Methodist Church receives preservation award
By: Sherrie Williams
The information used for this article is on the church’s website, and made available to the Leader by Historian Patsy Todd and Rev. John Kay.
Iowa Park’s First United Methodist Church was the recipient of one of three Wichita County Heritage Society Commercial Preservation Awards presented in May.
The preservation award was established in 1980.
To be eligible for the Preservation Award, a property must be at least 50 years old, the historical integrity and original use, with respect to necessary updates, maintained. The structure must also have been maintained by the current owner for a minimum of five years.
The church’s history in Iowa Park began in the 1800s with the church being organized during 1889.
According to an article on-line at fumciptx.org/history, in 1892 the Methodist journals showed the mission (the church) had a building worth $1,500.
Eunice Sewell was quoted in the article as saying, “On Sunday mornings, the sound of the church bell mingled with sounds from other church bells and made beautiful music which remains in the memory of those who heard it. On the way to church, we passed the livery stable and the Christian Church and walked under a grove of bois d’ arc trees.”
Rev. C.P. Martin was appointed to the charge in 1908 and served two years. It was during that time that the frame building church was torn down, and the first brick church building in Iowa Park was erected at the present site of the church.
The church was built on land donated by Bradley Winfrey that was centrally located near the business section of town and, at that time, was considered the most modern brick building, which measured 67X70 foot, for a house of worship.
The building consisted of a large auditorium, pastor’s study and two separate Sunday school rooms.
One of the stained glass windows which can still be found in the church, was donated by Mr. Winfrey.
A number of other windows were donated by the following: Mrs. Mattle Parker, Iowa Park Lumber Company, Iowa Park Lodge #407 K of P, The Working Juniors, The Philoyhea Class, Iowa Park Lodge 713 AF & AM, Iowa Park Gin Company, The Bargea Class, and the Juvenile Workers.
The windows on the north side of the church, Busy Bee windows, were given by a group of little girls in Mrs. Cummins (Lula) Ralston’s class, who earned the money selling candy made by Mrs. Ralston.
One entree in the article reflects one person’s memory of the charge. “The church I remember was a red brick building with stained glass windows. As I recall entrances were on the east and west about where the stairs are now. The ceiling was as high and there was no upstairs. A partition in the center could be raised or lowered. Long curved pews and a large choir loft completed the church. Two large coal stoves provided heat, and two large lamps were still hanging from the ceiling even though they had gotten electricity in about 1913.”
Rev. C.W. Dennis was sent to the Iowa Park church in 1920. During his tenure the church was remodeled and expanded, because of a rapid growth of the congregation from 1918 to 1926.
Jerry Schaefer of Wichita Falls was selected as the architect to design a new building.
The land on East Bank in which the new structure was built was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Ed Kolp.
The new church was 100x112 feet, two stories with a modern basement for coal storage and a heating plant.
The sanctuary included a stained glass window in the choir loft depicting a life-size Jesus. It was donated by the five sons of John and Lila Pace.
The church could seat 700 with an overflow into the adjoining 30 Sunday school rooms. Also a kitchen equipped with modern equipment and a stage was built. The building of 1910 was the basic area of the new structure.
The building was dedicated April 11, 1926, by Bishop John Moore.
Membership of the church at that time was 350.
The building was valued at $50,000 and was fully paid for.
In 1952, a new parsonage was built and new hardwood flooring was put in the church. Also, some of the French doors were replaced with permanent walls.
In 1957, 5,600 square feet were added to the church building which included church offices, choir room, kitchen and a fellowship hall, as well as connecting hallway from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall. Also air conditioning for the sanctuary was installed.
At the same time, Dr. and Mrs. Gordon Clark provided the funds for a chapel that was built within the original structure. It was dedicated in the memory of their son, Randolph Duvall Clark. Mrs. Charles Coppock gave an organ for the chapel in memory of her husband.
The additions were consecrated Feb. 2, 1958, and dedicated debt free in 1970. The structure was reportedly built by Carl E. Sullivan.
The sanctuary was remolded in 1975, at a cost of $170,000. The project included new paint modern moldings, and new pew cushions. Also the French doors upstairs were removed, and the choir loft was enlarged. A bride’s room and restrooms were added near the entrance of the church. At that time Bill Owens donated a cross-topped copper steeple to the church.
That project was paid in December 1978.
Several improvements and refurbishing projects have been done over the years, including a circular driveway and covered entrance in 1987-88.
In 2005 while Rev. Don Pellikan was pastor, the church undertook a major expansion project. One that some say is the largest expansion in the church’s 116 year history.
First United Methodist Church pastor John Kay said, “we did not apply for this award and we are the only church building to receive this award in 2008.
The church currently has 350 members. Pastor Kay has been pastor since 2005, when Pellikan left.