First Hazel Hurst Methodist Church
On October 26, 1894, five prominent men of the community of Hazel Hurst
applied for a charter to the Court of Common Pleas of McKean County, Smethport,
Pennsylvania, to form a church to be known as the First Hazel Hurst Methodist
Church. The original trustees were George Harrington, E.M. Cheesman, P.D.
Henderson, S.D. Karr and W.F. Foltz. The charter application was granted
December 10, 1894. The five charter members were Jennie Cheesman, P.D.
Henderson, Vernie Karr, Nona Henderson and F.D. Karr. F.D. Karr was the
first superintendent of the Berkalew and Bayless Chemical Works in Hazel
The lumber for the church was donated by Benjamin F. Hazelton, the founder
of Hazel Hurst. He had built a saw mill north of Marvin Creek in 1892,
primarily to saw hemlock which was abundant on the hills surrounding the
town. The town grew rapidly and flourished, bringing with it the building
of many private dwellings and businesses.
The lumber was sawed by Joe DeShetler. The construction and carpentry
work was performed by employees of Hazelton. Services were held as soon
as the roof was completed. With the sides incomplete, no furniture and
no pews – services were held with the parishioners bringing their
own chairs. The church was furnished over the years through gifts and
money raised by the Ladies Aid. Their most successful money making activities
were suppers and spring strawberry festivals. In 1900, the church sold
a souvenir photo packet that included pictures taken around Hazel Hurst.
The first clear glass windows were replaced with stained glass by church
members and friends as memorials to departed relatives and friends.
During the years from 1894 to 1898, the church was part of the Mt. Jewett
charge and the ministers lived in Mt. Jewett. The first minister was Dewitt
M. Carpenter who served from 1894 to 1897 and was followed by Dr. O.H.
Nickle, who served until 1898. Membership increased steadily as the town’s
population grew and much interest was aroused in the church during this
period by the evangelistic services of Reverend Hathaway in 1896 and of
Miss Gertrude Rumsey and Mrs. Gilson in 1897.
In 1898, the church became a separate charge with its own minister. The
first minister that resided in Hazel Hurst was W.L. Hazen who came there
with his bride in November of 1898. There was no parsonage at that time
so they resided in an apartment on Main Street. About 1900, a small building
immediately north and adjacent to the church was purchased and remodeled
as the first parsonage. As shown on the 1909 Sanborn Map Company’s
map section of Hazel Hurst, the church is located on Harrison Avenue –
north off Main Street. The parsonage is located immediately north between
the church and the Pittsburgh, Shawmut and Northern Railroad depot. The
first parsonage was sold to Harry Spangler, remodeled, an addition built
on and moved to the corner of Main Street and Cleveland Avenue. Sometime
between 1904 and 1908, a larger, well constructed boarding house was purchased
and moved from Dewey Avenue in Belgium Town to the same site where the
original parsonage was located.
Pastor Hazen served until September of 1900 and was follow by Pastors
W.B. Linn, R.A. Parsons, G.N. Gage and W.R. Buzza through 1906. In 1906
Pastor A.S.M. Hopkins came and stayed until 1911, followed by M.E. Muder
in 1912 and 1913. During his time there was a large men’s and women’s
bible class. In the fall of 1913, Pastor C.C. Mohney came and during his
time had many revival services with Pastor Maitland which greatly increased
the membership. Following him, Pastor C.J. Zetler served from 1916 to
From 1920 to 1928, other ministers who served there were Henry Smallenberger,
C.M. Burnett, Mark Perry, Thomas M. Sheesley and E.C. Hasenplug.
During the years from 1894 to 1929, Hazel Hurst had gone from a boom town
and then declined to nearly a ghost town. It began and prospered as a
lumbering town, then entered a new era of prosperity as window and bottle
glass manufacturers built their plants there due to the discovery nearby
of high quality sandstone and supplies of natural gas. From February 1899
through December 1929, five glass companies located at three sites within
the town introduced a new era of prosperity. During this period, the church,
now known as the Methodist Episcopal Church, flourished and prospered.
From pledges, tithes and free will offerings – pews were bought,
a pipe organ was installed and other significant church upgrades were
performed. The Ladies Aid continued with chicken suppers and strawberry
festivals. Sunday school attendance had grown so large that some classes
were moved from the church to the parsonage next door. Youth work was
carried on within the Epworth League and Junior League organizations.
Missionary societies were organized, one for women and one for girls,
and debates were carried out in spirited monthly meetings. Sunday school
classes were organized and social meetings were held at leas monthly.
During the years of decline leading to the Berney Bond glass plant closing
on December 18, 1929, the church reverted back to the Mt. Jewett charge
in 1928. The pastors who served following this were M.I. Harding (1928-1929),
Louis E. Elbel (1930-1934) and R.A. Thompson (1934-1940). In 1940, Pastor
Thompson retired due to ill health and purchased and remodeled the parsonage.
The church used the proceeds from the sale to build two school rooms as
additions to the church. Pastor Thompson lived in the parsonage building
until the early 1940’s when he sold it to Harry Himes. After his
death, the property was acquired in 1970 and occupied by Guy and Kay Raught.
Pastor Clyde C. Ross (1940-1943) was followed by Herbert L. Schuckers
(1943-1946) who presided over the 50th golden anniversary which was celebrated
on October 22, 1944. In 1946, the name of the church was changed to the
Methodist Church of Hazel Hurst during which time Raymond J. Hurst (1946-1957)
was pastor and church membership increased. The church was remodeled and
redecorated, a piano was added along with new hymnals, choir robes, flags,
carpets, furnace, lights, and vestibule, outside steps and a new roof.
A rededication of the church was held in the fall of 1955.
On April 1, 1962, a ground breaking ceremony for a church school annex
was held by Pastor G. Mason Crites (1957-1962), the district superintendent,
Reverend Smallenberger and the church congregation. The annex consisted
of a kitchen, a fellowship room annex and two rest rooms. The entire interior
of the church was redecorated and new carpeting was installed. New school
furniture, kitchen furnishings and a new organ were bought. Construction
was performed by members of the community and the work was completed in
the early winter of 1962.
Pastor Crites was followed by E. Eugene Ankeny (1962-1965) and Ralph H.
During the early morning of July 20, 1967, the church was completely destroyed
by fire of unknown origin. Services were held at the Rebekah Hall until
the purchase of St. Edmund’s Roman Catholic Church on November 21,
1967. Services were first held the Sunday before Christmas in 1967. Make
shift altar furniture was used and the congregation worked to remodel
the chancellery, paint the inside of the church, lay new carpet and obtain
new altar furniture and an organ. The church was dedicated October 13,
1968. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on June 8, 1969 to construct
a religious education building annex and kitchen facilities.
The name of the church was changed to the Hazel Hurst Methodist Church.
Story Credit: Mike Arthurs Collection