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The history of this church...
The church now known as Independence First United Methodist Church is one of the oldest churches in the area. In 1835 a Methodist circuit rider officially founded a “society of Methodists” in Independence among a group of folks who were already likely meeting unofficially in each other’s homes. The earliest Methodist’s met in the original Independence brick courthouse until it was dismantled.
The original church building was erected in 1840 at the cost of $1000, but after it fell into disrepair the sanctuary we enjoy today was built in 1859.
As the civil war encroached on Independence the church was commandeered by union troops to be used by their chaplains and even as a hospital for a short time. Given the church’s ties to the civil war, there was great interest when a previously unknown underground tunnel was discovered during a construction project in the 1960s. The tunnel, which was constructed about nine feet below the basement floor ran westward from the basement for approximately twenty feet before it collapsed. There has been much speculation over the years regarding the intended purpose of the “secret” tunnel.
The building was completely remodeled in 1961-62; and education wing was added in 1975. In 1980 a struggling African-American congregation, White Oak Methodist Church, merged with First UMC. The church continues to be engaged in vital ministry today at the same site where God planted us 176 years ago.
If you are interested in exploring the history of the church further ask in the front office to review a copy of The First Methodists of Independence Missouri by long-time church member Chester Crenshaw.