For two centuries the peal of the church bell across the hills and hollows of what is today West Virginia, has summoned the faithful to worship. As the small towns sprang up along the forks in the river, or the dirt road/turnpike in western Virginia, usually the first non-dwelling building built was a church. The first churches west of the Blue Ridge Mountains are said to have been a Presbyterian and a Baptist church in Berkeley County in the eastern panhandle. It was common for the church to serve as the first school in the area, before a school building was built. In many cases, the church sponsored the school and provided the teachers. Prior to the Civil War, the major denominations in the rural south, including Virginia, were the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and the Baptists. The Methodist Church was instrumental in the founding and survival of Marshall Academy, now Marshall University in Huntington. The church has always been the anchor of the small towns and villages of West Virginia.