Marshall Methodists: 175 year perspective

Friday, May 26, 2017

A look at some events of the past 175 years provides a perspective on 1 3/4 centuries of the Methodist Church in Marshall.

Political: In an earlier article I noted that 24 of our 50 states were formed after the Methodist class was started here in 1842.

Thirty five of our 45 presidents have entered office since then. And, by the way, none of the Marshall Methodists voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860; because, nobody, in Saline County voted for him.

Methodists were here before the Republican Party was formed (1854) and 42 years before Harry Truman was born.

The U.S. population has increased almost 20 times since 1842.

Sports: Those early Methodists didn’t watch basketball on Sunday afternoons, not only because they didn’t have TV, which of course they didn’t, but because there was no basketball. The Methodists were here 19 years before James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was even born. And, they were here 60 years before the first Rose Bowl game and 58 years before the American Baseball League was formed.

Inventions: Over 99 percent of all U.S. patents have been issued since 1842.

Methodists were in Marshall five years before Thomas A. Edison was born (1847) and 37 years before he invented the electric lamp. They were here before wood pencils had attached erasers (1858), 39 years before the zipper was invented, 61 years before the Wright brothers’ first flight, and before the saxophone was created (1846).

And especially interesting, the Methodists were here 15 years before modern toilet tissue was invented.

Military and War: The Marshall Methodist class didn’t talk about Custer, or the battle at Little Big Horn, because that was 34 years in the future. It would be 39 years before Sitting Bull surrendered and 55 years before Geronimo was imprisoned at Ft. Sill, Okla., 18 years before Gen. John Pershing was born, and, 99 years before the U.S. entered World War II.

The Methodist class in Marshall was started 20 years before the rank of admiral was created for the U.S. Navy, and even before the U.S. Naval Academy was established.

Miscellaneous events: The Methodist class in Marshall began five years before Brigham Young became head of the Mormon church, 39 years before Jesse James was killed, 53 years before chiropractics was founded, 58 years before the 4-H club was formed, 29 years before the great Chicago fire, 32 years before red wheat was introduced into Kansas, and 39 years before the Red Cross was established. The Methodist class was in Marshall even before the Smithsonian Institution was founded.

Things they did have in 1842. Ladies had special post office windows, to avoid tobacco chewing males. (Surely that wasn’t true in Marshall). Government employees worked a 10-hour day. There were 3,000 miles of canals, but just over 2,800 miles of railroad track in the U.S. The national debt was less than $4 million. Photography began in the U.S. three years earlier (1839). Baseball was being played. Abner Doubleday fixed the location of bases in 1839; but it was another 18 years before they settled on nine men to a side (1857). And they also had the “strike anywhere” phosphorus friction match (1836).

Worship: Those first Methodists in Marshall didn’t sing the same hymns we do. They were here almost 20 years before “Holy! Holy! Holy!, Lord God Almighty” and “Abide With Me” were written, and 29 years before “Onward Christian Soldiers” was published. They didn’t sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” at Christmas either, because that carol would not come for another 78 years.

Yes, 175 years is a very long time, a period of many changes and much happening; and for institutions which exist that long, it is certainly time for a healthy dodransbicentennial celebration.

Edward Richards is Historian for First United Methodist Church. This is the fifth in a series of articles celebrating the 175 year anniversary of the church in 2017.