Methodist Churches in Santa Rosa
Welcome to this inaugural edition of Forward Through the Ages,a series providing some of the history of Methodists in Santa Rosa.
A good place to start is with the three churches in the masthead. Two are the “ancestors” of our present church.
The first Methodist Episcopal Church building was erected in 1861 at the corner of Third and D Streets. The property was acquired in October, 1858, from town fathers Berthold "Barney" Hoen and Feodor "Ted" Hahman, who donated lots to the Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians to establish churches.. Four lots were received, for $20 apiece. Each lot had 40 feet of frontage, two facing Second Street and two facing Third Street. In December 1858, two more lots facing Third Street were purchased. In 1861, the two lots on Second Street were sold, and the money was used to help build the church at the corner of 3rd and D Streets.
In the 1890’s, the church built in 1861 was showing its age. In 1874 the church had been enlarged and improved at a cost of $5,000. In 1886 the parsonage had been built, and the church had once again been improved. There had been a great harvest of souls at that location, and the greatest Methodists in the conference had preached from the pulpit of the little church. However, it was evident that the church had not been built to accommodate a twentieth century congregation. During the mid to late 1890’s, funds were collected and plans were made to build a new church.
In 1900 construction started on anew church on Fourth Street. It was completed in 1901 for a cost of $13,550.38. At the time of its dedication a debt of $4,000 remained. The dedication ceremony, held on April 14, 1901, must have been very rousing to those in attendance, because the amount collected at that service was sufficient to pay off the remaining debt. The parsonage was constructed adjacent to the church, but rather than facing Fourth Street, it faced Fifth Street.
This photograph after the 1906 earthquake shows what appears to be the rubble of the 1861 church in the foreground. The Methodist Episcopal (South) Church at Fifth and Orchard, where Pederson’s Furniture store is now, survived, as did the Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal church just outside this photo to the right.
By the 1940’s the Fourth Street Methodist Church had grown considerably since the church had been first occupied in 1901. Pressure grew to correct the problems of overcrowding, and it became apparent that more remodeling would not be the cure. In 1947 the pastor, Cecil Wilkins, started a building fund for a new and larger church. While the need was obvious, many of the older members, who made up the “financial backbone” of the church, were resistant to the strain of disruption and debt that a church in a new location who pose. The new church project was given great impetus with the donation of several residential lots at the corner of California Street and Montgomery Drive by Mrs. Mead Clark, a long-time faithful member of the church.
In 1950, the church property on Fourth Street was sold to Santa Rosa Savings and Loan, and construction was begun on the new church. The last service at the Fourth Street church was held on June 10, 1951. The next two weeks services were held in the new Social Hall (now the McMullin room and Lehman Chapel) as the sanctuary wasn’t quite ready. The first worship services held in the new sanctuary were on June 24, 1951, with pastor Bert Weeks.
The story of the “other” Methodist churches and the Methodist College are stories for another day.