HISTORY OF THE FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

 

In the spring of 1804, Daniel Freeman visited Detroit and preached the first sermon by a Methodist preacher in Michigan.

William Case visited the mouth of the Pine River and preached the first sermon by a Methodist preacher in this community.

In 1826 James Donahue was appointed to this circuit as a regular rider, and a year later the St. Clair Mission appeared on the minutes of the conference as being organized.

In 1850, James S. Smart was appointed to St. Clair, and a Sunday school was organized with Henry Whiting in charge.  In July 1851 the Rev. J.M. Arnold was appointed to St. Clair with $300 salary, $50 from Belle River, and $50 from a Pine River church.  At that time, church services for all denominations  were held in the old courthouse.

The first Methodist Episcopal Church building was secured in 1854 , and it stood one block south of the courthouse (old location) and was valued at $1000.

In 1868, plans were made for the second church to be built on the hill.  The whole block 63 had been purchased for $800 as recorded with the register of deeds August 2, 1864.

The church was erected in 1869 at a cost of $18,000 and the parsonage was built beside the church by T. G. Huckle in 1887 at a cost of $3,000.  The pipe organ, the finest in the area, was built and installed in 1905 during the ministry of the Rev. O. J. Blackford.

A disastrous fire started in the furnace room on a cold night February 14, 1946, and soon the building was in flames.  The pulpit, upon which lay the open bible, and the Methodist Hymnal opened at Hymn 254, “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy”, were in some marvelous way spared by the flames.  The Bible may be seen today.  Few other things were salvaged from the fire, and one was the clock that was on the balcony and which still runs accurately today.

The congregation rallied under the leadership of pastor, Rev. Owen Knox, and the whole community stood behind the Methodists in their effort to rebuild their church.

Under the direction of the building chairman, David Wilcox, and the treasurer of the building fund, G. Grant Smith, construction made great progress.  The total cost of the building was more than $127, 000.  The church was completed and dedicated May 18, 1952.

The new church, built entirely of the salvaged mellow bricks, is of Gothic architecture, consisting mainly of the sanctuary and basement for Sunday School classes.

The pews are of white ash with carving, matching the woodwork of the chancel.  Lectern, pulpit, choir stalls, and communion rail show the same carving as the handsome reredos which forms a background for the tall cross and altar candles.

The altar, the front bearing a reproduction if Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” carved from solid oak by Anton Lang, famed as the “Christus” of the Passion Play at Oberammergau, was given by the children of the Rev. T. G. Huckle.

The Stained glass windows filling the west wall above the altar in the chancel were gifts of Miss Mary Moore and Fred W. Moore, “In Church Unity”.

Since that time, the eight beautiful stained glass windows on the north and south sides of the building have been installed through contributions to the memorial fund.

A pipe organ with 693 pipes was installed in 1954 at a cost of $7000.  The two-manual console was specially constructed of natural oak to match the chancel furnishings.

Over the years, membership had grown and more space was needed for a Sunday School and fellowship meeting place.  In 1964 plans were made to add a building that would take care of the growing needs.

An architect was secured, and work progressed through the leadership of the building chairman, Gerald M. Emig; the chairman of the board, Ralph Cox; the chairman of the trustees, G. Grant Smith; and The Rev. Rex Reid, who was the minister serving the church during this period.  The cost of fellowship building was $124, 693.63.  Dedication ceremonies were held April 11, 1965.

The addition was designed to coincide with the church architecture.  It consists of a large fellowship hall, a modern kitchen, classrooms, a library, and a Blue River Room as a lounge and for special meetings and affairs.

The parsonage, which was beside the church on the hill since 1887, was sold in 1972 and moved to another location, giving space for long-range plans on the north side of the church.  A new parsonage at 926 North Sixth Street was purchased July 31, 1971.

The ladies aid society was organized in 1869 and reorganized September 10, 1940, as the Women’s Society of Christian Service.  Since then the name has been changed to United Methodist Women to concur with the church’s identity.

The United Evangelical Church and the First United Methodist Church united in 1969 as the First United Methodist Church.

Other organizations as units – Martha, Esther, Dorcus, Deborah, the fireside class, the friendship class, and the men’s club – all serve the church in many respects.

According to the records, about 60 Methodist ministers have served this community.

The Rev. Douglas Trebilcock was assigned this ministry in June 1975.  He and his wife, Kay, and two children lived at North Sixth.  He was born in Ishpeming, and he attended Northern Michigan University.  After graduating from the University of Michigan where he earned a bachelor or arts degree in education, and Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., he had assignments at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of Rochester and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of Bloomfield Hills.

Information Compiled By Aileta B. Emig