The following is from The Homecoming Celebration (October 17, 1982):
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Vienna in the year 1842 by a medical doctor named Stewart who was also a local preacher in the Methodist Church. In the beginning the group met in the homes of the members in the fashion of the class meeting of early Methodism. The first pastor, Rev. R. E. Chase was appointed in 1845. Rev. C. R. McMyrtie was the “Presiding Elder.” (Presiding Elder being the term for what we now call “The District Superintendent.”)
The Methodist Church of Vienna is first reported in the Conference Records as part of the circuit in 1852. In 1853 the Vienna Church was listed as the head of a mission circuit (recorded in the first Southern Illinois conference records held in Belleville that year). The old church records have been lost and only names found in the records of the Quarterly Meetings and the Conference Journals are obtainable for the early years.
The Church services were held in temporary quarters until 1859 when a large two-story brick building called a “Union Building,” was erected at the present site of the First Baptist Church. The second story was owned and occupied by the Masonic Lodge. The first floor was used as the Presbyterian Church with privileges of worship granted to the Baptist and Methodist Churches. It is said that the lumber used in this building was hauled by ox teams from beyond Cypress. The bell was a gift from the Merchants of Louisville Kentucky and was still in use by the Baptist Church until the erection of their new building this Spring.
By about 1885 the Methodist membership had grown to such an extent that they wanted a building of their own, so a building committee was appointed composed of: Dr. W. A. Looney, A. K. Vickers, F. M. Simpson, and P. T. Chapman. The building was begun under the pastorate of Rev. W. M. Powis in 1887 and was completed during the pastorate of Rev. J. G. Dee
The following is a quotation from the old church records: “It was dedicated June 3, 1891 by Bishop Thomas Bowman. The Church cost not less than $5000.00 of which $2500.00 was raised and applied during Rev. Dee’s pastorate and 765.00 was raised on the day of dedication.”
In 1888 the status of the church was changed from the head of a circuit to a station. The board of trustees at this time was composed of Dr. W. A. Looney, President; F. M. Simpson, Secretary; Judge A. K. Vickers, James Slack, and W. J. Dill. Some of the early members were: John Bain, * A. J. Kuykendall, Dr. J. N. Gray, Dr. W. A Looney, Dr. J. N. Norris, Mrs. Nancy Madde, ** and their families.
Until 1892 a Union Sunday School was held but in that year a Sunday School of the Methodist Church in Vienna was reported in the records of the Mt. Carmel District. The first Ladies Aid was organized in the home of Mrs. A. J. Kuykendall in 1885 under the pastorate of Rev. W. M. Powis. The Epworth League was organized in 1888 under the pastorate of Rev. J. G. Dee. The officers were: Mrs. Ruth Chapman, President James H. Carter, Jr., 1st Vice President; Mrs. May Jackson, Secretary; Will F. Perkins, Treas. A Junior League was organized in 1895 under the pastorate of Rev. J. H. Ford. The Church also supported a Home and Foreign Missionary Society.
In the early 1890’s a small pipe organ manipulated by hand pump, was purchased through the encouragement and help of Miss Ann Dwyer. Although Miss Dwyer was a devoted Catholic, since there was no church of her faith here, she served the Methodist Church as a faithful organist until her death.
In 1939 the Uniting conference took place and the required changes requested by that body took place in our local Church. The Ladies Aid and the Missionary Societies were merged into the Women’s Society of Christian Services. Mrs. W. G. Jackson was the first President. A new organization was formed known as the Wesleyan Service Guild, composed of the younger women of the church and employed women who could only meet in the evening. The Epworth League became the Methodist Youth Fellowship and the Methodist Men’s Club was organized. The Church building erected in 1888 was used by the Congregation until 1924 when it was practically destroyed by fire. The fire was started by a bolt of lightning which struck the belfry during a severe thunderstorm. The building was restored and used until 1941 when it was razed and a new church building was begun. The pastor at this time was Rev. H. B. Shoaff. Rev. Shoaff drew the plans for the new church. The new building was dedicated May 17, 1942 by Dr. Z. T. Johnson, President of Asbury College during the pastorate of Rev. Walter A. Smith. The first service held in the new Church was a Union Sunrise Service on Easter Sunday, 1942. This was a memorable service, every available seat was occupied. The Chancel was banked with flowers and the Church was lighted with candles, as the electric wiring was not completed. The music was beautiful and everyone was thankful and prayerful. Many of the stain glass memorial windows were given by the families of the original founders of the Church.
During the pastorate of Rev. W. L. Cummins a new Hammond Organ was installed. The first parsonage was build as a private residence and was standing on the lot purchased by the first Church committee. During the pastorate of Rev. J. W. A. Kinison the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bain Hunsaker (west of the church and facing onto 5th St.) was purchased for the new parsonage. The church now owns the entire block from 4th and Green to 5th and Washington.
* The home of John and Winnie Bain was the temporary home of the circuit riders, Presiding elders, and Bishops during the early days. They entertained the memorable Circuit Rider/Presiding elder, Rev. Peter Cartwright, on one of his visits to this Country.
** Mrs. Nancy Madden was the mother of one of the early pastors, Rev. I. D. Petterson. She was a life member of the American Bible Society and received a gift Bible from the Society each year. Mrs. Bess Chapman Galeener, co-author of this article, was a direct descendent of Mrs. Madden, who was christened by Rev. Peter Cartwright. Mrs. Galeener's two grandchildren George Galeener and Bess Ann Galeener Duane, are still members of this church.
Many present day members (140 years later in 1982) are descendants of early Johnson County methodist families. A few of the old family names are as follows: Gray, Jackson, Carter, Chapman, Ridenhower, Huffman, West, Axley, Martin, Dean, Peeler, Casper, Bean, Reynolds, Benson, Smith, Cummins, Marberry, Fisher, Taylor, Peterson, Simpson, McFartridge, Murrie, Robertson, McCall, Jobe, Mathis, Corbitt, Galeener, Lawrence, Walker, McKenzie and Veach.