The contents of a two-page handwritten letter by the Rev. James D. Gibson, first rector of the Follansbee Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, recalled the beginnings of the church. The letter was given to the Rt. Rev. R. E. L. Strider, then Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of West Virginia by Rev. Gibson’s widow.
The actual date when the letter was written was not indicated, but assumed to be 1912. A 1938 issue of the Follansbee Review reported the contents and the circumstances of the letter to the public. The founding of the Good Shepherd Church as told in Rev. Gibson’s letter, is summarized below.
Rev. James D. Gibson took charge of the Wellsburg church on Sept. 12, 1909. Up until this time a few of the communicants from Follansbee had been attending church in Wellsburg. However, no organized work for a Follansbee church was being done. Rev. H.H. Phelps, who preceded Mr. Gibson occasionally conducted cottage prayer meeting in Follansbee, and Bishop Gravatt had preached there in the Methodist Church, in July 1909.
The official beginning of the Follansbee Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd began with Rev. James D. Gibson as its first rector. While visiting Follansbee in Sept. 12, 1909, he found a much larger number of communicants than had been realized. In January 1910 he began the organization of a congregation. A Sunday school was started on the last Sunday in January, with twenty persons present. The following Sunday the attendance rose to 37 and much enthusiasm was shown.
“An application signed by 22 communicants was sent to the Bishop Peterkin, requesting the creation of a mission known as the Mission of the Good Shepherd in Follansbee. The Bishop promised at least $200 on a church building. The Follansbee Brothers, well known for supporting local churches, donated a lot at 930 lower Neville street.
On February 22, 1910, at the home of Mrs. J.P. Dailey, 19 ladies met, and with help from Mrs. Baxter, of Wellsburg, and Mr. Gibson, the Good Shepard Guild was created. M. W. H. Williams was elected president; Mrs. Dungan, vice-president; Mrs. Stump, secretary, and Mrs. Gough, treasurer. Twenty-eight ladies were enrolled as members. The communicants at Follansbee numbered about 50 and the future was bright.”
The story of the Good Shepard Church in more recent years was printed in the Weirton Daily Times in 1967. The link to the article is indicated. Click here Good Shepard.
*Follansbee Review, “Interesting Letter In Parish Records,” Jan. 6, 1938.
*Weirton Daily Times, “Church of the Good Shepherd Founded in Brooke In 1910,” May 27, 1967, p.9.
*Dictionary definition of communicant refers to any person who is in good standing from the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.
The Church of the Good Shepherd sermons took place in this building on Neville Street.