History Of Melvin United Methodist

In 1869, before Melvin had become a village, a pioneer settler called Father Pierce, who lived at Oliver's Grove (eight miles northwest of Melvin), came into Peach Orchard township and established a regular preaching base at the Grand Prairie school.  This site, two miles north of Melvin, together with several other preaching locations in neighboring townships, became known as "Pierce's Mission."

Grand Prairie was added to the Piper City Mission, and Brother William R. Irvine was appointed to the charge.  However, he had to relinquish this appointment a few months later, and Father Pierce resumed his work until the fall of 1871.

The Gilman, Clinton, and Springfield railroad was laid in 1870, and soon afterward the village of Melvin came into being.  The Grand Prairie appointment was moved to Melvin, and its name was changed to Methodist Episcopal Church. 

Meetings were held in various places in the village:  the schoolhouse, a hall, the depot, and finally, in a small church owned by the German Methodist congregation.  The first quarterly conference was held in the depot on November 26, 1871.

Rev. T. P. Henry was appointed the first pastor in a circuit of three appointments:  Roberts, Melvin and the Bell schoolhouse.  Melvin paid $75 to the preacher the first year.  Services were held in the Phillips school, Gould's Hall and the German Methodist Church.

By the fall of 1878, membership had grown to the point where a real church home seemed feasible.  The new church was built during 1879, and dedicated in June of the following year.  It was an unusual building for a village church of that time because it had a furnace, two regular classrooms, and a balcony which was used for a classroom.  In those days the church was a social center, and most people, whether members or not, were interested in church projects.  Thus, the "Melvin Chapel" became known throughout the surrounding area

In 1894 the appointment was changed from a circuit to a station by the separation of Roberts and Melvin.  This was just a temporary measure, however, for through the years the Melvin Methodist Church has been connected with Roberts, Sibley and the Zion Methodist churches.

A new and larger sanctuary was added to the south side of the church building in 1895, and the old part was used as an Epworth League room with changes being made to accommodate Sunday School classes.  Further enlargement came about in 1921, when an excavation under the large sanctuary provided space for a kitchen and dining room.

In 1929, with dreams of a new and modern church some day becoming a reality, the congregation purchased two corner lots at the intersection of First and north Center streets.  A campaign for funds had scarcely begun when the Great Depression hit.  Funds were returned to the donors; the old building was repaired and decorated, and it continued to serve the congregation for twenty more years.

In 1944 and 1945, during the pastorate of Rev. Milton Heitzman, members selected a building committee to begin making plans for a new church.  An additional lot, which adjoined the two corner lots, was donated by members, and in May, 1949, the actual construction began.

During the following years, many people performed untold hours of volunteer labor and conducted numerous financial campaigns to help finance the project.  The new church was formally opened for its first full service on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1950, with Rev. Harold Peterson, the pastor, conducting the ceremony.

By 1954, major construction was completed and the church was consecrated on October 31.  A service of dedication and inspiration was conducted October 20, 1957, to mark payment of the final debt.

The Central Illinois Conference and the Chicago Conference were united in 1945, and Rev. Harold Peterson, who had come to Melvin in 1946, was the first pastor to serve both Methodist churches.

 Source ~ Melvin Centennial Commemorative Booklet