First Father's Day Service

Morgantown Dominion Post
June 21, 1987

First Father's Day service in 1908

By Kelly Barth
Dominion Post Staff Writer

Fairmont - The congregation of Central United Methodist Church once again will observe Father's Day at the home of the holiday's heritage.

The Fairmont church lays claim to the first Father's Day service in the nation. The observance is special this year because the holiday coincides with homecoming.

Steve Sirk, of the church Father's Day committee, said that the origin of the holiday is often traced to Spokane, Wash. The confusion is understandable.

Mrs. Sonorah Louise Smart Dodd is largely responsible for establishing the day as a national holiday in 1982.

The Fairmont church, however, has the satisfaction of knowing that on July 5, 1908, a worship service was the first true observance. Sheaves of ripened wheat adorned the altar of what was then called the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South. The church at that time was located on the corner of Second Street and Fairmont Avenue.

The year before, in 1907, Monongah had been devastated by the loss of 361 men, most of them fathers, when two mines exploded. Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton, who is believed to have suggested the service to the pastor, may have been motivated by the great loss, Sirk said.

The idea to pay tribute to fathers may also have been triggered by what had taken place in Grafton two months earlier, on May 10, 1908. Mother's Day had been observed for the first time.

Dr. Robert Thomas Webb officiated at the first Father's Day service. Webb, a former president of Morris Harvey College, died in 1940.

The Rev. Duane Waters is the current pastor at the church, which is now located on Third Street and Fairmont Avenue. Central United Methodist is recognized by the West Virginia Commission on Archives and History and Father's Day Council, Inc., as the place where Father's Day began.

Last year the church buried a time capsule that contains a copy of the church sermon, and contributions children regard as pertinent to Father's Day, such as disposable razors and other gifts.

This year's homecoming activities included a picnic at East Marion Park where Michael Tokarz and Haley Slagle were awarded $50 savings bond as winners of the essay contest 'What Fathers Day Means to Us.' The Sunday service begins at 10:45 a.m. with the Rev. Keith Clarke as guest speaker.