The history of our church in Anaheim goes back over 140 years!
We invite you to enjoy our story in words and photos on these pages. After you read the narrative history below, be sure to check the following special articles with more wonderful memories and historic facts. Just click on a title:
Methodism came to what is now Orange County in the early 1870’s. Anaheim was a small town with 881 people. The first Methodist minister in the area was a Circuit Rider, Rev. J.E. Miller. He preached every fourth Sunday. The first Methodist minister in Anaheim was the Rev. L.M. Leihy, appointed here on September 24, 1878. Some services were held in the Robert’s Apartment building at the corner of Lemon and Center St (now Lincoln Ave.)
First Church Building
The first Methodist church in Anaheim was built on South Philadelphia St. near Center St. Under the leadership of Rev. D. O. Chamberlayne, several men of the town built the church. (An old receipt shows that 5½ pounds of wire nails were purchased for 55 cents at the Hippolyte Cahen dealership at the southwest corner of Center and Los Angeles St., now Anaheim Bl.) It was dedicated on September 29, 1889. The small white church was 26 feet wide and 52 feet long with an impressive steeple. The pastor’s invalid wife, Mrs. Chamberlayne, sold her much-prized piano so that a bell could be purchased for the tower of the church. This church, known as the Anaheim Methodist Episcopal Church, served the community from this location until 1916.
A parsonage was built in about 1904. It stood beside the little church.
In 1905, two rooms were added to the small church – one 16×24 and one 12×12. New oak pews were purchased to replace the old benches, which had varied in size, color and comfort. An organ was purchased. In 1906, electric lights were installed in the form of brilliant chandeliers. The church was rededicated on June 10, 1906.
Having outgrown the little church, plans were made for a new, larger building. The old church property was sold and the church town down. During the demolition, the bell from the bell tower was stolen. During this time, services were held in the Mason Hall, which was upstairs over a store at Philadelphia and Emily.
From 1916-1918, the Rev. H.H. White worked to see the construction the new church reach fruition. His successor, Rev. J.F. Humphrey, saw the completion of the new church project. Built at the corner of Philadelphia and Broadway, the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Anaheim was dedicated April 11, 1920. It cost $90,000 for the property and building. The church was well known as White Temple Methodist Episcopal Church, so named in honor of Rev. Harry White. A bungalow cottage adjoining the church property to the east, was purchased and used by the youth of the church.
During this time, a new parsonage was purchased at 506 E. Center St. It had ten rooms, all the modern comforts and conveniences, and was considered the best parsonage of the conference.
A local newspaper, The Orange County Plain Dealer, in an April 9, 1920 article, described the new church:
“The church auditorium was outfitted in leather upholstered opera chairs of ‘ample dimension’ seating 400. Seating for 750 could be accomplished by opening sliding doors and even extend to 1,000 by other extensions. Velvet carpet, in a restful shade, is down the aisles and on the rostrum.
An Estey pipe organ, a gift of Mrs. Charles Eygabroad and Mrs. William Wagner, will not be ready for dedication, as it is in transit from the factory at Battleboro, Vermont. It will have two keyboards and wide variety of stops. The air, furnished from a blower in the basement, will connect with the wind chest through a pipe 80 feet long. Screens for the organ have been built into the structure to show no organ pipes. It was thought that highly burnished reflective light would be trying to the audience.
“Thirty individual classrooms and a large social hall, kitchen, and a ladies parlor equipped with a buffet kitchen make up the interior. Modern equipment in the main basement kitchen includes a large range, oven, steam table and serving table.
“The auditorium itself is heated with a natural gas furnace with automatic electric units. Large exhaust fans expel the fumes and foul air. Classrooms use gas radiators.
“The architecture of the exterior is Italian Renaissance and is 80×139 feet. The extreme height is 50 feet. Outside are eight large columns and three main doorways, with a cemented basement.
“With the real estate, furnishings and organ total of $90,000, the recently purchased parsonage on Center Street adds another $10,000. This $100,000 investment is the most up-to-date church in Orange County and the best in the Southern California Conference of the Methodist Church.”
One of the great memories of White Temple was the carillon chimes that sang out over the town at noon and 5:00 p.m. every day, and on Sunday mornings. (A tradition that continues at AUMC today.)
Besides this church, the only other place in town with kitchen facilities was the Elks Club. Thus, the church was used by many groups for meetings and banquets, and became an important place in the community.
Meanwhile over the years, White Temple changed names to become First Methodist Church of Anaheim, and later First United Methodist Church of Anaheim.
In September 1930, Wesley Hall was built at the north side of the church property. The large, 26×54 foot, building included a stage and small kitchen. It was built with an expenditure of $3,000 for materials, and at the hands of the Men’s Bible Class. Wesley Hall was used by the Bible class, as well as the Epworth League. (John Wesley was born in Epworth. These youth groups were renamed Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) after World War II.)
The great flood of March 1938 inundated much of the town when the Santa Ana River overflowed its banks. The flood filled the church basement to overflowing. Tables, chairs, hymnals, music, Bibles and the piano were ruined and floating. After pumping out the water, mud and silt were a foot deep. The airbag that supplied the pipe organ had to be replaced.
In 1939, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary. The sanctuary was redecorated with new furnishings, new rugs and drapes. The pews were rearranged.
A large Fellowship Hall was built in 1953. It was named Wagner Hall in honor of William Wagner, the father of Muriel Lenz. For weeks before Christmas, youth and adults would work together to bake fresh Fruitcakes in the Wagner Hall kitchen. These fruitcakes were sold by youth, raising funds for activities and service throughout the year. The sanctuary was remodeled in 1954.
In 1968, First United Methodist and East Anaheim United Methodist developed a plan to reunite. On December 14, 1969, that joyous union took place. A family who were long-time members donated nine acres of property at Wagner Ave. and State College Blvd. for a new facility.
In 1971 the combined congregations, now known as the Anaheim United Methodist Church, began worshiping at Katella High School. The united congregation met at the school for two years while our new campus was under construction next to the school at the new church site.
On Palm Sunday, April 15, 1973, our present sanctuary and church facility was dedicated. The campus included several classrooms and meeting rooms. A new Fellowship Hall center was completed in July 1981, providing a large social hall, state-of-the-art kitchen facilities, church offices, a library, and meeting rooms.
Today our congregation continues to unite each week in joyful worship and in Christian service to our neighbors in Anaheim. We are deeply grateful to all those who have gone before us, and who built the foundation for us to reach out, serve and invite with the love of Jesus Christ. We pray that many new friends will join us as we embrace God’s future, touching many neighbors with the life-changing love of God.
For more information on the History of the global United Methodist Church, click here
Seeking Historical Artifacts
Here are just a few of the items we are looking for:
- The Sunday Church Bulletin from December 14, 1969, when the former First and East churches combined to form Anaheim United Methodist Church
- The Sunday Church Bulletin or Dedication Program from Palm Sunday, April 15, 1973, when we dedicated our current church facility.
- Any photos, Chimes, Sunday Bulletins, papers or other items that covered landmark events of the church, or may be of historical or anecdotal interest. Of course, this includes items from the former First (White Temple) or East (People’s and Wesley) churches.