History of St. Paul Methodist Church - Stevens Point
- Compiled by Ruth Steffen
By the time an 1814 act of the Territorial Legislature set
off Portage County form Brown County, folks called Methodists were holding
services fairly regularly in the county courtroom in Plover, which was then
the County Seat. Their pastor, the Rev. Hurlbut, also served a mission outpost
in Stevens Point. This was in the 1830's.
The first regularly organized church was formed in 1857 and called the Methodist Episcopal Church. The pastor in charge was the Reverend William Spell who served for one year. That summer a church was built on the northwest corner of Brawley Street and Strongs Avenue. In 1866 the building was moved to 450 Clark Street. It served the congregation until 1887. It continues to survive as Hibachi Joe's.
Under the enthusiasm of the Rev. E. S. McChesney, a new building was constructed on the northeast corner of Brawley and Strongs Avenue. It was dedicated on December 7, 1890, at which time the name was changed to the St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church. The church had cost $12,000 exclusive of the stained glass windows, which were donated as memorials. There was a deficit of $3,000 that was subscribed at the dedication. The 60-member congregation had constructed an auditorium to seat 250 worshippers. The first trustees were H.P. Maxfield, G.G. Andrae, Dr. F. A. Southwick, John Slothower, T.W. Anderson, William Calkins, Dr. L.M. Gregory, A. M. Gilbert, George W. Van Buskirk, and John Lennon.
In 1924 the sanctuary of the church was remodeled and a new organ was purchased. The total cost of the improvements, including new roof, complete redecoration of the auditorium and men's room, painting of the outside woodwork, putting in new lighting and heating plants, complete new altar, pulpit, platform and choir loft with the arch for the reception of the organ, complete refinishing of the floor, with carpets for aisle and platforms, amounted to $6,358.96. The cost of the organ and installation was $3,956. A canvass of funds resulted in raising a trifle over $8,000 and the Board of Church Extension granted the church the sum of $1,000. The balance was pledged over a three-year period. In 1939 it became St. Paul's Methodist Church.
More remodeling was done in 1956 but the congregation had outgrown the building. Tentative plans were being made to build at a new location. The Reverend Perry H. Saito was then minister of the church.
Easter Sunday night, March 29, 1959, shortly after 9 PM a small blaze, probably caused by faulty wiring was discovered in the basement. By midnight, when the flames tore through the roof of the church, the building was destroyed. After two meetings held in the college auditorium, St. Paul's church began meeting in the Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Sunday morning, June 12, 1960, the congregation overwhelmingly authorized the Board of Trustees to approve letting contracts for a total cost of $315,000. The ground breaking ceremony followed services that morning. Mr. George and Ensign Atwell of Boyington Realty Co donated the land. Later the Trustees bought additional land from Henry Haertel for $1000 bringing the total frontage to Wilshire Boulevard. The land was given for the church and future parsonage. To meet the requirements set by the conference, a lot 150 x 150 ft., 30 feet extra was bought from Mr. Heige Carlson at a cost of $300.
The first service was held on New Year's Day, January 1, 1961, in the Fletcher Memorial Hall, so named in memory and honor of Mr. Clarence Fletcher, long time church treasurer, who also remembered St. Paul's in his will. Two weeks later the Educational building was used by the Sunday School. The first services in the sanctuary were on Sunday, April 16, 1961. Participating in the cornerstone service were Bishop H. Clifford Northcott; the Rev. Perry H. Saito, the pastor; Kenneth Hurlbut, chairman of the Official Board of the congregation; Raymond Gotham, chairman of the Building Commission, and Wilbur Nelson, charge lay leader.
In 1994 plans were made to add onto the building. We now enjoy more space to house all the activities that take place within the congregation.