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Thursday, June 11, 2015

The First Methodist Episcopal Church in Holdenville

According to Turner’s History of the Methodist Church in Holdenville, 1897-1952, the first church organized in Holdenville was the Methodist Episcopal *1896-1910.  A retrospective article in the Holdenville Times of Jan.23,1903 indicated that in March of 1896 they first met in the Choctaw Depot in service with a Rev. King or Fling.  A survey of the Clegg and Oden work  on Oklahoma Methodism and the H.E. Brill history of the M.E. Church, did not clearly identify who this individual was.

They were formally organized in the same place a year later with a Rev. Woodson. Charter members were listed as the family (wife and daughter) of J. Smith, Mrs. Joe Northrup, Mrs. Frank Lowe, and Mrs. D. Lowe. A wooden frame building on East 8th Street was dedicated in February of 1897.  

In 1913, the building was sold to the Episcopal Church. At this time the Methodist Episcopal Church withdrew its work in Holdenville due to a larger retrenchment going on in that area of the region and in the general area. Competition from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was strong. They were more deeply rooted in the eastern half of Indian Territory (which had largely sided with the South in the Civil War)  and the Northern arm of what was then a fragmented American Methodism found it itself spread too thin and under-resourced for a time. In the early 1920's they made another attempt and brought in a tent and 'noisy' worship. 

The names of pastors of this work identified so far include: Rev. Woodson (1896), M.N. Powers (1902; note Clegg's work lists only a "W.N. Powers" unsure if the same person); Marvin Bell (1909); A.O. Lockwood (1910); J.A. Lanning (1922); Robert A. Brigham (1923) and the pastor of the union was J.C. McConnell (Clegg lists a J.E. and it unclear if the same person).

Wisely, local Methodists in the area of Holdenville, saw the strength in unity of the fractured pieces of Methodism nearly a decade before the national groups reunited.  As a result, the two groups, more or less, came together to form a single congregation as "Barnard Memorial."  The charming white wooden building is now home to an Episcopal congregation.

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