St. John's Episcopal Church
-From a letter to Mrs. S. A. Goodwin from John A. Moore, Secretary-Treasurer, Upper of Ohio Valley Historical Society, Sept. 23, 1949 (Ohio County Public Library Archives, Upper Ohio Valley Historical Society records, 1948-1958). Mrs. Goodwin had presented a paper on the history of St. Matthew's parish to the society:
"In this connection, I thought of your interest in St. John's church when I came across a letter from Mr. John R. Eoff, published in the Register, and contained in a scrap book of my Mother's. My mother died in 1910 and I imagine the letter was published five to ten years prior to that date [. . .]"
To the Editor of the Register.
Sir:— Then in those old dark days, fifty years ago, there was split in the old congregation of St. Matthew's church, a withdrawal of that part of the congregation which lived below the creek. These people had a long way to go from Center Wheeling to the old church, which stood on the hillside at the upper end of what is now Twelfth Street, and besides this long distance there was a disturbing feature a dissatisfying element in the nature of the services and the doctrines taught in the old church, which led to the disruption of the membership of the old congregation and the establishing of the parish of St. John's in Center Wheeling. Perhaps this withdrawal was not satisfactory or not relished by the people who clung to the old organization, for the new church was looked upon with suspicion as perhaps leading to Rome -- the Roman church, so much dreaded by those who clung to the old congregation. The new church was regarded as, everybody called Puseyite, of what would now be called Ritualistic. St. John's was always regarded as "High Church," while St. Matthew's was called "Low Church."
Things went on and the new church was lightly spoken of as the "Eoff Chapel," which showed a spirit of dislike, and St. Matthew's was regarded on the other hand as little better in the way of churchmanship than Methodists. The new church, owing to the smallness of its members, was always a struggling church. There came deaths and removals and diminishing numbers until the organization could no long remain and the church was sold.
It is fair to say that there was not the harmony amongst the members of the new church that there should have been any more than there was harmony amongst the Puritans in New England when they set up there their religious organization to be exempt from the persecution of the English church.
Among the members of the new church were the Eoffs, the Tallants, the Dodsons, the Woods, Quarriers, Gilchrists and others. Of the Eoff family, once so prominent in the city, there is not one left, and the others have also either all died or have removed until few remain to tell the tale of the new defunct congregation.
Of the Rectors of the old St. John's church there were Dr. McCabe, Mr. Warner, Mr. Moore and Mr. Morrow as the more prominent ones.
But to return to St. Matthew's of today, which has inspired the present letter. During many years of my life I was intimately associated with the services of the church, though a member of St. John's, but not in its business affairs. I knew well Mr. Addison and Mr. Currie, but Mr. Perkins was before my time. I was an intimate friend of Mr. J. S. Fairfax, the architect, who superintended the erection of the new church. I knew the plans in all their details, but lately entering the new church, I was surprised to see many alterations. Could this church, outwardly the same, be St. Matthew's — St. Matthew's with a cross upon the altar (communion table, as it persistently called by the founders of the church?) — Yes, there it was shining bright. Then the new organ and the stalls for the vested choir. Oh, shades of Perkins, Addison, Currie and Latane! Stalls, which could not even be introduced into St. John's! Then the priest, with his cassock, alb and chasuble, with his ritual, altar service and "innovations", familiar but hated word, formerly so much used in connection with the innocent services, as they now appear, held in old St. John's, when Bishop Whittle declared he had power to go over with axe and crowbar and demolish the cross and papistical altar at St. John's and declined to visit the church until his demands to change things were complied with.
Surely the times are changed and the people with them, when one finds now such new things in St. Matthew's P. E. Church. A new generation must be born to the old church. A new Pharaoh has arisen who knows not the things of old and we are inclined to think there are many apologies due to the shades of the departed rectors and members of St. John's parish for the criticism of the past. Perhaps these have already been made in that good land where those spirits are now abiding.
It is an age of advancement. See the great and wonderful progress of Wheeling and the Ohio Valley in the last twenty years. The church -- the new generation — has caught the fever and is arising from a low estate to a high degree.
It is possible that Apostolic succession, regeneration, true presence, and the like things, are now taught to the descendants of the founders of this church? If so, there has been a more wonderful change than is apparent in the outward appearance of the interior of the church.
But we are not complaining and will be well enough satisfied if there goes along with the externals an equal degree of honest purpose and sincerity inwardly.
Signed, JNO. R. EOFF.
-From the collections of Ohio County Public Library Archives. The letter is a typed transcription of the original. The date when this letter appeared has not been established .
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