The Methodist church in the heart of Camden has been both an old church and a new church with all the changes it has gone through. It is likened to the metamorphosis of a beautiful butterfly. This church, of course, is North United Methodist church, formerly called North M.E.
Its beginning was in 1879 when pioneer John C. Bohanon, who owned a lot of property in the area, donated the land on which to build the church. All the material and labor was provided by the members, who previously had been holding services in log cabins, school houses, barns and granaries. The presiding elder, Dr. James F. Chaffee, named it North Church. The total cost was $2,500 and it was dedicated on November 30, 1879. At first it shared a pastor with other churches in the area, until 1885, when it got its first resident pastor, Rev. H.J. Van Fossen.
The second pastor, Robert Atchison, who arrived in 1888, was known for being the man who was influential in getting the area named Camden Place (after his hometown of Camden, N.J.). In 1893, when pastor #4, Harry W. Knowles was presiding, the parsonage burned to the ground. It was due to the fact that the horse-drawn pumper had to come from miles away in below zero weather.
Ever changing, a new church, which incorporated the first two-room building, was built in 1910. It had a greatly enlarged sanctuary and Sunday school rooms in the basement. Then, in 1924, a brick education wing was added on the south end and used as a Sunday school building. A parsonage was built.
In 1964, a new church structure was completed after three years of planning and fundraising when Charles B. Purdham was pastor. It was completed and dedicated on Palm Sunday of ’64. Again, the parsonage had to be torn down in favor of the need for off-street parking.
Thirty years later a new addition with an elevator, which goes to the basement, was added and some building remodeling was done. This included a large kitchen, choir room and a very large all-purpose room for big events.
You can see how many changes there were. I knew the church when it was the “old church.” That was back in 1926 when I was enrolled in the Cradle Roll Department of the Sunday school. Leila Green was superintendent and Frank W. Harron was pastor. I later wondered, how do babies attend the Cradle Roll Sunday School ? Do they just put them all in one cradle or let them crawl around on the floor? Do they sing hymns to them? When advanced to the Beginner’s Dept. in 1931, I remembered the superintendent Martha Wolertz and how she could play a real mean piano in beckoning the troops to the beginning of class. Rev. Stodghill was pastor then.
My best memory of the church was the beautiful pipe organ in the sanctuary. Its burnished gold