First United Methodist Church of Arroyo Grande

The First United Methodist Church of Arroyo Grande Celebrates 125 Years of Ministry

Rock founded, Christ centered, Faith sustained

Services were held in the Good Samaritan Hall prior to the church being built. It is visible halfway down the street in this 1890's photo.

Must be the Seely family.

During the year that Bro. Crall was here, he held a revival Meeting and contracted for the lots on which the church and parsonage were built near this downtown scene; the trustees gave their personal note for $400.

At the Annual Conference held in Santa Barbara on Sept. 10 to 12th, 1885, Rev. P. S. Woodcock was appointed preacher in charge. "He was a tall slender man past middle age," said Harvey Hodges. Pictured is Arroyo Grande circa 1883.

Immediately after his arrival a comfortable parsonage was built at a cost of $350. $86 worth of furniture was procured by the Ladies Aide Society. They also paid $100 on the pastors salary and aided with the note payments on the lot.

When a vigilante group hung the Hemmi boy and his father because the 15-year-old Julias had shot Mr. Walker, a neighbor, Rev. Woodcock delivered an eloquent impressive sermon entirely upholding the people in punishing the murder of so good and honorable a man as Mr. Walker.

Here are two related shepherds of the spiritual flock. Standing on the left is Rev. J. Preuitt, Presbyterian, and seated is Mr. McGlurkin, church unknown.

The parsonage was a comfortable home for two but Nelson's family was four so two more rooms were added at an expense of $100 as you see in this old photo. Rev. Nelson often sang tenor part in duets, said Hodges, "The best music we ever had."

In those early years a Union Service was held with the Presbyterian Church (they'd been going strong since 1876). Evening services were lighted on one occasion with homemade candles set in potatoe holders. Their unashamed display of emotions would embarrass a twentieth century gathering raised on less heady, more rational, religious fare. They were a generation of youth accustomed to calling one another "brother" and "sister".

Two camp meetings were held. The first one at Newsome Springs at which wrote Rev. Nelson, nearly every preacher from Santa Barbara to San Miguel was with us. The second meeting was in Ketchum's grove (near the present High School campus) at which there was a large attendance.

To begin with, Nipomo was included with Arroyo Grande and the minister did double duty. In 1888, the membership had reached 160 and Nipomo asked to be made a separate charge with their own minister. This took 10 or 12 members away.

Harvey Hodges wrote of his memories for the 50th Celebration: "The hitching racks were back of the church", he wrote. There were no electric lights or automobiles in Arroyo Grande. Many of the people came to the church on foot while others came in carts, buggies or wagons, the most numerous of which were spring.

Wagons were equipped with two seats, lap robes and whale bone whips and the motive power was the farm team. He remembered that someone stole all the robes and whips one night, and months later they were found under the church.

We are fortunate in having another first hand account of how it was in those early years: H. W. Simpkins came to Arroyo Grande to teach school. He later became editor of a Palo Alto Newspaper. After visiting here, he wrote of that early time. "In April 1888, I alighted, dustcovered and alone from the puffing little narrow guage train from the south."

His trip had taken him one day by stage through Gaviota Pass, shown here where he stayed overnight before boarding the PCR [Pacific Coast Railroad]. He said that getting to Arroyo Grande from the outside world was like prenetratimg some vast maze whose hedges were mountain ranges and streams.

And on the water side by steamer stopping at Port Harford. Simpkin thought everything new and crude.

Measurably cut off from the outside world, this community was a microcosm in itself whose main bridge to Macedonia was the marketing of the annual bean crop, the chief agricultural product of the valley.

According to our records, he joined the church on November 24, 1889 (bottom entry). While here he met and married a young lady whose home is where the sweet pea seed farm is, just where the road crosses the creek. She was and Abbott.

Mr. Abbott was an earlier seed grower than Mr. Routzhan whose fields are shown here. These fields are where the Fukuharas farm.

1880 - 1889

Text by Jean Hubbard

In 1878 the first Methodist organizing was done in Arroyo Grande. Officially Sept. 1884 a request was sent to the Conference asking to be made an independent charge. Later that month, H. J. Crall was appointed first pastor. A throat problem forced him to quit after one year.

Three old record books record for us the joys and sorrows of some of those 105 years. Rosters of members, their arrival and departure, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

On page 176 of the oldest book, in F.S. Woodcock's fine script, is recorded some of the early history.

There were 24 charter members: Austin Abbott, Mrs. Harriet Abbott, and Mr. & Mrs. John F. Beckett. John, pictured here, was a real estate developer. Everyone laughed when he said that one day the city would reach the ocean.

Charles Wesley Fletcher Nelson came here October 1, 1887 and served five years as pastor.

Construction started in 1886 on the Methodist Church building and was completed Sept. 9, 1887. Total cost for the building was estimated at $2500; and the entire church and parsonage property had been put together for about $3200.

Rev. Nelson is perhaps better remembered for his retirement years when he lived here with his daughter, Mrs. W. T. (Nettie) Whitlock. Another daughter also married a Whitlock. He ran a small store and helped around the church. He is easily picked out in pictures because he wore a black skull cap to keep his bald head warm. He brought his own fresh flowers each Sunday, often supplied. Always sat near the front because he was deaf.

This valley, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles could be reached on the land side by stage and PCR [Pacific Coast Railroad].

I came, continues Simkins, a tinderfoot from the east, in the first blush of the enthusiasm of youth, to teach school. Seventy dollars a month was vast wealth to a young man who had cobwebs in his purse. He taught four years at Oak Park, Black Lake, and Santa Manuela.

Besides teaching he carried the survey chain for the transit man who ran the line from the public road which ran from the newly erected Coffee Rice house down through the sand dunes and along the marsh to the ocean.