Our church history reaches back prior to the town of Frankfort, Illinois in the late 1800’s. Frankfort United Methodist Church is deeply intertwined with this community. In today’s reality of mass mobility, it is rare to experience a church family where so many generations have such longevity together. This is one of the many gifts that we share.
Cornerstone of the Frankfort Community since 1853
The first Methodist church in Frankfort was started in 1856 and completed in 1857, two years after the village had been laid out.
Actually, the history of the Methodist church in Frankfort is far older than the village. The records show that when Matthey Van Horne, of New York, and Francis Owen, of Kentucky, arrived at what is now Frankfort, they proceeded to organize a Methodist church, holding meetings in the various homes of the settlement. That was in 1832. According to records, itinerant preachers, or circuit riders as they were known, visited the area. Among these early preachers were Stephen R. Beggs and a Reverend Blackwell. The Rev. S.R. Beggs, known throughout the region as Father Beggs, delivered the first sermon. The Rev. Mr. Beggs was a circuit rider, which means that he traveled from settlement to settlement on horseback holding services and sometimes performing marriage ceremonies or conducting funeral services for someone who probably had been buried weeks before his arrival. He established societies at Chelsea, Francis School House, Skunk Grove, Mt. Hope and New Lenox. As these societies grew, homes, school houses and log cabins were used as houses or worship.
In 1836, a “class” was formed on the home of Ambrose Doty. Later a class and Sunday school was organized by Lorenzo Ruggles, a local preacher. Between visits of these preachers, there were class leaders who conducted the meetings.
The First Fifty Years, 1857-1907
From two old record books, one of quarterly conference minutes covering a period from 1853 to 1882, and membership records to 1872, this early history has been pieced together.
In 1855 the village of Frankfort was founded. In 1856 the Methodist Congregation erected the first church building in the village of Frankfort at a building located on Hickory Street was to become the First Methodist Church of Frankfort, Illinois. The property was purchased from Sherman W. and Sarah Bowen, and the deed is dated July 17, 1857.
The building was dedicated in 1857 by Rev. Samuel Hewes. The cost of this church was $2,000. Mention of this church is recorded in the quarterly conference minutes of Decmeber 1856. The building reportedly cost $2,000 and the original deed was signed by six church trustees: John Leffley, Levy Clayes, Jacob White, James Oard, Lorenzo Ruggles and Newton Holden.
This new church became a part of the Hickory Creek Circuit and a minister served both Frankfort and the Bethel Church near New Lenox, Illinois.
With the growth of the village, and a mishap of a the floor breaking down during a funeral service, the congregation saw the need of a new building. In 1903 a new building was erected at a cost of $3,500. This edifice was dedicated February 28, 1909, with the Rev. R. Vandervoort serving as pastor.
On July 1, 1955, the Green Garden and Frankfort Methodist churches made a historical decision by breaking the marriage of the two congregations that took place in 1927. Rev. Ben F. Day was appointed pastor. With a bequeath of $40,000 building fund granted to the church by the estate of Mr. Joseph McGlashan, the congregation launched into building a completely “new church”–a seemingly wild and radical idea for the church family at the time.
On March 23, 1956, members and friends were invited to a “Loyalty Dinner” built around a church fund raising theme of “Give in accordance with the way God has blessed you.” Nearly $73,000 was raised.
Church architect Charles Staade, who had studied church architecture in Paris and leading designer of newly constructed churches in the Chicago area, was selected. Floor plans for a modern gothic church was presented and unanimously approved by the congregation.
By June 9, 1957, site preparation was finished and a cornerstone engraved with “1957” was set in place, along with a time capsule which included items about the church, the community and the world. The laying of the cornerstone was indeed timely, for it came in the 100th anniversary year of the Frankfort Methodist Church. Mrs. Joseph McGlashan spread the first trowel of mortar, and construction proceeded as the church was encouraged by District Superintendent Dr. R. Merrill Powers to “move ahead with vision to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population.”
On Sunday, January 19, 1958, more than 235 members, friends and children had a final service at the church on Hickory and then formed a procession and sang hymns as they marched to the new church building on Sauk Trail and Linden Drive. We left those familiar surroundings which held so many memories for us, not with regret, but with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise. By walking as a body, we extended a symbolic invitation to join the “Onward March of Christianity.”
The Present and the Future!
On March 7, 2010, our church was honored to be among almost 100 Illinois Sesquicentennial Churches recognized by the Illinois State Historical Society. 161 years later we are still serving the spiritual needs of the Frankfort Community. Come, join us as our story continues to unfold!