History of First United Methodist Church

FUMC - HISTORY - Time-line

                         Mount Vernon First United Methodist Church

                                              History Time-line


1815     Circuit Rider Moses Ashworth preaches regularly in Mount Vernon

1820s   Lawyer John Pitcher tutored Abraham Lincoln into the law
            (Pitcher moved to Mt. Vernon, attended M.E. church)

1828     Mount Vernon town built a church & school building at 6th & Main Street 
            (across from 1st UMC)

1838     Reverend Moses Ashworth died; buried in Rowe Cemetery,
            Point Township in Posey County

1839      Turner Nelson built a home at Fourth & Mulberry Streets in Mount Vernon (still there), Lincoln family
             slept on Nelson’s New Harmony land on way to Illinois in 1928 (Nelson family attended M. E. church)

1839     M. E. Church built at Fourth & Mulberry Streets, Mount Vernon (now St Matthew’s School site)

1840s   Lawyer John Pitcher hires Alvin Hovey, an orphan, taught him into the law as he did for Abraham Lincoln

1848     German M. E. Church built at Fourth & Locust Streets (now Chuckles Gas Station)

1854     First M. E. Church built on Walnut St at alley, December 14, 1855

1862     Colonel Alvin Hovey’s division fought at Shiloh Church Battlefield in the Civil War

1873     Mount Vernon cholera epidemic, 76 deaths; M. E. & St. Matthews hospitals, city 

1884     First M. E. Church gives support to Anderson & Snyder before, during & after hangings

1888     Indiana Conference held in First M. E. Church on September 19-24, 1888, Bishop John Vincent

1889     New St. Paul’s (German M. E.) Church built at 4th & Locust Street (now Chuckles Gas Station)

1891     Governor Alvin Hovey died in office; M. E. Church officiates to 10,000 funeral attendees

1892     Judge John Pitcher died, Methodist Episcopalian, lived on APL site, buried in Hedges Cemetery

1905     First M. E. Church built at Sixth & Main Street, Bishop McCabe dedication

1915     The Indiana Centennial of Methodism was celebrated during October, 1915

1933     St. Paul’s (German M. E.) Church annex & parsonage destroyed by fire on February 9, 1933

1933     The Central German M. E. Conference is disbanded, August, 1933

1933     Mount Vernon M. E. churches merge into the Methodist Episcopal Church on October 1, 1933

1933     Merged Methodist Episcopal Church has first worship on October 15, 1933; 2 couples abstain

1951     First Methodist Church building enlarged on the west side adjoining the sanctuary

1958     First Methodist Church built new sanctuary at 6th & Main, Bishop Richard Raines dedication

1980     First UMC builds Education & office adjoining north side of the church

1981     Susanna Wesley Nursery School begins

2002     First UMC builds Wesley Hall adjoining west side of the church

2015     First UMC celebrates 200 Years of Methodism, renews the sanctuary, Bishop Coyner visits in October


1873 Cholera Epidemic  

In July, 1873, the dread disease cholera struck Carmi, Princeton and Mount Vernon. By July 18, cholera was
epidemic in Mount Vernon; in the following 10-days at least 76 people died in and near the city. By July 20, two out of three residents left the city for outlying areas. It was reported that 15 to 20 families were leaving Mount Vernon daily. Most businesses and churches were closed. The Methodist Episcopal Church and St. Matthews Catholic Church remained open to provide lodging and medical help to the citizens that had no other place they could travel to.


1883 Legal Hanging Executions 

On Aug 19, 1883 James Vanweyer (age 19) was murdered by John Anderson (age 18) and Zack Snyder (age 20) on the Ohio River one mile east of Mount Vernon; he was killed and robbed for $18. Vanweyer was a farm worker who had earlier walked to Mount Vernon from Webster County Kentucky. A trial was held for both men on Sept 21, 1883, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. On Sept 21, 1883 both men were sentenced to be hanged on Jan 25, 1884 on the grounds of the Posey County Jail.

The prisoners were assisted by M. E. Church Ministers Ashbury (English) and Wulzen (German) before and
during the execution. The church members bought black suits and white shirts for the lost men. The men were seated on the gallows in chairs. Rev. Ashbury spoke for Anderson and Snyder to give warning to other young men in Mount Vernon and tell of how they acquired their bad habits. Rev. Wulzen offered up a prayer and a hymn was sung: “Oh sing to me of Heaven, when I am called to die.” (Anderson and Snyder “sang in a clear, loud tone.”)  Anderson and Snyder knelt and spoke their prayers. They thanked the jailor for their kind treatment while in the jail and thanked the citizens for stopping a mob from lynching them. Both young men were dropped the same instant at 11:45 AM. The bodies were taken to their parents homes on Elm Street and then to the Hedges graveyard at Sixth and Harriet Streets. Vanweyer was earlier buried in potter’s field in Hedges graveyard


1891 Death of Governor Alvin Hovey  

Our Mount Vernon church membership rolls included Indiana Governor Alvin Hovey (also a Civil War general) and Judge John Pitcher as members. Judge John Pitcher was mentor and teacher of Abraham Lincoln and Alvin Hovey into the law profession.  The Alvin Hovey funeral in 1891 was one of the largest events in Indiana, Evansville and Mount Vernon History. Mount Vernon Methodist Church hosted the Hovey funeral service and burial. (It was reported that over 50,000 people met the funeral train between Indianapolis and Mount Vernon.)


1933 Merger of the German & English Methodist Churches

By 1930 the use of German language was largely ended in America and German speaking churches were discussing merging of congregations. In 1932 St. Paul German Methodist Church and the First Methodist Church in Mount Vernon were discussing a 2 year merger process in which the churches would become one church in 1935.

Suddenly, the churches had only weeks to join together as St. Paul was not assigned a pastor that summer. (The St. Paul church parsonage had been destroyed by fire in February, 1933.)

Pastor Edwin F. Shake of the First M. E. Church was assigned as pastor of both churches. On October 8, St. Paul had only morning Sunday schools with an evening service where Pastor Shake explained the details of the merger to the congregation. A joint meeting of both congregations was held on Thursday October 10; every church board and committee in both churches was disbanded. This allowed the new church to begin with fresh leadership.

The first worship service for the merged churches was Sunday, October 15, 1933. The service, in the form of a marriage ceremony, was prepared by Pastor Shake. The Head Ushers from each church served as the contracting parties and the congregation of the two merged churches repeated the marital pledges. The new church was named the Methodist Episcopal Church of Mount Vernon.

The St. Paul members were leaving their lovely church home that some had worshiped in all their lives. Only two St. Paul members chose not to move. The St. Paul church was made into a parish house for church and community meetings. It was sold to the Church of Christ in 1944. In 1960 it was sold to the Shell Oil station.