(This post is copied from my personal blog. While it’s not about Belgrade, it is about another United Methodist Church, the one I grew up in. I hope you will find it interesting. -Gary)
I awoke around 4:00 this morning, and lay semi-awake in bed, waiting for my alarm clock to sound at 5:00. As my mind drifted into a more conscious state, my thoughts alighted on the days of my youth, growing up in Redwood Falls, Minnesota; and more particularly on the church I grew up in, First Methodist Church.
My thoughts weren’t so much about the congregation as the building itself. The building I remember had been built in 1960, a large, beautiful, and very modern church building. And it occurred to me that while I knew that building very well, it had only been there since just before my family moved to Redwood Falls, while the congregation had been in the city for far longer. I began to wonder, what building had housed the Methodist Church in that little town before I moved there?
So my mind began searching what I remembered of the town, but there was a dearth of old church buildings there. I remembered where the old EUB church was, which had been torn down shortly after they merged with the Methodist Church back in 1968. That building was far too small to have housed the active and growing Methodist Church through its first 80-some years. There was also a fairly small church building near downtown that had been used as a Masonic Hall for a number of years, but I doubted that could be it either.
I seemed to remember an old stone church in the area known as “Courthouse Square”, on the northwest corner of the square across the street from the courthouse. But it was such a hazy memory. I don’t remember how big it was, whether it was still in use by anybody or not, or even if it was still in existence today.
So after breakfast I sat down with my laptop computer and looked up the First UMC in Redwood Falls, and on their website I found somebody had done quite a job putting together the history of the church. I discovered that the old church had indeed been on the corner of Third and Jefferson Streets, which puts it in Courthouse Square for sure. But was it that one I remembered in the NW corner?
I don’t know yet. I still have some research to do. I’ll let you all know when I find out.
(Looks kind of like the common photos of Belgrade’s old brick church, doesn’t it?)
(I followed that post with the following second post this morning. -Gary)
Well, I spent the whole evening last night reading the history of the First UMC in Redwood Falls — many pages! And after a short while I ran across the part where it talked about the building of the new church building in the late 50s, and opening the new church in 1960. What I learned was that when the new church was opened, it was planned to tear down the old church immediately. And that was the last word I found on that.
That means, if the church was actually torn down in 1960, that by the time my family moved to Redwood Falls in 1961, the building no longer existed. So whatever buildings I remember in Courthouse Square, sadly the old First Methodist Church isn’t one of them.
(Unless the work of bulldozing the church was delayed, in which case I may have a fuzzy, foggy memory of the building standing for a short while.)
So while that appears to be a dead end, I’m still curious about exactly where the old church building actually stood. The area has been built-up quite a bit over the years, and it’s hard to imagine where such a large church could have stood.
In my reading, I read where it was very common for these frontier towns to have everything that was important right in the center of town. In Redwood Falls they had the county courthouse in the middle of the square, and around it were the Carnegie Library, the Presbyterian Church which is still standing, the old First Methodist Church which is gone, and another main church … Lutheran, maybe? The Catholic Church was a couple blocks to the southeast, and the main Lutheran Church in town (ELCA) is a relatively new building, so that old stone church I seem to remember could be their old church.
Well, this will be an ongoing project for me, at least in my mind. I will see what other sources I can find online, and see what information I can dig up. Hopefully within the next few weeks or months I can get up to Redwood Falls and refresh my memory, and maybe talk to some long-time members of the church who were around back then.