It was early in 1880 that the Rev. H.A. Clifford was sent here to undertake the establishment of a Methodist church. During that year, a church was organized with 19 charter members. A Methodist church building was not erected until a few years later, however. During the early years, this congregation, together with a corresponding group of Presbyterians and Baptist worshiped together in a small farm structure known as a “tabernacle” which was located on the corner of Fourth and Short Street. This was also known as “Union Church,” hence the three groups. These groups were also permitted at times to share with the Episcopal Church people the latter’s own church. This church, commonly known as the “steep-roof” church was the first to be erected in Galena, and is an old landmark to this day. The Union Church dissolved between the years 1884 and 1887; the groups became distinctly denominational, and each built their own respective church.
From 1880 to the latter part of 1886 may be recalled as a dark period for the Methodist church here. Several pastors had been sent hereby the South Kansas Conference, but they stayed only one year each, with a year or two at intervals when the church was without a pastor. It was 1887 that the Rev. E. J. Durham was appointed to be the shepherd of this discouraged flock, and under the administration of this energetic leader, a formed structure was erected and dedicated free of debt, on November 23, 1887.
Galena then was only a small village, with little attraction. There were no pretty homes, no hotels or attractive business houses, but the church gave them new inspiration and courage. It was only a few years until the mining industry opened new and larger fields of mining and the city at once began to grow. With this growth, more members were added to the church and the people called Methodists were more convinced that they could afford a more beautiful and attractive church.
In 1905, Brother Freed was sent to the Galena charge by the South Kansas Conference. It was through his untiring efforts, together with some faithful laymen working with him, which enabled the Methodist people of Galena to have the most beautiful and most modern church in southeastern Kansas. Everyone wanted to see the Galena Methodist church. It was different; it was well built and beautifully decorated. Hard work and much money had gone into this beautiful and attractive church. Consecrated laymen and laywomen had given their time and their money to get this beautiful temple erected and dedicated to God. One of the most beautifully paneled windows has on it the name of this faithful pastor.
During the more “prosperous” years of this church, two missionaries were maintained in a foreign field and a deaconess was kept on the local field to assist the pastor in the work of the church. This church was also a loyal patron of Baker University, both with money and with students. The University “counted” on the First Methodist Church of Galena for its quota of students and share of money to aid in the maintenance of the University. This church was one of the leading churches of the Conference, always being counted on by the Conference for it’s various share to be paid in full. The boosters of the local church were also boosters of the Conference institutions, and as such, the pastor went to the annual session each year, proudly representing his church.
Nineteen hundred seventeen was a peak year; the annual bazaar of the Ladies’ Aid Society netted the organization a little more than $2,500. The depression came. Mines closed. Some of the very useful members passed on, and others moved away. These conditions left the Galena Methodist Church in sorrow and in tears. Tributes many, are paid to the faithful ones who carried the burdens of the church, and through faith looked forward with hope and courage to more prosperous times.
This church, in line with other Methodist churches, took on a new form at the beginning of the conference year, which began October 1, 1939, when the term “Episcopal” was deleted from all three branches of Methodism.
The sixtieth anniversary of Methodism in Galena was observed Sunday, June 9, 1940 under the devoted direction of the pastor, the Rev. E. S. DeSpain. The daylong festivities included three programs: morning, afternoon, and night, with a basket dinner in the church basement.
(Note: history to this point has been condensed from the booklet of history gathered by Rev. DeSpain in 1940)
During the year of 1948, the music of our church was lifted Godward with the dedication of the organ. This instrument was the result of the enthusiastic determination of many music lovers, directed by Garnett Kelley. Shortly thereafter, the choir received the generous donation of choir robes by Mr. Jack Parks and Mr. Lloyd Parks.
“Praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.”
It was in 1950 that the maintenance of the church was made much easier by converting the coal furnace over to natural gas.
During the pastorate of Rev. I. Melville Worley, the church celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in the brick building in 1958. Bishop Dana Dawson stimulated the day with a message during the morning service.
July 21, 1958 was the first meeting of the permanent Building Committee. From this time, the church took on the repair and remolding of the church building, and the construction of a new parsonage at the corner of Joplin and Fifth Streets. This project totaled $28,658.43. The remodeling was completed by May 31, 1959 and the parsonage was completed so that the minister and his family could move one year later, May 31, 1960. Open house was held on June 11, 1960
From the minutes of this faithful Committee:
…. It is with pride that the building committee does witness the difference that was made in the physical structure of our part of the Kingdom, which was given to us for our care. And as our pride in the physical structure spurs us to efforts in the Kingdom, may we be brought to greater spiritual realities in our work for God and His children in our care.”
The years related continued efforts of so many, too numerous to name, who tend to the needs of our beloved church. Many projects are always in the making by the ladies of the W.S.C.S., by respective Sunday School Classes, and the Youth Groups. These together with the generous donations of members known, or anonymous, makes noticeable such things as: the parlor in the west section of the main floor, new folding chairs, pulpit furniture, kneeling benches, and flags, hot water heater, lavatory, kitchen cooking unit, hand rails on the entrance steps, the public address system, trumpet speakers in the belfry, new hymnals, and the beautiful docile curtain and lighted cross.
Rev. O. Dale Bulkley directed a Homecoming in 1964, and we called on Rev. Harold Soulen to deliver the message. It was on this day that Rev. Soulen saw the need of a set of brass candle-lighters, and we received this gift soon after. It was only a short time that he was called to his eternal home.
In 1965, we once again recall Union Church of the 1880’s as these three churches, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Methodist combine services for pulpit exchanges and work together in the Vacation Bible School program.
In April 1968, the final union of the Methodist and the United Brethren Church was made official, and is now known as the United Methodist Church.
Every age has its heroes and men of ability. What is true of every age is true of ever church. May this Anniversary Day, October 6, 1868, serve its purpose well as we look forward with hope and courage that this church will again enjoy another prosperous period in the building of His Kingdom.
(Note: The second portion of the history was compiled from the minutes of the Official Board and from the memories of faithful individuals, by Lois Dugan)
Sometime between 1948 and 1951, – organ
New folding chairs for the choir loft
Service Class: hot water heater
Building Fund $20, 563.78
Pastor and his family move into new parsonage 5/31/60: open house 6/11/60
Public address system installed
Hand rail on south steps: Mrs. Board
Letter to Dr. Brewster: Repaired and remodeling of church buildings $12,899.53
Parsonage Construction (including site) $13,326.65
Administrative Costs $ 2,432.25
Damaged rug replaced- MWS Class: B. Armstrong
Lavatory in rest room WSCS
Outside woodwork painted: Reeves
Presbyterian-Methodist: Pulpit Exchange for vacation times of pastors, then too with Episcopal Church…also combined Bible School. History repeating?