Source: Sherman Publications

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175 years: Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church

by David Fleet

September 05, 2012

Groveland Twp.- It's the definition of a country church.

Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church, located at the intersection of dirt roads—adjacent farm fields and woodlots has endured fire in addition to the challenges of a modern world.

To recognize the 175-year history of the church at 3209 Jossman Road, a celebration is planned for 2 p.m., Sept. 16 at the church.

In the winter of 1837, Rev. Smith, a Methodist pastor, traveled through the wooded, rolling township countryside—gathering for services in the homes of a few settlers to the region. Church records include the pioneer names of Cogshall and Ogden—about seven families comprised the first church class, later named by the Ogdens for Mt. Bethel, N.J., their home prior to moving to the township. In 1840, a log church was built near the intersection of Jossman and Bald Eagle Lake roads.

Today, the old log church is gone and generations of families have passed, but Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church continues to serve the rural township area.

Larry Scramlin, 71, a long-time member, reflected on the longevity of the church.

"There's a closeness, that's a major plus," he said. "We've been flexible over the years. I know that some churches split over such things as the type of hymns. We as a church can get together and have an honest conversation—establish a family atmosphere. Honestly, we enjoy each other and at the end of the day, we stay together."

Larry Scramlin's brother, township resident Marvin Scramlin, 67, is also a life-long member of the congregation. He recalls some of the history of Mt. Bethel Church. Marvin says the original 22-foot-by-32-foot log church existed about 100 yards south of the Mt. Bethel Cemetery, facing a swampy area.

He farmed the area of ground and has yet to find any signs of the old log cabin church.

"The swamp is there and the ground is pretty high for a building," recalls Marvin.

Marvin also recalled the July 14, 1947 fire, caused by a lighting strike, that destroyed the New England-style church built in 1872.

"My dad, William Scramlin, arrived at the old church after the fire," said Marvin. "He told us that only the stone foundation remained when he arrived. Years later, when we were pouring a new sidewalk, we found the old footings of the church. They are still underground."

The present church was completed on July 24, 1949 and has been upgraded over the years.