HISTORIC CHARLTON CHAPEL
Charlton Chapel was established along the Great Island Circuit in Clinton County as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Chatham's Run on the 10th of December in 1893 by the Reverend James A. Morgart. The funding for the land and the building was raised entirely by the existing Congregation and invested by the empowered Board of Trustees.
At the time of the church dedication, the tract of land along the Susquehanna River that was donated in honor of the widow Jane Charlton looked very different from today. There were some six homes, a general store and a United States Post Office built along the Old Pennsylvania Canal. There were no main roads, just a mule-path along the canal berm by which the barges were towed. The river supplied the water level needs of the Pennsylvania Canal in this region. The location of the church was a lovely spot upon the hillside overlooking the canal with many locust trees for shade on those hot summer days. The reason that the Congregation chose this location was that the former church building, which was located in the Woolrich area, had been destroyed by the flood waters of the Susquehanna River on the 1st of June in 1889.
Storms also took a toll on the new building. In 1916 and 1921 repairs to the church building were necessary, owing to a “Tornado-like Windstorm” that caused the steeple with the bell tower and the chimney to topple. The height of the chimney was reduced to the lower rooftop level and the height of the bell tower was reduced to the height of the highest ridgepole, about 50 feet above ground level.
The church building and parsonage were the subject of other changes that were brought about by new inventions and technology. Mr. Robert Roller, a former Trustee, compiled a centennial celebration manuscript of the history of the church. He described the old-time church as “...the church was lighted by oil lamps, commonly called Coleman Lamps, which were suspended by wire cable from the ceiling and could be raised or lowered in position when they were lighted...” Electricity, oil-furnace, public sewage and water, the telephone and information technology are now all commonplace. Roller chronicles that on one occasion, an oil lamp accident caused a fire during worship services. No injuries were reported and the flames were extinguished by the able bodied men prior to the arrival of the Avis Fire Company. The modern changes to the building began to occur in 1924 and continued with the addition of the fellowship hall and classroom area that was constructed in 1966. The 30’ x 30’ addition was designed by J.C. Moran (Civil Engineer) and the Congregation acted as their own contractor, completing the work in the spring of 1968.
The spiritual warfare was not limited to flood, fire and storm. The Congregation struggled financially in the days following "Black Friday" and the church doors were closed. Thanks to a determined Retired Minister named James A. Morgart, the church reopened its doors under the authority of the Methodist Conference on Palm Sunday in 1930. Rev. Morgart stood with the church that he planted some 37 years earlier until the Congregation had become self-sustaining in 1936. There was also a problem keeping Ministers, as they would rotate about every two years until the church once again fell into poverty and closed its doors in June 2004, after 111 years of service. The parsonage had long been sold, along with various smaller parcels of land.
On February 25th, 2005, the church building was conveyed to Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Bryon K. Reynolds, trustees for Lighthouse Ministry, a religious organization under the authority of the American Evangelical Christian Churches (AECC), of Pine Creek Township II, Clinton County, Pennsylvania. There were many essential repairs that were necessary to the Sanctuary and we needed to convert the fellowship hall area into a parsonage. But the most immediate work was one of redemption. The Trustees had well executed the procedures for decommissioning a church, which is described in detail in the Methodist Conference Discipline. The original piano, the flags and the antique lights were left in the Sanctuary. Everything else was sent to auction or given to the family that had donated the item. As I was otherwise occupied, I sent my wife to the auction with $200.00 to redeem the holy things of God. At the end of the day we had returned the Pulpit, Altar, Altar-railings, Communion Service, and hymn registers. The bill was more than what I had given to my wife, but Mr. Robert Mann had given a gift to cover the balance; God's handiwork was self-evidence in this loving act and the items were truly redeemed by His hand.
On Palm Sunday 2005, the church was recommissioned as an AECC Charter Church and called Charlton Chapel. The vision that Rev. Morgart had for planting a Congregation of born-again believers in this place has not died, but lives on in the planting of the church today through the evangelization of the indigenous people; not drawing believers from other churches in the area.
Library Commission on Archives and History, Williamsport, Pennsylvania 17701.
111 Years On The Hill (1893-2004), compiled by Mr. Robert Roller, Published by Charlton Unitd Methodist Church (6 June 2004), Church Closing Service.
Phelps Chapel UM Church Records Archive, PIne Creek II Township 68 Phelps Chapel Road Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania 17740-6938 Phone: (750) 326-9036.
Helpful local area internet links:
The History of Lock Haven
The Heisey Museum
Lock Haven Community Guide
Lock Haven University
Lock Haven Library
Philanthropic Societies and grant writers for the preservation of historic buildings / churches are encouraged to contact Pastor Reynolds at the website lighthousemin.net or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the history of the Town of Charlton, please refer to:
The History of Clinton County, Pennsylvania Room, Ross Library, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania 17751.
Lock Haven Express News Paper, Microfilm Department of Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, Pennsylvania 17751.
Dr. Milton Loyer, Archivist Lycoming College