HISTORY OF TRENTON METHODIST CHURCH
The beginnings of Methodism in the Trenton area can be traced back to Feb. 10, 1788, when Francis Asbury recorded the following in his journal: "We then had to move on toward Trent." On January 24, 1791, Bishop Asbury returned and recorded these words: "I had a most dreary ride to Trenton. Here I met with Lewis Bryan, brother of the late general." Asbury preached on this occasion at an interdenominational chapel or "Free Church." The Jones Circuit was formed from this part of the New River Circuit the following year. Bishop Asbury visited the area several times preaching at churches and at "preaching places" as well as overseeing the general health of the congregations; the last recorded visit was in 1815. Despite these earlier beginnings, very little is known about the earlier years of the Methodists in Trenton. Written records begin in 1880 and a list of Oral tradition has the Methodists meeting for many years in a "Free Church" located on a site within the present Trenton cemetery. In the fall of 1887, a lot was obtained from the Jones Circuit Parsonage Trustees, and a new facility was soon built under the supervision of Mr. Ivy Andrews. This original structure is still in use, but with some alterations and additions. Early in the 1920's the seating capacity was doubled and two Sunday School rooms were added. Again in the 1950's the structure was enlarged, adding more Sunday School classrooms, a fellowship area, kitchen, and restrooms. This church was specifically included and described in the Trenton Historic District and placed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Sanctuary was renovated to provide a most beautiful place to worship our God. In December 1987, a new fellowship hall, kitchen, and pastor's study were completed and to celebrate the remarkable achievement of having retired the building debt in just over 3 years, a note-burning and dedication ceremony was held on Sunday June 9, 1991. The new building was named "Whitaker Hall" in memory of W. Murray Whitaker, a faithful member and primary benefactor. Damage was sustained to the steeple in 1994 when it was struck by lightening and a fire ensued. It was repaired and replaced with a slate roof. Our latest chapter was written September 17, 1999 when waters from hurricane Floyd overflowed from Trent River and flooded the sanctuary with 6" and the remainder of the facility with 12" and restoration continued through August 2000. This Church acted as a relief center at the beginning for the entire town and community. However the life of a congregation cannot be told by a review of dates and building programs; the real life is contained in the individual lives touched by God's grace and in the story of the corporate mission of the congregation as it seeks to live by faith. Quarterly Conference records contain some rich accounts of grace and love in action. The oldest currently available record reports the election of Thomas J. Whitaker as Superintendent of the Trenton Sunday School on October 11, 1879. Mr. Whitaker and others kept this school open during the winter months when the norm was to shut down and wait for warmer weather. He would hold this post for many years, the last being in 1926. Other examples of congregational life are found in the following accounts:
“Church house is paid in full with $45 set aside to paint the church house.” (1892)
“ A more loyal and sacrificing people I have never met anywhere.
Their goal is to bring up a clean sheet each year and they do it.” (Sept 27, 1924)
The story and the work go on today. Children's ministries and excellent musical programs have highlighted recent years. In 1983, Oak Grove UMC closed and the membership, in large, merged with Trenton. This has been an effective and beautiful happening, serving to add energy, talent, and new dimensions to the congregation. Our history is not perfect, but it contains stories of God working in and through people to affect individual lives and the life of the community. And this history is not complete, in fact, we dare to believe that some of the best chapters are being written now and some remain to be written by people touched by the Shepherd's hand.