First Methodist Church

Dixon, Illinois


Members of the First Methodist Evangelical church, Dixon's oldest house of worship, who found it hard to raise money enough to put even a roof over their second church, begun in 1855, this spring are scheduled to complete a costly and handsome new entrance to the congregation's third and largest church building.

The new church entrance, to be erected in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Henry D. Baum and made possible largely through their generous bequest, will cost from $10,000 to $15,000 and will climax a $43,000 improvement program over the past two years in which a modern steam heating plant and complete modernization of the church kitchen have been added to church facilities.

The first religious sermon ever to be held at Dixon was by L.A. Sugg, a young Methodist missionary, who made his first trip to the new settlement in 1834, three years before the Methodists organized Dixon's first church.

The first Methodist congregation was organized May 7, 1837, by the Rev. James McKean, who rode the Dixon circuit from Henderson's Mission. The seven members were the S.M. Bowmans, the John Richardses, the Caleb Talmadges, and Mrs. Maria McClure. Meetings were held on the second floor of a store and later in the village schoolhouse, and within a month the group had formed a Sunday School.

Other early Dixon pastors of the Methodist were the Revs. Barton Hall Cartwright, Robert DeLap, Isaac Pool, Roley Hills, G.G. Worthington and Luke Hitchock, all who preached between 1837 - 40.

The Methodist congregation dedicated its first church building May 1, 1843, a brick structure which still stands next door to the Baptist church on Second street today as a residence.

The Rev. J.T. Mitchell, presiding elder, preached at the dedication of the $4,000 building. The Rev. Philo Judson was pastor. The church was host to the Rock River Conference in the summer of 1851, and has entertained the conference four times since, in 1867, 1893, 1910 and 1932.

By 1854, the congregation had outgrown the church building and began plans for a second church. The Methodists found it hard to meet the financial stringencies of the times, but by the end of 1855 the walls and roof were up. Work on the church continued intermittently and on March 1, 1857, the Rev. Wilbur McKaig opened services in the new structure.

On the first Sunday in January 1858, the church was formally dedicated by the Bishop Thomas Bowman, at a cost of $15,000. It was rededicated in 1876, after extensive repairs by the Rev. A.W. Patton.

Perhaps the most beloved of Methodist minister in Dixon, who, although he appeared in the pulpit through the years from 1839 to 1883, never served as pastor, was the Rev. Oscar F. Ayres, who was also a Dixon merchant.

The constantly expanding Methodist group made plans in 1889 for stil a third church and the present structure was completed at a cost of $35,000 and dedicated in January, 1893, by Bishop Frank M. Bristol. In October, Bishop Isaac Joyce preached the sermon of consecration at the Rock River Conference in Dixon.

Pastor around 1906 - Dr. C.C. McLean

During May, 1937, the church celebrated its centennial, when more than 200 participated in the anniversary pageant, with Dr. Howard Price Buxton as minister and Bishop Ernest Lynn Waldorf as featured speaker.

Today the pastor of the congregation of around 1200 is the Rev. Aura C. Nesmith, a member of the Rock River Conference since 1924, who has served churches in Cicero, Brookfield, Joliet, Blue Mound and Harvey before coming to Dixon. He was treasurer of the Rock River Conference from 1939 to 1944. The church employs a secretary and full time director of Christian education, Miss Harriet L. palmer.

A merger in 1940 created the Woman's Society of Christian Service of the church from three women's organizations; the Woman's Foreigh Missionary Society, the Woman's Home Missionary Society and the Ladies Aid. The group has prospered and grown and now numbers 300 women with a budget of $2,860, half used for missionary work and half for Christian social relations and local church activities.

The 40 members of the Methodist Men meet monthly for fellowship and programs and support the church program and boys' activities such as athletics, Scouting and 4-H work, besides sponsoring an annual father-son banquet. The 40 Men's Bible Class members, who meet each Sunday, also attend the monthly meetings.

The young Adult Fellowship, five years old, sponsors a church school class and its 30 members meet monthly in member's homes for fellowship, study and discussion. The First Methodist Church sponsors the 36 members of Boy Scout Troup No. 93.

The church school nursery rolla nd home department numbers 130 and with weekly programs comprising children and adults totals 500. Intermediate and high school members of the Methodist Youth Fellowship also meet on Sunday evenings and a girls interest group studies and participates in the missionary program.

The Womens Bible Class, numbering 40 taught by Miss Dora Breed, holds social meetings monthly and is active in church work. The 30 members of the Shawger Sunday School Class, organized in 1928 by Mrs. Clara Shawger, who is still teacher, meet monthly with generous contributions to church undertakings.

The church has three robed choirs; the senior choir of 30, under Crawford Thomas, director and organist for 21 years, and the girls choir of 20 and junir choir of 30, both led by Miss Harriet L. Palmer, director of Christian education. All take part in the church's outstanding musical event of the year, the annual Candlelight Carol Service, which has been presented on the Sunday preceding Christmas for the pat 17 years.

From the Dixon Evening Telegraph - Anniversary Edition 1 May 1951

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