First Methodist Church

First Methodist Church exterior.

The first Methodist missionary to Dakota was Reverend James Gurley, more familiarly called Father Gurley. He was based in Brainerd, MN, beginning in 1871 and spent more time on the east of the Red River. He conducted the first formal Methodist service in North Dakota in 1871 in Pinkham Hall (on the corner of Front Street, now Main Avenue, and Fifth Street).

Rev. John Welch was the general missionary that followed Father Gurley. Welch He organized the first Methodist Sunday School in North Dakota in Fargo in 1872. The Methodist Church was organized the same year.

In 1873, work began on the First Methodist Church building located at the southwest corner of Ninth Street and First Avenue South. Land was donated by the Northern Pacific Railroad, which also donated and hauled the building material. The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Fargo, Dakota Territory was officially organized with five charter members: William H. White, Mrs. A. E. Atkinson, Mrs. E.A. Grant, Miss Alvira Pinkham, and Mrs. George Foster. The first church trustees were W. H. White, N. K. Hubbard, Alonzo Plummer, and George I. Foster.

First Methodist Church interior.

On July 1, 1874, the building was completed. Measuring 30 feet by 50 feet and costing $1200.00 to construct, it was the first Methodist Church building to be erected in what is now North Dakota. The only picture that I have ever seen of that church is to the upper right. Taken by F. J. Haynes sometime in the period 1874-1879, the photograph shows the exterior of the building and the "M.E. Sunday School." During the same period, Haynes also took a photograph of the interior of the church, seen center right.

The Rev J. B. Starkey was the first appointed pastor of First Church. In 1880, on Christmas day, William H. White rang the first Protestant church bell in the Dakota Territory. That bell is still in the church's belfry today.

A new church (pictured below) was built some time in the 1890s. The 1893 Fargo City Directory states that the membership had grown to 130 in that year with Rev. Eugene May, pastor.

The church is now called the First United Methodist Church. Please see their website for more information.

First Methodist Church postcard.