The first documented trace of Methodism in Middletown was from Francis Asbury’s Journal on Monday, July 25, 1796. “I stopped at Middletown, Wilmington, and Chester on my way to Philadelphia.” The next is a statement in May 1811 when he stopped in Middletown and baptized a child.
Bethesda Methodist Episcopal Church was founded on February 13, 1822. By recommendation of the congregation, the Board of Trustees resolved to open subscriptions for funds to build a new church building, and on September 2nd of the same year, John Hay’s offer of a lot of land for $50.00 was accepted. The building was 24 feet by 36 feet and cost $953.68 and was finished and opened for services on April 11, 1823.
Twenty-six years later, in 1849, the membership had grown and a cornerstone was laid for the new enlarged building of 50 feet by 40 feet.
Before becoming a member of the church, a person was a “member on probation” and was expected to attend classes held one night each week. There were three classes – Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, led by laymen. After being approved by the Official Board of the Church, members were expected to continue to support the church by attending their class meeting during the week and church services on Sunday. Two services were held – one in the morning and the other in the evening.
Thirty years later, in 1879, the membership had grown and the congregation decided to enlarge the building. Eighteen feet was added to the alter end of the building, plus eight feet in the alcove. The organ was placed in the alcove. It is believed that it was a small pump organ. The tower and steeple were also added and the minutes show that an unknown friend presented a “magnificent bell of over 1,000 pounds of weight” for the tower.
The stained glass windows were installed at that time. They are not memorials to anyone so they were paid for by the entire congregation. During this period, Benjamin Briggs, a member of the church was Governor of the State of Delaware.