LONG BOTTOM — Referred to as the “Lighthouse on the Corner,” the Long Bottom United Methodist Church in Meigs County has stood at its present location since 1895.
An outdoor bulletin board visible from the intersection of State Route 124 and State Route 248 offers Words of Wisdom and Encouragement to those who pass by this 125 year old church.
The Methodist Church had its beginnings early in Long Bottom. According to church history, the original Methodist Church was “a small frame building located at the west entrance of Sand Hill Cemetery.” It’s been noted settlers arrived in Long Bottom before 1800, and as the population grew, built a gristmill, post office, stores, and churches in an area described as an almost unbroken forest.
It is only speculation as to the date of the original building, again referring to church history, “it was an old church as long as the oldest residents can remember.” The earliest date associated with a minister was 1876, and included the name of a Rev. Durant, and included a Rev. Colley as presiding before him.
The present building was dedicated in 1895, a year after a flood swept away all the houses and structures in Long Bottom. The town had been established on the banks of the Ohio River, and after the devastating flood, was rebuilt away from the river. Even the road had been badly damaged, and it too was moved to higher ground.
After the church was completed, but before it’s dedication, a “Soldier Reunion” was held for the 63rd Ohio Valley Infantry. It was recorded as, “ A two day session, and was an enjoyable occasion. The Chester Drum Corp furnished the music. Several of the members resided in the neighborhood, including H. A. Swan, M. A. Stewart, William Wilson, J. R. Hawley, F. A. McCullough, and A. W. Cowdery.”
The flood of 1884 was the first recorded, but certainly not the last. During the flood of 1913 the church building was so badly damaged new windows had to be installed and walls re-plastered and papered. It was raised and a basement of concrete block was constructed under it, after which it was dedicated 1914.
Again in 1937 flood waters reached the middle of the windows of the church, causing minimal damage but requiring “a lot of cleanup work.”
The last flooding occurred on September 19, 2004 when rains from Hurricane Ivan caused a sudden rise in the waters of the Ohio River. For the first time in 40 years, water filled the church basement with over a foot of water that took two days to recede.
A rather unique part of this church’s history is combining with another church to hold services. Between March 1951 and May 1969, joint services were held with the nearby Christian Church, alternating every other week between the two.
According to longtime member Mary Cowdery, several youth have attended the Long Bottom United and made notable accomplishments.
“For a small rural church, there are several young people who grew up in the church and have made some positive history,” she said. “Between 2012 and 2014 – Shannon Brown, Ethan Nottingham and Chase Cook became the first recipients in the history of the church to earn the Eagle Scout award, Miranda McKelvey, having a 10-year perfect attendance at church, passed the Ohio State Bar exam July 2014, and Tim Harris has a 24-year perfect attendance. We are so proud of them.”
She said, “Sadly we have recently lost two young people from the church: Justin Hill in 2015 and Julia Poole in 2020.”
The church has observed past anniversaries with large gatherings. In 1995 for their 100th anniversary, 15 other churches and their ministers joined the weekend long celebration. The event had over 200 people in attendance and a dinner following Sunday morning services.
It was during this celebration that electric candles burning continuously were placed in the windows, and the church became known as “the Lighthouse on the Corner.”
The 125th anniversary this November was quite small in comparison. Due to COVID-19 concerns, a small group of members commemorated the date at their regularly scheduled Sunday morning services.
“It was different this year. We have been able to keep the church open for Sunday services with social distancing measures,in place, but it wasn’t possible to have a large celebration,” Cowdery said.
Instead, the group gave thanks for the establishment of the church in the early days of settlement, and their continuing presence in the community.
Editor’s note: The church recently received a certificate of acknowledgment of their 125th anniversary from the Ohio General Assembly from Rep. Jay Edwards, also signed by Speaker of the House Robert R. Cupp.
Sources for this story, including: Leona Hensley, History of the Long Bottom United Methodist Church, November 1975, written for the 80th anniversary; Mary Cowdery, longtime member of the Long Bottom United Methodist Church, and the Meigs County Pioneer Society.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.