Among the first churches organized in Weatherford after it became a town on August 3, 1898 were the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
In 1898, the Reverend E. H. Jewett was appointed by the Methodist Conference to organize a Methodist congregation in Weatherford. Rev. Jewett brought several families together and received permission to meet in the school house for church services.
Reverend D. C. Standard was sent to Weatherford in 1899 and stayed two years, successfully growing the congregation both years. Rev. Standard was followed by Reverend M. E. Diehl, whose tenure in Weatherford lasted six years.
On November 22, 1904, during Rev. Diehl’s ministry, church members purchased a building site on the southwest corner of Custer and Franklin Streets. The purchase was made with money borrowed from the town’s namesake, Mr. William Weatherford, who was then the U. S. Marshall.
Work on the initial building was carried out by volunteer labor – but what dedicated volunteers they were! Using their own horses and mules, members dug the basement for the new building in less than a week.
Services were first held at the Custer and Franklin location in 1904, after completion of the basement. By contributing most of the food and doing all of the cooking and serving, the ladies of the church raised money to help pay for the things needed to make a modern kitchen.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, also began to organize congregations in the area in 1898. Reverend W. A. Randle drove a mule team and buckboard around the Washita District and organized churches for white and for Indian congregations.
Rev. Randle secured the leadership of Reverend J. L. Henson to serve as the first pastor of the Weatherford congregation in 1899. During this period, church trustees contracted for the purchase of two lots at the intersection of Washita Street (now known as Tom Stafford St.) and Broadway at a cost of $150. On the same day, the trustees borrowed $750 from the Board of Extension of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for the construction of a small frame sanctuary.
On May 31, 1911, the trustees purchased some lots on the northwest corner of the intersection of State and Washita Streets and a new church was then built there.
The two Weatherford congregations began to discuss a possible merger in 1923. The following year, official boards of both churches began planning in earnest. Then on October4, 1925, both congregations petitioned Bishop E. L. Waldrof of the Methodist Episcopal Church and Bishop J. M. Moore of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to permit the unification of the two churches. They further requested that only one pastor be appointed to Weatherford and agreed to accept either jurisdiction to which the Bishops agreed.
It was finally decided that the merged congregation would function as the Methodist Episcopal Church and that the building at Custer and Franklin would be used by the combined churches. The newly combined church continued to experience rapid growth.
In 1932, under the leadership of Dr. Clarence McCormick, the church organized the Wesley Foundation program, which soon became one of the strongest in the state.
Continued vibrant growth led to the church outgrowing its facilities. As a result, a brick annex was built on the south side of the church in 1946. The annex contained a chapel and education rooms.
A combination of ongoing congregational growth and the church building’s deterioration made it obvious that new facilities were needed. The point was made clearer by an estimate that the existing building needed about $75,000 worth of repairs.
In 1952, Weatherford’s Evangelical United Brethren Church, reached a point where it was no longer feasible to continue as a congregational entity. Most of the members of the Evangelical Church transferred their membership to the First Methodist Church of Weatherford.
Sixteen years later, the Evangelical Brethren Church and the Methodist Church formed a denominational merger and became known as the United Methodist Church.
“In 1910 a new cornerstone was laid for the new sanctuary and basement; in 1923 the west annex was added to the church; in 1925 Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church, South united; in 1946 a motion picture projector was added to the sanctuary; in 1949 a library was placed in the church in memory of C. F. Mitchell and Paul Mitchell; in 1951 the church bought a “used” bus to help in the youth program; in 1952 a new ceiling and redecoration was finished in the sanctuary; in 1954 a new parsonage was built at Devil’s Canyon Camp; in 1958 a full-time director of Wesley Foundation, Miss Lois Likes, was added to the staff.”
– Rev. George Baker to the Quarterly Conference, 1958
In November of 1959, church members unanimously recommended that a Building Committee and a Building Fund be established. Nearly a year later, on October 30, 1960 the church voted to purchase 10 acres of land facing east on Seventh Street for $1,400 an acre.
On January 2, 1963, the Building Committee voted to recommend the sale of a $300,000 bond issue which would bear six percent interest and be retired by November of 1977. Additional costs were to be financed by the sale of the then-current church property.
Ground was broken on the new site on April 28, 1963 and the service of Consecration, the first service in the completed new church was held on March 1, 1964.
The church continued to grow rapidly through the 80s and 90s and many new programs were instituted. A long-range planning committee saw the coming need for future expansion of the church facilities.
Starting from 1990, expansion plans began to take shape. Extensive renovations and expansions resulted from those plans, culminating in a service of Consecration for the new facilities on January 21, 1996.
The legacy originated by the many founders that eventually became Weatherford First United Methodist Church continues today, thanks to the “vision” and “spirit” of our members.