Prescott United Methodist Church History
by Rev. Stan Brown
Rev. Hiram Reed conducted the first Protestant Sunday School and worship services in Arizona Territory in a log cabin along Granite Creek. From early 1864 until June 1866, he called the village to Sunday School and worship by ringing the iron triangle. It was located in front of the first building in the Prescott settlement dubbed 'Fort Misery,' now situated at Sharlot Hall Museum.
In December 1870 the newly arrived chaplain from Fort Whipple, Rev. Alexander Gilmore, a Northern Methodist church minister, took over the weekly services. He was joined within a few days by the Rev. Alexander Groves. The two pastors conducted weekly services on Saturday evening, and twice on Sunday. The division among Methodists over the slavery issue had created two denominations, however the Prescott people from both camps worked together. We count the beginning of today's congregation from that first service held by an ordained Methodist pastor.
By 1872 the Methodist Church South had erected the frame for Arizona's first protestant church building located on Marina Street. Rev. Glesen Reeder, the Presiding Elder in Arizona, joined the team of part-time Methodist pastors, Groves and Gilmore. When the M.E. Church South was unable to raise enough money to complete their church building, they deeded the property to the trustees of the Northern congregation. The editor of the local newspaper, Arizona Miner, was inspired to write, "If the two Methodist chuches with loving hearts can join hands here, then why not everywhere when endeavoring to raise a fallen world?".
In the spring of 1876 the two groups held a 10 day revival. At the same time Henry Fluery donated property from his new subdivision to the M. E. Church South congregation. It was on the corner of Gurley and Summit Street, the location of our Methodist Church today. A building was immediately begun and dubbed "The West Side Church." The first service was held Christmas Eve 1876. Women from both congregations formed the Ladies Union Association working as one body to maintain the parsonages and doing mission work.
Other denominations began sending missionaries to Prescott, and each was invited to preach their first sermons at the Methodist Church on Marina Street. In turn, the Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregational, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic preachers used the Methodist Church as a base while establishing their own followings.
In August 1891 the Marina Street church burned down from an overturned oil lamp. The people rallied and rebuilt the church. They sold the original property to help pay for the new building relocated nearby. The Marina Street Church and the West Side Church began traditions of social concern that continue to this day. In a 1901 Quarterly Conference Report from the West Side Church we read, "The Charity and Help Department is doing good work in helping idle and needy men to find employment and also in raising funds for worthy causes, notably Chinese Farmers." This local outreach has continued in the strong ministries of today's Open Door, People Who Care, Circles of Support and Home Repair which operate out of our church facilities and are fully supported by our church.
The Methodist Churches noted several other 'firsts' in Prescott. The first Memorial Day celebration was held at the Marina Street Church in 1889 with hundreds turned away for lack of room. The first Mothers' Day service in Prescott was held at the West Side Church in 1919. The next year the West Side Church, having outgrown its facilities, raised $20,000 to put in a basement, remodel its sanctuary and expand the building with a social hall and kitchen. In 1935, when the Great Depression struck America, the Marina Street congregation was forced to close its doors selling the property to the Nazarenes and giving the proceeds to the West Side Church. All Methodist activity was now concentrated at the location where we remain today. In 1939 the two denominations were nationally united to form the Methodist Church.
It inspires us to look back and realize what a vigorous ministry our congregation has had over the past 138 years. It is even more joyful to look ahead and realize the challenge of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Prescott and to the world mission we serve enthusiastically.
Historical pictures courtesy of Sharlot Hall Musium