A Brief Centennial History
Written in 1974
The first Methodist service at Petoskey was held October, 1873, and was conducted by the Rev. George L. Cole who was pastor at Charlevoix from 1872 to 1875. Old histories record that “he preached in the afternoon to a number of whites and Indians at the house of Louis Petoskey and afterward made an appointment to preach at Petoskey every three weeks.”
In the fall of 1874 Rev. Cole received eleven persons and organized a class. Among those received were Mr. William Serger, Mr. Kirby, Mrs. Wait, Mr. and Mrs. Kirwan, Mrs. Little, Mr. and Mrs. Toten and Mr. and Mrs. Williams. Services were held at the time first at Petoskey’s home and later Dr. Wm. Little, proprietor of the Rose Hotel, opened his dining hall for preaching on Sabbath afternoons. In August 1875 a small school house was build and thereafter served as a place of worship until the first sanctuary was built in 1890.
As membership grew in the 1880’s need for a larger church became evident. Rev. D.O. Ball, pastor from 1887-1889, initiated efforts for the building of the present facility. On August 12, 1889 the contract was signed and the new church was finished in the fall of 1890 at a cost of about $7000. The Mitchell Street parsonage was purchased in October 1895.
Improvements were made to the church at various times: In 1904 a room was built in the basement under the old lecture room; In 1913 the steam heating replaced the hot air furnace; In 1915 the addition was built on the west side of the church. In 1950 a two manual Moller organ with twelve ranks of pipes was installed at a cost of $24,000. Memorial chimes were added in 1951. Ross Stoakes Jr. has served as organist since 1944. Other organists were Gertrude Fairbairn and Eleanor Moyer.
Twenty-nine ministers have led the United Methodist congregation in its 100 years of serving Christ in Petoskey. The history of the United Methodist Church of Petoskey is the story of many devout and faithful members, who have labored tirelessly that the church might succeed in the field for which it was created.
A Little History
Written for the Building Campaign in 2002
By Deb Cole
I want to take you back, back to August 22, 1970. 8½ acres of land was purchased in Bear Creek Township from James and Sophie Miles of Harbor Springs for $55,000 deeded to the United Methodist Church of Petoskey. It was 10 years before the church felt prepared both spiritually and fiscally to build on this site.
Then in 1975 a wonderful thing happened.... God blessed the United Methodist Church of Petoskey with a new minister; Rev Don Merrill and wife Ardis. Through their carful guidance and nurturing, the church began to grow and prosper. Adult classes were exploding and worship attendance was at an all-time high. Some of you may remember the steep steps to the adult classroom that were very difficult to manouevre, and the fellowship hall and kitchen, that once seemed adequate, but now had become small in regards to the congregation it had to hold. We were literally bursting at the seams. Praise God for his faithfulness to our church family. By the late 70's this realization was at hand and a new building committee was formed, chaired by Russ Nelson and Nick Webber.
Some questioned the timing as economic times were bleak. Interest rates were high although they were slowly coming down. With a strong faith that God would guide us, a building fund of $190,000 was raised; the old building was sold for $125,000 and a balance of 30,000 was in the general fund. This left the church with a mortgage balance of $400,000 to finance and a faithful congregation to see it through. Their strong belief paid off in just 7 years when the mortgage commitment was fulfilled, and our church has remained debt-free.
Flash forward to 1981 to the first space shuttle flight, the first women elected to the Supreme court and IBM PC Computers being introduced for the first time. The final service was held at the downtown church on November 9, 1981. A procession by foot to the top of the hill was held, led by Tom Woherman, and ended at our present site. A vision had been realized and God had truly blessed his family of believers.
God has blessed us with strong leadership throughout the years.
Ahead to 1998, we are now called the Petoskey United Methodist Church, with James and Michelle Mitchum called by God to us. Through their loving guidance and nurturing, and with God’s help, a very faithful church again begins to grow and prosper. We have, in the last 3 years had a 34% growth in worship attendance. Our adult small group attendance has grown by 145%. We are again bursting at the seams... praise God again for his continued faithfulness to our congregation. We have no steep stairs to climb to reach our classes, but we have, on any given night, had to have classes in the cry room, double offices for classrooms and music groups practice where a spot can be found. Some again question the timing, as we all know economics are not so steady. We, through much prayer and with a strong faith that God has been our focus and guide, we have come up with a vision. Through the hearts of his believers, pledges to date are over $575,000. Our property is still paid off, leaving us with a balance of $800,000 to finance. Just to put things in a now and then perspective, at an inflation rate of approximately 3-4% over 20 years our $400,000 then, closely equates to our $800,000 today. God has been so faithful to our family at the Petoskey United Methodist Church; He has worked through this congregation to touch so many lives. He has great things for us to accomplish, and if we keep him as our focus we will continue to grow as we follow his footsteps leading us on.
Alumni Lawn Party (June 1904)
Methodist Bible Class (About 1910)
Eveready Sunday School Class (1932)
First Methodist Church Building
First Methodist Church Sanctuary
Current United Methodist Church Building