History of the First United Methodist Church in Galva, Illinois
The First United Methodist Church has the distinction of being the oldest religious organization in the City of Galva.
The town of Galva was laid out during the fall of 1854, followed only a few months later by the founding of our church.
On June 26, 1855, our church was organized at a meeting presided over by the Rev. John Morey who was the preacher in charge of the LaFayette circuit in the Rock River Conference. During this meeting several trustees were elected. Those elected were Isaac M. Witter, John T. Curran, Amos Dennis, Isaac E. Dennis, John B Nixon, Wilson Price, and Norman E. Pomeroy. Along with those listed above church membership totaled only 20 at the time of our founding.
During the organizational meeting the congregation determined that land should be purchased upon which a permanent structure could be placed. During the year 1856 the congregation began erection of a permanent structure in the block south of what was then known as the North School. The structure was 36 foot by 50 foot of wood construction with a brick foundation. The final cost totaled $3,000. This structure, which still stands today, served our congregation for 26 years before being replaced.
By early 1881, while Rev. M.A. Head was our preacher, it had become obvious that we had outgrown the original facility and plans commenced to replace the original structure with a more substantial building. At this time another group was elected to oversee the planning of this new structure. The members of the building committee at this time were Charles Yocum, G.W. Butters, J.W. McCutchen, J.N. Morgan, and O.P. Wedge. This new building would be built on a different site than the original building and was meant to “combine utility and beauty as far as possible”. The new location, which is also our current location, would be at the corner of what is now Northwest Second Avenue and Northwest Second Street.
The structure that resulted was a building of brick construction with a stone foundation. The overall dimensions of the building were 82 foot by 50 foot, with a spire standing 80 foot in height. The audience room (sanctuary) measured 50 foot by 40 foot and a lecture room at the south end of the structure measured 24 foot by 26 foot. These two rooms were divided by a set of sliding doors and could be used as one large room when purposes dictated.
The building was dedicated on July 30, 1882 and was completed at a cost of $14,000. A bell, which still stands at the base of the bell tower in the Living Memorial Garden, was donated by Mrs. Susan B. Jennings, and was rung for the first time during the dedication ceremony. The ceremony was presided over by the Rev. B.I. Ives of Syracuse, N.Y.
In 1904-1905 our congregation had again outgrown its facilities, and it was decided that a new program of expansion and remodeling should occur. To that end several structural changes took place. The sanctuary was enlarged by an addition of 24 foot by 45 foot on the west side (currently this area is Wesley Parlor), a choir room, a Kindergarten room 26 foot by 25 foot in size, five classrooms measuring 9 foot by 12 foot, a dining room measuring 20 foot by 34 foot and a kitchen measuring 24 foot by 15 foot. During this expansion new pulpit furniture was given as a gift by Mrs. J.H. Murray. Also donated during the expansion was a pipe organ (still in use), and manufactured by the Marshal-Bennett Company of Moline, Il for a cost of $2,200. The organ was a gift of Mrs. O.E. Yocum, her son Earl, and Mrs. Rebecca Yocum. Finally a large stained glass window was placed in the east wall during this expansion replacing two smaller windows. The total cost of the improvements totaled $5200. The church was re-dedicated on March 5, 1905 with a sermon by the Bishop W.F. McDowell and several letters from former preachers were read.
The records do not show when our first parsonage, located on Northwest First Avenue, was purchased, but the current structure, located directly east of the church, was acquired in 1925. The purchase price of this building was $7,000.
In 1938 our church had again outgrown its facilities and another expansion project took place. At this time an addition was placed on the Northwest corner of the building containing a full kitchen (replacing the former smaller kitchen in the basement) on the main floor, a basement room and an additional Sunday School room on the second floor. This expansion also provided for an additional stairway. The total cost at the time was $9,400.
Another twenty-five years would pass before the next expansion was to take place.
In 1963 the congregation determined that we had outgrown the structure as it has stood since 1939. During 1964 a large addition, sometimes known as the education wing, was built. The addition included the current chapel, Epworth Hall, several Sunday school rooms, and a new larger kitchen. The large stained glass window in the chapel was given in memory of Glenn I. Luymes by his family and friends.
Four years later, during the pastorate of Rev. K. Belmont Metzger, the original structure on the current site was removed to make way for the current sanctuary. Included in the construction in 1968 were the previously mentioned sanctuary, the south entryway, two restrooms, and two additional Sunday School rooms. At this time the 1905, and 1938-39 additions were remodeled to blend in with the new portions of the building.
In the 1970’s, the Living Memorial Garden was constructed to the West of the structure. The bell tower in the garden currently houses the 1882 bell donated by Susan Jennings.
In 1984 the construction loan was paid off in full and a dedication ceremony was held on September 30, 1984 with the Rev. Jack North preaching.
On June 24, 1990 our church celebrated its 135th anniversary. On this day Rev. Richard Brownfield preached, Sunday School was held, and a potluck dinner and informal program were held. Historical exhibits were displayed including several pictures of the 1882 church building. At this time the handicapped ramp on the East side of the sanctuary was completed (minus the railing) and a launch of red helium filled balloons took place during the afternoon of the celebration.
In September of 1990 a handicapped restroom was installed in a former storage closet just off of Epworth Hall. Also at this time insulated windows were installed in the parsonage.
During 1993 the Easter Egg project, which had been a long-standing tradition, came to a temporary end. The project began at the suggestion of Jean Metzger, and took place under the supervision of Laura Almgren for many years. More recently the project was re- initiated and the tradition should continue for many more years.
Also during the spring of 1993 most windows in the church, with the exception of the sanctuary, received magnetic storm windows.
On June 18, 1995 our church celebrated its 140th anniversary. The day included several activities for adults and children, as well as several historical displays.
In 2005 our church celebrated it’s 150th anniversary with a celebration attended by many members. Pictures of almost all previous ministers were presented during a slideshow, and many historical artifacts were also on display.
A new organ was installed in the sanctuary later in the decade, after the old organ had begun experiencing operational and safety issues, and would be to costly to efficiently repair. The new organ is totally electric, but accurately re-creates the sound of an authentic pipe organ, and can be connected to several other sound system components which are able to utilize it’s high quality speakers.
In 2011 we embarked on a drive to reroof the church and freshen, repair, or update those portions of the structure in need of such work. The most outwardly visible of these projects, the roof, came to fruition during February 2012 when the re-roofing was completed.