Historical Highlights of
the First United Methodist Church of Upland
We are called by God to be the church.
Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The Beginnings: 1889-1910
Early in 1889, a few members of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Ontario, under the advice and counsel of their pastor, Reverend J.B. Green, began mission work among the Chinese. Shortly after, a series of cottage meetings was held, and services continued until the winter of 1895. During part of 1890-91, these meetings were held at the residence of Brother J. S. Marr, and were led by Mrs. Hemus, an evangelist of ability and power. Soon a room was secured for these meetings in the rear part of the Stowell building at Eighth Street and Second Avenue.
For several years thereafter, we retained our membership with the Methodist Church, permission was granted to the resident members of North Ontario (soon to be called Upland), to proceed to erect a Chapel building suitable for the needs of the brethren in the young, but rapidly growing town.
Two choice lots on Euclid Avenue and C Street were secured at a nominal value, a building committee was appointed, and the erection of the building soon began. The brethren and friends contributed with marked liberality to the enterprise, and in June, 1898, the Chapel was dedicated, practically debt-free, at a cost of $1,300.00. During the winter of 1900/01 another lot to the south was obtained, which soon contained the church’s parsonage.
On October 1, 1899, the First Methodist Episcopal Church of North Ontario was formally organized with 81 charter members. By June, 1905, the membership numbers totaled 188 people with 15 probationers. To demonstrate how quickly the church membership grew, 15 months later, there were 291 official members.
In a tradition that still exists today, in 1905 Brother P.E. Waltine donated a bell to be placed in the tower of the sanctuary and rung before each Sunday Service.
Church Growth: 1910-40
After a two-year deep freeze which affected crops throughout the southland, Reverend Charles Wentworth led the church through a recovery, beginning in 1915. The church, town, and surrounding areas were saved by a good crop of oranges that year, allowing the First MEC of Upland to satisfy most, if not of its debt resulting from the freeze of 1913.
The construction of the Education Building was completed in 1917, and named Crowell Hall after Frank C. Crowell, a longtime active member of the church and superintendent of the Sunday School for many years. The hall had a kitchen and dining rooms in the basement, which hosted many celebratory and fundraising dinners throughout the years. The kitchen and dining room are no longer in existence, but the hall still houses meetings for self-help groups and the Boy Scouts, as well as Adult Bible classes and other church functions.
By late 1927, Reverend Stavely was appointed to the Upland church and began planning for the construction of a new sanctuary. He started the first subscription to raise the money, but at the time the congregation considered the plan too costly. It wasn’t until 1931, with the appointment of Dr. Irvin Engle to the pulpit, that the building plan was resumed. In September, 1931, the cornerstone for what is now the current sanctuary was laid, and church services were held in Crowell Hall while the new building was under construction. The new sanctuary was dedicated in November, 1932 at the cost of $45,000 and opened free of debt. Three years later, the original pipe organ was installed. By 1936, membership had increased to 519 people.
Membership continued to balloon throughout the rest of the decade, and by 1939, membership fluctuated between 750-800 congregants. Not only was the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Upland growing in physical size and membership, so was the whole of Methodism. Like many other Protestant churches, the Methodist Church has had its share of divisions, mergers, and other disagreements.
Since 1830, the Methodist Church had two major splits, one in 1830 over the role of laity participating in the decision-making of the church, and another in 1844 over the issue of slavery and the power of bishops. In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Methodist Protestant Church merged to create the Methodist Church after many years of negotiating and smoothing out past disagreements.
As we are two decades into our second century, the First United Methodist Church of Upland continues to serve its community, tend to its flock, and love and worship our Lord.
*Information compiled by Steven Dugan, FUMC Upland Historian, 2022, from the 100th Anniversary Book, published in 2000