100th Anniversary Celebration

In the fall of 2009, the First United Methodist Church of Polson celebrated 100 years of mission and ministry in this valley… below, are some documents from that celebration.


Video Share….

A glimpse of Polson in the early years…

An overview of church history…

Construction of the First Church Building

Building the Church

The plans for a church building were set in motion at a meeting of the trustees on September 21, 1909.  Bids were let for an adequate structure, and on the 30th day of November, 1909, the following contract was signed:
“We the undersigned agree to furnish and build church as per plans and specifications drawn by M.B. Rife of Kalispell for $244.00 in addition to the former figure of $1,660.00 making a total of $1,904.00.”  (signed) Louis Bailey, J.E. Hern

The cornerstone for the church was laid on October 17, 1909.  The first pastor left in November of that year and the building operations were overseen by the trustees.

In May, 1910, another White appeared on the scene – the Rev. Edgar L. White came to serve the young Polson congregation.  He applied his unusual talents to pushing through the church project, and under his leadership, the church was completed and ready for dedication on July 5, 1910, the day after a gala Fourth of July celebration in the little town at the south end of Flathead Lake.

The church was well furnished on the inside for the occasion, including a pulpit donated by Montgomery Ward & Co., and Epworth Pipetone Euphonic oak-finished organ, new pews, chairs, and light fixtures.  This brought the total cost of the new structure to approximately $3,500.

Even boat service was provided on the day of dedication.  R. P. Smith preached the dedication sermon and $2,200 was subscribed – a remarkable achievement in those days.  Over 700 Indians were in town that summer day nearly 50 years ago, more than the number of whites, and the very air was ozonic with optimism.

The original church still stands and it now forms the south part of today’s building, where the sanctuary is located.  At that time, however, the sanctuary faced east instead of north, and the present sanctuary addition was used as a Sunday School room.

The first baptisms in the Polson congregation were on January 6, 1910, when Forrest and Carl Retz received Christian baptism from the Rev. O. A. White.  Four months earlier, in September of 1909, the Rev. H. H. Twyford held the first funeral.  The Rev. E. L. White performed the first Methodist wedding on August 2, 1910.

The Rev. A. D. Welch became pastor in the late summer of 1910.  Immediately they went to work on a parsonage and under his guidance, it was completed within a year.

Before the year 1910 went into the history books, a Ladies Aid Society, now called the Women’s Society of Christian Service, was well started with Mrs. Azora Mizell as the first president.  An Epworth League for youth, the forerunner of the present Methodist Youth Fellowship, also became active in this period.  Miss Jennie Norris was its first president.

Under the capable lay leadership of William E. Redd and his sisters, work was started in Valley View.  There was a Sunday School, church services and a Ladies Aid Society.  The latter was disbanded in 1913 and the others followed in later years as they were absorbed into the town church.  The Valley View Methodists were a great help to the young church.

First Protestant Church on Reservation

The Flathead Reservation was opened to settlement in 1910. The Rev. O. A. White, Superintendent of the Kalispell District, visited the little town of Polson on April 1, 1909, to discuss the possibility of establishing a church. Rev. White found that there were more Methodists in town than all the other Protestants combined. A Sunday School was organized immediately and met in the old Mansur Building
on Main Street.

The first pastor, the Rev. H. H. Twyford, arrived on September 1, 1909, and lived in a tent as did many of
the townspeople of that day. Two lots on which the church and parsonage now stand were purchased costing $600. The church was incorporated on October 16, 1909, and the official name would be “The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Polson.” Thus, our church became the first, and now the oldest, Protestant church on the Reservation.

The church was dedicated on July 5, 1910. The total cost of the building and furnishings was $3,500, $2,200 of which was pledged at the Dedication service, a remarkable sum for those days. The original church still stands, as it now forms the south part of today’s building where the sanctuary is located.

In 1911, the little church undertook to host the North Montana Annual Conference. The more than 75 delegates were housed in local homes and Conference headquarters were in the church and the Lake Hotel. The Sunday morning speaker was William Wesley Van Orsdel, known and loved throughout Montana as “Brother Van.”

By the middle of 1912, after three struggling but thrilling years, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Polson was on solid footing. The books indicate 84 members pioneered as Methodists in Polson.

In 1946, the name of the church was changed to “The First Methodist Church of Polson” when all Methodists of North America merged into one. In 1947, the Annex was finished and the sanctuary remodeled. In 1968, the name was changed again to “The First United Methodist Church” with the merger of the Methodist and the Evangelical United Brethren. The sanctuary was remodeled again in 1978.

Our congregation is moving ahead with renewed vigor and Christian commitment. We are a loving and caring congregation. Years ahead look bright and promising and with our Lord aiding us as in the past, we will continue to be an example of Christian love in our community.

The Polson Methodist Story

The Methodist Story – 1909-1911

Polson, Montana

Compiled  by   Bernice K. Apple

The attached story was compiled by Bernice K. Apple from the issues of  Polson’s first newspaper, “The Lake Shore Sentinel”   1909-1911

Read the Story

Editor’s note:  The Methodist story is an excerpt taken from a book I am compiling on the formative years of Polson, Montana, from the 1909-1911 issues of The Lake Shore Sentinel, which claimed to be the first newspaper on the Flathead Reservation, and was in existence from September, 1909 to September, 1911.  This is not a complete or historical account, only a compilation of facts as previously recorded.

Roster of Ministers

Roster of Appointed Clergy

1909………..  H. H. Twyford
1909 – 1910………..  Edgar L. White
1910 – 1913………..   A. D. Welch
1913 – 1917………..   O. A. White
1917 – 1921……….    Horace Turner
1921 – 1923……….   Forest Werts
1923 – 1924……….   Roy Wilson
1924 – 1927……….   Harry E. Chappell
1927 – 1931……….   Herbert J. Frame
1931 – 1935……….   Charles E. Smith
1935 – 1939……….   W. P. Jinnett
1939 – 1942……….   J. Homer Magee
1942 – 1947……….   Edwin Dover
1947 – 1949……….   E. Roy Fort
1949 – 1952……….   James W. Knorr, Jr.
1952 – 1953……….   James T. Smith
1953 – 1955………    Howard L. Robertson
1955 – 1957……….   Richard A. Kissee
1957 – 1960……….   Paul F. Ashbrook
1960 – 1962……….   Wm. C. Starling
1962 – 1966……….   Loy S. Estes
1966 – 1972……….   Sidney B. Corl
1972 – 1974……….   Robert L. Dunn
1974 – 1981……….   Wm. D. Royle
1981 – 1985………    David K. Orendorff
1985 – 1993………    Joseph A. Keys
1993 – 1999………    Robert Phelps
2000 – 2005………   Russell Barber
2005 – 2008………   Esther J. Angel
2008 – June 2012.. Mark D. Calhoun

Jan 2013 -………….   Mary K Barbee, Interim Pastor