The Emerson United Methodist Church is the oldest organized congregation in Emerson. It had it’s beginning with a small group of settlers who met for occasional religious meetings in the Burlington Railroad Depot to the itinerant Baptist Elder, Eli Loomis. The railroad company provided some seats and others sat on boxes or sacks of grain. In September of 1871, the Fourth Quarterly Conference organized and established a church known as the Methodist Episcopal Society. The charter members were: Mr. & Mrs. Phillip Fancher, W.S. Douglas, and Maggie Barr. The minister was Francis Plumb.
The tiny congregation went without a building for almost ten years, and in 1880, a brick structure was erected on the site of the present church. It was dedicated debt-free on June 20, 1880. The main floor was 10-12 steps up and the basement, 2 steps down. W.J. Beck was the minister.
On June 24, 1913, the church was struck by lighting and was entirely destroyed by the fire that ensued. Church records show that the official board met the following day and began laying plans for a new structure. The new edifice was dedicated just 8 months later on February 22, 1914, and is the existing church building with some modernizations through the years. B.R. Van Dyke was the pastor during the construction of the new church and the congregation met in the old Opera House in town until it was completed.
Lack of space at the public school necessitated the use of the Sunday School facilities for kindergarten classes in the 1950’s. In 1982, when a flood devastated the downtown area and several homes, the church, in cooperation with the American Red Cross, aided the victims by providing meals and shelter for several weeks. In 1984, the church again opened its’ doors to provide a place for a meal site for the Commission on Aging.
In 1987, we finished a 4-year remodeling project including rewiring, a new roof, repainting the inside of the church, completion of church library, new basement entry wall, and installation of new carpet for the library, office, and entry-way. Air conditioning of the sanctuary and new carpeting in the sanctuary had been completed previously. Much of this was possible through memorials given by church members and friends and many hours of volunteer labor. Over the years, many memorials and gifts have added to the comfort, beauty and enjoyment of our church. Among these have been: ceiling fans, candle lighting cabinet, pew cushions, dossal curtain, paved driveway, table and chair trucks, Sunday School tables, pew Bibles, public address system, organ, shrubs and plantings, piano, opaque projector, kneeling wedding bench, folding doors for balcony, dining room paneling, office furnishings, altar Bible, candle holders, many beautiful books, outside flower planter, stained glass windows, chancel railing collection plates, altar flower vases, usher chairs, piano lamp, lectern, altar and altar skirting for fellowship hall, and other needed furnishings.
September 9, 1988, construction was begun on the Sunday School classroom addition to the church. The addition will include 4 classrooms which will provide for an atmosphere more conducive to learning. The addition is possible through a bequest from the Edna Sawer estate. A plaque will be placed in her honor.
The Emerson United Methodist Church now has 134 registered members. The oldest registered member was Anna Johnson, January 10, 1901. The oldest living members are Amanda Fields, January 10,1901 and Robert Grayson, January 10, 1924. We have only one 3 generation family who are all members of the church, Mrs. Marie Jones, Arlene Samuelson, Jennifer Rahr and Lisa Sowers, but there are several 3 generation families active in the church and Sunday School.
The women’s group has always been an integral part of the church. It was officially organized in September 1912 as the Methodist Episcopal Ladies Aid Society. Through the years they have supported the church in many ways—from repairs and decorating to helping pay salaries, giving financial aid for mission work at home and abroad. The women were resourceful—earning money with thimble-bees, bazaars, dinners, ice cream socials, bake sales, rummage sales, and banquets.
In 1914, the ladies Aid Society pledged $900.00 toward the new church and in addition, paid for the carpeting in the church.
In 1915, they began helping pay for the pastor’s salary and in 1918, the helped with the janitor’s salary. Some of their money-making projects were bazaars, Easter and Thanksgiving dinners, ice cream socials. In 1927, they raised $308.50 for the improvements to the parsonage. In 1933, when the local bank closed, the ladies lost all their money, a total of $16.03. By the end of the year, their balance after expenses was $7.17.
The depression years were hard and only the needed expenditures were made. They worked very hard having mother-daughter banquets, father-son banquets, selling lunches at auction sales, sale of vanilla, picnics to the Natural Gas Pipeline Co., bake sales, mail carrier dinners, and other dinners.
On August 30, 1940, 132 members signed a charter changing the Methodist Episcopal Ladies Aid (M.E. Ladies Aid Society) to the WSCS (Women’s Society of Christian Service). It was to undergo another change in 1973, when 69 members signed a new charter becoming the present UMW (United Methodist Women).
The forties were war years. They collected papers, magazines, salvaged nylon hose, and tin cans. They received $48.69 for scrap iron. Food and gas rationing kept them close to home. They sent candy and kits to the local soldier boys. As a tribute to the local boys of our church who served, the ladies purchased a plaque with their names inscribed. It was dedicated in 1945 and still hangs in the church sanctuary. A fresh candle was to burn each Sunday by the plaque.
The WSCS organized circles in
1941. These smaller groups were to raise
$100.00 each for the budget. Our
projects are much the same today. We
serve wedding receptions and maintain a Fall Festival food stand. The ladies continue to provide money for the
church improvements as well as mission work of the United Methodist Church. We visit shut-ins and comfort those who have
lost loved ones. We now have 58 members
and are divided into two circles, Rebecca and Mary. Their contributions are very important to
keeping our church alive. They enjoy the
companionship of working and serving together.