In 1900, many families moved from Kentucky to New Baden and organized the first Protestant church in town. Services were held in the old school house known as Port Arthur, which at that time was located next to the cemetery on East Hanover Street. Rev. Zelah FARMER was the Pastor (he died in 1936).

Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph HERTENSTEIN, Sr. deeded part of their land on Railway Ave. to the trustees of the church. The deed was notarized and recorded 25 Aug 1902. The original Cornerstone of the “First Methodist Episcopal Church of New Baden Illinois” was laid 14 Sep 1902.

A white frame building was erected during the pastorate of Rev. L. E. COLE (he died in 1922.) As the years passed, the congregation increased as did the giving and preparations were made to build a larger church.

More land was obtained from Mr. and Mrs. R. Hertenstein, Sr., Lots 42 and 43 on Hanover Street, our present site. This land was deeded to the trustees of the church on 3 April 1922. This project was started under the pastorate of Rev. S. A. MATTHEWS. 1922 Membership.

The original cornerstone from the old church was removed by Harry WATSON, J. R. Hertenstein, Joseph ABEGG, and John WHITE, Trustees, 28 Jul 1922. Items still legible and placed in new cornerstone on 30 Jul 1922 were a Bible, a copy of the Methodist Discipline, a memo from Mrs. Barbara SINGLER and daughters Mary and Mrs. Rudy Hertenstein.

The new church was completed in the Spring of 1923. The congregation was led on a Sunday morning from the old church to the new one with Rev. S. A. Matthews, Pastor and Mr. Robert SMITH, Sunday School Superintendent leading the procession. God called Mr. Smith to his heavenly home on 16 May 1923, his work on earth was completed.

The organizations of the church in 1923 were: 

Dedication of the new Church was 17 May 1925 under the pastorate of W. C. Bruce. Assisting former pastors were: Rev. CRISP, Rev. GOULD, Rev. ROBERTSON, Rev. SMITH, and Rev. WHITESIDE.

Ten years later, on Friday, 17 May 1935, the 10th anniversary celebration was held under the pastorate of Rev. B. D. RODGERS. Five former pastors were present. Special music was by the Ladies Quartette – Vivian HERTENSTEIN, Hilda KENNEDY, Lily WATSON and Amanda DAGIT.

In January of 1968, the adjacent lot of the former WELLING Hardware Store was purchased by the trustees of the church to be used as a church parking lot. Rev. Carl CARTER was pastor.

Rev. Matthews died 16 Feb 1968 at the Sparta Community Hospital. He was survived by his widow Bertha, 4 sons, Frank, Fred, Robert, and Harold and 2 daughters, Ava and Mary. He began his ministry in 1903 and retired in 1952. He continued to serve in the pulpit for ministers on vacation, etc. until his death.

At the time of his death, Rev. Matthews had in his possession the “Gold Headed Cane” bequeathed to the Southern Illinois Conference, by Dr. J. A. SCARNITT requesting: “This cane shall be loaned to the man residing within the bounds of the Conference who has been a member of the Conference for the longest number of years.” The cane was then loaned to the next man with the greatest number of years of service who resided in the Conference.

During the annual conference of 1968, the name of the church was changed to “United Methodist Church” after merging with the United Brethren Church.

The 50th anniversary of the New Baden United Methodist Church was held on 16 Sep 1973. The anniversary booklet was prepared by Hilda KENNEDY and Margaret POOS, Historians, and Dean BLACKBURN, Pastor.

Submitted by: Lola DeGroff

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