A Brief History of Climax United Methodist Church
The first Methodist Circuit Rider to preach in Climax was during the winter of 1833-1834 in Judge Eldred’s house. Despite being a devout Baptist, Judge Eldred invited the circuit rider to preach. Rev. J.T Robe continued to preach at intervals in Climax through the summer of 1835. A Methodist Class was established in Climax area with 8 people and made a part of the Kalamazoo charge.
The first revival was held in the winter of 1836-1837. The local school was used for the religious meetings and services by two Methodist ministers, Halley Beers and Erastus Kellogg. The original church was built in 1840 a mile north of town in the old North Cemetery. The cemetery is now called the Roof Cemetery.
Several revivals took place in 1857-1858 and 1867-1869 and a number of town people were converted. The town people out grew the little church and in 1870 the current church was erected on property donated by George Sheldon and dedicated in 1871. The new church was made from bricks made by Silas Andress in his local kiln. The old church in the cemetery was converted into a barn and moved to a neighboring farm. In 1852, the Climax church became part of the Galesburg charge and in 1876 it joined with Scotts and the Martin schoolhouse in what was known as the Climax charge with Rev. E.S. McChesney as the first resident pastor.
The church grew quite a bit during this time. The parsonage was built in 1877 next to the current church. The church was remodeled in 1883 when Rev. D.O. Ball was officiating. The church steeple that had been struck by lightning several times had to be replaced, a large bell was added, and a lower ceiling put in to improve the acoustics of the church. The original ceiling was the full height of the church. The original windows were replaced with stain glass memorials to earlier people in the church. The church was again remodeled in 1902. One early church story said that the basement was dug by hand underneath the church after the building was built. The basement currently holds a bathroom, modular classroom space and a small kitchen.
During the early days of the church, a stable was on the property where people could stable their horses during services. The original porch on the church was across the entire front of the building and at the correct height that wagons could pull up and women step directly from the porch into the wagon or surrey. Sometime over the years, the old stable with the name of the family who owned the stalls was removed.
Through the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s, the church continued to thrive and several building projects and changes were undertaken. The Education building was built in 1967 and contains the church offices, kitchen, bathrooms and class rooms. A number of the classrooms were renovated and combined into a larger dining area in the 1970’s. The kitchen has commercial size ovens for cooking but no longer meets certification requirements by the state. The current Hammond organ was purchased in 1953 and the Grand piano in 1987. The 100 year old parsonage next to the church was sold in 1987 for a dollar and moved down the street. A new parsonage was purchased several years ago.
The church experienced a controversy and decline in membership when Rev. James Allred resigned from the Climax and Scotts United Methodist Churches in 1987 over The Methodist Church not requiring a trial for a minister in the Rocky Mountain Conference who was an open, practicing homosexual. Rev. Allred began a non-denominational church in Scotts and a number of families in Climax and many from Scott’s UMC transferred membership to the new church in Scotts. Some additional members from Climax withdrew their membership from the Methodist church but still come to the services in Climax.
Church has benefitted from a number of Eagle Scout projects over the years including expansion of the choir loft, and handicap ramps for the church and the education buildings. For many years the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts meet at the church but both programs were combined with Galesburg and now meet there.
Many upgrades including air conditioning and a better sound system for the church were added in the 1990’s while Rev. Hills was the minister. The church basement was extensively renovated at the end of 1980’s and new carpet and cupboard’s added. The stain glass windows in the sanctuary were repaired with new lead in 1996 and the families that donated for the work were honored along with the original families by having a plate added to the window.
The church’s highest attendance in worship and Sunday school was when Reverend’s Slattery, Ball and Hills were ministers. The church more recently experienced a second decline in membership when Pastor David Hills was reassigned. Many families left the church within a couple of years after Rev. LaFrance was assigned due to relational problems (possibly due to Rev. LaFrance’s health issues) between the congregation and minister that were not resolved quickly.
The most recent successful building projects were replacement of the roofs on both the education building and church and the furnace in the church within the last few years. This was accomplished by generous donations from the congregation and people and businesses in the area.