The History of Claybanks United Methodist Church

The Claybanks Church 1885 to 1900

The Claybanks Methodist Church dates back to 1885.  For several years the Baptist and Methodist people of the Claybanks community had been holding services at the Green and Gee school houses.

The Methodist people decided upon a church of their own and a building site was provided for by A.G. and Mary C. Ackerson and George and Augusta Myer families who each donated 1/2 acre of land.  The deeds were signed on the 9th of March 1885.  The church building was started in the fall of 1885.

The July 5th edition of the Muskegon Chronicle:  …  “The timbers were hewed by hand by Archie Green from trees taken from the woods east of the Brocker farm. Leslie Steffe, then only nine years old, drove one team and helped his father haul the timbers to the building site.  The building committee for the church included the late Thomas Steffe, chairman, assisted by William Gee, A.B. Sumner, and Herman Buttleman.”

The finished church was dedicated during the summer of 1885.  The Rev. J.C. Floyd was the presiding elder and the Rev. M.W. Knapp the first minister.

Excerpts from the 100th anniversary booklet:  “The Sunday School was organized as soon as the church was dedicated.  Thomas Steffe was the first Superintendent, Mrs. R.R. Brown (Auntie Brown) was the teacher of the primary class, then Mrs. Geboo took charge of the primary class after Mrs. Brown’s death.  Other primary teachers were Mrs. Charles Osborne and Mrs. George Buttleman.  Seneca Fuller and his wife were the first janitors and Kate Hubbard was the first organist.”

The first organ was purchased by Ida Steffe through solicited funds.  Kate Hubbard was organist for the church for many years.

We are fortunate to have membership records for the early days after the church building was constructed.  Some of the current parishioners can trace their ancestry back to one or more of these families.

1880 is when The Montague and Claybanks parishioners were joined together as a charge.  Prior to the construction of the Claybanks church building services were held in school houses in the area.  These early schools serving the Claybanks area were Gee school, Summer school, Flower Creek (Fordham) school, Steffe (Green) school and Pine Grove school.  As late as 1895 classes were being held at the church, Gee school and Pine Grove school.  During these early years Sunday School services were held at these locations officiated by the various local preachers and exhorters (an exhorter was an unordained lay preacher) that were licensed to perform these services.

The pastors from 1880-present, serving Claybanks separately or as a charge with Montague or Whitehall:

Harvey Raymond Hawley – Appointed Sept. 15, 1880, Removed Sept. 5, 1881
Jehiel Gulick – Appointed Sept. 5, 1881, Removed Sept. 15, 1884
Martin W. Knapp – Appointed Sept. 15, 1885, Removed  Sept. 15, 1886
Herbert Stevens Taft – Appointed Sept. 15, 1886, Removed Sept. 15, 1888
Smith Cornell Davis – Appointed Sept. 15, 1888, Removed Sept. 15, 1889
Fred Wilber Corbett – Appointed Sept. 15, 1889, Removed Sept. 15, 1891
William Penn Mosher – Appointed Sept. 15, 1891, Remover Sept. 12, 1893
Wellington Earl – Appointed Sept.12, 1893, Removed Sept. 22, 1896
Andrew Wellington Burns – Appointed Sept. 22, 1896, Removed Sept. 20, 1897
Robert J. Slee  – Appointed Sept. 20, 1897, Removed Sept. 15, 1901
Jacob Walter Steffe  – Supernumerary minister 1898 (Assistant to R.J. Slee)
John Moffatt Dobson  – Appointed Sept. 15, 1901, Removed Sept. 28, 1903
George Drake Killeen – Appointed Dec. 1, 1903, Removed Sept. 14, 1905
Charles J. Kruse – Appointed Sept. 14, 1905, Removed Sept. 27, 1910
Frederic Matthew Clough – Appointed Sept. 27, 1910, Removed Sept. 18, 1911
Herbert E. Wylie – Appointed Sept. 18, 1911, Removed Sept. 22, 1913
Nathan Philip Brown – Appointed Sept. 22, 1913, Removed Sept. 1916
Frank Eugene Chamberlain – Sept. 1916 t0 Sept. 1920
W. Wallace Hurd – Sept. 1920 to Sept. 1923
Roy Ellsworth Showermann  – Sept. 1923 to Sept. 1925
Harry Pearce Rogers  – Sept. 1925 to Sept. 1926
Wilfred Arthur Eley  – Sept. 1926 to Sept. 1929
Irving W. Minor – Sept. 1929 to Sept. 1932
Lewis Winston Stone – Sept. 1932 to Sept. 1935
August W. Klaiber – Sept. 1935 to Sept. 1941
Myron N. Clement – Sept. 1941 to 1945
Clarence Willard Hutchins – 1945 to 1950
William E. Brown – 1950 to 1954
Harold A. Arman – 1953 to 1958
Joseph Vasey – 1958 to 1960
David Frederick Renshaw – 1960 to 1962
Lynn Erman Chapel – 1962 to 1965
Charles Russell Dunbar – 1965 to 1971
Richard Lee Dingman Matson – 1971 to 1975
Bernard Randolph – 1975 to 1976
Edward H. Slate – 1976 to 1983
Steve Michael Smith – 1983 to 1985
Keith Treman – 1985 to 1990
Kay Boyer Bosworth – 1990 to 1998
Anita Kay Hahn – 1998 to 2006
Gayle Berntsen – 2006 to 2014
Terri Cummins – 2014 to present

Claybanks Affiliations since 1855

Joint charge with Montague and Whitehall 1855 to 1880

Joint charge with Montague 1880 to 1926
Whitehall became one charge and the Montague circuit included Claybanks and other northern areas.

Joint charge with Montague and Whitehall 1926-1939
Whitehall’s membership was down so the three churches were made one charge with Montague the head.

Joint charge with Montague 1939 to 1953
Whitehall demanded and again became a one point charge

Joint charge with Montague 1953 to 2014
Montague had shown considerable growth and became one charge

Unaffiliated 2014
Whitehall and Claybanks were no longer affiliated.

Church Building Projects

The original church structure completed in 1886 did not have a basement or any of the modern conveniences that we have today, in fact, not even the bell which was not installed until about 1903.

Around 1900 sheds were built for wood storage and a stable.

The basement was added in 1945/1946 which allowed space for dinners with kitchen facilities and a toilet.  Tradition has it that the basement was formed by removing the soil out the west end of the church using a horse drawn scroop, called a drag pan.  A reception was given a new minister in the basement, this being the first time to be used.  That pastor would have been Clarence Hutchins who served from 1945 to 1950.

Somewhere in this time frame and oil furnace was added.  Electricity was installed in 1939.

Fellowship Hall

The addition of the fellowship hall, kitchen and rest rooms was a difficult task with so many different ideas as to how it could be done esthetically pleasing as well as the thought by many that the congregation could not afford it.  The following information is taken from the very detailed history of the building project compiled by Doris Graham.

January 1990
After some years of discussion as to whether something should be done to bring the church facility up to more modern standards a steering committee was established.  This committee, under the leadership of Pastor Keith Treman, was to study the physical needs of the building and the ministry of the church.

June 25, 1990
An all church conference was held to present the steering committee results to the congregation and decide future action.  Twenty-two persons attended the meeting.  Eight options outlining the building needs and ministry were presented.  The results of the conference was to have the steering committee continue to meet with the goal of finding an appropriate plan for an addition, changing the appearance of the church as little as possible.

September 26, 1990
The steering committee recruited Glen Anderson, builder, to work with Ray Maleski, architect, in choosing a suitable plan for the addition.

A statement of needs and goals was submitted to the Grand Rapids District preliminary to getting their approval for the project.  The District approved to hold a church conference on October 16, 1990 with the purpose of:

1) Select a general plan for the addition
2) If a plan is approved, elect a building committee
3) Empower the building committee to obtain detailed plans for congregational approval.

October 16, 1990
The District appointed Rev.Bob Jones of Montague Methodist Church to preside over the church conference.  A plan of the addition to run along the north side of the church was rejected, but the plan to add onto the east end was approved.

Winter and early spring 1990/1991
The plan was refined by the committee and elected Pro-tem (chair was in Florida for the winter).

May 1991
The resignation of a committee member initiated the appointment of another member of the congregation.

July 15, 1991
A church conference was chaired by Rev. Ron Keller.  The project was approved with the stipulation that the planned “Miracle Sunday” fundraiser must exceed $30,000.  The estimated cost of the project was $110,000.

August 1991
The money raised on “Miracle Sunday” was $37,197.69.

September 1991
A ground breaking ceremony was held on September 29 with Rev. Bob Davis representing the District.

A Strawberry Social was held in the unfinished fellowship hall in August and a Christmas Potluck dinner.

The year was spent finishing the fellowship hall with a lot of help from members of the congregation.  Priming, painting, staining, varnishing, outside cleanup and other tasks saved money for the church.

The turning around of the sanctuary began in January ending with the Building Dedication ceremony on May 29.

Fellowship Hall Financial

The plan from the beginning of the building project was that there would be no borrowed money.  Although that slowed the project down some, at the end there was a balance.

The initial money was raised at the “Miracle Sunday” on August 11, 1991 that totaled $37,398.

In October 1991 a plan was adopted to have a “noisy offering” on the second Sunday of each month.

On August 13, 1992 an auction was held at the church with donated items which raised $7,000.

The church was blessed with very faithful and generous Associate Members during this time.  These families had summer homes on Lake Michigan and added greatly to our church services in the summer as well as significant financial support of the building project.

Stained Glass Windows

On July 23, 1992 the Building Committee accepted the gift of a stained glass window created by Margaret (Margo) Woltjer to be installed in a new wood frame donated by Ernie Shirtum to replace the round window on the west end of the church building.

Margo, a Grand Rapids Psychologist, an Associate Member of the church, then constructed and donated all the rest of the windows in the sanctuary.  The windows were installed for the church building dedication, but there was a special dedication for the windows held on August 24, 1997 presided over by Bishop Donald A. Ott.

Land Purchase

On October 8, 1998 the church purchased 1/2 acre of land from The Kessler family on the south side of the church property.  The purpose was to add a parking lot.  Initially the lot was covered with ground concrete, but then black topped in 2004 at a cost of $14, 170 paid for by the fund drive and the use of memorial funds.

Sunday School Classrooms

The 1990’s were years with a large number of youth with the Sunday school membership growing from 10 to 45 during that time frame.  The church was holding Sunday School classes in the basement, bell tower and even the kitchen.  So again the congregation decided to add some classrooms on the east end of the fellowship hall.

On September 18, 2000 the Administrative Council established a steering committee to consider the feasibility of adding five classrooms to the building.

On June 7, 2001 at a Church Conference presided over by Rev. Eldon Eldred from the Grand Rapids District, the membership voted to accept the plan presented along with the financial plan.  A “Miracle Sunday” was scheduled for June 24, 2001 with a goal of $30,000.  The established total cost for the project was $54,764.  $44,000 was raised on the “Miracle Sunday”.

Glen Anderson became too busy to do any of the building, however he helped the committee in their decision-making, coordinating day-to-day decisions along with the committee chairman.  As in the previous fellowship hall project much of the interior finish work was done by church members.

Women’s Organizations

Flower Creek Ladies Aid – early 1900s

The Flower Creek Ladies Aid was typical of many women’s aid societies of the early 1900’s.  The ladies had various church affiliations.

Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) – 1928 – 1940

The WFMS was founded in 1879 as a worldwide missionary organization.  The Claybanks church has the minutes and membership rolls from September 1928 to September 1940 which was the last meeting of that organization as stated in the yearly report.  The organization was changed to the WSCS.

The Service Guild – 1937 to 1940

On August 9, 1937 a committee of five members met with Rev. Klaiber for the purpose of drafting a constitution for a church society.  The constitution to be used was assembled by a committee who made changes to accommodate their community.  Names were suggested, and the “Service Guild” of Claybanks M.E. church was chosen.  They purchased book racks for the church pews, donated money toward the installation of lights and rug and rubber matting.

Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) – 1940 – 1943

The Strawberry Social was planned by this group and is possibly the first one. They also donated muslin and diapers to Bronson hospital, purchased a piano for use in the church, and a stove for the kitchen.  They also gave a reception for the new minister in the newly finished basement.  The society continued their work though the years, however, membership declined from 20 members in 1951 to 12 in 1955.

United Methodist Women (UMW) – present

The UMW became the women’s mission organization of the United Methodist Church in 1973.

The purpose of the UMW is:

United Methodist Women shall be a community of women whose purpose is to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a creative, supportive fellowship, and to expand concepts of mission through participation in the global ministries of the church.  This group continues to host the Strawberry Social as well as contributing to other worthy causes.

The above History of Claybanks Methodist Church taken from “The Claybanks Methodist Church, A History compiled by Art Grumm, 2014




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