Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church

Serving as a faith community since 1866. GLORY TO GOD!

HISTORY

Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church, historically known as the Simpson Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church, is a located at Charleston, West Virginia.

The Washington Conference (Black) of the Methodist Church was organized in 1864, one year before the Simpson group began worship services and there is no record that Simpson had an organized congregation before 1865. The Washington Conference sent Simpson its first minister in 1866, the Reverend C.O. Fisher, who served until 1869. The congregation continued to worship in the church basement of Asbury during his pastorate.

Around 1869 the congregation moved into a building on Quarrier Street near Capitol Street. By 1870, the congregation had grown in sufficient numbers to erect a church home. Thus, the church officials purchased a lot near the corner of Quarrier and Dickinson Streets and built their first church, a frame structure.

In January 1887, this structure, the third church home of Simpson was destroyed by fire. The reconstruction of a stately edifice began immediately on the same site and was completed in 1888, becoming one of the most outstanding Black Churches in the state and in the Washington Conference. In 1888 the church was officially named Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of Bishop Simpson.

THE CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF SIMPSON MEMORIAL

Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church stands as a landmark to a significant era in Charleston and the Kanawha Valley. In the first half of this century, an abundant African-American population occupied the neighborhood surrounding this church building. Businesses that successfully supplied the needs of this community were housed nearby: pharmacies, grocery stores, hair salons, funeral homes, schools and other churches. Most of these institutions exist no more. Simpson Memorial is a tangible reminder of those prosperous times. The period of significance, therefore, began at the time of construction, 1914-15, and ended in the 1940s (circa 1941).

As well, Simpson Memorial Church survived the immorality of a segregated denomination. In a time when bigotry assumed the sanction of Methodism, Simpson Memorial was birthed, grew and thrived. Once serving 700 members, Simpson Memorial remains a crucial congregation in the now desegregated United Methodist Church, and a necessary reminder of that checkered past.

The church has made steady progress through the years, aided by the reorganization of Methodism in the United States in 1939 when three great churches of the faith, namely the Methodist Episcopal, the Methodist Episcopal South and the Methodist Protestant church, after years of negotiation, agreed upon a plan of union. It was on May 10, 1939 that these three great church units united to form the Methodist Church, and the Episcopal was dropped from the name of Simpson; thus, it was that the Reverend Herbert A. Green (1936-42) was the first pastor of Simpson to serve under this union.

Another forward step in Methodism was an amendment to the constitution of the Methodist Church which provided that churches of the Washington Conference shall be a part of those annual conferences in which they are geographically located. On June 9, 1965, Bishop Fred G. Holloway, presiding at the 120th Annual Session of the West Virginia Conference, read the names of those churches, which included Simpson, transferred from the Washington conference into the West Virginia conference. Bishop Holloway expressed words of welcome and fellowship, with Bishop Edgar A. Love of the Washington Conference present to make grateful response. This significant change occurred during the pastorate of the Reverend B. Milton Hargrove at Simpson.

Written By: Vance Randall, Excerpt from National Register of Historic Places Registration Form