The First Methodist Church
Rev. R. C. George
The records of the early days of the Washington Methodist Church are very
meager and for a history we must depend on materials gathered by the Rev. W. J. Heys in
1931. We do not know what his sources were. Mr. Heys, in his short
the church was organized with twelve members in 1855. Miss Mary A. North gave the
land, and in 1858-59 the building was erected at a cost of $6,000. The original
building is still in use by the church. John I. Lack was the builder and one of the
principal contributors. The church was organized June 10, 1862, with I. F. Garner as
During the Civil War the church contributed her share to history.
The building was occupied by Federal troops in 1863 and 1864, and the basement was
used as a stable for their horses. During these fateful years the church records
disappeared, and the windows and pews were destroyed.
After the Civil War the church was put in condition and in 1865 Dr. J. E.
Godbey was assigned to Washington as pastor. During his pastorate, 1865-1873, Mr.
Godbey also conducted a private school for boys. For a few years during his
pastorate the Washington church was a part of the Labadie Circuit.
The parsonage was erected during the pastorate of the Rev. H. E. Ryan,
1907-09. During the pastorate off the Rev. H. E. Stone, 1921-23, the church was
remodeled and redecorated and a furnace installed. Other improvements were made on
the basement during the pastorate of the Rev. B. L. Wright, 1917-19. Other minor
improvements were added to the property as the years passed.
During the long pastorate of the Rev. Harold E. Camp, 1927-1934, the
church made its greatest progress. There were about seventy members on the church
roll when he was assigned to the Washington church as a boy preacher. It was his
first pastorate. When he left Washington in 1934, according to the conference
minutes, there were 281 names on the church roll. In 1930, under the leadership of
Mr. Camp, a religious education building was added to the St. Louis conference. A
central heating plant was installed for the entire property, including the parsonage.
The total cost of the building and improvements was $10,700. During Mr.
Camp's ministry $4,200 of this sum was paid, leaving a debt of $6,500.
As we look back upon the records of this historic old church, many
prominent names stand out. We should like to record them all in this article, but
space ill not permit. But so outstanding is the record of one, Mrs. C. M. Purves,
that to fail to mention her name would be a breach against both her and the church.
Mr. and Mrs. Purves were the first couple married in the Bethel Church. Her
father, Joseph Lafayette Gregory, was the proprietor of the Gregory House, and her
grandfather, John Goode, settled near Krakow at an early date, and later moved to the
Bourbeuse and build Goode's Mill. Mrs. Purves began teaching the primary children of
the Sunday School in 1878, and taught for 60 years in this department. Few there
are, indeed, who can equal this record.
The present members recognize the splendid achievements of those who have
gone on before, and look back with pleasant memories to the days which are gone.
But, with our faces to the future, we unite our abilities and prayers for a still
more glorious tomorrow.
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