A Brief History of the Clare United Methodist Church

The First Sermon

The first sermon in our Clare settlement was preached by a Methodist itinerant preacher in Brother George W. Boorn's log house in 1871. This circuit was traveled by Rev. William Riley, assigned probably to the Rockford Circuit. (Each circuit was 150 to 400 miles around with from 24 to 40 preaching points, each circuit having two preachers.) Clare and Farwell were called the Farwell Circuit.

The Clare Settlement

The Clare Settlement that Rev. Riley came to in 1871 was a rough, pioneering settlement, a logging camp owned by William McEwan. It was cutover land, left with stumps and a few scraggly trees, saloons and boarding houses, a railroad track and a trail from Chippewa reservation to Houghton Lake. George Boorn, owner of the cabin where the early church met, was a sawmill operator. There were at one time 150 logging camps operating within 10 miles of Clare. The area grew and changed quickly. In 1871 Clare County was organized. In 1872 the little Methodist Episcopal congregation, having outgrown the log house, met in the wooden school house where the Clare City Hall now stands. A couple of years later they were invited to hold services in the new Congregational Church.

The First Church

In 1878 J.C. Rockafellow traveled to Bay City and requested some land from the McEwans for a church. J.C. Rockafellow supervised the clearing of trees and stumps on the two lots and also the building of a 24' by 66' frame church. Most labor was donated by members and interested friends. They also donated stained glass windows that have been incorporated into our present church. In 1878 a Sunday School constitution was adopted. In 1881 an "entertainment" was planned to raise money for a bell for the belfry. In 1885 another lot was requested of, and given by, the McEwans for a parsonage to be built.

Growing Years

Ministers came and went frequently in those early days, serving only a year or two. An organ in the church needed to be pumped by foot. 1889-91 saw a Sunday School orchestra–2 violins, one cornet and the organ. 1889 saw the "Other Aid," a younger group of women formed to raise money, equip and maintain the building, have bazaars and suppers. The "Other Aid" and the Ladies Aid later became the Ladies Auxiliary. In 1892 They raised money for a new carpet for the aisles and a new organ, a pipe organ pumped by hand. That year the Epworth League, a youth group, was organized. In 1898 and 99 Roy Husted was converted and became the first member of our congregation to become a minister. He preached only one year before contracting typhoid fever and dying. Also, Matie McKinley was the first from our congregation to become a missionary. She taught and mothered Indian boys in India for 5 years. In 1900 ministers began staying longer, about 4 to 5 years.

Building a New Church

In 1908 Rev. Quinton Walker arrived. He fought hard to get rid of the saloons in the county at much personal sacrifice. The congregation was outgrowing its building, so in 1910, to build a new church, the old one was split down the middle. A new section running east to west was built through the middle. The outside of the new church was dark red brick with a lower part of stone. The old bell was installed in the belfry. Tiffany windows were ordered from New York. In 1915-16 the Epworth League names included Emma Jennings (Sager), Fannie Corbin (Yoeman), and Nettie Hackmuth (Holbrook). The Ladies Auxiliary sponsored a comedy given in the Clare High School and then a Biblical drama. In 1939 all women's groups became the Women's Society of Christian Service, and the youth group became known as Methodist Youth Fellowship. In 1948 the United Methodist Men began during Rev. Charles Hahn's tenure. This had a stimulating effect on the church. More people began to attend. They had fish and pancake suppers to earn money for projects. Their supper was the same night as the women's bazaar.

The Easter Pageant Began

In 1950 the Easter Pageant was begun and was given each year for 10 years. It was taken to Warriner Auditorium on the CMU campus the last few years. This was during Rev. Leslie Nevin's tenure. In 1951-52 the basement of the church was renovated, as was the old parsonage.

A New Parsonage Was Built

In 1955 a new parsonage was built, and an addition to the church, providing class rooms and a new kitchen, was completed in 1958. In 1958 Farwell got its own minister, separating the old two-point charge of Clare and Farwell. In 1961 Rev. Salisbury started our first church camp, taking place in Pentwater. In 1964 The bell tower of the church was dismantled as it was leaning and had rotted timbers. In 1968 the Living Nativity Pageant, suggested by Mrs. Ruth Stirling, began during Rev. Winegar's time here. Also a new Allen organ was purchased. In 1970 the Camp Albright family camp tradition was begun. A Sunday School newsletter, the Candlelight, was begun, in order to raise Sunday School attendance. In 1973 Rev. Donald Winegar's heart problems forced him to leave the ministry earlier than expected. Rev. William Martin arrived. In 1974 the Methodist Men purchased a bus. In 1975 Mrs. Leah Garchow was honored at a churchmanship dinner. By this time it had been realized that a new church was needed. Money was pledged.

A New Church

In 1976 was a ground breaking for the new church. Additional land adjacent to the church had been purchased. In 1977 the church was completed while Rev. Martin was here. In 1987 Sharon Snapp, who grew up in our congregation, was graduated from seminary in Claremont, CA. She was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1990. In the 1980's we developed and sent out invitational letters to the community four times a year and also attempted developing small groups according to geography. We began inviting the community to our Vacation Bible School.

A New Parsonage

In 1992 a new parsonage was begun, built several blocks from the church, while Rev. Gene Lewis was here. Pastor and Mrs. Greg Wolfe were the first to live in it. During the tenure of a full-time music and education director, Matt Packer, we had yearly ecumenical choir presentations, joining with several other local churches. In 1995 and 96 we tried a Saturday evening contemporary service which lasted for about 6 months. The Rosebush pastor, Mark Payne, helped with this endeavor. Several of our church leaders traveled to the Willow Creek Church in Illinois for seminars about building church congregations. With the old parsonage left vacant, the congregation began a day care in the old parsonage which serves many children. In 1998 His Helping Hands, a men's group, began. They have had yard sales and dinners to raise money for various projects. They have helped people move and helped single people who need simple repairs and they now are sending money to Zimbabwe for supporting two orphans. In recent years we have seen our own members take part in mission trips, especially several medical missions to Nuevo Progresso. In 2001 and 2002 we have led having a music tent providing religious music in the park during Summerfest. In 2002 we began the Alpha program, a Wednesday evening basic Christianity class with supper provided. Other groups have been added for youth, children and adults.