A STEEPLE AMONG THE OAKS
A CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF THE
FIRST METHODIST CHURCH
ALBERT E. NORMAN
Ona Moore and her class
Joyce Hart served as superintendent from 1947 to 1958. He had been president of the Men's Club, chairman of the Finance Commission, and president of the ABC Class. His administration began when the Reverend Frank Toothaker was pastor and projected the building of the new Educational unit on Webster Street. Completion of this unit came about during the pastorate of the Reverend George Warmer. As Sunday School superintendent Mr. Hart had a great deal to do with this operation, particularly with equipping the plant to nurture the very young in Christianity.
The Methodist Youth Fellowship chapel was built and furnished by its members while Mr. Hart was superintendent of the Sunday School. The Youth Lounge was created, a hobby shop and work room developed and used extensively for several years.
Ruth Spencer and her class
Both the Emanuel and ABC classrooms were refinished and refurnished during Mr. Hart's administration. A week-day nursery was established, and approval was given for use of First Church facilities by the Oakland Board of Education for a public school parent observation for pre-school age children.
It was also during Mr. Hart's administration that the MYF Crusader group was so active under excellent leadership. This was a fine group of Christian young people, one of whom was Richard Hart, son of Superintendent and Lura Hart. Richard is now a pastor in our own Conference.
During Mr. Hart's term the unified budget system was established, whereby the official church board sets up an annual fund for Sunday School operation.
Mr. Hart is a Bay Area businessman now residing in Richmond, his new residence making it difficult for him to carry on his work as Sunday School superintendent.
On the third floor of First Church is the Craft Room.
This 1956 evening of fellowship between young people has been repeated innumerable times since that year.
Since 1958 we have had Victor Vanderberg, Bruce Smith and James Wright carrying on the task of Sunday School superintendent.
There is one other man who must be mentioned here in order to make our history complete.
Lloyd Brown, whose parents were pioneer members of First Church, served many, many years as superintendent of the Adult Division of Sunday School in addition to heading the Commission on Education and handling other duties too numerous to enumerate.
In 1921 he was ordained a Methodist minister and served churches in San Rafael, Mill Valley and San Jose. When the family business was thrust upon him we were lucky to have Lloyd Brown return to First Church.
The Adult department of the Sunday School that must always think of its outstanding assistant superintendent, Mr. Earle Menker, whose services on behalf of the Adult department cannot be measured except in his great satisfaction of giving his talent, time and funds to the upbuilding of this department of Sunday School. Throughout the years, these teachers and officers of the department, many in number, all deserve commendation for their part in this program. In this department are the Emanuel Class, this year celebrating its 49th anniversary, and for its real luck in having had Claude Clawson its teacher for 35 years. Next comes with ABC (Auditorium Bible Class) founded 40 years ago with memories of exceptionally fine teachers like C. Stanley Wood, Dr. J. W. Roush, Charles H. Victor, John L. Ernst, and Nan Menker. In this year of 1962 standby teachers for Nan Menker, the present teacher, are Wendell Moore, Blake Spencer and C. Stanley Wood, all assistant teachers.
At First Church the christening of an infant marks the start of Sunday School. The pioneer church looks chiefly to the boy and girl of school age, and to their parents who dedicate their child to the Lord while dedicating themselves to a lifetime of guidance, so the infant can be nurtured in the ways of our Lord and Master, has come of long and confident planning.
Our Sunday School leaders have a firm foundation on which to continue building. It has been a long march from the Sunday School classroom in the dimly lighted and tiny hotel lobby on lower Broadway inaugurated by the Reverend Charles E. Rich to First Church's modern church nursery and recreation quarters.
Next step of the modern Sunday School takes the child into the church nursery while the parents participate in church devotions; perhaps singing in the choir, or taking part in one or more of the many church activities.
There is more than just the nursery in the Children's Division of our new Sunday School operation. Next is the Toddlers Room, the Kindergarten, and finally the Primary Department.
Kindergarten was separated from the Primary Department as early as 1901 when Mary Louise Wilson, daughter of the R. O. Wilsons who founded Emanuel Class, was superintendent of this beginner's class. She was followed by Miss Margaret Wythe who carried on for seven years, assisted by Mrs. May Burckhalter Newton. Mrs. Newton then ministered to the little ones for years, aided by Mrs. Grace Jones Cowin now Mrs. T. Lloyd Jones.
In 1904 Mrs. T. H. Hageman, daughter of the late J. S. Dumser, Civil War centenarian, took over as superintendent of the Primary Department. Well informed on Sunday School methods and administration, Mrs. Hageman was nationally known for her writings in children's books on Bible study.
First M. E. Sunday School, May 23, 1916
Her long service was followed by Mrs. Herbert N. Davidson who was superintendent for 20 years.
Among the many women who shared the responsibility of the cradle roll over many years were Mrs. H. C. Baker, Dell Jewel, Mrs. Lester Burpee, Jennie Hosmer, and May Newton.
In the framework of First Church as well as all Methodist Sunday Schools as set up by the International Sunday School Association in addition to the Cradle Roll, Beginners Department and Primary Department is a Junior Department, Intermediate Department, Senior Department, Adult Department and Home Department
The Senior Department of our Sunday School is the earliest years of First Church included young through high-school age, and from these emerged such groups as Christian Endeavor, Epworth League, Mizpah League, Junior League, and the Young Men's League.
Adults were divided into approximately seven classes, each with a leader, as early as the 1880s and 1890s. When the Home Department was lead by Mrs. Clara Creasinger, she took on the work of seeing that the shut-ins were visited and presented with reading material and advised about their friends and acquaintances at church. Staff members now do this work, along with members of a special Evangelism Committee, the Hospitality Committee and the Fishermen.
In the mid-1890s the Maddrill Bible Class was founded with J. W. Maddrill as teacher for more than a quarter-century. Senior members of church and Sunday School attended regularly. This was a successful class long after Mr. Maddrill's retirement, continuing to keep a feeling of usefulness in those of mature years and furthering the cause of Jesus Christ.
Emanuel, today's senior adult class, was founded in the home of Mr. and Mrs. R. O. Wilson on Lakeshore Avenue in 1913. Mr. Wilson was the first teacher. Not long after, it was Claude Clawson who took over as teacher and led the class for 35 years. He has since retired. Class activity included support of Missions in Calcutta, India, led by Walter and Mabelle Griffiths who have endeared themselves to all Methodism. Mr. Griffith's mother had faithfully attended First Church for many years.
Members of Emanuel Class take part in every church activity, recalling their oath when joining church: “I will be loyal to the Methodist Church and uphold it by my prayers, my presence, my gifts and my services.” A book could be written about his class and its good work.
In 1922 a small group of young married people organized the Auditorium Bible Class now called ABC Class. Credit for the founding must go to Mr. and Mrs. C. Harold Rader. Mr. Rader was the first president, serving from 1922 to 1924 and again in 1932 and 1933. There have been 27 presidents in its 40 years of existence, and members have served all departments of church and Sunday School. Among its 130 members today are two couples who were charter members: Judge and Mrs. C. Stanley Wood, and Mr. and Mrs. C. Harold Rader.
John L. Ernst taught the ABC Class for more than 18 years.
His Christian character has been missed by the class since his death last year.
He was assisted by the brilliant and talented Mrs. Nan Menker, who continues as the class teacher today along with Judge Wood, Blake Spencer and Wendell Moore. Other past teachers include Dr. J. W. Roush and Charles Victor.
ABC's annual October banquet brings letters and telegrams from former members both near and far. Dues and collections go toward furthering the work of the Lord. Present support is being extended the daughter and son-in-law of Mrs. James H. Cobbledick Jr., missionaries in the Congo.
Daily mail brings Mrs. Menker word from many of the 127 countries she and her husband, Earle, have visited, telling how ABC funds support missionary endeavors.
Two of the first women to have held title of Lady Superintendents in Sunday School work were Jane Nesbit and Miss Margaret Wythe. Dr. Margaret Wythe was a Sunday School worker at First Church for 75 years, besides being active in every other department of the church. When she retired as an English teacher at Oakland High School she enrolled in Medical College and graduated. After that she returned to head the medical department of the Oakland Board of Education.
Annual events of great importance to young people and adults at First Church have been the picnics and Christmas pageants.
Each year the committee in charge endeavors to find a new picnic scene. Recollections go back to happy occasions at Leona Heights, East Shore Park near Stege, Indian Gulch (now Trestle Glen), and Durant Park (now the Knowland Arboretum) and Diamond Park.
This year's picnic (1962) was held in Roberts Park, a Redwoods setting named for Thomas Roberts who came to Oakland in 1865 and served the Regional Park Board for many years.
The annual Christmas pageant thrills adults as well as children when Santa Claus arrives with tree and gifts.
FIRST CHURCH HAS always looked upon its young people with favor. When the Rev. E. R. Dille was pastor of First Church from 1887 to 1892 the Christian Endeavor was organized for the young folk, and from this group came the Epworth League.
It was under the inspiring leadership of Charles H. Victor that Epworth League was formed in June of 1908. The Mizpah Society at that time elected to remain with the Christian Endeavor Society and had a fine class of young people on its rolls. President of this group then was Clyde Chamblin. Mary H. Roberts Angwin was chorister. These two, along with C. Harold Rader, are active in our church today in furthering the work of the Lord.
The Inn was on the west side of Broadway, extending from the south side of Grand Avenue to the north side. Grand Avenue was then called 22nd Street.
It was not a through street to Broadway. It was end of the “Key Route Line” trans-ferry to San Francisco.
The Inn was in operation when First Church was dedicated.
Mispah had been recognized in 1906, composed of young people between the ages of 16 and 21. Mispah means “The Lord watch between me and three, while we are absent, one from the other.”
Christian Research Class was first known as the Hyperilon Class. This was a mixed group of single and married persons, most of whom had been classmates for many years. They meet once a month at the homes of various members for study and Bible discussion.
On March 21, 1907, a dozen or more young men under the leadership of the Rev. Frank Gale, created the Young Men's League. At the time it was said that friendships were being formed that would last a lifetime. By April 1908 the membership had increased to 70 members, and by 1910 it totaled 80. This group came together for the purpose of studying the Bible, promoting Christian Fellowship among young men and taking part in Christian activities as may be presented. Of this Young Men's League membership we have in this year 1962 on the church rolls Horace Dunne and Frank Rule.
In the 1930s the Fireside Forum was organized by Nan and Earle Menker as an evening fellowship group for single and married adults. A regular program was held each Sunday during an evening of devotion, fine fellowship and missionary workers, Indian American Intertribal House, Harbor Homes, Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets.
During the war years hundreds of young men and women found friendship by attending the Fireside Forum, and although many went overseas we heard from them regularly and continued our concern for them through “service packages.” The group now meets the first Friday evening of each month in Emanuel Room at 7:30 p.m. Anyone is welcome to attend.
Nan and Earle Menker have continued as sponsors all these years.
Other organizations in past years to interest young adults include the Hollidge League and the Crusaders League.
For single young adults there is the Questers. They meet every Wednesday evening at Wesley Center for dinner and a program. These young people are most active in choir and other church activities.
WOMEN – AND CHRISTIAN SERVICE
FROM THE VERY beginning of First Church in 1862 our pastors have been aided by the women. But it was not until First Church was 11 years old – in 1873 – that these women organized into an official church society. The Rev. C. V. Anthony was then pastor. The name of this first women's society went into the records as the Ladies and Pastors Union, but it wasn't long before it became known as the Ladies Aid Society.
In 1880 while the Rev. E. S. Todd was pastor, a second women's society was formed. This was called the Ladies Social Union. Here was a group that concentrated on sociability among church members, although they also assisted the official Board of Trustees financially. Meanwhile, the Ladies Aid Society was active visiting the sick and giving relief to the needy.
On Dec. 19, 1892, the Women's Foreign Missionary Society was organized with a membership of 165 women. During the first nine years of its monthly meetings it contributed two members to foreign mission work in addition to sending $7,600 to foreign lands. The two First Church women to go overseas were Miss Katie Grace Wythe and Mrs. Frank C. Gale. Every member yielded true-hearted service to The Christ to the fullest measure of their ability.
The Women's Home Missionary Society was formed at First Church even prior to the Women's Foreign Missionary Society. This group organized in August of 1887 with Miss Delia Springer of Des Moines, Iowa, as leader. Miss Springer was sent to Oakland by the parent board for the sole purpose of forming the group into a society. By April of 1888 the society was a regular Home Missionary auxiliary and took charge of work on the Pacific Coast. One of their chief labors was to collect money and material for our hinterland's underpaid ministers and families. Besides, they helped at the Deaconess Home, the Chinese and Japanese Homes and the Beulah Rest Home. Miss Edith Lancaster of this society was the first leader of the Young Ladies Home Missionary Society when it formed in 1911. She was followed one year later by Mrs. Horace Dunne. Both remain active in church work today.
The Rev. Daniel D. Walker was pastor at First Church at the time of this 1960 dinner meeting of the Women's Society for Christian Service.
The year of 1939 marked consolidation of all of these groups into a single organization now known as the Women's Society for Christian Service. In addition to the groups already named the new society includes various Service Guilds, such as the Caroline Wesleyans, the Deborah Wesleyans, the Alpha Theta Wesleyans, the Wesley Service Guild, Junior League, and King's Daughters.
All the work of these faithful women who had served First Church from its very founding were now embodied in this one organization. Year in and year out these women and their societies have shown a budget surplus. Time and money have cheerfully gone to Vacation Bible School, Red Cross, Veterans and W. C. T. U. work. They have given world-wide service to Foreign Missionary programs and aided scholarship funds in India and China.
Many a teacher in faraway lands received their pay envelopes only through the generosity of these faithful workers. Nor did they overlook the Home Missionary field, assisting year in and year out with Methodist schools, hospitals, nurseries and recreation centers across America – paying no heed to race or color.
At Maple Hall, 14th and Webster Streets, where First Church held services from 1912 to 1914.
Alpha Theta and Deborah Wesleyan Service Guilds are composed of women gainfully employed during the weekdays, being able to meet only at night to aid the parent Women's Society for Christian Service.
Without the faithful work of these organizations within First Church the work of The Lord would indeed be neglected.
Great helpers of First Church pastors throughout the years have been the Deaconesses. Among the many have been Miss Ella Holbrook, Miss Liza M. Sangsted, Miss Fannie T. Montgomery, Miss Mary M. Bowen, Miss Kathleen Weybrew, Miss Cedora E. Cheney, and last but not least, Miss Ella Baker.
There has also been an array of Assistant Pastor's Assistants, and Directors of Religious Education. Their names, fine work and faithful service will remain with First Church for time evermore.
Our Master will surely say:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
MUSIC HAS BEEN associated with Methodism from its beginning, and the First Church has been blessed with vocal talent since the pioneer days in the former Carpentier schoolhouse at Sixth and Washington Streets.
By the time First Church was moved to Ninth and Washington Streets in 1863 the choir was supported by an organ that was pumped by hand. Henry Maloon has told us how he worked the hand pump Sunday after Sunday.
Among the early choir directors was P. M. Husted. He and his family were early members of First Church. Mr. Husted will be remembered as publisher of early Oakland's city directories. Later came D. P. Hughes who founded the Oakland Orpheus, a male singing group that has brought the best of music to Oakland since 1893. His efforts on behalf of this choir, met with great success.
In later years Myron T. Holcomb was at the organ consol in First Church, followed by Mrs. George Wastell, Miss Constance Jordan, Ida Fording, Miss Elizabeth Simpson and many others. J. M. Robinson is also remembered as a master musician.
Edward D. Crandall, who directed the Orpheus Club from 1901 to 1929, also did outstanding work in directing the choir at First Church. Orpheus Club members held Mr. Crandall in deep affection and always referred to him as “Pop.”
Well remembered by many members at First Church is Bessie Beatty Roland who for more than 20 years was director and choir leader. During her reign and under her instigation the Allegro Club was formed, a social group of vocalists who not only presented musical programs at First Church but gave benefit performances in the smaller communities of Alameda County to assist struggling churches.
Anyone who sang in the choir during Bessie Beatty Roland's years of directing received a musical education in works from Pallestrini to Jean Sebelius and other writers of sacred song.
Those were the days of boat rides on the bay, picnics in the country, and house parties – social activities that helped to keep the choir closely knit.
Later came such organists as Mrs. Grace Towner, Mrs. Marjorie Spross, Mrs. Aileen Coggin, Mrs. Elizabeth (Bessie) Woods, and this year, Glenn Shields Daun.
Bessie Woods has been playing the organ in the Bay Area since 1915. Few at First Church will ever forget her recitals in Johann Sebastian Bach. There have been occasions when the congregation stood en masse to salute her playing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Directors since “Pop” Crandall include Zelia Vassaide McConnell, also soprano soloist; Cecil Enlow, Robert Commandy and Byron W. Graber. This history would hardly be complete if we slighted the quartet that was comprised of some remarkable voices down through the years.
Anyone who sang in the chorus of the choir at First Church must surely be aware of the inspiration their songs have given in witness to the Lord.
THE MEN'S CLUB
MANY TIMES DURING the life of First Church there have been Men's Clubs, some of which, due to the strains of business depressions, have struggled to maintain their equilibrium and forge ahead. At times these clubs have died down, but always some new effort has brought back to First Church a bigger and better Men's Club.
The present club has been doing splendid work, putting its effort toward the renewal of Fellowship Hall. In their effort on this project the idea of the Pancake Breakfast has helped in bringing all members of the church and their friends to good fellowship at breakfast. We have to thank all: Tracy Clark, our 1962 president, and the many men who have given so generously to make those occasions a success. Every program is a winner.
RALLY DAY SERVICE, CHURCH SCHOOL ASSEMBLY – 1947
FIRST CHURCH MEMBERS today enjoy “The Mirror,” a church publication second to none.
Mere mention of this news media can't help but recall the tremendous work Mrs. Blake (Ruth) Spencer accomplished while editor.
In retrospect we also recall earlier publications: “The Church and Home,” a monthly publication averaging 34 pages published in 1892-93 under the direction of Dr. Dille; “The Interleague Review” of 1907 prepared by the Young Men's League; “Our Church,” edited by the Rev. R. Bentley in 1878; “The Dawn,” created by members of the Paramount Class in 1920; “The Herald,” a 1945 publication.
Then too, there were the sermons of the Rev. Daniel Walker that were printed and given wide coverage over radio and press.
THE NANNETTE MORGAN Library of First Church is a name well deserved. The church library was started many long years ago under the untiring service of Nannette Morgan. She was associated with this library work for 32 years and established the present library in 1927. It contains more than 1,600 books.
PHOTOS OF PAST MINISTERS (pgs 66-68)| Page 66 | | Page 67 | | Page 68 |
Rev. Charles Miller, 1865
Rev. H. H. Hartwell, 1866
Rev. Lysander Walker, 1867-1869
Rev. E. S. Todd, 1880-1881
Rev. C. A. Holmes, 1881-1882
Rev. C. C. Stratton, 1882-1884
No photographs available
METHODIST MINISTERS SERVING OAKLAND
BEFORE FIRST CHURCH WAS ORGANIZED
Rev. William Taylor, 1849
Rev. William Urmy, 1856
Rev. Alfred Higbie, 1858
Rev. William Grove Deal, 1859
Rev. Charles V. Anthony, 1861
Rev. James E. Wickes, 1861
PASTORS EMERITUS OF FIRST CHURCH
REVERAND ELBERT R. DILLE, D. D.
REVERAND EDGAR ALLEN LOWTHER, D. D.
REVERAND WILLIAM P. RANKIN
PAST SUNDAY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS
O. J. Backus, 1880
J. Clayton Hill, 1888-1889
Victor Vandenburg, 1958-1959
Bruce Smith, 1959-1960
James Wright, 1960-1961
No photographs available
PHOTOS OF PAST SUNDAY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENTS (pgs 70-72)| Page 70 | | Page 71 | | Page 72 |
PRESENT MEMBERS OF THE FIRST METHODIST CHURCH
WHO JOINED DURING THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS
Mrs. Russell (Grace) Jones, August 3, 1890
William H. McCutcheon, August 7, 1892
Miss Edith Lancaster, December 24, 1894
Miss Helen Burton, October 2, 1898
George C. Humphrey, January 22, 1899
Mrs. Horace (Edna) Dunne, July 1, 1900
Mrs. May Burkhalter Newton, August 25, 1900
Harvey McConaughey, November 4, 1900
Mrs. Frank (May M.) Kinsey, October 16, 1904
Mrs. J. M. (Evelyn) Jackson, October 1, 1905
Clyde Chamblin, October 22, 1907
Mrs. W. Stanley (Mary) Angwin, April, 1909
C. Harold Rader, April, 1909
George W. Leisz, February 6, 1910
Miss Ruth Leisz, February 6, 1910
James H. Cobbledick, Jr., September 5, 1910
Miss Gladys Merritt, September 5, 1910
Miss Selina Floyd, 1911
J. Elbert McKim, February 12, 1912
Mrs. Lloyd (Fern) Brown, February 12, 1912
Mrs. Elizabeth Webb, February 12, 1912
Mrs. Emma Morgan, February 12, 1912
Miss Jennie Hosmer, September 1, 1912
Miss Florence Magnuson, September 1, 1912
Leon Woolsey, September 1, 1912
Mrs. T. Lloyd (Grace) Jones, September 1, 1912
Albert E. Norman, Sr., September 1, 1912
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Norman, Albert E., “A Steeple Among The Oaks, A Centennial History of the First Methodist Church, Oakland, CA, 1862-1962. Oakland, California. 1962.
© 2010 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.