Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

HATT | PO Box 2084 | Pocono Pines, PA 18350-2084

Blakeslee United Methodist Church

Prepared by Dan Kerrick, assisted by Gene Kerrick | February 2012

The history of our Blakeslee community in general, and our Blakeslee Church in particular, date back well over a century and a half. The first settlers in the general vicinity of what is now Blakeslee arrived about 1800. Some of these original residents, as well as their descendants, were instrumental in the founding of the Blakeslee Methodist Church and many of their descendants are among the current members.

Leonard Stoddart came from England in 1800 and settled at what is now called Stoddartsville where he built and operated a hotel. George Sox also came to Tobyhanna Township in 1800 with the settlement of Soxville, today known as Fern Ridge, being named for him. Ezra Hayes came the same year.

In 1809 Andrew Eschenbach settled in the area and three years later Jacob Blakeslee moved to the township. One of his sons, also named Jacob, later opened a general store, became the first postmaster in 1884, and is the person for whom Blakeslee is named. He is also listed as one of the five initial trustees of the Blakeslee Methodist Episcopal Church when the first church building was constructed in 1852.

The early 1830s saw the arrival of Ira Winters from Connecticut. He had eight children, several of whom were very active in the early development of the church. Some of his sons were on the initial list of trustees when the first church building was erected.

The major link to the other parts of the county and the surrounding counties in those early days was the Wilkes-Barre Easton Turnpike completed in 1816. That highway traverses Tobyhanna Township at the village of Blakeslee, and our church has been located on that road from its very first days to present time. The turnpike was located on what is today Route 115.


Blakeslee United Methodist Church, 1913 (Waltz home in background)

The church structure itself has changed, though it is substantially still the 1897 building. In 1913 the steeple on the tower was destroyed in a storm and was replaced by a smaller one. In 1939, as a result of Route 115 being widened, the church was moved back from the highway. This was an opportune time, so the church was remodeled. In 1960 an addition was built on to the existing structure to accommodate the expanding needs.

Methodist activity in Monroe County dates back to 1788 in the Stroudsburg area when preachers on the “Bristol” Circuit made the rounds of preaching in local homes. In 1822 the first Methodist church was built on what is now North Eighth Street in Stroudsburg. Methodist church buildings followed in Cherry Valley and Jackson Township, and in 1852 only the fourth and fifth Methodist buildings in the county were erected in Blakeslee and Paradise Township. In Blakeslee, apparently the first meetings were held in 1840 in the log school house building which was nearby the present church location.

The historical background of some of our membership is traced to the Stoddartsville Church. Rev. N. Pearce preached as early as 1813 before any church was erected. In 1820 this church, located on the upper banks of the Lehigh River was built by J. Stoddart, a Presbyterian. It came into the hands of the Methodists in 1878, who rebuilt it at that time. The church was abandoned in 1915 and since has been converted into a cottage. Some of the members of that church then transferred their membership to Blakeslee.

Monroe County deed records show that the Blakeslee church property was conveyed by Edward and Sarah Myers on October 7,1852 to the trustees of the church. The need for a church was keenly felt and a committee was appointed. This committee erected a neat 40-foot x 50-foot structure costing $1,600. The dedication services were performed by Presiding Elder Sheppard, and Frederick Illman, the pastor in charge. The first trustees were Jacob Blakeslee, Washington Winters, Burton Winters, John Besecker, Ira Winters, John Rohn and William Eboch.

Deed records further show that in 1896 the Blakeslee Methodist Episcopal Church was granted a charter of incorporation as the Tobyhanna Episcopal Church of Blakeslee. The five trustees for the first year were Lewis Stull of Stoddartsville, Reddington C. Drum and George W. Dupue of Thornhurst, and Frank P. Blakeslee and James M. Warner of Blakeslee.

Shortly thereafter, on February 25,1897, William and Louisa Fenne conveyed property adjoining the old church premises to the trustees who erected a new church that year. The efforts of five young ladies, Mellie Blakeslee, Rachel Blakeslee, Cora F. Warner, Lulu Warner and Mrs. Alex McKeen, raised $500, making the new church a possibility. Some material of the old church was used in the new structure, which cost $1,500. The dedicatory services were held February 16 and 17,1897, with Rev. J.G. Eckman, M. Davy and W.L. Thorpe preaching.

The original name of the church to which the Blakeslee church belonged was the Tobyhanna Methodist Episcopal Church. Administratively, it was a part of the Thornhurst charge and the Wyoming Conference. Somewhere along the the line the name was changed to Blakeslee after the edifice was erected in the community of Tobyhanna.

Also sometime between 1919 and 1930 Thornhurst left the charge which then became known as Pocono Lake. In 1933 the Pocono Lake Charge became a part of the Philadelphia Conference. The name was simplified when three Methodist denominations united in the 1950’s and united was added when the Methodists unified with the Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968.

From those early days of a few people meeting in a schoolhouse, the Blakeslee Church has progressed steadily with 70 members in 1886, 85 in 1944 and 125 in 1990. In March 1982 it separated from the Pocono Lake Charge and became a church serving the Blakeslee Community. At that time the Rev. Mary Jane Kirby was appointed our first full-time pastor.

Since the service of Rev. Kirby, our church has had a succession of part-time pastors, some of whom have served for several years.

Physically, the church has undergone modernization, but prized features have been maintained. The original stained glass windows and the chandeliers have been refurbished. A sound system has been installed and the sanctuary has been air conditioned. An elevator has also been added. Some additional glass stained windows have been added, so now the building has 17.

We have a very active choir which has been invited to sing and has sung at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. One family represents four generations. Also, a bell choir with many mixed aged participants takes part in services. The musical program is under the direction of our pianist and choir director, Julie Kerrick Geiser.

Our church has always been a family church. We also attract many visitors to the area in all seasons.

One claim to fame occurred sometime around the beginning of the century. The famous and blind hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, stayed with Grandma Blakeslee at her boarding house. Grandma Blakeslee was also blind, and they together attended our Methodist Church.

Pastors who have served the Blakeslee Methodist Church

W.C Morse1853-1854
J.S. Lewis1854-1856
J.A. Baldwin1857-1858
John L. Staples1858-1859
J.G. Eckman1859-1861
W.H. Ware1861-1862
S.F. Wright1862-1864
C. Malsbury1864-1865
John C. Leacock1865-1867
James D. Woodruff1867-1868
D. Larish1868-1871
J.H. Paddock1871-1873
P.M. Mott1873-1876
Philip Houck1876-1878
Richard C. Gill1878-1881
D.G. Stephens1881-1884
James Jones1884-1885
William Frisby1885-1887
John Davy1888-1891
Louis T. Vancampen1891-1894
T. Vaughn1894-1896
Arthur O. Williams1896-1898
J.N. Meaker1898-1901
Louis D. Tyler1901-1902
George W. Craig1902-1903
Watson B. Signor1903-1907
J.B. Zweizig1907-1908
P.S. Lehman1908-1910
Stephen Treat1910-1912
W.J. Rozell1912-1913
J.B. Zweizig1913-1914
A.J.W. Mowatt1914-1916
Louis T. Vancampen1816-1818
Harry C. Roof1919-1930
Edwin D. Roberts1930-1932
Wilton J. Dubrick1932-1933
Robert E. Kieffer Jr. 1933-1935
W. Paul Fulmer1935-1937
Harry T. Wells1937-1940
James Bailey1940-1941
W. Edgar Cathers Jr. 1941-1944
George C. Lurwick1944-1948
Gail B. Wintermute1948-1951
Lane A. Weller1951-1953
James H. Pain1953-1953
Joseph L. Helle Jr. 1953-1954
James H. Pain1954-1955
Kenneth M. Heckman1955-1957
Neal E. Fawcett1957-1958
Albert L. Galloway1958-1960
Jerry Crossley1960-1964
Kenneth R. Gay1964-1973
Theodore E. McCabe1973-1982
Mary Jane Kirby1982-1990
Shirley McGowan1990-1991
Nancy Wright1991-1992
Jack Rule1992-1993 (Interim)
Wayne Pratt1993-1995
Burgess L. Gordon Jr.1995-2007
Joseph Healey2007 –

Blakeslee United Methodist
PO Box 142
Blakeslee, PA 18610

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