1862 was a worrisome time in our history. In the east the Civil War raged. In the west, wandering bands of Confederate and Union troops searched for gold and each other. The peace between the plains Indians and the settlers was an uneasy one. Into these uncertain times came pioneers ready to risk life and fortune for a new life, and not far behind came the Methodist Circuit Rider bringing the Word of God to the frontier people. The first meeting of any note was held in Pueblo, probably led by William Howbert, took place under a large cottonwood tree. Sources disagree as to the exact location of the tree, some placing it on Union Ave., others on South Santa Fe. Regardless, that first meeting was the beginning of organized Methodism in Pueblo. By 1866, the Methodists were able to form the First Methodist Church Organization with Rev. C. H. Kirkbride as pastor with 10 charter members.
They built an adobe building at 7th and Main, paying $3,872.19 for its construction. The small structure, unadorned and with rough benches for pews, served members until 1884. A new brick building was begun at 9th and Main. The new building was used in an unfinished state for a number of years but when completed, boasted a large steeple with a bell to call people to worship. By 1890, First Church could claim over 200 active members. The structure once again could no longer meet the needs of its members. On New Year’s Day, 1923, ground was broken for the present building at 11th and Court.
This was to be a completely modern complex including Sunday School rooms, gymnasium, large dining hall, tea rooms, kitchens, parlor, office, pastor’s study, plus the beautiful and inspiring place of worship. The sanctuary dedication was held on January 27th, 1924.
With over 700 registered for Sunday school, classes were being held throughout the building. It was proving to be a much needed acquisition. The problem with new buildings is they must be paid for. The members of First Church were able to burn the mortgage on November 4, 1945, 22 years after the ground had been broken.
Considerable credit for the payment of the debt is given to the Women’s Organization. The church never had a large number of wealthy members to count on, and when the church had been used only a short time the Great Depression struck the country. The women of the church, realizing times were hard, decided to take advantage of their location, their building, and their talents. They opened a cafeteria to serve the high school across the street (old Centennial), the court house employees, and people who frequented the downtown business district. Lunch consisted of 5 and 10 cent items!
One woman who worked most diligently to help reduce the debt was Mrs. A. S. Booth. Though a wealthy woman, she came daily to the church to give leadership and to take her place along the service line in the cafeteria. Booth Hall was named in her honor.
By the 1950’s, it had become apparent that First Church needed to expand. A contract was let in July, 1958, for the erection of a new educational building. This building on 11th and Grand is 2 stories high and contains classrooms and Church School office.
It was dedicated on May 30, 1959, by Bishop Glenn R. Phillips. A severe hail storm hit as the dedication began. The Methodists of First Church came from sturdy stock and were not intimidated by the storm. By the singing of “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” and “There Shall be Showers of Blessing” the day was turned to one of joy!
Today, First Church is still celebrating the “vision” of its pioneer founders. We look to a future of continued growth, both physically – in size of membership and our beautiful building – and spiritually, to meet the needs of our congregation by sharing the Word of God through our prayers, our presence, our gifts, and our service.
Through the years, many pastors have faithfully served our church. They are remembered here.