Roseville church celebrates 130th birthday

03/02/2013 12:00 AM

03/03/2013 2:17 PM

When the First United Methodist Church in Roseville opened 130 years ago, even the bars stopped serving to pay their respects.

The dedication of the Methodist house of worship on March 4, 1883, was marked by saloons closing for the day and barkeeps donating $900 to the congregation.

"The entire community contributed toward the cost of the church," said Phoebe Astill, a fourth-generation member of the church. "The day of the dedication, the town closed down, including the bars and brothels, so everyone could come attend the church service."

That building still stands today at the corner of Washington and Church streets on land donated by Anna F. Judah, the wife of railroad pioneer Theodore Judah. This week, church members are commemorating its founding with several events.

The small church building was constructed at a cost of $2,500, using donated labor by church faithful who previously worshipped in homes and a barn.

"My great-grandfather, James Astill, helped build that building," said Phoebe Astill. "It is still used all the time."

Around 1907, Southern Pacific railroad moved its shops to Roseville, bringing growth and jobs. The church, however, still did not have gas service or running water in the early 1920s.

Methodists are no different from other church members in their desire to gather and eat together – so a lack of utilities did not stop the congregation from cooking on the property.

Women brought coal oil stoves from home and chairs were borrowed from an undertaker. In 1923, a lean-to kitchen was built for a budgeted $500. Much to the delight of the congregation, it had a sink, cupboard and gas range.

The women of the congregation did not have to bring cooking utensils from home. Potatoes, it is said, were cooked in washtubs to feed hungry Methodists. A chicken dinner cost 50 cents a plate.

Through the years, the church has changed names and pastors. A new church was dedicated in 1952 on the same site.

The original church is still used most days of the week for meetings, and early church services on Sundays. Through the years, the congregation has included doctors, teachers, business owners and railroad employees.

The membership, probably a couple hundred in number, is older than some other congregations these days, whose services are enlivened with bands, dance and guitars.

"We still use the piano and the organ," said Astill. The current pastor is Paul Joseph Yang.

A dinner and historical church program were held on Friday evening.

Today, a barbecue, tours of the building and entertainment will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

During Sunday service at 10:15 a.m., former pastors of the church will be participating in worship.

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