The Parkersburg Conference United Brethren Church

Rare CDV-size tintype (2 ½” x 3 ¾”) of large group of men identified as, The Parkersburg Conference United Brethren Church.  The names are listed on the back.  In the image we see a couple of Bishops and assume the rest are ministers of various congregations.  According to Huntington University website,

Many families that were part of the great meetings that lead to the formation of the United Brethren in Christ settled in the lands of Virginia. Martin Boehm is said to have preached in this area prior to the Great Meeting at Long's Barn in 1867. Christian Newcomer writes in his Journal of traveling on the "Virginia circuit" as early as 1795. In 1800 the "Original" Conference was formed and contained the areas of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. This conference was often referred to as "Hagerstown Conference." In 1829 the General Conference divided the Original Conference into Pennsylvania (Harrisburg Conference) and Virginia (Hagerstown Conference). By this Virginia Conference has claimed to be the Original Conference. It should be noted that Pennsylvania also claims the status as Original Conference, so therefore many earlier ministers are listed as members of both conferences.

The strong anti-slavery stand of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ meant that almost all of the United Brethren churches in Virginia prior to the Civil War were located in the northern Shenandoah Valley. The Germans that settled this area were mainly small landowners with an aversion to slavery but slaveholders among the United Brethren were not unknown. At times the United Brethren rule against slavery meant the expulsion of some prominent members. During the Civil War the Virginia Conference was divided into North and South, Union and Confederate with each portion of the Conference meeting separately. Although Bishop Markwood thought that the Civil War would destroy the United Brethren church in Virginia, the church weathered the war and had more than doubled its membership by 1880.

In 1858 the area of Western Virginia (now West Virginia) was constituted as a separate conference called Parkersburg. In 1887 Maryland Conference was formed out of those counties in Virginia Conference that were part of the state of Maryland.

Further study of the website showed a couple of the names listed on the back of this photograph, which lead us to believe that this is from the 1858 conference.  However, more research would be needed to definitively identify this image.  Another unique feature of this tintype is that it is a copy of a paper photograph which has been nailed to the wall.  The image is in excellent condition with a couple of extremely light bends in the top corners.  The line on the left is a break in the original photograph and not a scratch to the image.  The names are also seen on the bottom left with each man showing a number identification. Another id is also seen directly below the men.  These are extremely small and most likely impossible to read.  The oversized paper mat measures 3 x 4 ¼” and there is a pencil margin along with some staining on the top.  The image is still tightly sealed in the mat.  This is a very unique piece of early West Virginia history that seems to relate to the slavery issues that lead to it becoming a state.