Cassopolis United Methodist Church History

The first religious services held in Cassopolis, Michigan, were conducted in 1832 in the loft of a local store by Bishop Chase of the Episcopalian Diocese. About the same time, Methodist “Circuit Riders” who were pushing along the new frontier appeared in the area. Initially, Cassopolis was served by circuit riders from Kalamazoo and St. Joseph, but by 1835 these itinerant preachers were traveling in smaller circuits originating in Edwardsburg and Cassopolis.

The first Methodist Church Society in Cassopolis was organized in 1838, the date the 2013 church claims for its origination. At that time, the meetings for the Methodist congregation, and indeed for all denominations, were held in school and courthouse rooms.

In 1846, Jacob Silver, an Episcopalian, and Joshua Lofland, a Methodist, erected a church building on Rowland Street for joint use of the two denominations. When available, other congregations also used the building for special occasions and/or worship services. When Mr. Silver left the church, William Shanafelt represented the Episcopalian interests. This original Methodist Episcopal House, as the church was called at that time, was described as a small frame building with the altar and pulpit in the east end and a singers’ gallery over the vestibule on the west side.

In 1852, while visiting a Methodist meeting in New York City, Mr. Lofland made mention of his church in the Michigan wilderness, including the fact that rather than being called to worship by a church bell, the people responded to the striking of a cast steel bar. In response to Lofland’s remarks, philanthropic Methodists in New York raised the money to purchase a bell for the Cassopolis church. The bell became known as a “teaspoon” for its silvery sound.

Mr. Lofland and Mr. Shanafelt deeded the church and grounds to the Methodist-Episcopal (ME) congregation as a free gift in 1855. ME services continued in that original building until 1874, when a new church building was erected on the same site. The original church building was moved first to the corner of State and Rowland and then to a site on South Broadway St. In the 20th century, the building was renovated to become the Fisk Drugstore and the Hansen Drugstore. Office space was still in that location in 2013.

The new Methodist Episcopal Church building was dedicated on November 22, 1847. It is recorded that the church had 48 members and a Sunday school with a superintendent, eleven teachers and ninety students.

One unknown individual wrote that the first time that “he ‘went to meeting’ in the (new) church, after entering the one door into the hall or vestibule, he learned the rule of the society then in force, that the men and boys should enter the audience room through the south doorway, the north entrance being reserved for women and girls. Notwithstanding this separation, the young people in the town filled the room to a crowded condition every Sunday evening.” (The July 1, 1976 bicentennial commemorative section of the Cassopolis Vigilant shows the original 1847 sanctuary having a center aisle.)

In 1874, the parsonage occupied one of the corner lots on York and O’Keefe Streets. Methodist parsonages have also been located on North Broadway, South East Street, and since 1972 in the Howell Point subdivision of Diamond Lake.

In October, 1938, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary. Commemorative articles reported there were 200 members and 150 Sunday School students.