Our History

Emmaus United Methodist Church traces its history to 1790 when the first Methodist congregation was established in Smithville with about 12 members. The first church building was located next to the Smithville Inn, then a stage coach stop and according to old church history, worshipers “were often disturbed by the music of the violin and the merry feet of dancers” so another lot was purchased and a church built on Moss Mill Road, west of route 9. One building on that site burned and a second building was used until the current sanctuary was built in 1869.

At the time the church was established, Methodist congregations were served by circuit riding preachers who traveled by horseback from one church to another throughout the region. The circuit rider might only visit a congregation once a month and sometimes even less often. Services were held on what ever day of the week the was in the area.

Methodist congregations had a local “class leader” who provided spiritual support between visits of the circuit rider. Richard Leeds was the first class leader in 1790 and the first local preacher of the church in Smithville. He continued to preach until he was unable to do so due to advanced age and failing health.  He died in 1857 at age 85. By his own request, he was buried directly behind the church and near the pulpit where he so often preached.

The current sanctuary was built in 1869 on a half acre of ground at a total cost of $4,500.  A dedication service was held on January 4th, 1870, a Tuesday, likely because that was the day the circuit riding presiding elder, David Bartine was in the area.

A bell was added to the bell tower in 1890.  It was cast by the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore  Md. and the inscription on the bell reads “Let Him that Hearth Say Come”.

The sanctuary is admired for it’s detailed woodworking, including a cross on the ceiling that spans the entire length and width of the building.

Through more than 225 years and 85 preachers there have been changes from wood stoves, to coal stoves, to oil, to gas, additions of electricity and running water but the mission remains the same: To Preach, Teach and Model a Life-Giving Gospel.


Inscription on the bell reads "Let him that heareth say come"
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Learn more about early circuit riding preachers from this video.