our beginnings were humble
The First Methodist Church
The Rev. J.P. Jenkins, pastor of the Methodist Church in Salem preached a few sermons in the newly platted town of Canistota in 1883. During the following year, 1884, The Rev. William Thomas, pastor of the Methodist church in Bridgewater came to Canistota and occasionally preached to the people. About this time B. D. L. Dudley came to town and engaged in business, and a class of seven members was organized. Charter members were: Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Tarrell, Mr. and Mrs. Christian Bolle and Mrs. A. Scobie. The Salem and Canistota churches were served as a charge for the following three years.
In 1885 the class was increased to nine members by the addition of Mr. and Mrs. James Knox. Public services were held in a school building. When that burned, services were held in the C. and N. W. depot and later in an unfurnished saloon building. From 1886 – 1893 they met in the Presbyterian Church building.
In 1886, the class was increased to 17 by the addition of Mrs. John Manary, Mr. Sherman, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding, Sr., the Misses May and Corrie Morgan and Miss Jessie Schobie.
In 1893, under the pastorate of The Rev. J. G. Corwin, the church was served from Bridgewater. During the period of 1893-1896, The Rev. W. Underwood served the Bridgewater and Canistota churches and a building was started during the month of October, 1895, finished at a cost of $2,000.
In 1900, The Rev. Miller was appointed to Canistota with the Riverside congregation. In 1901, the Riverside church was detached from Canistota and two country points were added with the appointment of The Rev. I. P. Potter, and addition was built to the parsonage. In 1924, a basement was added to the church and the entrance changed from the south to the east.
In 1954, the old parsonage was sold and the The Rev. Royal Marty moved his family into the new parsonage.
The following ministers have served the Canistota Methodist congregation: J. P. Jenkins, William Thomas, L. B. Wiles, M. E. Nickerson, J. G. Corwin, William Underwood, R. N. Kratz, N. L. Nitch, J. P. Potter, A. W. Thurston, Hendricks, Knight, I. B. Sevey, F. Ondrozeck, J. R. Krins, I. P. Potter, Edgar E. Saxton, O. P. Jackson, O. M. Freeman, J. Herbert Spencer, C. Eldon Stuck, J. J. Stimpke, George Walton, C. E. Bates, E. E. Vernon, C. C. Boslough, Glade Sietsema, Arthur Gould, C. D. Bullock, Robert Barter, John Shalley, Royal Marty, James Torbert, Rodney Gist.
The First Presbyterian Church
1878, the same year that the town of Cameron was established, was the year services were first held. The First Presbyterian Church of Cameron was organized and chartered on Tuesday, June 10, 1879 with thirteen members by a commission from the Presbytery of Fort Dodge. Ministers present for the organizational meeting were The Rev. E. H. Avery and The Rev. W. S. Peterson.
Rev. W. S. Peterson conducted the first services in October, 1878. In the summer of 1879, Rev. J. B. Currens became pastor of Cameron and Bridgewater, and was missionary who lived in Parker. In June 1880, Rev. T. A. Shaver took up residence at Bridgewater, and served Cameron as well. He was followed by Rev. Thomas Bayne whose headquarters were in Montrose. When the railroad failed to materialize, many of the buildings of Cameron were moved. Finally, with the establishment of the Northwestern Railroad in the area, the town of Canistota was established, and the church of Cameron was transferred to Canistota, and a building was erected. Since it was the first church building in town, other denominations used the building until they could build their own.
In 1913, a basement was added. The Missionary Society was organized by Miss Anna McCauley. Some early church school superintendents were: Tom Toland, Walter McCullough, Mrs. Mae Rose, Mrs. Anna Haas, and Mrs. Annie Halgerson.
The Presbyterian pastors serving the church through the years were: William Peterson, J. B. Currens, T. A. Shaver, Thomas Bayne, Thompson, A. C. McCauley, C. I. Wilkins, Benjamin Swede, A. C Roos, Lloyd Jackson, Robert I. Larsen, August Ewert, Melvin Wipf.
In January of 1966 the Presbyterians and Methodists of Canistota began worshiping together. On May 10, 1966, Rodney Gist, the Methodist pastor, was installed as pastor of the Presbyterian Church as well.
Riverside Methodist Church
In 1869, while residing in Wisconsin, Mr. Joshua Watson obtained a license as a local preacher, and when he moved to S.D., he kept up his work in the religious field. He started holding services in the Riverside area (in his home and at the schoolhouse) in 1880. This group of people was granted a Certificate of Corporate Existence on June 10, 1885. The congregation was named, “The First Methodist Episcopal Church” of Grant Township, McCook Township, McCook County, S.D.
The decision was made to construct a church building on a parcel of ground donated by Mr. Watson. George Hoiten was contracted to build the building, 24x36x14, for $115.00. The contract was dated November 7, 1891. The only other hired labor was that of Thomas Cotie, who was a mason. The total labor bill was $152.90, and the total cost of the building was $951.06. At the time of dedication, the debt of the church was only $141.11.
The first full-time minister to serve the church was Rev. J.G. Corwin, in 1892. He also served congregations in Canistota, and Bridgewater. His total salary in 1893 was $549.00 including housing.
During the ministry of Rev. William Underwood the Ladies Aid and the Epworth League were organized.
Hard times at the turn of the century brought a drop in membership. In 1907 Rev. Fred Ondrozeck became pastor. He later married one of the local women, Florence Banning.
July 23, 1925, the church building was struck by lightening, and the building was a complete loss.
Commenting on the fire, the Conference year Book, 1925, stated, “in the face of crop failure in that region, the heroic people are re-building, and on September 24th, ground was broken for the basement of a new and modern church building.
In December, services were held in the church basement. The new building was dedicated November 28, 1926. During the dedication day which consisted of three services and noon and evening meals, the final $600.00 indebtedness was raised.
On October 18, 1942, the church celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Through the years, the church had an active Ladies Aid, choir, youth groups, Sunday School, and not least was a powerful baseball team which had an outstanding pitcher in the person of Zeb Cannon.
Ministers who served this congregation were: J.G. Corwin, William Underwood, R.N. Kratz, Miller, H.T. Hitch, I.P. Potter, I.B. Sevy, Hendricks, Fred Ondrozeck, J.R. Krins, E.E. Saxton, O.M. Freeman, J. Herbert Spencer, C.E. Stuck, J.J. Stimpke, Geroge T. Walton, C.A. Bates, E.E. Vernon, C.C. Boslough, G.W. Sietsema, Richard O. Moberly, William Winfree, Charles N. Thompson, Lyman Kern, E.E. Whiteside, J.W. Laudenslager, Rodney Gist.
The United Church
The First Methodist and The First Presbyterian congregations started joint worship services in Canistota in January of 1966. Rev. Rodney Gist was officially installed as pastor of First Methodist and The First Presbyterian on May 10, 1966. The Riverside Methodist Church also joined in common worship in February of 1967. During this period, the church schools and youth groups were combined and plans for a corporate merger were made. The women formed a common group called “The United Women’s Society.” The year 1968-1969 the Rev. Rodney Gist and the Rev. William Andrews of England exchanged pulpits. In June 1969, the three churches were united and official by-laws and corporation papers were approved and filed.
In 1980, a new organ was purchased. In 1997, the church received bells and started the Bell Music Program. Music has and continues to be an important part of the church’s ministry, with the Adult vocal choir and several bell choirs providing an inspiring part of the worship service. Numerous persons voluntarily directed the choir until 2003 when Starlyn Church was hired to direct the music ministry.
In July of 1984, the Methodist Church centennial was celebrated with several former pastors and pastor’s widows speaking at the morning worship. The Rev. Andrews and family from England were present for this occasion and spent a month filling the pulpit.
Volunteers did the custodial tasks until November 1985 when Francis (Buddy) Richarz started serving as the first paid custodian. In addition, Patricia Spicer, Patricia Popkes, Margaret White, Heidi Church, Starlyn Church and Del Church have served as custodians. In June 2001, the Council approved the part time position of Ministries Coordinator. Sue Shumaker served in that position until her death in September 2002. Starlyn Church has served in this position since Sue’s death. In 2004 the congregation hired their first part time Youth Director Heidi Church. She served in this position until May 31, 2007.
On June 14, 1970, a groundbreaking ceremony was held. The construction plans for the new church building included a sanctuary, fellowship hall, study, church office, kitchen, library, and six classrooms.
In June of 1971, the Presbyterian Church building was sold to the Lodge; the Methodist church building was sold at an auction and dismantled; and the Riverside church building was sold to be moved. June 17, 1971 was Consecration Day of the new church building.
In 1971, air conditioning was installed. The parking lot was blacktopped in 1978. The bell tower was constructed in 1979, symbolizing the uniting of the three churches. The congregation rejoiced when the last payment of the mortgage was made in 1978.
At a congregational meeting on August 29, 1993 a decision was made to put an addition onto the church due to the need for more classroom and sanctuary space. On October 16, 1994 the church had a ground breaking ceremony for an addition of classrooms for adults, Junior and Senior high youth, new library, wheelchair accessible restroom, enlarged sanctuary, fellowship hall, kitchen and storage. The dedication of this addition was June 4, 1995. A new parsonage/manse was completed in March 1999.
The following pastors have served the United Church
Arthur Cooper – August 1969 - November 1975
Peary A. Wilson – March 1976 – June 1984
Fred Anderson – May 1985 – November 1991
Sue Hakeem (Interim Pastor) – February 1992 – May 1992
Roy B. Caudill – June 1992 – June 1998
Daniel Jenks – July 1998 – December 1998
Ronald Sumption – January 1999 – August 2006
Emil H. Eberhart (Interim Pastor) – October 2006 – June 2007
John T. Price – July 2007-June 2019
Jerry Bertelson - August 2019-Present