THE METHODIST CHURCH HISTORY OF CAMBRIDGE CITY, INDIANA
In 1833 the Methodist Episcopal Society was organized in the village of Vandalia by a circuit rider, Elijah Whitten. The first meetings were held in homes and a school house, but when the seminary was erected in 1839 it became the regular meeting place of this religious society.
John L. Smith was assigned as the first pastor for this circuit in 1842. During his pastorate a church building of brick was started on Bas’n (later Church Street) street, west of the river. A deed on record and acknowledged before Oliver P. Morton, Notary Public, shows that two lots were transferred by A.T. Morton and Charlotte, his wife, to the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Cambridge City. The price paid for this land was $190.
By 1844 the new church building hadn't been completed so it became the task of the newly appointed pastor, J. H. Hull, to finish it. He was equal to the task for upon his arrival in Cambridge he sold his horse (his only means of conveyance) and gave the amount toward completing the church. With this inspiring leader, the people united, and in the spring of the following year 1845, the new edifice was dedicated.
Among the first members we find the names of the Huttons, Drapers, Tyners and Conklins.
In the early days candles were used to light the house of worship. An invoice from Conklin and Cannon dated 1847, shows the M. E. Church charged with four pounds of candles at 12½ c per pound. Wood was the fuel used; members volunteering to furnish one cord of wood each for the winter's supply.
A red letter event for the town occurred in August 1850 when for six days the North Indiana Conference held its annual session here. Horses, laden with saddle bags, and primitive wagons assembled in great numbers.
On February 10, 1871 the ladies of the church met at the parsonage and organized the Ladies’ Sewing Society, later called the Ladies’ Aid. Their first work was the sewing of carpet rags, the woven carpet being sold for 25¢ per yard. On the membership record are found the families of Kershner, Carey, Lorman, Morrey, Ballinger, Whelan, Hamel, Waltz, Zehrung, Markle, Harding, McGrew, Barefoot and others prominent in the community.
By this time candles had been replaced by coal-oil lamps on posts at the ends of the seats; the building had been raised and the windows reconstructed. Soon after, coal-oil chandeliers made additional improvement. In 1892 further remodeling was done when a corner vestibule entrance was added, a large colored window was placed in front, curved oak pews replaced the old ones, new carpet was laid and electric lights installed.
The Epworth League was organized in 1892 with 15 members and is still an active organization, On August 28, 1894 the young women organized the M. E. Mission Society to contribute financially to the church. The socials held every month to promote Christian fellowship were the highlights of the period.
The last services would be held at this location on October 6, 1910. In time the old church building was used as a community hall (high school basketball games) and later occupied by a garment company before it was sold to Omar S. Peelle, publisher of the National Road Traveler. It was later the site of another house of worship which then moved to the prior Presbyterian Church location.
On January 16, 1902 the new parsonage on Mulberry street was dedicated - the lot was given by George Peet.
A note to be placed here in this history is an article that was placed in the Cambridge City Tribune as follows”
“TEARING DOWN OLD CAMBRIDGE CITY LANDMARK MUST GIVE WAY TO PROGRESS.
Final Services Held Sunday Evening, the Rev. Orange Harrison Presiding. Cambridge City, September 29, 1910. The last service in the old Methodist church of this place was held Sunday evening. Workmen began tearing down the structure, which has been one of the historic landmarks of the town, on Monday. As much of the old material as possible will be used in the building of the new edifice which will be erected on the same spot. The final service was in charge of the Rev. Orange S. Harrison of Richmond, pastor of the church from 1887 to 1889 and from 1901 to 1903. He delivered a historic address on the Methodist churches in Wayne county, dealing especially with the Cambridge City church. The Rev. Harrison stated that an organization of Methodists was formed in Vandalia, a former settlement in 1833 and in 1844 a church was commenced in Cambridge City and John L. Smith secured as pastor. The Rev. John Hull was pastor when the church was dedicated in 1845, the services being in charge of Bishop Simpson, president of Abury college, now DePauw University.”
It was through the "vision" of W. D. Trout who came to Cambridge City the same year that a fine new church home was built on Main Street. He proceeded to direct all organizations in the church to this end. The Mission Society was reorganized into the Social Union which raised hundreds of dollars for this purpose and whose service through the years cannot be measured.
The cornerstone for the new church was laid on a bleak autumn 1910 while J. E. Coffin was pastor. It was dedicated May 14, 1911.
The cornerstone of the new M. E. church, now in course of construction in this city was laid with appropriate ceremony, on a bleak autumn, while J.E. Coffin was pastor, November 2, 1910. The church was eventually dedicated on Sunday, the 14th of May, 1911. Miss Gaynelle Hageman, who presided at the organ at all the services, gave full evidence of her musical ability by most acceptable work. (Note: Miss Hageman later became Mrs. Hugh Foss and is still known in 1961 for her fine organ renditions.) The stone was the gift of the contractors, Messrs. Wolf & Ewing of Indianapolis. Of Bedford stone, its size is 24x23x10. It is located just east of the Main St. entrance, and bears the inscription: "Methodist Episcopal Church, A. D. 1910." The interior contains a copper box which encloses the following contents: Bible, Methodist Disciple, history of church and membership, history of Ladies' Social Union, history of Ladies' Aid Society, History of Epworth League, copy of Nov. 9 issue of The Tribune, names of official members, picture of old church (interior and exterior), picture and short sketch of John L. Smith, who came here in 1842 and built the church in 1844. He was the first pastor.
On October 24, 1926, Reverend J.R. Stelle was responsible for a homecoming which was enjoyed by old members and friends.
Important events of recent years include the parsonage fire in 1929, the organizing of the Women's Service Guild in 1933, the sale of the rebuilt parsonage to the Highway Commission in 1934, and the purchase of the Wheeler home on West Main and Walnut streets for the new parsonage. This was made possible by the bequests of Joseph and Douglas Hollowell.
In October 1933 the church celebrated the one-hundredth anniversary of its first Methodist Society. The oldest living member is Mrs. Barbara Barefoot who celebrated her 101st birthday March 28, 1936. Reverend W. H. Harrison, the present pastor, is serving his ninth year.
The dawn of a new century finds a membership of 365 with all departments organized to render service. The splendid pipe organ, well-trained vested choir, class rooms, recreation rooms, and well equipped kitchen and dining room were not foreseen a hundred years ago. With these added advantages the second century of the church promises to be one of continual growth.
The following men have served as pastors since 1872 when it became an independent charge: R. N. McKaig, M. A. Tague, George Havens, W. K. Collins, 0. S. Harrison, R. Tobey, W. D. Parr, L. A. Retts, J. W. Paschall, T. D. Tharp, J. H. Harwell, C. B. Wilcox, F. M. Lacey, W. D. Trout, T. P. Walter, J. E. Coffin, W. M. Hollopeter, R. C. Jones, A. F. Hogan, J. R. Stelle, and W. H. Harrison.
Below is a condensed history of our church.
The full history in .pdf form can be found here: http://www.ccfumc.us/history2/history2.pdf
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