Methodism in Our Area
Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church (PVUMC) was founded in 1894, but Methodism in this area goes back more than 200 years. In 1766, Methodists acquired their earliest known church site in America in nearby Leesburg, where the Old Stone Church was built. From this point, Methodist evangelism spread throughout Loudoun and adjoining counties. In 1778, the Methodist Conference for all America was held there.
Despite the strong presence of Methodism elsewhere in Northern Virginia, in 1890 there was no Methodist Church along the Little River Turnpike between Fairfax and Arcola. This had been an area of large plantations, like Sully, Leeton, and Mt. Rocky. After the Civil War, these large tracts began to be broken up and the village of Pleasant Valley appeared on the map.
On both sides of the present Route 50 and straddling the county line, the village had a general store, a post office, a voting precinct, a blacksmith shop and a public school. But it had no church; the nearest was at Arcola.
Birth of Pleasant Valley UMC
As the Pleasant Valley community grew, the Gum Spring congregation at Arcola started a new congregation in 1894 – what is now the Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church. When the church was organized, Miss Fannie Whaley and Alonzo O’Bannon gave a site of approximately one-half acre on which the original sanctuary was built in 1894. The building remained virtually unchanged for 50 years.
In July 1945, soon after the parsonage was moved to Pleasant Valley, a brick education and fellowship building was added. Completed that November, it cost $11,000 in addition to the value of donated lumber and volunteer labor.
1972 saw the complete renovation of the sanctuary. Under the direction of C. Preston Poland, then Chairman of the building and Grounds Committee, work was completed in two months, during which time services were held in the fellowship hall.
By the end of the 1980s, it was clear that larger and more spacious facilities were needed to accommodate growing ministries in a growing area. The generous gift of $400,000 from Joseph and Haseltine Shockey made it possible to fulfill the needs of the growing congregation.
Groundbreaking for the new sanctuary and social hall occurred on March 10, 1991. Once again, C. Preston Poland chaired the building committee bringing this new addition to a reality. For the first time in PVUMC’s history, the sanctuary would have a steeple. This was fastened onto the new building on June 21, 1991.
In the 127 (2021) years since its founding, PVUMC has seen major changes in its community, most brought about by changes in patterns of transportation. Originally it was a community of people engaged in general farming. In the 1920s and 1930s, improved roads made it possible for farmers to haul milk to the railroad at Sterling and Herndon, and dairy farming became a leading industry.
Then in the 1940s and 1950s, further improvements in highways brought western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun into easy commuting distance of Washington and the rural non-farm population began to grow; with it the church also grew. But the roads that carried people to city jobs had to be widened, and half the houses of Pleasant Valley were moved or torn down to make way for such progress. The same roads brought people within reach of better schools and larger stores so the old village disappeared.
Further changes came in the late 1950s and in the 1960s with the development of Dulles International Airport, which resulted in the displacement of many of the families of the community, among them a number of members of PVUMC. Land that had previously been dairy farms was rezoned for industrial use. New subdivisions appeared to the east of the church. In the 1970s and 1980s, the opening of Interstate Route 66 and the Dulles Toll Road sparked great growth in the Chantilly area of western Fairfax County, adding new neighborhoods for PVUMC to serve in place of those the airport and highways had destroyed. The 1990s was another growth decade with the development of the community of South Riding directly to the west.
Pleasant Valley UMC in the Future
Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church is a fellowship, and its true history is the story of people serving God, not of buildings and furniture. Beginning as a village church, it reached out into a farming community, then drew into its orbit young commuting families, and now reaches into new subdivisions of suburban dwellers.
While engaging in Christian ministry to a much larger community than in the past, Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church remains a family church in a deeper sense, as described by a single young adult who has recently joined the congregation. Though kin to no one else in the church, he said: “When I come to this church, I feel I am in the midst of family; I feel as though I’ve been adopted by grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. I feel at home here; it’s beautiful.”
May God continue to bless our community through Pleasant Valley UMC.