Church Photos

Early History of CUMC Oakdale, by N.M. Parsons (written Sept. 19, 1954)

{ Author's Note: The history of a church written with the proper emphasis should be perhaps a statement of the Christian growth that has come to individuals and a community because of the Church. However, this most important matter is not to be arrived at satisfactorily and this paper will treat with the exterior and objective evidences which usually measure the spiritual effect the Church has on a community. In treating these objective evidences, many factors only indirectly connected with the church play a leading part and must be considered if a true picture is to be offered. Accordingly, this historic sketch will contain statements concerning both clergy and laymen and something as to church buildings and parsonages, and some comparisons expressing church growth. }

Mr. A.J. Coffee, a prominent citizen of early days reported just before his death, "that he organized the first Sunday School in Stanislaus County in 1865, and that it met under the trees at Burneyville, and that Reverend Pansy was the first Methodist Episcopal Pastor, and held services near Burneyville". Then Oakdale consisted of "one old shack" surrounded by a solid forest of white oaks and live oaks. Burneyville has faded from its location on the north side of Riverbank about where the road leads to the river bridge.

In 1875, 10 years after Mr. Coffee's statement, the Sunday School was meeting in the old one room two story schoolhouse where Purity Store is now located. Here Mrs. Levi Wood, mother of A.T. Wood, Mrs. Jerry Kerr, Mrs. Andy Campbell and Mrs. J.W. Whitney taught the Christian Gospel to a generation that has largely passed.

In 1880, W.D. Crabb appeared on the Burneyville Circuit of which Oakdale was a part. The Reverend Mr. Crabb is somewhat shrouded in mystery. The first front page news concerning him was when he taught school at Langworth in a two story brick building near the former I.C. Hubbs ranch on the Modesto highway. He flogged an unruly Ora Snediger, and father R.R. Snediger demonstrated vigorously at the school, threatening to flog teacher Crabb and have him arrested. From this good start, Mr. Crab entered the Ministry.

It is not evident whether the Rev. Crabb was at first appointed to the Burneyville Circuit by church officials or was elevated from his late dilema by his fellow church laymen. However in 1881, he was appointed regularly to the Burneyville Circuit including Oakdale and Knights Ferry. He held services in the old schoolhouse until the Union Church was built in 1882. During this period, plans were in operation for building the Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of Third Avenue and G Street. At least four persons of our present membership attended the first Sunday School Christmas Exercises in 1884, namely: A.T. Wood, Mrs. Minnie Ordway, N.M. Parsons and Mrs. Minnie Barker. When this church was completed in 1883, the Trustees officiating were Marian Cottle of East Oakdale, and N.F. Ordway, (husband of Mrs. Minnie Ordway), C.W. Eardley, father of beautiful daughters and Stanford Baker, Editor of the Oakdale Graphic, whose two sons, Tom and Hugh became clergymen. Hugh served in the California Conference for many years. His wife and a Mrs. W. T Kerr are sisters.

W.D. Crabb, 1881 to 1884 was followed by D.W. Chilson 1884 to 1886. There is a persistent laugh among the oldest members over a frequent remark by Mrs. Chilson, "that she just loved to quarrel with her husband about once a week because it was such a wonderful pleasure to make up."

Joseph R. Wolfe followed in 1886 to 1888. During his pastorate, the first parsonage, an insufficient little house, was purchased at the southeast corner of Fifth Avenue and G Street.

The fourth pastorate was Solomon Kinsey, 1888 to 1903. He was the first pastor to endure for five years. He was followed by A. Holbrook, 1893 to 1896. The Epworth League room was added to the church during this period.

The Reverend Hugh Copeland was the first pastor to serve one year, 1896 to 1897.

Richard Rodda, was the second pastor to serve five years, 1897 to 1902. During his years the old parsonage was sold and a new one was built at 232 South Second Avenue at a cost of $800 besides volunteer labor.

Some highly qualified men followed, including Carl M. Warner, 1902 to 1904, father of Mrs. Lois Winston, and a later District Superintendent; A.J. Case, a Ph.D. from Boston, 1904 to 1906; and J.U. Simmons, 1906 to 1908. Especially sound in thought and judgment, W.C. Howard, 1908 to 1909, was the second pastor to stay one year. He was followed by N.M. Parsons, 1909 to 1911, who was appointed to the charge some weeks after Conference. The salary was raised from $800 to $1,000 for his second years. During his pastorate, 52 persons were received into the Church. A local option campaign was conducted by the men of the church which resulted in voting the saloons out of Oakdale by a majority of four votes. It is interesting to note that after the women were given the ballot, another Local option was initiated by the opposition and the Drys won again by only three votes.

In 1910, Samuel Kaufman and the pastor purchased from E.C. Crawford, the old Union Church, then called the Christian Church. Described as lots 1,3,5,and 7 in block 1 of Hill and Potter's Western Addition to the Town of Oakdale, for $1,000, to be paid when the money could be raised. Among the first subscribers to this fund were Samuel Kaufman, A.F. Gilbert, A.T. Wood, C.C. Turner, J.W. Crane, Howard C White, F Nelson, J.G. Land and L. Holverson. The deed was issued by Mr. Crawford on June 30, 1911 with the reservation that the building be kept in good repairs and be used for religious purposes or revert to the seller. A.F. Gilbert in the meantime had purchased Lot 9 which adjoins the church on the south from Clara Murray and this lot included as a gift from Mr. Gilbert in the deed of lots 1,3,5,7, and 9, from A.F. Gilbert to A.T. Wood, A.F. Gilbert, Samuel Kaufman, Byron Seeber, Robert Davies, T.J. McLain, F.O Bradford, S. Turpin and Howard C White as Trustees of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Oakdale, subject to the discipline, usage and ministerial appointments of said church, and if sold the proceeds were to be disposed of and used in accordance with the provisions of said Discipline.

Another old deed, dated February 10, 1915, states that on October 10, 1906, E.H. Gatlin conveyed to J.B. Stearns, A.F. Gilbert, Levi Wood, Charles Eardley, N.F. Ordway and J.C. Laughlin, 330 acres of land near Farmington, and that J.B. Stearns, A.F. Gilbert and J.C. Laughlin are the only survivors of the Trustees of 1906, and that they are empowered to sell said 330 acres and apply the proceeds for the benefit of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Oakdale.

Fay Donaldson was pastor from 1911 to 1914 and during this period some funds were raised as the church had visions of a new building.

The first chapter of our history, centering around the church at Third and G street had passed and the next chapter will be narrated shortly.

Frank C Farr, 1915 to 1920 was the third pastor to serve five years, and the church now considered it was time to start the new building "Paul planted and Appollis watered, but God gave the increase". The building and the timing of the present church dates back to 1852 when a boy in Tennessee longed for an education and his father arbitrarily insisted that he stay at home and work. The boy left home and helped to drive a herd of cattle across the plains to California. Upon arriving, he threshed grain and hauled freight and thereby accumulated ranches at Oakdale and at Farmington. His vision of the better life had not dulled. About 1900 he came in contact with a wonderful man, Rev. Richard Rodda, then pastor, who helped him accept the Christian Way as his way. Out of gratitude for this wonderful uplift that had come to him, Mr. Gatlin deeded to the Church in 1906, 330 acres of land near Farmington which was sold later for $10,000. Mr. Gatlin, as Paul, had planted in a very effective manner.

The final touch of beauty which makes the church outstanding was added by an unknown artist. J. H. Stepp, who A. T. Wood and party contacted in Turlock. Mr. Stepp had placed the stone facing on several churches and longed to express his art and enjoy his work again. It took him two years to put the stone facing on our church and he asked as his only pay simple food and a place to sleep. History tells that when Sir Christopher Wren completed St. Paul's Cathedral in London, the worshipful people had inscribed over the North Door, "if you would see his monument, look around." A similar honor is due to Artist Stepp.

Following Frank C. Farr, who was the third pastor to serve five years, there were talented pastors and faithful laymen who labored together to develop the present church. The pastors were Joseph Carpenter, 1921 to 1923, F. D. Dawson, 1923 to 1924, F. D. Conway, 1924 to 1925, Harry Pressfield, 1924 to 1927, H. J. Catterall, 1927 to 1929, A. J. Kennedy, 1929 to 1932, Horace Allen, 1932 to 1934, Amon Cottingham, 1934 to 1935, Roy Wilson, 1938 to 1941, T. J. Carter, 1941 to 1944 and C. Merl Clark, 1944 to 1949.

During Rev. Clark's pastorate the old parsonage at 232 Second Avenue was sold and another at 136 South First Avenue was bought, enlarged and repaired at a cost of $14,000. Rev. Clark Mrs. Ella Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Fager and Mrs. C.C. Turner served as the parsonage Committee.

Early in 1949, the church organ was purchased from First Church in Modesto, remade and installed by the California Organ Company of Los Angeles at a cost of $5,945. The organ has eleven sets of pipes and Maas Chimes, and was made possible by the heavy gifts of D. E. Wood and the Kaufman Brothers who gave the Chimes in memory of their parents, Mr. And Mrs. Samuel Kaufman. Richard Stokes, Robert Washburn and Mrs. Grace Little served as the Organ Committee.

Over the years the organ seemed to serve as a source of inspiration to the entire church and especially to the choir. The choir under the efficient leadership of T. S. Pendergrass, Leroy Faber and Richard Stokes has developed into a very definite part of our morning worship and has developed an inspirational elevation among musical groups.

A short comparison to indicate the development of the church; during the pastorate of Roy Wilson, 1938 to 1941, the church was considered prosperous. There were 260 members, and his salary was 1800 and house. At the present time, there are 462 members, the salary is 3800 and 1400 to provide help for the home.

When the new church was dedicated, July 29, 1917, the Building Committee was Frank C. Farr, A. F. Gilbert, A. T. Wood, C. E. Wood, and Samuel Kaufman, and the Trustees, Samuel Kaufman, A. F. Gilbert, A. T. Wood, L. I. Lundy, Byron Seeber, E. M. Kimball and C. E. Wood. The church had cost $20,000 and was dedicated free of debt by Bishop Adna Wright Leanard, with Carl M. Warner as the District Superintendent.

Incorporation: Since the beginning, our church, like a young lady lately married, has had difficulty with the name. Apparently the first name was Burneyville Circuit. On September 11, 1914, we were incorporated as the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Oakdale, But on July 29, 1917, the church was dedicated as the Methodist Episcopal Church. Upon the union of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the South Methodist Church in 1939, the Episcopal name was naturally dropped, and at the July 1954 meeting of the Official Board, action was taken to assume the name of Community Methodist Church, and Mr. Dave Bush was requested to incorporate accordingly. Eventually we will know just what our incorporated married name is to be.

The highest praise belong to many groups and individuals who have been laborers together to build a church. The Ladies Aid Society and the Women's Society of Christian Service, the Sunday School, from C.E. Wood in 1917 to Henry Helt in 1954. But all of this is another story and too extended to be included.

It would not be factual to close this paper without a short account of the pastorate of the Rev. F. E. Raymond.

Beginning in 1949, and ending, as George Ackley humorously suggested, at a dates 17 years hence, our pastor seems to be a a combination of those elements which make him an excellent preacher and pastor and a favorite among townspeople in general. During his pastorate up to June, 1954, 260 persons have been added to the church, giving a present membership of 462. Finances have been such, including $5,024.90 paid on the Reserve Pension Fund, as to make this an all time high.

A miracle has been wrought in our midst, in that in 1952, the Rev. Raymond lost his eye sight but did not lose his vision. Under proper arrangements he has continued his work in the church and in the community so that it is difficult to make a stranger believe that he does not see. When this tragedy occurred, the best thought of our laymen was the effect that it would be a calamity for him to change at that time to a new work, so finances were raised to provide help in the home so that the very versatile Mrs. Raymond might act as his helper in the office and in visitation.

It was soon learned that this remarkable Mrs. Raymond could play baseball at a picnic like a professional, handle finances like a banker, type and file like and office official, drive like Jehu, (II Kings 9:20) visit like a lover and at the same time hold in her heart her four sons and daughter even as the old Roman Matron, who being shown fine jewels by other women, turned to her children and said, "These are my jewels". May the Good Lord preserve her unconquerable Spirit and physical strength.