A church community is built upon its past and so traditions abound. But not all traditions contribute to the health of the worshiping community. So we must look into the past in order to plan for the future. The history of the Charlestown UMC begins within sixty years after the founding of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. Charlestown Township was originally named Hinkley Township, but in 1817 Charles Curtis donated a $100 barrel of whiskey for the building of the Town Hall to be used as a church, a town hall, and a meeting room. By giving the barrel of whiskey, Charles Curtis claimed naming rights for the township, thus Charlestown.
The first Methodist Episcopal Church in Charlestown was a small brick chapel which stood at the southwest corner of the square. The date of its erection began around 1829. But this structure was destroyed by a heavy wind storm after which a temporary place of worship was constructed and later used as a blacksmith shop by R. H. Shilliday.
In 1859, the Methodist Society decided to build a new church. In 1811, the land for the church had been donated by Sophia Coe Newton who was the first school teacher in Charlestown and the first member of the church. D. R. King of Freedom Township hauled the first timber on the ground for the new church. Joel D. Hall took a prominent part on the building committee. Chauncey Hall was in charge of the carpentry work.
The church frame was raised on Thursday, May 10, 1859. The ladies provided dinner in the Town Hall for over two hundred people. Carlton G. Hall built the wood carved pulpit which is still in use today. The bell was shipped to Freedom Station by railroad and Joel D. Hall hauled it on his hay rack to his home for over night and then to the church on the following day. It was first tolled in 1880 by a nine year old boy, Lyman Coe Bradford, son of Mr. and Mrs. Olin F. Bradford. On Thursday, October 24, 1859, the new Methodist church was dedicated which still stands atop Charlestown Hill.
The parsonage, which stands just north of the church, was built twenty-seven years later in 1886 at the cost of $1,000. Rev. W. R. Webster was the pastor at that time and he and Mrs. Webster took great interest in its building and helped with the work.
The disbanded Congregational Society merged with the Charlestown Methodist Episcopal Church in 1924. In the 1940s the building was redecorated throughout and Sunday School rooms were added under the pastorate of Rev. J. Craig Smith. In 1941, Charlestown Township lost the northern part of the township and the homes on it to the building of the Ravenna Arsenal for WWII. This significantly reduced membership in the church.
During the summer and fall of 1954, a large fellowship room was added to the west end of the church which was used by the primary department of the Sunday School. It was of concrete block construction and was entirely completed by the men of the church. In 1958 the basement of the church was finished so that it too could be used for classrooms. The cost of this addition was approximately $3,500.
During 1960, the sanctuary walls were repainted and a tile block floor was installed in the Sunday School rooms. Aluminum siding was installed on the outside of the church at an approximate cost of $2,500 and the outside trim was painted by the men of the church. A new coal furnace was installed in the parsonage in 1962 while insulation was placed in the ceiling of the sanctuary and Sunday School rooms at a cost of $350. In 1962, church membership was 137.
In the early 1960’s, another large portion of Charlestown Township was taken to establish the West Branch State Park and Reservoir. This in turn reduced available land for farms and housing. Also, the large wooden cross that now adorns the chancel area of the sanctuary was built and shaped by Robert Esworthy. The over 100 year old pulpit was refinished by Dale Biltz.
From 1928 through July 1, 2001, Charlestown UMC either shared a pastor with other Methodist churches in the area or was appointed a part-time pastor. From 1997 to the present, the church has hired a part-time treasurer and secretary, painted the interior of the building, refurbished the flooring in the restrooms and entryway, updated the electric, carpeted the basement Sunday School rooms, added handicapped parking, and installed wireless Internet service.
For a short period of time, 2001-2006, Charlestown UMC, with the blessings of the Bishop and the vote of the Cabinet, was restored to full-time appointment status. However, due to financial hardships the appointment was returned to part-time status on July 1, 2006, and continues to the present. The part-time status has enabled the church to stabilize its financial situation thus increasing its ability to provide expanded ministry, mission, and service to the surrounding Charlestown Township community.
Since 2006, the membership rolls have increased from 118 to 127 and the giving has increased from $77,734 to $99,000.
A Vision Community, established in April 2010, has been studying the feasibility of an addition to the existing church. The addition would include a lounge area, an enlarged fellowship hall, kitchen, and several classrooms.
In 2009, the downstairs nursery was renovated into a bright and inviting area for 0-4 year olds and a licensed teacher was hired to oversee the nursery. In the Fall 2011, a dividing wall was torn down in the basement and the whole basement renovated into a beautiful hideaway United Methodist Youth room for 12-18 year olds. A water leak in the air conditioning unit in the attic above the sanctuary in July 2011 made urgent the repair of the ceiling using insurance coverage. The ceiling was taken back to its original height and restored. At the same time, the sanctuary was completely repainted, including the pews, the choir loft was removed, and a ceiling projector was installed for worship.
At this time, the church is working with AODK architectural firm and Generis Financial Campaign Consultants to design and fund an approximately $750,000 addition to the church of a larger fellowship hall, new restrooms, classrooms, and large gathering space.