Word was received in Grafton by the members of the Methodist Episcopal congregation of the death of their beloved pastor of early days, who gave them the historical Andrews Methodist Episcopal church through his untiring efforts to have erected a larger temple of religion to house the ever increasing accessions to that faith.
Reverend James L. Clark was appointed to serve the Methodist congregation at Grafton May 28, 1866. He occupied the pulpit of the little frame church that stood on the lot that is now 203 East Washington Street. He was probably the most effective pulpit orator of his time and the accessions during his ministry grew to such proportions the little Washington street house of God was strained to its utmost capacity to accommodate those seeking spiritual light.
With this increase came the thought of a new and larger edifice in which the great truths of Methodism might be disseminated among the coming generations. With this idea in mind, he began the work of interesting the congregation in the erection of a larger temple of worship, and he met with such success beyond even his calculations that resulted in the erection of the present Andrews Methodist Episcopal church.
In the spring of 1872, in company with Millard Fillmore Compton and Clinton Albright, he turned the first shovelful of earth to begin the work of the new edifice. Reverend Clark with uplifted hands asked that divine blessings look down upon the work which was beginning of a new house of worship in which to teach His word, he asked they who were about to begin this task of erecting this new edifice be safeguarded and kept from harm during the process of construction and those gathered here on this memorable day to witness the start of a temple devoted to the teachings of the great truths of Methodism receive God’s blessings as well as all other people.
At the end of the invocation, he and his two companions proceeded to a take at the northeast corner of the lot on Main Street and taking a shovel in his hand lifted the first shovelful of earth to start the construction of what then was the largest temple of worship in all this section of West Virginia.
He caused considerable discord among his congregation when he brought a parlor organ from his home for use of the choir, some of the members looked askance on this instrument so foreign in the early church service threatened to sever their membership, but by his tact and diplomacy he soothed the discontented and had them forego their threatened severance from the church membership.
When Miller and Albright established a plant for manufacture of artificial illuminating gas in Grafton in 1858, Reverend Clark had the little Washington street church fitted for lighting with this new illuminant and discarded the dirty and smoky old kerosene lamps and this first Protestant church in the town can claim the distinction of being first to use gas for their evening service on Sunday, June 11, 1859. He was never, after the effort he made to bring about Andrews Episcopal church, to occupy the pulpit of which he was the leading spirit, having been called to other fields before its completion. And at the extreme age of 90 years, he died at Wheeling, October 2, 1903, while attending the conference of the Methodist church then in session at that city.