter), the Lilly and the Palm, symbols of purity and triumph, the Crown of Thorns and the Cross.
The cost of this entire plant, consisting of Church, Social House and Parsonage, has been met by Mr. George F. Johnson, Mr. C. Fred Johnson, and their sons, Mr. George W. and Mr. Charles F., Jr., respectively. It is given to the Church to be maintained by it as a perpetual place of worship to the honor and glory of Jesus Christ, and in loving memory of her whom these children “rise up and call Blessed.”
The approximate cost of this gift was $438,000.00 The Church has frequently been called a cathedral, and is commonly considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the Triple Cities.
The Austin four-manual pipe organ was given in memory of Harry L. Johnson by his widow, Mrs. Harry L. Johnson and family. The approximate cost of that gift was $25,000.00
Necessary major repairs
Through the years, the Church membership has grown at a healthy rate, as the Gospel has been preached and the homes of the community have been visited by faithful ministers of Jesus Christ. In 1939, due to necessary major repairs, the church was in debt for $15,834.56 Mr. George F. Johnson consented to give $10,000.00 provided the balance was raised. It seemed to be a huge task at that time. Through the fine cooperation of everyone, $6,761.31 was raised. The excess of $926.75 was used to start the endowment fund. The fund now totals over $250,000. The income from the fund is placed in a Capital Reserve Account to be used for major necessary repairs.
Carillonic Tower Bells were purchased
In 1946, Carillonic Tower Bells were purchased in memory of those who served in the Armed Forces in World War II. Their cost was $6,500.00.
George F. Johnson Chapel (Jr. Church)
In 1949, the George F. Johnson Chapel (Jr. Church) was constructed in the basement of the Church at a cost of $8,500.00. Much of this work was done by members of the Church. The organ was given by Mrs. William Ives. The pulpit furniture, rail, etc., were duplicates on a smaller scale of those in the main church.
In 1956 a major renovation of the Parish House was made. A new kitchen, new dining area and equipment were included as well as redecoration of the entire building. The cost of this project was $27,500.00.
Also in this year, $50.00 was contributed from the memorial contributions for two of our members. The trustees used this money to start a Memorial Education Fund. Through the contributions of many others, the Fund now holds stock and cash in excess of $70,000.00. This money is available as a loan to our members who are attending schools of higher education.
Memorial Bulletin Monument
An outdoor Memorial Bulletin Monument was presented by Mrs. Raymond H. Barrows in her husband’s memory during 1969.
Most recent project
Most recent project, completed in 1976, is the 46-auto parking area with approach ways to the church complex. Adjoining property at 16 Arch Street as well as the former Baldwin Street parsonage have been replaced by this major improvement. Total cost of acquired premises with site development has approximated $100,000.00. The amount was subscribed through contributions from members.
The Baldwin Street parsonage has been replaced by one at 3700 Rath Street, Endwell. This is the former home of Mr. and Mrs. John Van Gordon and was given by them to the Church.
Sarah Jane Church complex, based on most recent appraisals, is valued at over two million dollars. Stained glass fine arts windows have a $100,000.00 replacement estimate, and the pipe organ installation, a replacement estimate of $250,000.00.