As early as 1805 a group of Methodists had banded together to organize a class in Ellistown. This group, which met in a log school house, was probably a result of the preaching ministry of Methodism’s men-on-horseback, the circuit riders.
The best records indicate that the Tioga Circuit was loosely organized in this vicinity as early as 1797. By 1810, Waverly was definitely included in the reorganized Tioga Circuit, which extended from the environs of Canton, Pennsylvania, to Coventry, New York.
Such a broad parish, for the clergy, naturally placed a responsibility of leadership upon the laymen of the various communities. Samuel Ellis assumed these duties in the Ellistown Class.
With the continued growth of the local society, a fine church building, known as Emory Chapel, was constructed in 1833. This landmark of Methodism still stands alongside of New York State Route 17, and is presently owned by the Baptist Church.
In 1838, another group, known as the Factoryville Class, was formed by Mr. and Mrs. Elishama Tozer, Mr. and Mrs. Pierce Hyatt, and Joshua Wilcox. The two area organizations worked closely together, conducting several revival meetings in the Ellistown section and soon a combined Sunday school was organized.
As the result of an ever increasing number of converts, and the westward surge of the community, an attractive white church was built in 1840 on what is now Ithaca Street in the Village of Waverly. This church was known as Fletcher Chapel. It was a lovely white wooden structure with a broad porch across the front. Wide double doors opened to a central auditorium with a balcony. Sunday school classrooms and the choir loft were housed in the balcony.
In 1863, increased enrollment prompted 40 persons to form another new class, which met in a school room on Waverly Street. Later this same year, Fletcher Chapel was sold (again to the Baptists) and a lot was purchased on Waverly Street where the present Post Office now stands. A new white wooden church was built here called the First Methodist Church. Unfortunately, about a year after dedication the building caught fire on Christmas Eve and burned to the ground. The undaunted Methodists met the very next day, Christmas Day, and pledged $5000.00 toward the new church they would build as soon as possible. The women of the church met that same day, printed up handbills- delivered them house to house-collected many items, and put on a bazaar that very night, raising nearly $500.00 to add to the pledge. This time they chose a site further up the street- on the corner of Waverly Street and Chemung Street, our present site- and within the next two years had a new brick church, with large parking area and carriage house (for horses and buggies), and a parsonage next door. Dedications services were held on April 4, 1867.
By 1911 that building and parsonage had become antiquated and unsafe. Under the direction of the pastor at that time, Rev. George S. Connell, and a committee consisting of E.W. Eaton, Cortez A. Neaves, G.D. Genung, Dr. Guy S. Carpenter, and John A. Johnson, the present house of worship was planned and constructed.
The imposing structure of Hummelstown brownstone was opened for worship on Sunday, October 10, 1915. The church, including the balcony and Sunday school auditorium, was filled to capacity. Highlights of the service were an anthem, “The Lord Gave the Word”, sung by the choir, and a sermon by the Rev. John Krantz, D.D. of New York City. Services during the week featured choirs from throughout the valley and addresses by noted speakers.
Dedication services were held on Sunday, October 17, 1915. Dr. James Roscoe Day, Chancellor of Syracuse University, delivered the sermon. Miss Gladys Weller was soloist.
Subsequent anniversaries have noted the progress of the congregation throughout the past seven and one-half decades. In 1940, a Silver Anniversary celebration was held during the week of November 10-17. The Rev. I. Ashton Rich was pastor. Guest choirs and speakers again marked the occasion. In chronicling its achievements the congregation was grateful for a new pipe organ which was purchased in 1933 and rebuilt later with the addition of an echo organ in the balcony. The burning of the mortgage in 1942 was a time of special celebration.
The Fortieth Anniversary was held in 1955 during the pastorate of the Rev. Arthur H. Salin. This was a time of rejoicing because of many improvements which the church had experienced during the preceding years. The Sanctuary had been redecorated and new carpeting was installed. The exterior of the building was repaired and stones painted.
Upon the Golden Anniversary of the present church building, again we looked to God with thanksgiving. An Endowment Fund, designed for long-range undergirding of the church’s finances, and a Memorial Fund for the purpose of providing for the immediate needs of the congregation were established.
Among the memorial gifts of the past decades are a wide variety of appropriate fixtures, utensils, and embellishments, which have added to the beauty and effectiveness of the programs of the church, be they centered in the Sanctuary, Sunday school rooms, dining room, or kitchen. For all these we are deeply grateful.
In June 1965, the congregation subscribed over $90,000.00 for a Building Improvement Fund. The contributions were made over a three-year period. By September 1965 over 1/10 of this amount had already been paid.
A new improvement in our worship service was our Acolyte Program organized in the spring of 1963 by Halene McClelland. It has been a real joy having our young people a regular part of our service each Sunday.