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METHODISM IN CALIFORNIA

 

By Rev. A. C. Hirst, D. D., LL. D.

No. II

 

January, 1893.

HOWARD STREET CHURCH

The present Howard Street church, with its increasing prosperity and commanding influence, is the fruitage of those days of struggle and self-sacrifice.  It's auditorium and parlors that have recently been made so beautiful and attractive, at a cost of $10,000, through the influence and under the personal supervision of J. W. Whiting, are in strong contrast with the school-house where the faithful few once worshipped in planned for the future church.  The electric lights that now eliminate the auditorium and the parlors are far more cheerful and healthful and conductive to devout worship than the whale-oil lamps that Mr. Whiting used to prepare for the infant church when, in his.undying zeal for the prosperity of Zion, he was willing to perform such service.

 

A new era of usefulness opens for this church under the enthusiastic leadership of Rev. W. W. Case, D. D. .  This historic church is so situated in reference to the present population of San Francisco that it will be one of the most potent factors to solve the problem of reaching the masses with the Gospel and purifying the streams of social and municipal life.  The vigorous hammer-strokes of the present pastor during the recent white-heated contest for municipal reform have proved his eminent fitness for the great work now before him.

 

At a jubilee service held there August 12, 1883, the Rev. D. A. Dryden, who was appointed pastor of the Folsom street church in 1855, gave the vividly prophetic picture of those days of crucial trial and severe testing of faith and loyalty.

 

"The inner heart-history of this church during that time will never be written.  It was anything but a time of jubilee.  It was a struggle for life rather than a time of triumph.  There was more of Gethsemane then of the Mount of Transfiguration.  Like individuals, churches have their birth, childhood and mature growth.  Like individuals, some are born healthy and strong, with all the potencies of a rapid, vigorous growth and sturdy maturity, and favored with all the conditions for such growth.  Such, Folsom street church was not.  It was born feeble--some thought prematurely--had a sickly childhood, environed by adverse conditions which often threatened to cut short its career.

 

"During the year or 1855 was perhaps the severest struggle for life.  Congregations were very small, membership few, rather poor.  Income from every available source sadly below even in the most economical expenses; crushed under a burden of heavy debt with constantly accumulating interest, the heart-struggles of pastor and a few noble souls are known only to the Good Master.  Surely there were no visible signs then of powerful manhood into which the feeble child has grown.

 

"And who knoweth to what extent, under the brooding Providence of God, the baptism of those days of trial may have contributed to this growth?  Not always in prosperity does life strike its deepest roots even in the church or the individual."

 

These words sell like the leaping bugle notes of some brave leader at the head of the call of that rushes fearlessly into battle.

 

CENTRAL CHURCH

 

Everywhere difficulty, opposition, friction are the essential condition of strength, vigorous growth and life.  Only the soul that is taxed yields revenue.  No enemy, no glory.  The stronger the foe the grander the victory.  The typical Christian is the man around whose sole have been kindled the fires of the furnace.

 

Thus virtue is evoked and fortified; character is rounded into symmetry and proportioned, and asserts itself with the majestic force.  The history of exalting ideas is developed through antagonistic powers.

 

The grand moment of civilization describes the spiral of the calculus--progressive, but revolutionary.  This antithesis of things is as wide as the domain of existence.  Against the season of blooming, fragrant flowers is the withering blight of frost.  Against the radiant glories of the future our darkest hues of care and the cold shadows of a disenchanting experience.  Against the Tabor of promise are the ashes of Golgotha.  No great truths can be born or live in a dead calm of thought.

 

The embarrassments that challenged the expectations of the trustees of Howard Street church served only as an inspiration for aggressive work.  Upon the south side of Mission Street, between Sixth and Seventh, they built a small chapel.  Here a Sunday school was organized, which soon assumed a progressive life and enriching influence.  Around this a strong organization crystallized.  At the session of the California Conference, in 1864, it took its place as the Central Methodist church.  Before the expiration of the lease, the trustees, wisely planning for the future, purchased a most desirable lot on the corner of Sixth end Mission streets, and transferred the little chapel to that place.  Financial inability to meet the payments compelled the sale of that lot and the purchase of one on which the present edifice stands.  The little chapel was rapidly making history as an itinerant.  Lifted again on wheels, it was placed to that resting place.  Precious memories clustered at its altar, and hallowed associations were there formed, which will last through the eternal ages.  Who can measure the mighty sweep of all that was crystallized into action and deed there?

 

Human potentialities thus trained and equipped to give to the world that pure civilization whose very atmosphere is conquering power.

 

Thus, every true man adds his ray to the on-marching glory that shall at last robe this old world in millennial splendor.

 

It was most auspicious that the first pastor of this new organization was the Rev. J. D. Blain, D. D..  He was transferred to California from the New Jersey Conference, in 1852 and was first stationed at Grass Valley.  Afterwards he was presiding elder of the Sacramento District, and from 1854 to 1857 he was on the San Francisco District.

 

In 1861 he became pastor of Folsom street church.  His pastorate was crowned with a phenomenal success.  A most worthy tribute to his memory is paid by R. McElroy, who, in writing of his pastorate at that church, says: "His appointment was an exceedingly fortunate one for the society, for he came to us determine to give us the full benefit of his great ability.  This ability did not consist of wonderful pyrotechnic displays of pulpit eloquence, and yet he was eloquent; nor did it consist in massive demonstrations of logic, and yet he was logical; but it did consist in the wonderful symmetry of his character, within all the forces of his nature were so adjusted as to be worked to the highest degree of usefulness.  He had untiring industry; time was too precious to him to squander a single moment.  He had intense devotion to his work--all his thoughts centered on this.  He had common practical sense to the highest degree; there was nothing visionary or unfeasible about his plans, but they were related in the highest wisdom, and when brought to their practical working, developed into the most vital efficiency.  He had the most perfect knowledge of human nature, and knew just how to touch the secret springs of every person with whom he came in contact.  He was, therefore, a born leader of men.  His will was indomitable, his energy unflagging.  He knew no discouragements, and could brook no failure.  When once his plans were settled, his impetuous nature took them up and worked them out with the resistless energy of a Niagara."

 

Rev. E. R. Dille, D. D., is serving Central church for the second time as pastor.  His first pastorate was from 1881-4.  He came by transfer to California, in 1873, from the Northwest Indiana Conference, and was stationed at Bush Street, San Francisco, and has served with marked ability the leading the charges of the California Conference.

 

His past successful career as a preacher, lecturer and leader, warrant the strong prophecy for a larger future as he wields the present possibilities for aggressive work.

 

Full details of the onward movement of Methodism through the years are impossible.  These articles are not formulated as a year-book or a census record.  Of necessity many items of interest must be omitted.  Special mention of all the pastors who have served the churches since the beginning of Methodism here, and of the heroic men and women whose achievements signalized the present, is impossible.

 

Only a glimpse can be given of that past history, enshrining the perplexing problems of a new country, controlling the purposes of adventurous pioneer, in evangelizing the thousands rushing to the shores in search of gold, pre-emptying the State for God, and laying the foundation stones of the Christian civilization, which is the only pledge for the State or nation to secure permanence or prosperity.

 

GRACE CHURCH

 

In 1852, Rev. H. B. Sheldon, aided by  I.  Lockwood and William Thomas, held religious services regularly in a schoolhouse on Delores street.

 

As a result of that, in due time Rev. R. B. Stratton secured a lot, on what is now Julian Avenue, between Fifteenth and Sixteenth streets, and built a plain chapel thereon.  But it was the same sad experience of other church enterprises.  Financial difficulties challenged the worker, and loss of the property was the result.  But the demand for a church in that part of the city grew more and more imperative.  Two Sabbath-schools were organized in 1863.  The one by Charles Lelong on the corner of Howard and Twenty-third streets; the other by H. Thomas, E. J. Hargrave and N. B. Cook on Howard between Twelve and Thirteenth streets.  These schools were the nucleus of the church which Dr. Blain organized in 1864.  It was named the Mission Street M. E. Church, with Henry Thomas, J. Mysell, N. B. Cook, T. H. Downing, Joseph Garratt and E. J. Hargrave, as Trustees.  A lot on the east side of Mission streets, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth, was generously donated by John Center.  Here was built a lecture-room 50 by 52 feet, at a cost of about $2,500.  In May, 1865, it was dedicated for regular preaching and Sunday school services.  The name was changed from "Mission Street" to "Grace" in 1876.  With some valuable improvements this building served the purpose and needs of this society until increasing prosperity made it necessary to plan for a more suitable church home.

 

In September, 1883, Rev. H. B. Heacock, D. D., was appointed pastor of this church for the second time.  With his characteristic zeal and wisdom he planned and worked with surprising results.  In July, 1886, the trustees purchased the tract of land having Mission, Capp and Twenty-first streets as boundary lines.  For this they paid $30,000 cash.  They were successful in selling several lots, reserving a cost of $7,000 the present lot on the corner of Capp and Twenty-first streets.  For the church and lot on Mission street $8,000 were realized.  The organization of the building committee was the index of the certain success of this new enterprise.  That committee was constituted as follows: Rev. H. B. Heacock, D. D., President; J. W. Butler, Secretary; C. S. Holmes, Robert Husband, I. G. Truman, G. W. Lemont, J. L. Culin, W. H. Coddington, C. L. Todd, G. W. Wittman.

 

A special subscription of $10,000 gave an irresistible stimulus to these workers, and their efforts and plans were crowned with a splendid success.  The present spacious, beautiful and well-arranged church was dedicated November 5, 1886.  It was a monument to the indefatigable efforts and unyielding courage of Dr. Heacock.  He came from the Des Moines Conference, Iowa, in 1868 and was first stationed at this church, situated than on Mission street.  He has proved his master skill in building new churches and in remodeling and beautifying old ones, in his pastorates at Sacramento, Stockton, Alameda and notably East Oakland, where, under his direction, a most attractive church, modern in all its appointments and an ornament to the city, has been erected.  It is known as the Eighth Avenue M. E. church.

 

Rev. Eli McClish, D. D., as present pastor of Grace, is leading forth its membership to increasing usefulness.  Its surge of power is felt in the city.  His special training in boyhood, and as a soldier, student, pastor, teacher, has equipped him for the peculiar conditions that environ Christian work on this coast.  His qualifications are masterful and his distinctive force is capable of winning reward in whatever field he labors.

 

SIMPSON MEMORIAL CHURCH

 

"The vision of a perfect church was always allured, rebuked and fascinated men.  It is an ideal which has stirred men into energy and ambition in shaping the zeal."  A distinguishing characteristic of a church eager to actualize such an ideal is its aggressive activities.  It is not the quiescent but the militant church that fulfills its mission in society.  Each Methodist society organized in San Francisco seemed to cherish this spirit, made emphatic and actual in establishing Sunday-schools in other parts of the city.  And thus laying the foundations of a new church.  The Hayes Valley Methodist Episcopal Sunday school was organized in the old Wigwam on the corner of Van Ness avenue and Grove street, May 7, 1876, by Rev. George Newton, city missionary.  The following July, the school, numbering twenty-five scholars and teachers, was removed to Centennial Hall on Hayes Street.  Under the direction of the official board of Central church, the young people's society of that church took charge of the school, October 10, 1877, with Job Stevenson, superintendent; W. S. Craw, assisted; Rolla V. Watt, secretary; Sarah Hillman, treasurer.  This church in embryo sustained its life until the pressure of difficulty and discouragements.  The challenge of peculiar vicissitudes evoked a persistent spirit that was rewarded with success.  At the request of James H. Humphreys, the Rev. B. F. Crary, D. D., editor of the California Christian Advocate, preached the first sermon to the school, November 3, 1880.  His wise and healthful ministrations centralized in the organization of the Hayes Valley M. E. church, February 10, 1881.  At the annual session of the California Conference, in 1884, the name was changed to Simpson Memorial, in honor of Bishop Matthew Simpson, D. D., and the Rev. F. F. Jewell, D. D. was appointed pastor.  He had been pastor at Howard Street of the charter members of this new organization, and his energy and well-balanced zeal were an inspiration to their plans for the future.  The trustees, elected on the threshold of his administration, that achieved so grandly were: Charles Goodall, Robert McElroy, Samuel Hancock, James H. Humphreys, W. E. Fifield, Samuel Mosgrove, A. W. Bogart and Charles E. Edwards.

 

The discomforts of worshiping in Mowry Hall, on Laguna street, were a potent incentive to secure a permanent home.  The present valuable property, and the stately edifice with its auditorium of artistic beauty, with its large and well arranged lecture room and parlors, is the crowning result of their labors.  It was dedicated November, 1885.  No debt challenges the increasing prosperity of the church.  Its systematic organizations, of the Epworth League, the Junior League, the Ladies' Aid Society, the Lyceum, the large and flourishing Sunday school under the enthusiastic leadership of C. B. Perkins, the Chautauqua Circle, the Women's Missionary Society, the well-disciplined Boys' Brigade, emphasize its strong vitality, and its force as ennobling and evangelizing agency in San Francisco.  It was providential that Dr. Jewell was appointed pastor when this great enterprise began.  He was transferred from the Central New York Conference, in September, 1872, and stationed at Howard street church.  Uninterrupted success has distinguished all of his pastorates.  His patient and unyielding labors at Simpson Memorial were not equaled elsewhere.  They are a part of imperishable history.

 

With his characteristic and undiminished energy, he is briefly meeting the heavy duties of Presiding Elder of Oakland District.  His worthy successor was Rev. G. W. Izer, D. D.; and stimulated by his energetic efforts the whole church aroused to new activities.

 




CALIFORNIA ST. AND VAN NESS AVE. CHURCHES

 

The Bush street church was organized in 1869, as the outgrowth of the Seamen's Bethel where in the early days William Taylor had labored so heroically.  During recent years the environments of the church aroused the purpose to secure property and build elsewhere.  It was a bold project for a small though loyal membership.  Through the wisely directed assistance of the City Church Extension Society, a large and valuable lot was secured on the corner of California and Broderick streets, by an outlay of $14,000.  The church when finished and furnished, will cost, including the lot, about $70,000, and well be the most complete and beautiful edifice of the denomination in the city.  Rev. Thos. Filben, A. M., the pastor, has been the master spirit to achieve such astonishing results.

 

By his indomitable energy, brave perseverance, wisdom that masters details, and enthusiasm that leaps from the challenging environments, he emphasizes the transition from the meeting-house and chapel, rude and cheap, to the magnificent churches wherein assemble for worship Christians now as devote and eager for loyal service as any of the forefathers who bore the honored name of the Methodist.

 

Samuel Hancock, a layman, and active member of Howard street church, with commendable ambition for Methodism, conceived the idea of building a magnificent and representative church in that section of the city where it would wield a commanding influence.  Van Ness Avenue was selected as the center desired.  He has consecrated much of his wealth to realize his ideal.  A temporary chapel has been erected for church and Sunday school services.  Some peculiar and unexpected hindrances have retarded the progress of this enterprise, but the slumbering forces again aroused will transform this seeming defeat into positive victory.

 

Methodism has placed no undue emphasis on the work of the laity.  Very much of her apostolic history is the resultant of her persistent theory to make every member a worker.  This has aroused quiescent faculties, awakened dormant energies, and mobilized all powers for service.






 

CAPT. CHAS. GOODALL

 

Preachers were not the only toilers who laid broad and deep foundations of Methodism in California.  There were consecrated, self-sacrificing layman who wrought to give quality and quantity to the moral currents of the future of the State. The sheet anchor that held them amid the wild, rushing waves of secularity, was faith in God.  To their thought, permanent prosperity was only possible through a quickened individual conscience, elevated morals, ascending the tides of pure life through all the social, commercial and political avenues of the people.  Men thus equipped and ennobled must exert a purifying influence on the world-incrusted hearts of their fellows, and as artists chisel into unfading beauty the moral features of mankind.

 

Brilliant genius and superior intellectual endowments do not alone win the highest prices possible in the arena of life; but highest purpose, firm will, true manhood, unwavering courage, all presided over by common sense and intelligence, although that intelligence may have no such potential sweep as that of an Aristotle or Bacon.  These are the elements ensphered in the character of Capt. Chas. Goodall, a man's self-trained, self-taught.  He reached the State in 1850, and became identified at once with Methodism by membership with Powell street church in those days of poverty and struggle.  Since then every enterprise denominational or educational has felt the impulse of his wise and loving council, and secured vigor for successful aggressiveness through his large contributions.  Greatly prospered in business, he has made large investments in churches, schools and philanthropic enterprises.

 

This is notably true in reference to Howard street church, Simpson Memorial church, Van Ness avenue and California street church's and the University of the Pacific.  As an honored and useful member of the Simpson Memorial Church the elements of his positive and symmetrical character are a crown to his mature manhood, purity of motive, sincerity of conviction, elevation of sentiment, brave loyalty to his friends, a chivalrous sense of honor in business, and an all-controlling desire for the triumph of Christianity.  His noble wife has been harmoniously identified with him in all his philanthropic and Christian work.  Beautifully their lives have blended in holy ministries.

 

"As unto the bow the cord is,

So unto the man is the woman.

Though she bends him, she obeys him,

Though she draws him, yet she follows him;

Useless each, without the other."

 

 

 

R. McELROY

 

Not every one who in the early days sought California was actuated by the greed for gold.  Some came in search of health, a far richer blessing than wealth.  This State was already famed for its delicious, health-restoring climate, as well as its latent industrial and commercial activities.  A young man twenty-six years of age arrived in San Francisco, June 1st 1853, from New York.  That man was Robert McElroy.  His journeyed by way of the Isthmus was an eventful and romantic one, as the elect lady whom he married three years afterwards was in that company of travelers.  His zeal, fervor, and irrepressible enthusiasm as a preacher and pastor in the East, had overtaxed his physical powers.  His unwilling but permanent retirement from the ministry was a necessity.  California was the chosen sanitarium.  He has been through the years a worthy colleague of Capt. Goodall.  He has likewise been successful in his business enterprises, by honesty, integrity and a keen insight into practical affairs.  The large demands made upon his generosity by the various denominational and charitable enterprises have not been disregarded.

 

He wields a trenchant pen, and has written much for the public, and thus has aided in an eminent degree to shape and elevate individual thought and life.  His poetical nature gives ofttimes a beauty, pathos and rhythm to the vigorous sentences that flow from his pen.  Simpson Memorial enjoys is wise counsel and faithful work.

 

JAMES W. WHITING

 

The aggregate force of Methodism as a religious and influential power is not complete unless it combines the concentrated spiritual life and consecrated energies of laity.  These perilous times demand that Christian men of business should carry the glow of a spiritual life to the marts of trade and put a sacred claim on their gains for the advance of Christianity.  Such man wield the sinews of war.  Such man recognize that culture, wealth, highest social elevation, personal ambition should all be in subordination to the higher purpose of building up a stalwart, symmetrical character, and realizing the possibilities of a true manhood emancipated from sordid motives and selfish secularities.

 

James W. Whiting is a layman of many qualities, commendable generosity, warm human sympathies and unfailing loyalty and fidelity to the church.  He is the only surviving male member of the faithful twenty-three that organized the Second Church of San Francisco.  As a Christian citizen he has the courage of his convictions, makes no compromise with wrong, and zealously plans and works for the church.  Scores of layman in the present city churches strike as nobly for the right and truth as these pioneers.  Such are the human potentialities that give pledge for a pure civilization.

 

Bishop C. H. Fowler, who resided in San Francisco for eight years, and under whose wise and aggressive administration the church made such splendid advances, thoroughly understood the conditions in this State.  The inspiring and penetrating sentences he delivered at the Second Ecumenical Conference in Washington October, 1891, have an emphatic significance as applied here.

 

"Her highest want is the maintenance of a firm hold upon the supernatural.  Unless Methodism is supernatural, she is nothing.  She was called into being to hear testimony to the great fact of the supernatural world.  Like Christianity in every age, she has gained all her victories by her lead with supernatural forces.  Our greatest want is to maintain a firm hold upon a supernatural religion that except science as a re-want, and laughs her out of camp as a commander, contented to go up or down with Almighty God.  Our next need is ideas.  We must reach out in all directions with the appliances necessary for varied successes.  We ought to capture and utilize every secret that brings success to any other church.  The Romanism, with no pretense to converting grace, does a large business by the power of her organization and off her architecture.  The Protestant-Episcopal Church achieves commendable success by her social forces.  Congregationalism makes itself useful by her emphasis upon education.  Presbyterianism holds a front line by her family and family training.  The great Baptist church pushes forward by her immense energy and definite ceremony, and by counting as good fish everything that comes into her deep-sea net.  The Salvation Army is rolling up a host of good workers by abandoning her pride and respectability to start with, and by providing no provision for drones.  It is work or die.  Methodism needs encourage to seize and utilize all these ideas from the Cathedral to the Rescue Mission, from the University to the family, from the organ to the tambourine, from the great preacher to the weeping tramp.  There must be no power too great for us to master and no instrument too humble for us to utilize.  In the past we have legislated from the standpoint of the circuit.  For the future we must legislate from the standpoint of the cities.  The cities are the forts.  Whoever holds them holds the future.  The problem given us by Providence, which we must solve or perish, is how to save the cities.  At all costs we must reach all classes and unite them in a common faith and in a common brotherhood."

 

The splendid results already achieved in this State by Methodism as an evangelizing and educating agency, is but the harbinger of a resplendent day.

 

Source: The Californian Illustrated Magazine, December 1892-May 1893, Volume III, Edited by Charles Frederick Holder.  San Francisco.

METHODISM No. I
© 2002 Nancy Pratt Melton



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