In the year 1818, one hundred and twenty-five years ago, the first society of the Methodist denomination was organized in Hamilton. Six persons of the 500 living in the community at that time, met with Rev. Samuel West, a circuit minister, who passed through Hamilton on his way to Oxford.
In 1819 the first meeting house of the Methodist Episcopal church was erected on Ludlow street between Second and Third streets. It was of brick, 42 by 30 feet, and cost $1,300, the site of the church having been donated by Brother John Woods. By 1821 the membership had increased to 65 persons.
In 1833 Brother Woods donated another lot adjacent to the first one, and a new and bigger church was built, 60 by 45 feet, at a cost of $4,800. The old building was converted into a carpenter's shop, and in 1839 when this shop caught fire, the new church was burned to the ground. 1840 saw the erection of a third church, this time costing $5,000.
This church was used for only 12 years when it was destroyed by fire in 1852, and a fourth edifice was built and served the congregation well until 1892 when it was torn down and a fifth church, Romanesque in style, was erected in its place. During the years of building, services were held in the Court House. The cornerstone of the structure was laid in August, 1893 with Dr. David H. Moore (who was later made a Bishop), presiding. June, 1894 saw dedication ceremonies for this church. Sessions of the Cincinnati conferences were held in Hamilton church, the last one taking place in 1895 when Bishop Foster presided.
In the early 1900's First church sponsored the building of the Lindenwald Methodist church. Rev. Samuel Stephan, who was assistant pastor at the time, was appointed minister of the Lindenwald church upon its completion.
To meet the demands of the growing congregation and Sunday school, the building was remodeled and enlarged in 1911.
The year 1913 saw the disastrous Miami Valley flood and at this time the church school was turned into a hospital and canteen under the supervision of the American Red Cross. Not only were refugees clothed and fed, but hospital care was given the needy. Nineteen babies were born in the church building, and hospital facilities were made available to the sick. Union services were held here for members of congregations whose churches were ravished by the flood waters.
In May, 1918, during the World War, the centennial of
the church was observed with fitting ceremonies.
For the third time in the history of Hamilton Methodism, fire again claimed its toll in February, 1924. Fire broke out in the basement of the church, completely destroying the Church, Sunday School and adjoining parsonage. Among things destroyed was a very fine organ, and a beautiful memorial window to Miss Rachel Fitton which had been given by friends.
Services were held at the Y.M.C.A. during the building of the present church, and the traditional "Easter lunch" served by members of the Ladies Aid, was held at the Elk's Temple. Work on the building was begun in 1925 and dedication services were held on October 24, 1926 with Bishop Theodore Henderson giving the sermon. The present church was built at a cost of $250,000 with a thought to the future and to the expansion of Methodism in the community.
A century and a quarter have passed since Rev. West and his little band of six started the first Methodist Episcopal church in Hamilton. Three disastrous fires, a devastating flood and four major wars have left undaunted the spirit of faith and service of the thousands of men, women and children who have worshipped here. Imbued by the fellowship and loyalty of the sacred, silent lives who have gone before, members of First church are facing the future with the courage, strength and hope to be found in Christian faith and in communion with God.
© 2000 by the Butler County Historical Society
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