Note: The following information was taken from Jack Welch's book on the history of the panhandle of WV.

Pioneer preaching was quite different from the weekly sermons that Hancock County residents are accustomed to today. The early preachers wer itinerant preachers. They traveled around the frontier stopping at various settlements and preaching wherever they found the need. When a preacher was visiting a community, settlers came from miles around to hear his words. They would gather around him in someone's cabin or in open air. Sometimes the audience would participate by echoing his words and adding comments of their own. The result was somewhat chaotic, but an emotionally uplifting service.

The three earliest preachers in the county were named Marquis, Hughes, and Macurdy. These men served the entire county with their sermons wherever and whenever they were needed.

Few churches were established on the Ohio frontier before the Nineteenth Century. Only two buildings had been built in Hancock County.


In 1790 the Three Springs Presbyterian Church was established at a site now on Weirton Heights. The land on which the little log building was erected had been given to the church by James Campbell (two thousand acres was owned by Campbell in the Weirton Heights area and along King's Creek). Elisha Macurdy arrived at the church in 1799, and the congregation continued to flourish. In seeking to establish a building at a more convenient location, the congregation in 1804 moved to a site on Cove hill where the present Three Springs Cemetery now exists. In 1846 the Three Springs Church divided into the Cove Presbyterian Church and the Paris (Pennsylvania) Presbyterian Church.


The other pioneer church in Hancock County was the Fairview Presbyterian Church at Pughtown, formerly known as the Flats Church. It was organized in 1794 by settlers coming from eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The original building was constructed of logs and was located about one mile south of Pughtown. In 1808 a frame building was erected on that site. In 1839 a red brick building was constructed with a seating capacity of 600. In 1890 the Fairview Presbyterian Church was built and the old Flats building was torn down.

An interesting note, in 1821 Rev. George Scott's salary was $160 plus 1/3 of that amount in a paid grain account in William Murray's Mill.


Jacob Nessly was a pioneer settler who prospered as a farmer and distiller. He settled on a small farm that would become an 8,000 acre plantation, stretching 5 miles along the Ohio River. In 1826, he built Nessly Chapel, which was once called "the Old Stone Church" as it was made of native stone.

Located on Route 2, south of Newell, Nessly Chapel occupies a unique niche in the religious history of Hancock County. The Chapel was built for general worship services and was nondenominational. The first communion cups were made with coin silver that Jacob had donated to a silver smith.

After the death of his wife, Elizabeth, Jacob moved to Ohio in 1829 leaving the farm in the hands of Jacob DeSellem, his grandson. Jesse Sisson, a hired farm hand and zealous reformer of the Methodist Church, persuaded DeSellem to deed the Old Stone Church to the Methodist Protestant group.

Signing of the deed was required to take place in the home state of the church. A deed was drawn up, and Sisson and Richard Brown, a VA justice of the peace, traveled to Ohio to obtain the required signature of Jacob Nessly. The two men helped Nessly into a wooden farm sled and drove to the middle of the Ohio River, which was under VA jurisdiction.

With the stroke of a pen aboard the sled, Jacob Nessly, farmer, nurseryman, fruit grower and distiller, brought into being the first Methodist Protestant Church in the World.

Jacob Nessly died in Port Homer at the age of 80.

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