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Church History

Methodist Episcopal Church
(circa) 1907

The Methodist Church:

. . . in Bad Axe, had its beginnings when a congregation of pioneers organized in 1878, just seven years before the community was incorporated as a village in 1885.
Early church records tell that an itinerant preacher and circuit rider, a man of faith who carried the Bible and a hymn book in his saddlebags, began the work of establishing a new Methodist congregation.

The history of our church began soon after the first settlers came to Bad Axe. Believers among the pioneers were drawn together by their common faith.
It was in 1880 that the church was officially organized. Bad Axe was then a raw new settlement growing up in the shadow of the recent construction of the Huron County Courthouse. Early residents were still pushing back the forest to build their homes.
From this time on, the history of the church and town were closely intertwined. The church and town continued to grow and prosper. Over the years, many church leaders also served as leaders of the community, lending their abilities to both.
Development of the new town began after the county board of supervisors, in 1872, resolved to remove the county seat from Port Austin to the geographic center of the county, which was the "Bad Axe" site, pending approval of the county's voters.
Named "Bad Axe" in 1861, when a surveying party camped at the location while laying out the route for a state road between Sand Beach (now Harbor Beach) and Sebewaing, a broken axe was found at the site and the name "Bad Axe" was adopted for the camp; and, was soon written for the first time when "Bad Axe Camp" was located on the plats carried by surveyors.
The resolution to move the county seat was ratified by voters in the spring election of 1873. Immediately, land was cleared and a temporary courthouse was constructed at Bad Axe in time for use during that year. Construction of the regular courthouse was begun in 1874, completed in 1875, and occupied in 1876.
In the seven years after the first land was cleared, until 1880, Bad Axe had gained a population of only 179 persons.
The center of the county was still mostly forest, however, farms began to open up as hardy pioneer farmers began to transform the area into a land of agricultural abundance.

That was the scene when the Methodist Church was organized.

Some of the settlers in the new community were of the Methodist persuasion. They prayed together with itinerant preachers and circuit riders.
First came the Reverand George Walker. He visited the new flock as early as 1878, only two years after the courthouse was occupied.
Next came the Reverand John Bettes. He rode into Bad Axe in 1880, and under his energetic leadership, the church group was soon organized as a chartered congregation, granted by the Methodist Episcopal Conference.
The tiny congregation had only 13 charter members: Mr. & Mrs. Charles Collins, Charles O'Dell, Mr. & Mrs. Durfy, Mr. & Mrs. Durin Williams, Mr. & Mrs. Pollack, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Pangborn, Mrs. B. Davis, and Mrs. Ida Ferris.
During the fall of the same year, the annual church conference reappointed the Reverand Bettes as the first resident pastor.

For a time, services were held in the courthouse.

The building was called the "Bee Hive" because of the frequent and varied activities conducted there by community groups. As a community landmark, the courthouse stood for 93 years. Before its demise in 1968, it came to be known as the "Old Courthouse."
The congregation built a parsonage in 1881, and it served also as a place of worship (This dwellng is still located at 222 North Heisterman Street).


Contemporary view of the original parsonage on North Heisterman Street.

First Methodist Episcopal Church
Built in 1883
Located on North Heisterman Street near Hopson Street.

Under the leadership of the Reverand A.P. DeLong, materials were collected and the first church building was constructed and dedicated in 1883. It was a modest frame structure located on North Heisterman Street, a half block north of the present church building.
Development of the town and the church accelerated with the coming of the first railroad in 1882. By 1885, when Bad Axe incorporated as a village, the population had grown to 800 persons.
The original church building was quickly outgrown, and the need was realized for a new and larger structure.

During the Spring of 1899:

. . . ground was broken for a new church, which is still in use today, and is still regarded as a fine example of church architecture!
Under the direction of the Reverand J.W. Campbell, a considerable sum of money was collected, the basement walls were constructed and the cornerstone was laid with the proper ceremonies.
Construction continued under the leadership of the Reverand E.L. Moon, who had been appointed in September of 1899.

Methodist Church Cornerstone

George Barton's teams of horses were utlized to dig the basement with gravel scoops. The interior was finished throughout in native ash hardwood that came from the woods of Al Wright, while some of the great ash beams were prepared and donated by Barton's sawmill. W.E. Allen and his crew fashioned the stone window trim on the exterior walls trim, built of stone from the Bay Port Quarry. Resident stonecutters from Bad Axe were paid the sum of 10 cents per hour for their labors, in keeping with wages of the times.
The new church was dedicated on June 17, 1900. The dedicatory sermon was prached by Bishop W.X. Ninde. There were morning, afternoon and evening services. It was a day to rejoice after many months of planning and effort. Pastors of all other Bad Axe churches attented.
The entire cost ofthe building, about $11,000, was pledged during that day--a remarkable achievement for that time! However, it was tempored by the fact that the church had an unpaid indebtedness on the original building that was complicated by the severe losses sustained by local residents who survived the great forest fire of 1881, devastating the Thumb area, and leveling most of the area leaving only 14 buildings standing in Bad Axe.

Methodist Episcopal Parsonage (circa) 1908

While the debt on the original church building was rendered impossible, the Ladies Aid Society--organized during the second pastorate of the Reverand George Walker (1885-1887)--pledged $1,500 toward the outstanding debt of the original church.
A number of years later, through the generosity of Mrs. Ella E. Hanley, the remainder of the debt was paid.

Mrs. Hanley also provided funds for the construction of a grand parsonage adjacent to the church, which was built in 1908.
Mrs. Hanley contributed largely, to the sum of $25,400, for the construction of the Church House, which provided room for Sunday School classes, a dining room, kitchen, auditorium and parlor, that was dedicated in 1925.
During the 1980s, a decision was made to demolish the adjacent parsonage in favor of a parking lot, which would be subsidized and maintained by the City of Bad Axe. When not in use by the church, it would be available for public parking.
A new south enterance to the church building was made, which included an elevator for the benefit of persons with limited mobility. The major renovation of the Church House created more Sunday School rooms, storage area and office space. At that time the demolished parsonage was replaced by a home at 1165 Thompson Drive.

It would be impossible to list the honor roll of the many loyal members who have served the church with special gifts of time, service, wealth or materials through love and leadership. Each generation has produced an abundance of outstanding leaders who have answered when their own special abilities were needed. Others will follow when the call goes out for them to share their talents in their time and generation.
In its history, the Bad Axe church has twice altered its offical designation to reflect name changes made by the Methodist Church organization in two major programs of unification with other religous branches.
In the beginning, our church was the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church merged with the Methodist Episcopal Church-South, and the Methodist Protestant Chruch. The names were simply changed to the Methodist Church.
Then in 1968, another merger occurred. The Methodists and the Evangelical United Brethren Churches were unified to become The United Methodist Church.
Since March 1, 1950, over radio station WLEW (13:40 AM) in Bad Axe, our church has been sending its prayers and its message of hope over the airways to reach the ill and the shut-ins and others who find comfort in the message.

Our Pastors Through The Years

George Walker 1878-1880 (Circuit rider)

1. John Bettes 1880-1882 (Circuit rider who organized the congregation and remained as pastor.)

2. A.P. DeLong 1882-1884

3. Henry King 1884

4. James McAllister 1884-1885

5. George Walker 1885-1887 (Second Pastorate)

6. W.C. Clemo 1887-1890

7. J.R. Andrews 1891

8. Leonard Hazard 1891-1894

9. J.W. Campbell 1894-1899

10. E.L. Moon 1899-1903

11. M.T. Seelye 1903-1911

12. J.S. West 1909-1911

13. J.M. Life 1911-1913

14. S.G. Gillette 1913-1916

15. J.S. West 1916-1919 (Second Pastorate)

16. F.H. Cookseon 1919-1922

17. James Chapman 1922-1923

18. W.E. Marvin 1923-1926

19. Marshall W. Hoyt 1926-1929

20. Harry N. Biddlecombe 1929-1931

21. Reginald R. Feuell 1931-1935

22. Frank C. Watters 1935-1940

23. James Roberts 1940-1947

24. Robert E. McLean 1947-1961

25. Roy C. Johns 1961-1965

26. Jack E. Giguere 1965-1971

27. Byron G. Hatch 1971-1972

28. Ross N. Nicholson 1972-1977

29. Kenneth R. Colton 1977-1978

30. David A. Stout 1978-1990

31. William R. Wright 1990-2006

32. Greg Rowe 2006-2008

33. M. Jean Love 2008-2010

34. Donna Cartwright 2011

35. Phil Tousley 2011-present

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This narrative is a compiling of various sources of our church history.

Inquiries and comments are welcome!

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