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February Celebrity Birthdays! – Royal Examiner

Rev. Frank Alexander Strother sometime in the 1890s. Photo by C. Fred Barr.

Frank Strother served with the 43rd Regiment of Virginia Cavalry – Mosby’s Partisan Rangers – in Company A. When his parole was issued at Winchester on May 5, 1865, he was eighteen years old. Strother converted and joined the Methodist Church in 1866. From 1868 to 1871 he attended Clifton Preparatory School in Markham and Randolph-Macon College. Strother was admitted to the Baltimore Methodist Episcopal Church South (MECS) in Warrenton in 1872 on trial. He became a deacon in full association in 1874 and was later ordained an elder.

As a church planter, Rev. Francis (Frank) Alexander Strother was a pastor who devoted his time and energy to cultivating new soil, planting fresh seed, encouraging new growth, and reaping a new harvest. Rev. Strother was a determined and faithful pastor who sought to evangelize the lost and shepherd God’s people. He took on the responsibility of being the main leader and chief evangelist. Rev. Strother did most of the work when it came to spreading the gospel and inviting people to believe in Jesus, not only from the pulpit but also in the church. As a church planter, he led practically and consciously, participating in almost every decision, meeting, and activity.

Rev. Strother successfully made the transition from founder to pastor, watching the church mature, gradually delegating the responsibilities needed and empowering others to take the lead. He understood the principles of church evangelism and acted in partnership with citizens and local businesses to encourage each new church building.

Rev. Frank Strother was an appointed minister in the Winchester District area during most of his long career: Piedmont-Linden (1872–73), Piedmont (1873–74), Linden (1874–75), East Rockingham (1875– 79), Berryville (1879-83), Brucetown Circuit (1885-87), Brucetown (1887-88, 1911-15), Winchester (1889-91), Stephens City (1890-94), Hamilton (1903-07) , Fairfax (1907-11) and Edinburgh (1915-18). He is given much attention at the Duncan Memorial, where he is credited as one of its founders, and also at the Crums UMC, both Clarke County churches. He is also credited with founding or reviving Refuge, Relief, Fairview and Macedonia UMC in Frederick County and Bethany UMC in Loudoun County. [1]

From 1889 to 1893 he was appointed to the Stephens City Circuit. Strother was pastor of Stephens City UMC from 1889-1892. He served 46 years under the appointment of the MECS (1872-1918). His other appointments were Linganore, MD, Shepherdstown, WV, Fincastle and Jefferson, WV. He retired in 1918 and died in Stephens City on August 22, 1925 (aged 78). Strother is buried in Green Hill Cemetery in Berryville, VA.

One of the last Circuit Riders, Rev. Frank Strother, was assigned to Berryville ME Church (now Duncan Memorial Church) in 1879 and helped raise funds for the construction of a new two-story brick building, constructed 1882–1884, replacing the obsolete one Timber frame 1871 meeting house. Rev. Strother is given honorable mention on the church’s website as a person of long and faithful service, preaching at five other churches in his area while serving the Duncan Ward.

According to Middletown historians and sisters Lillian May and Lula Lauck, a cow was essential to the rebuilding of Fairview Methodist in the 1890s. Fairview was an old, small and ramshackle church house (built 1861) between High View and Canterburg. Rev. Strother made the crowds so aware of the need for a new church in Fair View (now Fairview) at a revival meeting that an old lady started the fund for the new church by selling her cow. Miss Lillian May and Miss Lula worked diligently as young girls to get church subscriptions. It was built on the site of the old one, near the Friendship UB Church – both churches are still standing [1950] there, at a crossroads, and that corner is now known as The Double Churches.

Encouraged by the success at Fair View, Rev. Strother held a six-week revival in a large tent near Fairfield School, a location then marked as “Fairfield” on maps but much better known locally as ” Lost Corner” was known. ” Rev. Strother said that this place should no longer be known as “Lost Corner” – that he would build a Church of Refuge for the “Lost Corner” people. Subscriptions dropped quickly after the revival, the Lauck sisters said. The church was built and renamed “Refuge”; and Lost Corner is now known to all as the City of Refuge.

Also in the 1890s, Rev. Frank Strother, then pastor of Stephens City Methodist Church, held an evangelistic meeting in a grove of trees near the schoolhouse. The meeting resulted in the formation of another Methodist Church. George Thomas Massie, one of the converts, donated the property and the current church building was begun in 1891. Dedicated debt free in 1892, it was named the Relief Church.

Miss Lillian May and Miss Lula wrote in 1950 that there was a settlement called “Lickspittle” on Middle Road about three miles west of Stephens City, an area that is part of the Stephens City Methodist Circuit. There was no church in Lickspittle, the sisters said, and Rev. Strother set about raising money to build one there. Again he was successful; Money came in and soon the church was built. Rev. Strother said the church would bring relief to people from ‘Lickspittle’ so the new church was named ‘Relief’ which became the name of the settlement and ‘Lickspittle’ was forgotten except by some of the older residents. [2]

Another story tells how Rev. Strother prevented the closure of the Macedonian Methodist Church. Although the church was founded in 1843 and a new church was built in 1879, by 1894 services there had become increasingly infrequent. Rev. Strother, Stephens City’s MECS pastor at the time, explained the need to keep the church open through regular scheduled services.

Rev. Strother began holding tent revivals and attracted about forty new members. The increased membership allowed the church to become part of the Stephens City Charge. By 1896 a church school was established and the good Rev. Strother preached there two Sundays each month. Macedonia then went under the White Post Charge of the Methodist Church, where it began to flourish.

Bethany Church was organized on July 2, 1903 and was known as Purcellville Methodist Episcopal Church South from then until 1929. Rev. Frank Strother, who was pastor of Hamilton County, founded Bethany, and it was originally one of four churches ministered by pastors of that county. The others were Harmony at Hamilton, Trinity at Rock Hill and The Grove at Woodbury.

When Rev. Strother came to Hamilton in April 1903 to pastor, he found churches all over Purcellville but none in the city. Known as a church planter, he wasted no time organizing a church in Purcellville with 36 charter members, most of whom were transferred from Harmony Church in Hamilton. That fall, the new church bought the property of the now closed Presbyterians, who occupied it until the present church was completed in 1929. Under Rev. Strother, the original membership increased from 36 to 64 by 1907. [3]

In a 1905 letter to Inez Steele (published in her book, Early Days and Methodism in Stephens City, Virginia, page 75), Rev. Strother wrote: “I followed Rev. JH Du Laney on the circuit and found him in a healthy, prosperous state. After two years of administration, the circuit was divided and Middletown and Stephens City Circuits were formed. I continued in charge of the work at Stephens City and stayed there two years, during which time two new corporations were formed and $3800 was spent on building and repairing churches and $400 was paid to Middletown for parsonage and county interest absolutely debt free when I left. Much has been accomplished, and under God, it was due to the universal and perfect unity and cooperation of men and pastors.

While it has been my privilege to serve an exceptionally good and kind, generous and devoted people in all my duties, Stephens City has matched, if not surpassed, every one of them.”

Richmond Times Dispatch

October 19, 1925, page 7

hold a memorial service.

WINCHESTER, Va., Oct. 18 –

A memorial service was held today for the late Rev. Frank A. Strother at Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in Stephens City, where he died about a month ago. The main address was given by Dr. HP Hamill, Washington. A plaque unveiled during the service bears the inscription: “Rev. Frank A. Strother, 1847-1925, Soldier, 1861-65, Mosby Ranger, Preacher, Pastor, Leader. Established Forty Churches, Friend of Man, Servant of God, Teacher of the Golden Rule Bible Class.”

Plaque on the north side wall of Stephens City’s UMC Shrine. No one knows why the tablet was placed in this sanctuary. It may be because this was a favorite date for Rev. Strother and the members of the congregation respected his work in the Stephens City circuit. Photo courtesy of Mark Gunderman.

[1] History of United Brethren and Methodist Churches in the Winchester and Harrisonburg Region, 1777-2017, Volume Three – Churches in Frederick County, July 2017, 979.

[2] Bill Garrard, “Scrapbook of Correspondents Who Have Been Writing for The Star for 54 Years,” The Winchester Star, July 1950.

[3] History of United Brethren and Methodist Churches in the Winchester-Harrisonburg Region, 1777-2017, Volume Two – Churches in Loudoun County, July 2017, p. 154.

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