History of Pawhuska’s Methodist Church

Kathryn SwanJ-C Correspondent

This weekend, the Pawhuska First United Methodist Church will celebrate its Quasquicentennial (125th) anniversary. Several activities have been planned and will include former pastors and members.

The Methodist Church came to Pawhuska following the establishment of the Osage Agency in 1872. It wasn’t until 1888 that the church had spiritual leadership. Two different pastors had been assigned to head up the church. It was standard procedure at the time to appoint pastors to a circuit made up of several settlements where there was not a church building, organized congregation or, much less, a parsonage.

These early-day circuit-riding Methodist preachers were young men, many of whom were unmarried. With Bible and hymnbook in their saddlebags and evangelistic passion in their souls, they rode thousands of weary miles to preach the Gospel and establish churches in Indian country. As fate would have it, the church’s first official pastor was a woman.

According to Indian Mission Superintendent Rev. James Murray’s report, the first assigned pastor was gone before anyone met him. The second absconded when confronted with unpaid hotel bills. At the time, Mrs. F.T. Gaddis, under the auspices of the Women’s Home Mission Society, came to Pawhuska, bought a house and opened McCabe College (the Osage Boarding School) on the west side of South Osage. Mrs. Gaddis was appointed the church’s pastor.

This pioneer church was built on Main Street in 1891, just west of where the Masonic building currently stands. It was the first Protestant church in Pawhuska and was used for several years for various public meetings and religious services by other denominations as well as Methodist.

Before the organization of the Pawhuska Public Schools, the Methodist Church housed one of the early day schools supported by public subscription. In 1907, the Main Street location was sold and the building was moved and remodeled to its present location at 7th and Leahy.

Tragedy struck in early January, 1915, when the church building was destroyed by fire. The organ of the fire is unknown, but it is believed to have been started from a flue in the south wing. The fire had gained such headway that efforts to subdue it were futile. Instead, the fire department turned its efforts to saving the parsonage which was located a few feet to the west.

Services were held in the Jackson Theater until completion of the current building in 1917. Valued at $40,000, the $10,000 debt was paid off in 1928 — in spite of the Great Depression.

When the church hosted the 35th Oklahoma Annual Conference in 1926, it had a membership of 408, with an average Sunday School attendance of 190. The pastor’s salary was a $3,600.

The public is invited to join in two days of celebration. Saturday activities kick off at 2 p.m. A group photo will be taken immediately following Sunday’s services. This will be followed by a delicious fish fry provided by the Methodist Men with help from the United Methodist Women.

For more information, visit pawhuskafumc.com or Facebook ‘Pawhuska First United Church.’