Levelwoods Church celebrates 217 years

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By John R. Smith, Guest Columnist

Sunday was the annual homecoming of Levelwoods United Methodist Church. It was a great day and the weather was like a late fall day. Many families and friends traveled from various locations to return home for this day. Levelwoods has been in existence for 217 years.


The church began when Rev. John Baird, a Methodist circuit rider, preached a sermon at the residence of his brother-in-law Phillip Reed on Aug. 7, 1796. This led to the organization of Levelwoods Methodist Church.

From the strong leadership from Rev. Watson, the society increased to 70.  Rev. Baird settled in Nelson County and later married Elizabeth Reed, the daughter of Phillip and Nancy Reed. Rev. Baird owned a farm adjoining John Scott’s property. They owned most of the level lands that formed a plateau that became Level Woods.  In 1796, a log church was built around this site. Services were held for several years.  

A few years later, a frame church was built and used until it was destroyed by fire about 1850. All church records were lost. Shortly afterwards, the present structure was built.

In 1981, a vestibule, two Sunday school rooms, two bathrooms and a basement were added.

The first wedding at Levelwoods was May 10, 1810, between James Howell and Edith Watson. Pastor John Baird performed the ceremony.

The Level Woods Plateau family cemetery is located not far from the previous church. The family cemetery contains about eight graves, including a Negro slave named Caesar who remained with this family after slavery was abolished until his death.

Rev. John Baird died April 17, 1846. He was remembered as an outstanding leader, preacher, pastor and family man who focused on calling sinners to repentance.

Levelwoods is one of the earliest churches in LaRue County and is the oldest United Methodist Church east of the Allegheny Mountains.

Sunday morning, as the congregation began to gather for the morning worship, everyone was greeted with a warm smile, handshakes and a welcome that made one feel at home. The people at Levelwoods love their church, community, family, and extend a welcome to anyone who desires to attend.

There was singing, testimonies and an inspiring message from the children. The morning sermon, “Being Patient,” was given by Pastor Wallace Votaw.

Later, there was an old-fashioned basket dinner. This brought back many memories of my younger years.  Here are three people who shared their views of Levelwoods:

Rev. Laurence Brockman: I pastored Levelwoods Church for 10 years. I enjoyed my pastorate work very much and got to know lots of good people. I had many spiritual experiences while here and it was very rewarding to be able to share the gospel and good news while pastoring here.

Rev. Wallace Votaw: I became pastor at Levelwoods in 2010 by Bishop Davis. I have been the pastor for the last couple of years. God has been very good to my wife (Brenda Sue) and I. We were greeted by loving and carrying people. They are very mission-minded and support Red Bird Mission in the mountains of Kentucky. This little white church in the country loves their neighbor and best of all, they know and love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Larry Skaggs:  Larry met his wife, Juanita, in 1970. They were married at Levelwoods Methodist Church on Dec. 31, 1971. She has been attending Levelwoods since she was 2 weeks old. Larry joined the church in 1972.
He said, “We’ve seen a lot of people come and go and there had been lots of changes to the church. The church used to be heated with two sheet iron wood stoves. I would come to the church very early on Sunday morning and build a fire so the church would be warm. The church at that time had two front doors, one for the men and the other for the women. The inside had three rows of pews.”

Levelwoods had a great day and I’m proud I was present for the occasion. I’m looking forward to attending again next year.