WEST MARTINSBURG — There will be an online auction through Monday to benefit the West Martinsburg Church Tower Restoration at www.adkauctions.com. The auction began on Memorial Day.
Auction items can be picked up from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 9 or 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 10 at West Martinsburg City Hall, 6994 West Road.
An original 1832 meeting house near the four corners of West Martinsburg was replaced in 1840 with a new house of worship at the West Martinsburg site. The West Martinsburg Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed and Lobdell Wood, Henry McCarty, Moses Talmadge, Norman Gowdy, Henry Miller, Henry Curtis, Noah Harger and Moses Smith served as trustees. The deed was given to the trustees by John Curtis.
The 1840 West Martinsburg Methodist Episcopal Church has served the community for over 100 years. Significant changes have been made to the church over the years. In 1888, a new bell was installed, stained glass windows were added and the church was painted. A balcony had been removed and the pulpit placed at the opposite end of the building. The seats that were under the balcony were turned to face the pulpit.
Since these changes, the shrine has changed very little. The church remains without electricity. In 1983, West Martinsburg Methodist Episcopal Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The church still has its Estey pump organ in working order. The upper ceilings and walls have been hand painted according to the original pattern. Overhead pipes run the length of each side of the shrine to provide heat from the two wood-burning stoves located at the rear of the shrine. An early 1832 Bible is on display in the museum portion of the church along with the Bible that once belonged to John Curtis. Kerosene lanterns on either side of the front entrance hang from original hand-forged hooks. A step to descend from a car or trolley is always in place near the entrance doors.
In 1941, lightning struck the church tower. Repairs have been made and the bell still hangs from the steeple. The hand-forged cross at the top of the steeple had been added. The cross was removed due to the need, once again, to repair the bell tower.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the population was declining in the small rural communities of Lewis County and northern New York. With church attendance declining, services were discontinued. The West Martinsburg Methodist Church remains an important building to the history of the town of Martinsburg and the four historic corners of West Martinsburg. Oversight of the church now belongs to the Church Preservation Society of West Martinsburg.
In 2019, emergency repairs were made to the steeple to temporarily stabilize the structure and allow time for fundraising efforts. The repair needs of the bell tower are important and expensive.
The first phase of steeple repairs will begin in the spring of 2023 with proceeds from fundraising efforts as well as assistance from the Northern New York Community Foundation and the Pomeroy Foundation.
To assist with repair efforts or for more information, contact the West Martinsburg Church Preservation Society at PO Box 85, Martinsburg, NY 13404-0085. New group members are always welcome.