Idaho History: Boise's Methodists build a church of their own in 1874

IDAHO HISTORY

SPECIAL TO THE STATESMANMay 12, 2013 

The Idaho Tri-weekly Statesman announced to its readers on August 27, 1874 that "The M.E. Society of this city will next week break ground for their new church edifice. It is intended to have it ready for use before cold weather sets it."

Rev. J.A. Van Anda, successor to Rev. R.M. Guinn, had arrived by stagecoach a few days earlier and preached his first sermon to a large audience in Good Templar Hall. The Statesman said "The gentleman is a fluent, pleasant speaker, of good address, and we predict for him a host of friends who will make him feel indeed that 'his lines are drawn in pleasant places.'" Rev. Guinn had raised much of the money for the new brick church that was to be built at the corner of Eighth and Bannock Streets, where the Hoff Building stands today,

Of the new church the paper said "Captain Munson, who is an excellent architect, has drawn the plans for the Methodist church about to be erected in our city. The building will be 55 feet long by 35 feet wide. The tower 12 feet square at the base and about 68 feet high stands on the southeast corner of the front of the building, projecting half its size each way. The general style of the architecture is Gothic. "

The contract for the construction was let for a total of $5,855, $3,015 of it for the masonry, and $2,480 for the carpenter work, painting and finishing. George Ellis began hauling stone for the foundation a few days later. When the cornerstone was laid in early October it contained "a copy of Holy Scriptures, one copy of the discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a list of the names of the ministers of the Territory, a list of the official members of the church in Boise City…and such other articles as may be contributed by citizens, appropriate to be deposited in the cornerstone."

On Oct. 6, 1874, the paper printed the full text of the dedicatory address delivered by Territorial Gov. Thomas W. Bennett, a man later remembered by Gov. James Hawley as "one of the most jovially reckless gentleman who ever sat in a gubernatorial chair." Although nearly all Methodists abstained totally from alcoholic drinks, Tom Bennett certainly didn't. However, his speech that day was well-received by the large crowd.

Bricklaying began at once, and by Oct. 29 the walls had reached a height of 12 feet. An interesting detail of the method of construction was that "the outside tier of walls is put up with lime and the inside one with mud, leaving a space of two inches between walls, the thickness of which is 14 inches. The frames of the windows of the main body of the building are all in place. Chandeliers, lamps, and stained glass in sash, ready to be put up, are now on their way from Chicago. There are five brick masons, three carpenters and four common laborers employed on the building. We also notice that there are three buttresses on each side of the church, which not only add strength, but beauty to the appearance of this temple of God, which is to be the handsomest structure in Idaho."

"The Brick Church" was the headline for a Feb. 20, 1875 story about the new building, an adequate headline since this was the first and only brick church in the city. In March "the window frames and glass having arrived for the M.E. Church, they are being put in place by Mr. Ellis. The glass is stained and of beautiful design. The ceiling is also being painted, and ere long Boise City will have one of the finest churches this side of the Rocky Mountains."

In 1904, a new First Methodist Church was built at the corner of 10th and State Streets. It too is long gone, replaced by today's Cathedral of the Rockies at 11th and Hays streets.

Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email histnart@mindspring.com.

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