History of Alvarado United Methodist Church
In the early fall of 1849, at a Methodist camp meeting across the state line in Ohio, a young man of 19 years gave his heart to God. From this humble act came forth chain of events bringing us to the present time.
This young man was Enos Church. During the following year, 1850, he fought a long, hard battle with himself, trying to decide whether to become a United Brethren or a Methodist minister. Here, an interesting sidelight to our church history develops. Enos P. Church, early that year, had married Elizabeth Thomas, daughter of a famous United Brethren minister, Jonathon Thomas. Ohio history books state that Rev. Thomas was called "Father Thomas" there and had a circuit extending from Maumee, Ohio, on Lake Erie, across Indiana to St. Joseph, Michigan, and that he brought into the church over 5000 people. Rev. Thomas came from the Black Swamp of Ohio, with the rush of pioneer settlers, to Richland Township in 1836, bringing with him his wife and 10 talented children and located on land now part of the Raymond Wilson farm in the south end of the township. About 10 years later they came to Alvarado to live. A book written by his son, Rev. Fletcher Thomas, states that his father, Rev. Thomas, gave the land to Enos P. Church upon which to build a church. John Douglas made the first land entry from the government in the township on October 11, 1835 . . . an 80 acre tract from the northwest corner of what was the Douglas farm . . . and was deeded from John Douglas to Enos P. Church, April 6, 1851. Rev. Thomas' residence was directly in back of the church, and then, later, another son-in-law, John Holt, had land from both properties for the store on the corner. Therefore, the supposition is that the land was all purchased at the same time and separate deeds were made.
Though Rev. Thomas was a United Brethren, he was much an admirer of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist Church, and he named one of his sons John Wesley Thomas. Rev. Thomas died at 86 years at his son's home in Hamilton and is buried in the Alvarado cemetery.
Enos P. Church, after winning his battle and becoming a Methodist minister, went quickly to work. He was a carpenter by trade, so he led the construction work on the church, and it was soon completed. It looked very much as it does today, having no steeple at that time. The steeple and belfry were added just after 1900 when remodeling was done, adding new windows, pews and seats at the same time. Alfred Bender, who operated the store, was the carpenter employed at that time. On September 8, 1853, the church and land were deeded to the Methodist Conference by Enos P. Church and his wife, Elizabeth. The church trustees were Calvin Morley, John Douglas, Samuel Baker and William Carey. In 1857, when land was sold off for store property, the trustees were the same, except Albert Morley had replaced his father Calvin, and Jacob Sams' name had been added.
As the years passed, the church grew and was very active, having at one time over 200 members. Earlier, there was a tiny log church on the corner across the road from our present church, built by whom it is not known. Rev. John Stealy, a Baptist from Angola, was supposed to have been the first preacher there. The Baptists were the first religious service in the township in 1836 in the Jackman settlement, on what is now the Emery Buell farm. Later, Rev. Boyd, first Methodist circuit rider in this area, used this building also. It had probably passed into Methodist hands when the Baptist joined with a group at Pleasant Lake. The tiny log church was torn down when our present church was completed.
Richland Center, as the crossroads was then named, flourished and became quite a burgh or village. This name continued until the post office came. There was another town in the state by that name, so Richland Center became Alvarado. How the name Alvarado originated or came about is not known. The store started by John Holt came soon after the church. The Alvarado High School, a two story building, stood east on the hill across from the cemetery and was quite famous during Civil War times and for a long time after. South of the corners, there was a cabinet shop owned by Orris Perkins, an early member of the church. Many pieces of furniture made by Perkins are still in use in homes in the vicinity. There was a sawmill close by, a blacksmith shop and more houses than today. So with the coming of the post office, Alvarado was a lively little place and the church grew and flourished with the village. After the church was firmly established in 1853, not much is known of the happenings for several years. There is no mention of a change of pastors, so without a doubt, Enos P. Church and his wife were among the last to go. They still owned part of the Thomas farm as late as 1880. Enos Church had a long and successful career as a Methodist minister, raised a family of six children and lived and preached in Iowa later in his life.
As the Methodist church grew in numbers, numerous changes had to be made, so in 1872, Alvarado was added to the Hamilton Circuit, and Rev. A. C. Patie became their pastor, followed by a long list of ministers who faithfully served the church.
Alvarado Church has continued to be a center of faith on through the years, although many changes have taken place. The charge of Hamilton/Alvarado was discontinued in 1960, and Alvarado became part of the York/Alvarado Charge until 1976. Alvarado was then a single charge with its own pastor until 1985. Conference made Butler Zion and Alvarado a charge, and they shared a pastor for one year. In 1986, Alvarado again became separate with its own pastor. In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church finalized several years of study and planning and merged into one body, to be called The United Methodist Church.
Over the years, the church building became too small, and in 1962, permission was given by the Hamilton Community School Board for the church to use the old Alvarado one-room schoolhouse for Sunday school classes, programs and parties. In 1962, the congregation felt they were ready to build an addition to the church. Plans were drawn and groundbreaking ceremonies were held on Mother's Day in 1963, with Pastors Guy and Miriam Jeffers. Rev. Kenneth Fast assumed the pastoral duties in June 1963, and the work on the addition was continued through the summer. All men, women and children worked together, and the addition was finished and dedicated in October 1963, with District Superintendent Donald Bailey. A new furnace was also installed in the sanctuary at the same time. The new fellowship addition included a kitchen and classroom space in the basement and fellowship and classroom space on the main floor. In the years following, other improvements were made, such as a lowered ceiling, recessed lighting, paneling, carpeting, restroom, ceiling fans, organ and new piano. In 1978, the Ed Strack family gave the church one acre of land to be used for parking, lawn and playground. In 1987, vinyl siding was installed on the main church building.
The women of the church have always had an important role in the church. Their talents have been combined for craftwork, and the proceeds from the bazaars have been used for local church and missions, both nationally and worldwide.