WEST MARTINSBURG — There will be an online auction through Monday to benefit the restoration of the West Martinsburg Church steeple at www.adkauctions.com. The auction began Memorial Day.
Auction items can be picked up from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 9, or 4 to 7 p.m. June 10 at West Martinsburg Town Hall, 6994 West Road.
An original 1832 meeting house of worship near the West Martinsburg four corners was replaced in 1840 with a new house of worship on the West Martinsburg site. The West Martinsburg Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed, and Lobdell Wood, Henry McCarty, Moses Talmadge, Norman Gowdy, Henry Miller, Henry Curtis, Noah Harger and Moses Smith served as trustees. The deed to the property was gifted to the trustees by John Curtis.
The 1840 West Martinsburg Methodist Episcopal Church served the community for more than 100 years. Significant changes were made to the church through the years. By 1888, a new bell had been installed, stained-glass windows were added and the church was painted. A balcony had been removed, and the pulpit was placed at the opposite end of the building. Seats that had been under the balcony were turned to face the pulpit.
Since these changes, the sanctuary has changed very little. The church remains without electricity. In 1983, the West Martinsburg Methodist Episcopal Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The church still has its working Estey pump organ. The ceilings and upper walls have been hand-stenciled in the original pattern. Suspended pipes run the length of each side of the sanctuary to provide heat from the two wood stoves located at the rear of the sanctuary. An early 1832 Bible is on display in the museum portion of the church along with the Bible that belonged to John Curtis. Kerosene lanterns on each side of the front entry are hung on original hand-forged hooks. A step for getting down from a carriage or wagon is still in its location near the entry doors.
In 1941, lightning struck the church steeple. Repairs were made, and the bell still hangs in the steeple. The hand-forged cross atop the steeple had been added. The cross has been removed due to the need, once again, for repairs to the steeple.
In the 1940s and ’50s, population was declining in the small rural communities throughout Lewis County and Northern New York. With declining church attendance, services were discontinued. The West Martinsburg Methodist Church remains an important building to the history of the town of Martinsburg and the historic four corners in West Martinsburg. Oversight of the church now belongs to The Preservation Society for the West Martinsburg Church.
In 2019, emergency repairs were made to the steeple to temporarily stabilize the structure and allow time for fundraising efforts. The steeple repair needs are extensive and costly.
The first phase of the repairs to the steeple will begin in the spring of 2023 using proceeds from fundraising efforts along with assistance from the Northern New York Community Foundation and the Pomeroy Foundation.
To assist in the repair efforts or for more information, contact The Society for the Preservation of the West Martinsburg Church at P.O. Box 85, Martinsburg, NY 13404-0085. New members to the group are always welcome.