“In 1777, Methodist meetings were held in the home of Reynear Williams by the Rev. John Cooper. During the year 1778, Bishop Francis Asbury preached three times at these services. On Dec. 3, 1787, a lot of land on North St., in Milford, was donated to the Methodist Society by Joseph Oliver, the founder of Milford. On this lot, a frame church was built and a graveyard was laid out. This is the present Methodist Cemetery where former Governor Peter F. Causey is buried. The oldest tombstone that the writer could find is that of Simon Miller who died on Sept. 3, 1795. The church stood in about the center of the present cemetery and faced west. Before the building was entirely completed a funeral sermon was preached in it by the Rev. Wm. Jessup. The first illumination was by candles which were replaced later with sperm -oil lamps. In 1789, the church was in charge of the Rev. Thomas Jackson and Wm. Radcliff with the Rev.
Richard Whatcoat as Presiding Elder. In a report to the Conference that year, 879 white members and 236 colored members were reported in the circuit. In 1790, the frame church was fully completed with a gallery for the colored members. In 1796, Wm. Colbert, in his diary, stated that the circuit extended from Frederica to Georgetown to Lewes and included 32 preaching places. In 1800, an addition was built to the church and it continued in use for 42 years. The Methodist Conference was held here in 1821. On Jan. 5, 1827, a Sunday School was organized by Mrs. Samuel Draper.
In 1842, a brick church was built at 3rd and North Sts. This is the present St. Paul ’s M. E. Church, colored. Philadelphia Conference met here on Apr. 1, 1845. In 1852, the church was made a station although Cedar Neck Church continued to be associated with it until 1869.
In 1871, the brick church was built on Railroad Ave., now Church Ave. There was considerable controversy before the final selection of the present site. Some members claimed that the site was on the edge of the town, that it was low and marshy and surrounded by stables and pig – pens. They also accused those favoring the site of using unfair means to attain their end. Those favoring the site claimed that it was central, high ground and perfectly suitable as a church site.
The work of building the new church progressed gradually and by the end of 1872 the basement and lecture- room were completed. A farewell memorial service was held in the old church on Dec. 29, 1872. The first service in the new church was held in the lecture – room on Jan. 5, 1873, a very stormy day. The services were in charge of the Revs. Jacob Todd and S. W. Thomas.
The church bell, a gift of Captain Henry W. Laws, was placed in position on Jan. 25, 1873.
On Apr. 3, 1874, a group headed by Nathan Pratt purchased the old church at 3rd and North Sts. They converted it into a playhouse which they named “Music Hall.” It was popularly known as the “Opera House.” Musical and dramatic productions were booked and appeared there. Two rooms were equipped as school – rooms by the Academy and at least one music teacher had his studio in the building.
In 1882, Messrs. Isaac Truitt, Alex Pullen and Burr conducted experiments in conserving fruits in the building. The building was sold to St. Paul’s M. E. Church, colored, on Sept. 14, 1889.
The construction work on the new church on Railroad Ave. was resumed in March, 1876. The church was completed and was dedicated on Mar. 3, 1877. The services were in charge of the Rev. Dr. R. L. Dashiell who preached both morning and evening. At this time the name “Avenue” was selected.
After extensive improvements, a rededication service was held on Dec. 22, 1889. The morning service was led by the Rev. Dr. George E. Reed, Pres, of Dickinson College. The Hon. W. F. Causey led the afternoon exercises and the Rev. T. E. Terry preached in the evening. A new organ was installed in March, 1901. Methodist Conferences have been held here a number of times.
The ground was broken for the present stone church on Feb. 12, 1939, by Governor Richard C. McMullen. The corner-stone was laid on Mar. 19, 1939. With the erection of the stone church, the spire on the former brick church, one of the most outstanding in Delaware, was removed, much to the chagrin of many residents of Milford. The church was incorporated as Avenue Methodist Church on Nov. 3, 1939. The new church was dedicated on Dec. 24, 1939, by Bishop Edwin H. Hughes, assisted by Dist. Supt. Dr. W. A. Hearn and the Rev. Frank Herson, the pastor. The organ, a gift of Mrs. George H. Hall in memory of her husband, was dedicated at the evening service by Dr. Hearn.
Included in the church establishment are the auditorium, Friendship Chapel, various Sunday School rooms, dining- room and kitchen. The memorial windows were reset in the new church. A window, executed by Tiffany, in memory of Wm. F. and Anna P. Causey, was presented by their daughter, Mrs. Wm. Aldrich. The brick church will be used as a social-hall and it is proposed to veneer it with stone to conform to the new church.” (1)
1. Frank R. Zebley, The Churches of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware, 1947, p. 253, 254.
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