Shady Grove United Methodist Church – A Brief History
By Terry Chancellor, HistorianIn 1852, a few neighbors began to gather to fellowship and worship with one another in a cooper shop on Kain Road in the Short Pump area. Many were members of St. Matthews over in Goochland at that time. They came together out of their love for the Lord to create a new church; a church that has now stood the test of time and has grown in strength and in outreach like the mighty oaks that surround it. It was the sacrifice and vision of those early few that laid the strong foundation that kept our congregation faithful through a Civil War, two World Wars, the Depression, civil rights unrest, and the overwhelming transformation from farms and forests to shops, highways, and multiple neighborhoods.
In 1855, there was an apparent need to build a more permanent structure and, on May 21, 1855, the deed was signed as members purchased one acre of land from the estate of Thomas Maxwell for five dollars. That original structure was built that year and stood just behind the present day Chapel; it faced Short Pump. Lumber was donated by Thomas E. Nuckols and his brother-in-law, Thomas Wurlow, designed and constructed the building. During the 1880’s, the building was also used by the county as a school.
By the late 1890’s, membership had grown and a new building was needed. Members worked tirelessly to raise the funds, men served as construction crews while the women and children served meals to the crews to get the building completed. This new building, our current Chapel, was built right in front of the old one with only enough room for a man to swing a hammer. Upon its dedication in 1900, membership had grown to 95 and not one penny was owed on the building. A photograph taken that day resides in our church library’s history cabinet.
Over the years, land was bought and added to the complex bit by bit. With membership growing, in 1923 the four rooms forming the wings of the Chapel were added for classes. Ten years later, four more rooms were added to the rear of the church. Many women’s circles began forming as well as a youth group. Missionaries were sponsored and various “modern” elements for the church were paid for by these groups.
1940’s brought electricity to Short Pump and Shady Grove, as well as a focus on the war and on service. Several of our young men and youth group friends served and were honored with their names on a bronze plaque which now resides in the narthex of the Chapel. One name is marked by a gold star for his ultimate sacrifice, Lt. Donald Nuckols.
1950 through 1960’s brought more construction additions to the original education wing, the purchase of more land, the creation of a children’s group, and new adult Sunday School groups. In 1954, Shady Grove became a station, leaving the Goochland Charge, with 270 members on the worship roll and 247 on the Sunday School roll. In the spring of 1968, we became Shady Grove United Methodist Church, Henrico as a result of the merging of the Church of the Brethren and the Methodist Episcopal Church South.
In 1973, lightning struck the steeple and a new one had to be built. The cross that now stands on the steeple was a gift from the builder, Frank Loving. The 1970’s also saw the expansion of the cemetery, the loss of our front parking lot due to the expansion of Pouncey Tract Road, and lots of upgrades and refurbishments of the Chapel. Upgrades and donations continued to pour in throughout the 1980’s, as well, after pipes froze and broke in the Chapel causing extensive damage.
By the 1990’s, we were busting at the seams again, with new music programs, children’s and youth ministries, and new adult classes. Stained glass windows were added to the Chapel in 1993. Henrico County recognized Shady Grove with a Historic Marker March 5, 1995 given by Dr. and Mrs. R. H. Fennell, Jr. And in 1997, a successful building campaign raised over $600,000 in pledges to purchase adjacent land and begin construction of our current day Sanctuary. Soon we had a variety of mission-oriented groups beginning as well as our Preschool and church library.
With the new Sanctuary opening in December 1999, programs, membership, and hearts grew. In early 2001, we laid to rest an abandoned infant, “Joshua”, with all aspects of his burial donated, bringing awareness to protect little ones. In 2004, we opened our new Education and Fellowship Buildings. These buildings allowed for ministries to grow and new ones added such as the Contemporary Worship Service (which uses a nearly 100 year old table built from a single walnut tree for the Men’s Sunday School class as its altar), Children’s Own Worship, the Center for Creative Arts, CARITAS, as well as ministries abroad in Russia and Mexico. The youth and children continued to serve in mission through Mission Friends, Stop Hunger Now, and summer mission trips. Through G3 and the DOG House (Disciples of God), children and youth are growing in their faith. At Shady Grove, we are knowing and growing through Christ today and beyond.
Sacrifice, dedication, and family have always been the founding roots of Shady Grove. We are those branches to extend the mission forward.