Bethany United
Methodist            5634 S. Park, Tacoma, WA 98408

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Bethany UMC Historical Church Buildings

Download HERE a (large file) .PDF orginal copy of our history:
"The Story of The First 100 Years of Bethany United Methodist Church"
by D. Jean Hanson
published October, 2004

History is important as it tells the story of who we are, what we have accomplished, and the direction we are headed. Church member D. Jean Hanson wrote and published the history of Bethany's First 100 years back in October, 2004., for the Centennial Celebration.

We gratefully acknowledge the hard work and effort required to put this document together.

Thank You to Jean Hanson, for the great job she performed for the church and community!

Bethany United Methodist Church
A Rich History…  In the Beginning to 1915

Excerpts from our history -
The Story of the First 100 Years of Bethany United Methodist Church
by D. Jean Hanson. 

In his introduction to Methodism in the Northwest by former Bethany pastor,
Erle Howell, Bishop Everett W. Palmer wrote:
No man, least of all a Christian, can be trusted with the future who is uninstructed by the past. ….. Like a tree, nothing of consequence long endures without roots deeply planted in the soil from which it springs.” 

The soil in which Bethany United Methodist Church (Bethany UMC) was first nurtured was tilled when Lewis and Clark explored and Hudson’s Bay Company established trade centers in the Pacific Northwest.  Missionary zeal prompted the Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society to send Jason Lee to this newly opened territory to plant missions at Willamette and Nisqually.  Following those early 19th Century beginnings, Methodist congregations sprouted in the 1840’s and 50’s at Vancouver, Olympia, Steilacoom, Coupeville, Salmon Creek, and Seattle.  In Tacoma, First Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1874, Fern Hill in 1882, Epworth in 1889, Parkland and St. Paul’s in 1890, Asbury and Mason in 1891, Calvary in 1902, and Grace in 1903. 

The city of Tacoma was incorporated in 1884, and by the early years of the 20th Century its southern city limits may have extended as far as 64th Street, but southward development was still very spotty. Wapato Lake had become a private resort, prompting the building of a road from there to the 38th and Yakima neighborhood – a road that later became a streetcar route. With a new century under way and settlement expanding, St. Paul’s pastor, Rev. George W. Frame, felt another church was needed somewhere between St. Paul’s and the small communities of Bismark (South Sixty-fourth Street and McKinley Ave.) and Fern Hill. So he found an undeveloped lot near what is now 56th Street between Eye Street and Thompson Avenue, about a mile south of his church. There he pitched a tent, and started another congregation – just at the time his own church was about to dedicate its first permanent building. And so it was the Bethany was born in a tent on October 2, 1904, and known at the St. Paul Mission

Spirits must have been high in those tent meetings in the weeks that followed. Rev. F. L. Tuttle, pastor of the Bismark M.E. Church (Calvary UMC) on East 64th Street came to help the fledgling congregation organize a Sunday School, and folks living in the area must have been Our 1904 Churchglad to have a church within shorter walking distance of home. But winter was coming on and the tent would soon be less than adequate. So by December 1904 the congregation had erected a simple one-room structure 20’ x 30’ and dedicated it as their place of worship. Almost immediately they attached a 15’ x 10’ addition, and built a closet onto the rear using leftover lumber and donated labor. Insurance was obtained at this time. Rev. Joseph P. Marlatt from First M.E. Church delivered the first sermon in the new chapel. 

In 1906, Rev. James Clulow, City Missionary, took charge and soon initiated steps necessary to turn the missionary project into an organized congregation.  According to a history written in 1962 by Mrs. C.W. Mitchell, charter members chose the name Bethany for their new Methodist Episcopal Church

Rev. Clulow’s role in Bethany’s history is memorialized in a stained-glass window in the church balcony.  A charter was drawn up on June 1, 1907, with 30 charter members, and incorporation took place. 

Bethany’s first appointed pastor was J. C. Reed 1907-1909
Rev. John C. Reed, who is said to have preached in a hall at 59th and Thompson.
He served Bethany from 1907 to 1909 and remained a member of the church and community after his term was completed.
Rev. B. F. Brooks was then the Presiding Elder (a position now known as District Super- intendent). 

The first Bethany Board of Trustees met June 13, 1907, and elected H. A. Winans its President.  Along with incorporation business, they also had to choose delegates to represent the congregation at Annual Conference, to be held September 11-16, 1907 in Seattle.  At that time Bethany was part of the Puget Sound Conference, which covered Western Washington from Vancouver to Bellingham.  It took four ballots to select the two delegates.  Chosen on the first vote was Mr. H. A. Winans.  On the second ballot Mr. C. McConihey was elected, but he declined due to business duties, so a third vote was needed.  This resulted in a tie between Mrs. H. A. Winans and Mrs. A. A. McConihey.  A fourth ballot elected Mrs. Winans.  Thus the first conference delegates from Bethany were a husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Winans.  In those years only clergy transacted conference business; laity attended as delegates without voting power.  At their June 20, 1907 meeting, all the Trustees signed Bethany’s incorporation papers before notary W. P. Hopping. 

The Trustees had met three times before the end of June 1907 because of the concerns about the lots on which the church stood. Their investigation revealed that the lots had not been platted, hence could not be sold. So they set about exploring other locations in the neighborhood. At their July 15 meeting it was reported that two lots at 59th and Thompson could be bought for $400 on terms of $200 cash, the balance on time at 8% interest. Subscriptions were solicited, and the August 19 minutes report $215.50 had been subscribed for the new lots, and purchased authorized. Assessment of the church’s property at that time established the value of the chapel and its contents at $300 and the lots being purchased at $400, for a total assessed value of $700. 

Owing to the difficulty of meeting various expenses of the church, it was decided to let the Ladies Aid assume the incidental expenses of the church if they could and would.  Although the meeting house was very rudimentary, community cooperation seem to have worked in the congregation, for they “decided to let the Scandinavian people have the use of the church Sunday afternoons from two to four at the rate of 75 cents a Sunday”. 

The next pastor, Rev. Willard B. Anderson, was a College of Puget Sound student while serving Bethany from 1909 to 1910.  During this time there was much discussion about, and preparation for building a church on the lots purchased in 1907 at 59th and Thompson. 

Rev. J. W. Blackwell was appointed the Bethany in 1910.  Mrs. Mitchell’s history says that at that time “our church attendance kept increasing until the church was filled and more people wanted to come but no room for them.”  In November 1910, early in his pastorate, architectural plans were obtained from Mr. W. Leisk for a wood frame bungalow-style structure 32’ x 70’, anticipated to cost $3000 to build.  A request for a grant of %500 from the Board of Home Missions and Church Extension was supported by District Superintendent Thomas e. Elliott, whose letter said in part: 

        These people have gone from tent to house with the partitions knocked out, the building standing on borrowed ground, to a site that is one of the best in the city.  They have a splendid property all paid for.  The street was graded past the lots last summer … I have advised them to build larger than they need right now as this one of the best parts of the city and will develop rapidly.” 

When a request for additional funds was submitted to the Mission Board, progress on the building was described like this: “about ready for plastering, except basement, which we will complete as soon as we can raise the money to pay for it.” 

Another letter from the district Superintendent to the Mission Board dated march 15, 1911, includes this: 

“This church is worth two of the McKinley 1911 ChurchPark …for the erection of which you donated $350.  To finish free of debt is going to work a tremendous hardship …” 

By June, the construction status was described as “inclosed, and floor laid… plastered but casings not yet on.  Windows in…using the building but have not yet dedicated it.”  Subscriptions collected by then totaled $2,550.  Bills outstanding added up to $450, and only $250 in subscriptions remained uncollected. 

Rev. Blackwell’s health failed and he retired in 1911.

By the time Rev. James E. Milligan 1911-1912James E. Milligan was
 appointed to Bethany in 1911, the congregation had moved into the new but unfinished church, and it was dedicated in December.  The original chapel near 56th and Thompson was then sold, rooms were added to it, and it was finished as a home.










During Rev. Francis A. Ecker’s pastorate, from 1912 to 1915, the congregation was busy furnishing the church. They took out a two-year note for $200 at 8% interest to help pay for seating, subscriptions were taken for a pew fund, and the Ladies Aid was also asked to provide $50.
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