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History of First United Methodist Church

First United Methodist Church of Kirkland had its humble beginnings in the Rock River Conference as a home church at Lacey, a settlement a mile east of present-day Kirkland. It was served by the Rev. C.W. Batchelor on every other Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Since Kirkland was almost the last area in northern DeKalb County to be settled, the roots of this congregation were recorded in the Pleasant Hill Circuit in 1863 - one of two circuits in the Kingston area. In 1869 the Charter Oak congregation, at Pearl Street and Cherry Valley Road, bought land to build a church which became the Charter Oak and Kirkland Circuit until 1887. In 1890 the charge became known simply as Kirkland. 

The summer of 1885 found Kirkland to be a growing town, but without a church edifice of any denomination. With this in mind, Mrs. E.C. Ives (affectionately known as "Granny Ives") solicited from door to door raising money to build a church at its present site. On Thursday, October 1, 1885 a service was held to lay the cornerstone of the First Methodist Episcopal Church. The Reverends G.R. Vanhorne, J.F.C. Maxham (from Kirkland) and A.S. Maxham of Harvard presided. On Wednesday, March 10, 1886 our church building was dedicated and the cost was paid in full. 

Perhaps one of the most influential persons in our early church formation was Eliza Aurner Ives ("Granny"). Born July 12, 1839 on her father’s homestead just east of Kirkland, she became a teacher at the age of 17. On December 1, 1861 she married Martin L. Ives. Granny was a strong temperance advocate and an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for 39 years, joining at the age of 14. The large stained glass window on the north end of the present church was donated in 1903 in memory of her husband, who had died in 1901. Five generations of Granny’s family have been affiliated with this church and the sixth generation, Kendall Turner, was born in 2004. 

Beginning in 1931 a major addition was made to the existing building. The Clare Methodist Episcopal Church was closed and the building was donated to the Kirkland congregation. During the Depression there were many willing helpers, so the church in Clare was disassembled and rebuilt as the south end of the present building. This addition was completed and dedicated on March 26, 1933. It is important to note that part of that celebration was a pot luck supper - in good Methodist tradition - to honor the "Knights of Construction," the men and women of the community who did the work. 

But the Church is not the building, as the song so elegantly states! Women’s and Men’s ministry have been strong at least since the 1930s. In 1939 there were five circles of the Woman’s Society for Christian Service with more than 72 women actively involved. Prior to 1936 the men of the church had many "church dinners" which in 1936 gave birth to the Turkey Dinner for which this church is so famous. This modest event became a yearly event, and when Congress in 1938 established Armistice Day as November 11th that became the annual date for the Turkey Dinner. The Rev. Clare John Hewitt was the Pastor at that time and was instrumental in the dinner’s establishment. He served from 1935-1940 and again briefly beginning in 1941. Rev. Hewitt and his wife Alice are buried in the Maple Cemetery, Kirkland. Their son Clare B. Hewitt also entered the ministry, receiving his Local Preacher's License in Kirkland. 

When people in this congregation remember vibrant youth ministry they invariably refer to the late 1960s and early 1970s. Led by present members Shorty and Beverly Ester and their sons, the youth enjoyed many camping and retreat times together, as well as the bonding time surrounding the building of the Rufym Room in the attic of the south end of the church. "Rufym" spelled backwards stands for Methodist Youth Fellowship Upper Room, and that room is still an attraction for youth today. 

In 1974 the Fairdale United Methodist Church merged with the First United Methodist Church of Kirkland. Fairdale had been a church since 1860, and its closing was a sad time for all involved. 

From 1881 to the present, 45 pastors have served this congregation. The present membership lists 172 people and the average worship attendance at just above 90 per week. Our children’s Sunday school is growing each month; presently we have three classes each Sunday morning, with a new youth group class to begin in the near future. A variety of small groups and ministries are active each month, and many new ministry opportunities are being explored. New and exciting worship styles have helped us to see a new vision with more possibilities to "love God and our neighbor." Mission giving has opened our hearts to our community and needs around the world. First United Methodist Church of Kirkland is an exciting, growing, faithful community seeking to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission and Great Commandment, as we reach out in ministry and service to all.

Church history compiled by Rev. Michael Morrell, 2006

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