First United Methodist Church

Urbana, Illinois  

History from the 1927 Dedication

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The following text was written by Charles Bayard Taylor and appeared in the program when our building was dedicated in September 1927:

Methodism had its beginning in Urbana almost a century ago, when in the year 1835, Rev. James Holmes, a millwright, undertook to hold religious services in this vicinity. A year later a mission work was attempted, and during the winter of 1836 the first society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized. This society was reorganized in 1839 and it received recognition by the Illinois Annual Conference, the Rev. Arthur Bradshaw being appointed as the first pastor in charge. The services were conducted in the court house until 1840 when work was begun on the first Methodist church. This was a frame structure thirty by forty feet, located on a lot at the southwest corner of the alley on West Elm, between Market Street (now Broadway) and Race Street. The site for the first church was donated by the Commissioners of Champaign County. The building was not completed until 1843 when Rev. W. D. Gage was appointed to the charge. At the same time, the first parsonage was built. This was a modest little structure with split board roof and floors, and a mud and stick chimney.
       A new church building enterprise was undertaken in 1856 and a brick structure with a tall white frame steeple was erected on the south-east corner of Green and Race Streets, our present site. This building was dedicated in 1858, the Rev. Peter Cartwright preaching and conducting the Dedication Services. At this service the writer of this sketch occupied a reserved position in his mother’s arms. Late in the “sixties”, the original church spire was removed and a tower with a vestibule entrance on Race Street was substituted. In this form the building was retained until 1892 when it was necessary to replace it with a more modern and better equipped structure. This third house of worship was dedicated in February, 1893 and was known as the Sheldon Memorial Church, because Mr. Sheldon’s gift made it possible. It served its day and generation quite acceptably, but the steady growth of the Sunday School and Church membership demanded the erection of a larger and more adequate church plant.
       During the pastorate of Rev. E. G. Sandmeyer, the Initial stages of the building enterprise were begun. In 1924 Rev. Sandmeyer was appointed Superintendent of the Mattoon District and was followed by the present pastor under whose leadership the church began the actual building program which ended in the realization of this fine, modern structure. The finest spirit of co-operation has prevailed throughout the period of construction. The congregation has worshipped in the morning at the High School and in the evening with the Baptist Church.
       With glad hearts, abounding with the joy of our Lord, we enter this new temple, realizing that other men have labored and we have entered into their labors and hoping that we may carry on so efficiently that those who come after us shall enjoy some of the fruits of our labors.