The two branches of Methodism converged within months of each other in Holdenville. The Methodist Episcopal Church South was established here by a real 'circuit riding preacher'. Not as much is known about the pioneer pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church (North).
HISTORIC BARNARD MEMORIAL
Prior to 1939 American Methodism was segmented into three main branches based on differences in points of doctrine or social issues. These were the Methodist Episcopal Church (ME), The Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MES) and The Methodist Protestant (MP). In eastern Oklahoma Methodist work had been going on since the 1840’s among the various tribal groups and many of the early Native American leaders were Methodist ministers.
ME -According to Turner’s History of the Methodist Church in Holdenville, 1897-1952, the first church organized in Holdenville was the Methodist Episcopal (1896-1910). A retrospective article in the Holdenville Times of Jan.23,1903 indicated that in March of 1896 they first met in the Choctaw Depot in service with a Rev. King or Fling. They were formally organized in the same place a year later with a Rev. Woodson. Charter members were listed as wife and daughter of J. Smith, Mrs. Joe Northrup, Mrs. Frank Lowe, and Mrs. D. Lowe.
A wooden frame building on East 8th Street was dedicated in February of 1897 as the Methodist Episcopal Church of Holdenville. In 1913, the building was sold to the Episcopal Church as the Methodist Episcopal Church withdrew its work in Holdenville due to a larger retrenchment in the region.
MES - J.L. Adair, charter member, bought on behalf of the MES two city lots from one John Jacobs on 25 September 1897, indicating church formation and building followed each other closely. The church formed in the spring of that year south of town and then moved into Holdenville.
A 1900 list identifies the following as charter members: Mr. James L. Adair, Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Henderson (who together owned the Commercial Hotel and he was the 5th mayor holding office in 1903); Mrs. Robert (Ida Barnard) McFarlin, Mrs. W.J. Red, Mrs. Thomas E.(Laura Larue) Neal, Mrs. C.W. Polk. Other “possible” charter members were Mr. / Mrs. C.M. Alten (Allen), Mrs. Tom Scale, Mrs. George B. Roderich, and Mrs. H.H. Holman. In 1906, Robert McFarlin joined after a revival meeting with Abe Mulkey. He served on the Board of Trustees in 1910. The original church name had been Hester Methodist Church, for a well-known lay couple in the region. In the late 1920’s the church name, “Barnard Memorial United Methodist Church”, emerged from the supportive presence of the McFarlan’s as members and friends of the Methodist work in Holdenville and the region.
Holdenville (MES) is mentioned in the 1st Minutes of the 1897 (November) Conference. The Rev. A.S.J. Haygood was assigned to supply the ministry in the region. A real ‘circuit rider’ he also established works at Atwood, Wetumka, and elsewhere. Since some records of activity pre-date this conference, it may be inferred the conference served to ratify an ongoing ministry plan in the area. A retrospective article in the Holdenville Times of Dec. 14, 1906 indicates the church was organized in the spring of 1897 by Haygood three miles south of town. In the fall they moved into the town with eight members. The church dedicated a building in May of 1906 under the leadership of Pastor Rev. E.L. Massey.
The so-called Methodist Episcopal North would come back into the area in 1921. They attempted to found a new work but struggled. In 1923, however, the two Methodist pastors creatively and proactively united, reflecting groundswell innovation and desire not to be reflected in denominational structures until the merger of 1939.
With that merger, the history of all the Methodist work in Holdenville became the cherished history of Barnard Memorial.
Brill, H.E. The Story of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Oklahoma. 1939.
Church Historian: Remembering the past and inspiring the future. Guidelines series. United Methodist General Commission and Archives and History. 2012
Clegg, Leland and William B. Oden. Oklahoma Methodism in the Twentieth Century. 1968.
Turner N.M.(Mrs. John E. Turner). History of the Methodist Church in Holdenville, 1897-1952.