[Based on materials by Nellie Hendricks Moler]
Delving into old records of early land grants, you will find that tracts of land were taken up in this ection along the Potomac River just as early as those nearer the tiny village of Mecklenburg (Shepherdstown). When the 1732 settlers came to what is now Jefferson County and took up large tracts of land, John wright and Samuel and John Taylor settled in the Molers Cross Roads area. Homes sprung up, amd as years passed, other settlers came.
In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, many other families came, bought land, and built homes. These are the ones that you still see dotted here and there all over the county. Many family names are still familiar in this neighborhood: Reinhart, Molers. Knott, Hoffman, Osbourne, Staley, Skinner, Fraley, Flanagan, Banks, Knode, Thompson, Koontz and others being among those whose children grew up and attended school and Sunday School at Molers Cross Roads.
Finally a brick school was built in a woodland owned by Chrisian Reinhart and now owned by Dr. S.T. Knott. this writer was unable to find the date of this building, but it was long before the War Between the States. Because this school was built upon land given by Christian Reinhart, it was alwyas calle “Reinhart’s School.”When a later two-room schoolhouse was built upon land given jointly by D. Griffith Moler and his sister E. Victoria Moler, the name of Reinhart’s School still clung — and does to this day.
[illegible] Reinhart Schoolhouse when that schoolhouse was the center of a rural cmmunity church on the Sabbath day and the forum of the “Three R’s” on week-days. It was a brick structure, on a lot at the east edge of a beautiful woodland of oaks and hickories, on the road leading now to Dr. Knott’s home. It faced the road, and had three windows on either side and one one the back. Some boy with an ax, had chopped off a few bricks from the eats corner, leaving a hole along the floor; and that opening, together with a broken panel in the door, afforded a “peep-hole” for the boys to note activities within, when some luckless culprit was being given a taste of the rod according to that day’s interpretation of the Biblical expression “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”
Reinhart’s Schoolhouse was the community center for all denominations; Methodist, Reformers, Lutherans and Episcopalians, predominating in the order named.
In the search for data, the earliest record that I could find was one of 1844 in the “Church Register of Shepherdstown Station.” At that time, meetings were held in the Shepherdstown church, sometimes in the homes of members and in various schoolhouses in different neighborhoods, led either by a minister or more often by a class leader.
The first record of a service held at Reinhart’s Schoolhouse was in 1851 . At that time, it was recorded as one of the classes on “Shepherdstown Circuit,” and called “Class No. 7”, leader and “exhorter” Nichael Nickols. There were eleven classes — tow being for colored slaves but having a white leader — and all held at different places. Where the foregoing is the earliest record, I’ve no doubt whatever that services were held from the very time the schoolhouse was built, — a date I could not find.
Exclusive of a very large Sunday School role, the church numbered twenty members in 1864 ; in thirty-two, and in 1877 (after the building of the church), there were fifty-four.
Mr. John Hoffman was leader and superintendent from about 1860 until the Methodists began agitating the question of building a Methodist Church, about the year 1871 or ’72. This question of being a Southern Methodist Church caused much butterness in the entire neighborhood. The Reform people, very strong, and the Lutherans, who had become strong, saw no reason to break up the delightful relations which existed among the different denominations up until then. But the Methodists argued that a church organization which was responsible to nobody could not long endure; and that, while the Metodists would own and control the church, their friends of other denominations could worship with them as before.
The building of the Bethodist Church marks the ending of the “group” preaching in Reinhart’s Schoolhouse [illegible] Shepherdstown congregations, the Lutherans to Unionville, and Reinhart’s Scoolhouse ended as a “church center.”
After the church building contention began, James M. Hendrick’s was appointed Class leader by the Methodists, and Samuel M. Knottwas assistant and exhorter. As this church-building movement grew, Rev. A.A. P. Neel was sent to the Shepherdstown Circuit. He took up the idea, backed solidly by many local families. The church building became a reality. Rev. A.A. P. Neal had the honor of naming the new church, built and dedicated in 1874 , and he gave it the name of “Bethesda, Methodist Episcopal Church South”. Rev. G.T. Tyler, at the request of Mrs. Margaret Knott, dedicated it.
John O. Knott was the first to make a move to procure an organ. As he went from house to house collecting money, he was souondly abused by the village blacksmith, Mr. John Shell, at his Cross Roads shop, for wanting to “praise the Lord by an organ.” The first organist was Etta Thomas. She was followed by Maggie S. Hendricks, who was organist for over fifty years. The present organist is Mrs. Margaret Knott, assisted by Mrsd. Anna Carter.
For forty-two years this church filled the needs of the community when the young members felt a more modern building or artistic design should replace this first one. The older ones, especially the Knott contingent, remembering the early days, were satisfied with what they had, — such an improvement over the old school building. A happy solution was reached when it was finally decided to utilize the old building by raising it intact, building a basement using the windows from the church in it and putting modern windows in the church proper, building a vestibule and modernizing the whole interior. All this was accomplished under the pastorage of Rev. Absalom Knox, in 1916 .
George S. Knottremained Superintendent of the Sunday School from 1874 until 1899 , a period of 25 years of Christian stewardship. Then James M. Hendricks was appointed in his place and remained until his death. M.M. Skinner, W.J. Knott Jr., Jacob S. Reinhart and Dr. S.T. Knott have followed in succession. Dr. S.T. Knott, now ninety years of age, is still Bethsda’s Sunday School superintendent, and his assistant is M.S.R. Moler, of the Presbyterian faith.
In retrospect, Molers Cross Roads community has always been an agricultural one. The only early industry besides farming was the Knott lime-stone quarry just below Knott’s Mill on the Potomac. This quarry was begun and owned by Samuel Knottwho boated the stone on the canal to Georgetown and there burned it into lime. Later the Flanagan’s quarry was opened adjoining that of the Knotts. Three generation sof the Knott family kept this stone business in Jefferson county.
Today [illegible] the business of dairying, fruit growing and stock raising. The blacksmith shop of Mr. John shell and the Moler’s Corss Roads Post Office are things of the past; the village store, church and two dwellings still stand at the Cross Roads. Many lovely old homesteads peopled by happy Christian families, are empty or torn down although some homes and farms still remain in the possession of the descendants.
Reluctantly I record that church going does not seem to have the urge it once did. The “Church by the Side of the Road” stil stands ready to welcome all who come to her door.
[Photograph: Pictured above are two of Shepherdstown’s oldest resaidents. On the left is Mr. Guy Rightstine and on the right is Mr. T.B. Lind [?], oldest living member of the original fire department.]
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