Table of Contents
(click to go to)
Newer History
* Beginning
* Look to the Future
* Our Past
* Troubled Times
* A New Beginning
* In Closing

Older History
* Our Forefathers - The Orange Grove Society
* Original Orange Grove Society Members
* Church Location Vote
* Charter Members of the Orange Grove Society
* Treasurers Report: September 10, 1890
* Important Dates in our History

A History of Mizpah United Methodist Church
reproduced from  Homecoming September 14, 2003
compiled by Janie Nickle, (ex) Pastor (2003-2005)  and other church members as noted throughout

Census records compiled and listed by Pat Smith the webmaster

Front entrance to Mizpah United Methodist Church, Walkerton, VA     Inside Mizpah United Methodist Church, Walkerton, VA     Candle lighting at Mizpah United Methodist Church, Walkerton, VA
Mizpah United Methodist Church Outside and Inside...


For the past 123 years, Mizpah Church has served the Walkerton Community. The history of the church has been compiled from the Church Conference Records of "Orange Grove Society" later known as the Mizpah Methodist Episcopal Church South, the available Administrative Board meeting records of the Mizpah United Methodist Church and the memories of members and friends. It is our prayer that you will find this historical record a testament to the lives of the men, women and children who called "Orange Grove Society" and Mizpah Church...home.

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A Look to the Future: It is said the future of a church is shaped by its past. If this holds true for Mizpah, the doors of this church will remain open for many future generations. The history of Mizpah United Methodist Church shows us that the church grew out of a spiritual welfare of the children of Walkerton has prevailed. When I first met this congregation in April of 2002, their overriding concern, amidst the myriad of renovations that needed to be done on the building, was the lack of children in their congregation. It was a prayer heard in heaven, and we have been blessed with a growing children and youth ministry that continues to support the dreams of Mrs. John W. Caldwell and Miss Josephine M. Hensley in 1800. Their vision of an active Sunday School to minister to the Walkerton area is still alive in the hearts of the congregation of this small church, and we continually strive to make this church home for children and their parents where they feel loved and safe.

Over the past few years, this congregation's faith and dedication to the reason that the Orange Grove Society came into being is still evident. While these faithful members may not have known the reason that they had such a determination to keep the doors of Mizpah United Methodist Church open, their willingness to work hard and fight for their place in Walkerton is a testament to their love for their church. In an age where many churches are combining with sister congregations or simply closing the doors for worship and mission, their dedication to this building and community has been rewarded. Wehave an active Sunday school and have recently begun a Youth Ministry that meets once a month, and includes Children's Sabbath for the younger children.

Pastor Janie Nickle at Mizpah Nov 2004 With the renovations nearly complete, we look forward to moving into different ministry areas that will bless the people of Walkerton and support the call of Christ to go into the world and make disciples (Matthew:21.19). It is with grateful hearts that we acknowledge the help of the Walkerton Fire Department in helping with the many fund raisers that paid the bills for so many years, and the members of the community who are always willing to help out when we are short handed. A special thank you to the faithful few whom labored for so many years to keep the vision alive for this church. We acknowledge our limitations, and realize without the faithful support of friends and family in the community who continually lend a hand, we would be unable to celebrate Homecoming and the growth and prosperity of this congregation. The future of any congregation is in its people, and today, we honor the men and women who have held onto the faith and served God to the best of their ability in this church called Mizpah.

written by: Janie Nickle, (ex) Pastor (2003-2005)

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Benny & Ruby Norman Hardwick at Mizpah Nov 2004 Our Past: The church records of the 1950's held familiar names of well-beloved people; The Mitchell's -- Miss Mary b, Miss Clare, and John Lane -- were mentioned again and again as holding many administrative and leadership positions in the church throughout the decade. The Babyaks, Horace Smith, the Reynolds, the Cookes, the Shockleys, the Draines, the Normans and the Carters also pepper the records. We have a young Ruby Norman attending business meetings with her mother, and we note that one Benjamin Hardwick makes an appearance in the records of the 1950s. Later we note a significant change in the church records when Ruby Norman's name disappears to be replaced by one Ruby Hardwick.

The Building Committee was busy in the 1950's collecting for the Sunday school addition or the "Education Building" as it was called. In the mid 1950's 30 songbook racks were purchased for a grand total of $69.00 for the back of the pews. A call went out from the ladies of the church for a few good men to put up the bookracks. It is noted, for the record, that a lady seconded the motion and the bookracks were installed.

During the 1950's, Mizpah Church was a center for community activities. Vacation Bible School and the Easter Sunrise Services were held in this building in partnership with area churches. Included in the records as participating in these community church events were St. Stephen's Baptist, Bruington Baptist, Smyrna and Providence Methodist.

In 1955, the four churches on King William Charge felt the need of having preaching services in each of the Churches every Sunday. Melvin L. Steadman and James W. Luck, seniors at Randolph-Macon College were appointed to the charge, resulting in services being held in each of the churches each Sunday.

Jean Mitchell at Mizpah Nov 2004 The 1950's were an active growing time for this congregation. It is interesting to note that tucked in the records of the 1950's was a symbol that the church is stable and continues, for tucked in the back of the records we found a small, dingy index card that summed up that decade as well as activities today. Across its penciled front were scrawled two words that have helped us through 50 years of business meetings, "Ask Jean" referring to our own Jean Mitchell. Jean still serves this church the Adult Sunday school teacher, President of the United Methodist Women's group, and advisor at our Administrative Board meetings.

By 1961, the need for an education building was evident and the building began in 1962. In the summer of 1963, administrative meetings were switched to the new education unit. In 1963, Bethel Methodist Church withdrew from the King William Charge, leaving Epworth, McKendree and Mizpah to comprise the King William Charge. In 1968, the Methodist Church joined with the United Evangelical Brethren, and the local congregation became known as Mizpah United Methodist Church. On September 14, 1964 Mizpah held a Homecoming. On the menu was fried chicken, ham, potato salad, and green beans...proof that history has a way of repeating itself. In 1964 the Education Building was dedicated. In 1968, the Cross in the pulpit was made by the donated to the Church by Reverend Cephus Haynes who served as pastor.

The 1970's were ushered in with thriving ministries and activities as evidenced by typed lists of organized groups and the names of those who held offices. Meetings were held in the Education Building, and new, more structured areas of service were clearly emerging. There are now educational, evangelical, youth and missionary groups with the work detail going forward in these ministries. Unfortunately, the records for the 1970's no longer provide the detailed records of the individual meetings, resulting in the loss of much informtion about the people who made Mizpah successful during this time.

However, many names that are still critical to the ongoing ministries of Mizpah begin to appear. A young Scott Mitchell and Robert E. Mitchell, Jr. begin to appear in the church minutes as leaders of the Young Adult Council. John Lane Mitchell, Charles Smith, the Hardwicks and son, Joseph Babyak, the Carters, the Shockleys, the Reynolds and Jean Mitchell are now part of the Administrative Board. It is evident from the records that the 1970s were a time when the church reaches out, expanding its programs and looking toward the future. Researched and Written by Carol Heller

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Shawn Smith at Mizpah Nov 2004
Troubled Times: Many of the records for the 1980 and 1990's are sketchy and leave a blank in our history; but from existing records, the church continued to be strong through the 1980 and 1990's. We find that the younger generation is stepping into leadership positions. Shawn Smith, at the tender age of 18, steps into the role of Treasurer where he continues to serve today. daughter Allie with Scott & Linda Sisson Mitchell at Mizpah Nov 2004 The cemetery area is enlarged and the fence is added to the church boundary along the road. In 1981 new sanctuary lights are given in the memory of Douglas M. Mitchell. In 1989, Scott Mitchell marries Linda Sisson, and just a few short years later, another generation of Mitchells take their place as Mizpah United Methodist Church when Jamie Mitchell adds his name to the membership roles in 2002.

The 1990s ushers in a decline in membership and activities as many of the church members began to migrate to the Richmond area and death claimed many of the saints that called Mizpah home. As the congregation begins to decline, troubled times come. Finances begin to dwindle. The church gathers its resources and begins to look for ways to keep the doors open. Fund-raisers become a way of life for this small congregation. Worship attendance is small but determination abounds and, while times are difficult, the doors remain open for worship

In 2000, the decision was made to sever the Charge relationship with McKendree and Epworth. A major reduction in expenses from support of a full time minister and the sale of the Charge parsonage brought much needed financial relief to the parish. With the appointment of a part time pastor whose responsibility was limited to the ministries and congregation of Mizpah, enthusiasm began to grow.

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A New Beginning: In 2002, we found ourselves with two children in our midst. Relying on family members, we called the children of the community and asked them to join us to give us input as to what interested them about church. Jamie and Allie Mitchell, Brandi, Mark and Daniel McGehee attended this meeting. Out of this question and answer session, the children decided -- with the assistance of their parents -- to participate in Sunday school at Mizpah. For the first time in many years, we offered two classes for children. As an added benefit, the Adult Sunday school, which met consistently with as little as three members at times, began to grow. Today, we are averaging 12 people in our Sunday school program, with two children's classes and one adult class.

Brenda Clements at Mizpah Nov 2004 In June of 2002, we hosted our first Vacation Bible School with 30 children registered. An outreach of Vacation Bible School has been our Monthly Youth Group Meetings and Children's Sabbath. A United Methodisst Women's group was re-chartered this year and for the first time in about 25 years, the Resident Bishop of the Virginia Annual Conference, Joseph Pennell, led us in worship in January. As an added bonus, Bishop Pennell accepted the transfer of membership for our own Brenda Clements. While Brenda had worshipped with us for three years, she was officially a part of the Mizpah family.

The members and friends of Mizpah are truly grateful to those few dedicated individuals who kept the faith during the difficult times. We are committed to carrying on the vision set by our founding fathers, and to preserving the dreams of two dedicated women who saw the wisdom in educating the children of Walkerton in the ways of God.

While the history of the church speaks for itself in terms of dedication and faithfulness, perhaps the true nature of this church is summed up in the closing remarks entered into the historical records from our last homecoming:

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"Mizpah church has had many ups and downs and many changes have taken place in the history of the Church. For many years it had a large membership and was strong spiritually and financially. Perhaps it was one of the most progressive Methodist Churches in this section and has played an important part in molding the lives of the men and women in and around Walkerton. I am sorry to say its membership has been greatly reduced; but we still have a faithful few who are using their best efforts to maintain and carry on the work at Mizpah Church, and we feel that it exerts a good influence upon the lives of the young and old people of this section"         Author Unknown

We, the congregation of Mizpah United Methodist Church on this day, September 14, 2003, look forward to the day when we can once again take our rightful place as a strong spiritual and financial leader in this area. We greatly anticipate the day of our Lord when we will look at those who have worked in His vineyard--Walkerton-- and say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servants."


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Our Forefathers - The Orange Grove Society: During the summer of 1880 Mrs. John W. Caldwell and Miss Josephine M. Henley felt the desire to do something for the children of the community. Mrs. Caldwell--who had recently came from Maryland and Miss Henley--a resident of the neighborhood, felt a desire to do something for the religious instruction for the children of the community. Many of them were deprived of Sunday School privileges due to their distance from Church. The ladies united their efforts and organized a Sunday School that met for some time in the woods not far from Mrs. Bettie T. Henley's gate. Since a building was not available, the school only met during the summer season and in fair weather. In order to support the Sunday School, the Rev. John W. Shackford, who lived at "Orange Grove Farm", offered a vacant house located on his land near the public road for the cause.

In 1882, the Reverend Benjamin C. Spiller, pastor of the King and Queen Circuit was invited to preach at the "Sunday School House." Beginnin in April of 1882, preaching services were held on the first Sunday of each month, and interest grew in building a church spsurned on by the interests of the Methodist who desired to have a church in their neighborhood. In the summer and early fall of 1882, the Reverend Spiller organized a Sunday class and the following members were received by Certificate of Transfer. The house where the services were held was called, "Orange Grove Chapel."

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Original Members of "Orange Grove Chapel"

Rev. John W. Shackford

Melville Walker

Lewis P. Fryer

George P. Hudson

Robert J. Peay

Anna M. Caldwell

Martha C. Shackford

Hester A. Eaton

Annie M. Hudson

Annie T. Walker

Ida Oxenham

Susan Peay

Sarah E. Fryer

The Sunday School continued throughout the winter with every denomination in the community taking an active part. There was a little band of Methodists in the community who were particularly anxious to find a suitable place to meet and worship God. On December 24, 1882 a meeting of the members was called and the following reported:

"At a meeting of the Orange Grove members held at the Chapel on December 24, 1882 - Rev. John W. Shackford was called to Chair and Melville Walker was chosen Secretary. On motion, all persons present who felt an interest in locating the contemplated church building were invited to participate in the deliberation of the meeting. On motion of Captain George P. Hudson - five persons were appointed to a committee to select a site, and report in two weeks with the understanding, however, that the report should not be final, but subject to the disposal of the members of the Church. The Committee was as follows:

Melville Walker, Chairman

John W. Caldwell

George P. Hudson

Lewis P. Fryer

B.F. Eaton

The meeting was adjourned."         Melville Walker, Sec.

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The Committee met three times and then presented the following locations as the future site for Orange Grove Chapel.

  1. A place agreed upon near Brother Melville Walker's gate on the public road.

  2. About 200 yards above Robert I. Peay's residence.

A vote was called and there were four votes for Location 1 and one vote for Location 2. However, John W. Caldwell moved that the report be tabled. Melville Walker was appointed to prepare a paper presenting the two sites and members were asked to sign for the site of their choice with the understanding that the majority vote would decide the question.

During the summer of 1884 some dissatisfaction arose with the site selected for the church when a site in the Village of Walkerton became available. It was decided by the members of the Society to purchase one acre of ground from Captain George P. Hudson for the building. A Building Committee was appointed by the Quarterly Conference of the King and Queen Circuit. George P. Hudson and B.F. Eaton were asked to draw the plans for the building. Melville Walker reported that Lewis P. Fryer and George P. Hudson were appointed to stake off the site for the Church. Mr. W. R. McGeorge's sawmill was hired to saw lumber for the Church. John Wright and Robert Basekette, Master Carpenters, were employed to build the Church and John W. Shackford was appointed to select a name for the new Church. The building was started around September 1, 1884.

In the year 1885, Rev. John W. Shackford reported he had selected the name MIZPAH and recommended it as an appropriate name for the Church. The report was accepted and in 1885, Mizpah Methodisst Church began. Mizpah became a part of the King and Queen Circuit that consisted of Shepard's Providence, Paces, and Mizpah.

Submitted By: Ruby Hardwick and Charles "Pinky" Smith"

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Charter Members of the Orange Grove Society:

The Rev. John W. Shackford -- was a Methodist Minister who resided at "Orange Grove Farm"
(1880 Census - he was born in 1820 in VA.  He lived at Stevensville (near Walkerton), King and Queen County.  He was married to Martha C.  His occupation was listed as Minister of the Gospel)

Melville Walker -- was elected Steward of the Church and was the first Superintendent of the Sunday School - a position he held until his death in 1904. Mr. Walker resided at "Locust Grove" near Walkerton. (1880 Census Records - He was born in 1847 in VA - He lived in Stevensville (near Walkerton), King and Queen County and was married to Virginia Henley Walker.  His occupation was listed as farmer.  He had 2 daughters and 1 son)

Melville later in life about the time Mizpah was organized.
photos courtesy of Carol Lowry who obtained them from
Larry and Tere Pistole
 and Ben and Biddie Shelor Aug 2007

L. P. Fryer -- was among those that organized the Church and he, and his wife, took a very active part in Sunday School work, preaching, exercises, prayer meetings and all other work in connection with the Church. Mr. Fryer was Assistant Superintendent of the Sunday School and a faithful and regular attendant of the Church. He contributed to all the causes of the church. He furnished the material and built the pulpit that is still in use today.   (1880 Census records - He was born about 1844 in PA - he lived in Newtown, King and Queen County.  He was married to Martha - had 2 daughters and was a farmer by occupation)

Annie Toombs Walker -- the wife of the late William Humphrey Walker, was a faithful and regular attendant of the Church and was one of the Sunday School teachers. (1880 Census records - She was born in 1846 in VA - she lived in Newtown, King and Queen County.  She was married to William - had 1 daughter and 2 sons and was a wife with occupation of housekeeper)

photo courtesy of Carol Lowry Aug 2007

Anna Caldwell -- was the wife of the late John W. Caldwell. She and her two sons -- Caroll and Robert -- attended church every Sunday. Mrs. Caldwell was highly educated and was one of the Sunday School teachers for many years.  (1880 Census Records - she was born in 1845 in MD. She lived in Stevensville, King and Queen County.  She was married to John W. Caldwell and had 1 son and 1 daughter and was a wife with occupation of housekeeper)

Captain B. F. Eaton -- the owner of the first steamboat on the Mattaponi River. He was generous and contributed liberally to all the causes of the church. He was one of its best and most useful members.

Captain George Hudson -- was among the original group that decided to establish a church in Walkerton. He was a brother-in-law to Captain B. F. Eaton and assisted his brother-in-law in the steamboat business.

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Treasurer's Report: September 10, 1890

"At the 4th Quarterly Conference meeting on September10, 1890, Pastor Joseph W. Shackford reported that Mizpah Church had been dedicated. Also L. P. Fryer, Treasurer, reported that $8.60 collected at the dedication of Mizpah Church and $1.64 collected for incidental expenses."

The Building Fund Treasurer's Final Report read as follows:

Total Amount Received -


Total paid to date -


Balance -


Total paid for building the church was $1,489.69. Treasurer, Melville Walker was given a vote of thanks.

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Important Dates in our History


The Orange Grove Society becomes Mizpah Church at the recommendation of The Re. John W. Shackford.

October 4, 1885:

A meeting was held and the Building Committee was instructed to buy stoves and blinds for the church.

September 10, 1890:

Pastor Joseph W. Shackford reports at the Quarterly Conference that the church had been dedicated and that a Rosebud Society was organized. It met regularly following Sunday School and the offering was used for Misssionary support.

June 28, 1891:

Melville Walker moved - and the motion was carried -- that a Church Bell be erected at Mizpah Church.


The practice of receiving Free Will Offerings began.


New Hymn Books were purchased for the Church.


A Cemetery Committee was appointed that consisted of J. Douglas Mitchell, P. P. Dillard and M. L. Smith.


Old Acquinton Methodist Church on the King William Circuit was discontinued. Mizpah left the King and Queen Circuit and became a part of the King William Charge that included McKendree, Epworth and Bethel.


A Women's Society of Christian Services (W.S.C.S) was organized.


Melvin Steadman & James W. Luck are appointed to the King William Charge and services are held each Sunday in the four churches of the charge.


Bethel United Methodist Church withdrew from the King William Charge.


The Methodist Church joins with the United Evangelical Brethren, and Mizpah becomes Mizpah United Methodist Church.


New sanctuary lights are given in memory of Douglas M. Mitchell.


Mizpah United Methodist Church becomes an independent pariah.


Major renovations on the sanctuary and education building are completed.


A storage shed is donated in memory of Harvey K. Cooke.

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