Baldwin Methodist Beginnings

The people called Methodists have been pioneers in America ever since they held that first Christmas Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784. They were the first church to congratulate George Washington on becoming the President of the new Republic.

So when the Midwest began to take shape into an outline of states, the Methodists were there to help open the new territories to settlement. Methodist preachers, called “circuit riders”, were mandated and commissioned by our founding father, John Wesley, and the newly-established Methodist Episcopal Church in America, “to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.”

By the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, May 30, 1854, the Kansas Territory was opened for settlement. Methodism was swift to take advantage of the new opportunity. Promptly, June 3, 1854, Bishop Edward R. Ames appointed William H. Goode of Indiana to explore the possibilities for Methodism in Arkansas and Kansas. The overland journey was hard, but Goode was purposeful. On July 9, he arrived at Hickory Point accompanied on the last leg of his trip by Dr. Abraham Still and Friend Mendenhall. They appeared at Kibbee’s cabin, unannounced, but were heartily welcomed.

To a few hastily gathered settlers, Goode preached from the text of Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (KJ Version Bible)

Dr. Goode’s sermon warmed settlers’ hearts. His optimistic prediction that the “Iron Horse” (railway connections) would come soon encouraged them almost equally. Some of the settlers, we are told, were called away to protect their livestock from wolves during this historic meeting.

By October 23, 1856, the newly-formed Kansas-Nebraska Conference designated the Palmyra Class as a charge, with A. L. Downey preacher in charge. By April, 1857, it was part of the four-point circuit of Nathaniel Taylor.

In April, 1857, Palmyra is recorded as the name of the circuit; in 1858, the charge was called Baldwin City and made a station (which meant it stood alone as a church). However, later, for short periods the Baldwin Church was listed as part of a circuit (which means two or more congregations are being served by the same pastor). In March, 1860, our congregation was honored by giving the name to a District–The Baldwin District–which it kept until 1873.

The late Dr. Irene Murphy, English professor at Baker, captured the essence of those early days:

“Our own Baldwin Methodist Church is rooted in the frontier. To understand its origins we need to know frontier life. See it. Feel it in our bones and hearts. Share its excitement, hardship, sacrifice and faith. Salute its Free-State stalwarts. Learn how they survived, and how some of them began the church with which we are entrusted.

We need to understand what it was like to travel down the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850's, and why so many hopeful villages cropped up along the trails, bloomed and faded away– Palmyra, Prairie City and others. How did struggling Methodists succeed in founding a college here, with preparatory school, when eager churches in neighboring villages failed in such hopes?

Why did Baldwin City, founded a few years later than some nearby settlements, outlast, and even absorb, some of them?

CAN YOU IMAGINE . . . . . ?

Cast your mind back to the early 1850's. You stand on Signal Oak hill. Not a cabin in sight. Over there to the east, just two struggling would-be settlers staking out their claims, and one of them pegging off a place where he may manage to build a little cabin.

What else do you see in this tall-grass timbered country? Dream Of? Fear? Pray for?

Can you imagine, when that little cabin a few rods to the east is built, how momentous it will be for local Methodists - site of the first sermon, and planning ground for Baker University?”


News Flash

Last Sunday of the Month


One worship service only

10:45 a.m. Blended Worship

Traditional Service at 8:30

We have added a traditional worship service at 8:30 on Sunday mornings. Our 10:45 service is still a contemporary/blended service. Come and join us for worship!

Food Pantry
A reminder that there is an increasing need for donations to the Food Pantry.  We are serving 100-plus persons each week.

Contact Information


704 8th St.
PO Box 25
Baldwin City, KS 66006




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