Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Oklahoma City University and Wesley Methodist Church Link

The university buildings first constructed on the NW 23rd street property was the towering administration building.  Designed by architect William T. Schmitt of Oklahoma City, it faced NW 25 and reflected the collegiate gothic style.

When the Wesley sanctuary was rebuilt a few years later it too was concieved in the gothic collegiate style. Senior pastor Dr. Hovis suggested the design and layout and architects Leonard H. Baiiley and Virgil D. Alden of Baily and Alden Architectural  firm drew the final plans.

it may be inferred that Dr. Hovis envisioned a close relationship between the closest Methodist church and the budding new incarnation of a Methodist academic institution in Oklahoma City. The school had begun its life in 1904 as Epworth University, moved to Guthrie as the Oklahoma Methodist University and then returned in 1919 to Oklahoma City. In that process other schools in Texas closed and transferred their records and programs to the newly named Oklahoma City University.  It would be natural for Wesley to become the university church as such relationships were very common among institutions and the closest local church.  That was exactly what happened as faculty and students attended Wesley, served on staff, and more than once Wesley people left to serve OCU.

In 1924, Dr. James W. Baker served as an OCU trustee while a preacher and district supertendent. He would later join Wesley.

M.M. Gibbens served as secretary of the OCU Trustees for many years.

C.S. McCreight and E.R. Stockwell also served as long time OCU Trustees.

In 1947, Myron Harris was awared an honorary degree by OCU for his faithful service on the OCU Board of Trustees.  William "Bill" Harrison was a member of Trustee Advisory Committee on Finance.

In addition, at least four (4) OCU Presidents were members of Wesley Methodist Church. Over the years, many faculty also called Wesley their spiritual home.

The OCU Presidents
Edwin George Green, President 1919-1923
Dolphus Whitten Jr.
Aaron George Williamson, pastored wesley from 1933-34 and then served as OCU President beginning 1934
Jack S. Wilkes

The OCU Faculty
Clinton M. Allen
M.J. Binford
Dr. Nathan Boggs
Frank G. Brooks
Dr. Clarence Burg
Clifton Grossman
Harry H. Houser
D.M. Hart
J.C. Hoover
Leona Dale Hulet
John Lansing
Fred C. Meyer
Lena Misener
Francis McAlister
Wayde McAlister
Theron McGee
Therm T. Neilson
Nellie Melton
B.F. Nihart (Dean)
Oscar Lee Owens
T.F. Pierce
Acton Porter
Milton Prop
Campbell Russell
George Ryden
Mary Louise Simpson
Carrie Lee Snipes
Carl Skinner
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Soule
Lena Smith
F.L. Tibbitts
Joe B. Thoburn
Norton Wey

Monday, July 29, 2013

Selected Biographies: Marion Knapp Hurst (Mrs. Irvin Hurst)

Public Domain Image of teacher of Home
Marion was born in Marion, Kansas on January 29, 1906 to Dr. and Mrs. Bradford Knapp. Her father moved in 1923 to Stillwater to become president of Oklahoma A &M College. A year later, she married a classmate, Irvin Hurst and moved to Oklahoma City.

Her experiences in the home, the school and teaching all united during the depression as she taught classes on home economics, household management and similar vocational subjects.  

Marion Knapp Hurst authored in 1939 Household Employees Handbook (Dewing Publishing Company, 1939) and in 1946 she published The 1-2-3 of Homemaking (Prentice Hall). Its contents included chapters on Home Management, General House Care and Special Cleaning Methods, Special Homemaking Activities, Care and Use of Household Equipment, Table Setting and Service, Menu Planning and Marketing, Care and Preparation of Food, Laundry , Child Care ,Home Care of the Sick, and Household Employees.

On January 27, 1980 she died at Baptist Medical Center. Her services were conducted at Wesley. She was buried in Chapel Hill Cemetery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Cultural Setting: The Asian District

The Asian Sign at NW 25th and Classen Blvd. marks the turning point to Wesley UMC. The Asian district stretches from NW 23rd north to NW 30th and to UCO on the west and the Paseo Arts District on the east.  The pogoda inspired sign identifying the area as the "Asian District" sits at NW 25 and Classen...just make a turn to the left and you approach Wesley UMC.

The region is populated by a mix of ethnic and cultural groups ranging from Hispanic, African-American, European-Americans and Asians (most from Vietnam and Cambodia).

For more information here and here and here.
For an image of Wesley with the sign seen to the right go here.
See news article here.
A video is here, but no sound.

It is the site of the state's largest Asian grocery store.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Selected Biographies: John Embry

Wesleyite, John Embry at age 80 wrote The Namic Philosophy: A Philosophy of Reality and Religion (Philosophical Library, 1952).  It was orginally  published  in Oklahoma City by the  Utterbach Com- pany, 1951. 225 pp.

"John Embry, City Lawyer, Dies at Age 91" said the local paper.  It went on to detail that John Embry, 91, of 3827 N. Classen, had been a long-time Oklahoma attorney..  Services will be at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Hahn-Cook Funeral Home. Burial will be in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Born in Butler County, Kentucky, Embry came to Oklahoma in 1891, homesteading near Chandler. He had practiced law in Oklahoma since 1891 and headed the law firm of Embry, Crowe, Tolbert, Boxley & Johnson at the time of his death. He came to Oklahoma and was admitted to the Territorial Bar Association in 1891. He served two terms as Lincoln County Attorney, 1894-98, and was also Lincoln County Judge and mayor of Chandler.

He was elected to the house of representatives in 1900 and served one term. He was appointed United States Attorney for Oklahoma Territory in 1906-1907. He was later appointed U.S. District Attorney for Western District, Oklahoma, in 1908-11. He was Oklahoma County Attorney in 1915-16.

At age 80, he wrote a book, "The Namic Philosophy", which was published in 1952. Oklahoma City University honored him with an honorary degree of doctor of laws in 1953. He served as trustee of that university from 1922 until 1934.

He was president of The Oklahoma Children's Home Society and a member of Wesley Methodist Church for more than 45 years. He served as member of the official board, teacher and Sunday school superintendent for the church.

He was a Mason, Odd Fellow, Member of YMCA, county state and American Bar Association, Men's Dinner Club and Chamber of Commerce. He was listed in Who's Who."
(The Daily Oklahoman, July 18, 1960, p.19 c.1; Find-A-Grave)
Fellow Wesley member, Joseph Thoburn included Embry's bio in the history of Oklahoma he had written.

Historic Setting: The Gold Dome

The historic Gold Dome is a newer structure in a geodesic dome. It was built in 1958, as the glory road  known as Route 66  was dwindling being supplanted by airplanes.  It is now on the Register of Historic Places.  It is struggling to be preserved and recognized as a linchpin of the emergent "Asian District."

Historic Setting: Milk Bottle Building

The "Milk Bottle Building" of Oklahoma City sits along old Route 66 on Classen, just north of NW 23rd. It is another feature along the forgotten loop of the "Mother Road" through Oklahoma City.

Oklahoman reporter Kent Ruth wrote that the triangular building was built  as a grocery store about 1925.  His source was A.E. Warren and it was built by John J. Gordon. His source further claimed it had been a bootleg liquer store in the rowdy 1930's (Ruth, Kent. "Historical crooks, crannies." Oklahoman, Feb. 10, 1974, pg. 160). Ruth later heard from a long time resident who shared the building had been built in 1920-21 for Steffen ice cream. (Ruth, Kent. "Classen history inspires memories", Oklahoman, Aug.10, 1980, pg. 177).

The uniquely shaped structure of the bottle was designed by Arthur D. Nichols in 1932. The Oklahoma A & M engineering alum wass then working for the Boardman Company.  The sketch was transformed by metal worker Rudolph  Stavanuagh and another worker who built the metal frame and applied the sheet metal. Joe Flynm was the one to actually place the bottle in its location. ("Hatter Had Shop Under Milk Bottle," Oklahoman, April 7, 1997, pg. 71).
Photo by M.Hudson, 2013

The Bottle as Business
Mary Ann French said her father ran a hat shop there from 1930 to 1935. Frank Gallatin cleaned and built men's headwear before moving downtown to operate the Empire Hat Co. ("Hatter Had Shop Under Milk Bottle," Oklahoman, April 7, 1997, pg. 71).

Oklahoman columnist Robert E. Lee reported one of his reader had information about it from a decade later. Gayle Pierce said it was a "Flying Chicken" resturant that used the unique concept of delivering fried chicken by motorcycle during 1945-1947.( Lee, Robert E. "Milk Bottle Building Once Houses 'Flying Chicken', Oklahoman, Sept. 15, 1997, pg.70).

In 1951 the unique structure caused a bit of head scratching as authorities comtemplated widening the Classen street but found the building in the path.  Reluctant to destroy the feature a plan to swap the land for other park land and even moving the structure was considered.  The slight jog on Classen is the result. ("Milk Bottle Raises Classen Problem", Oklahoman, Aug. 29, 1951, pg. 6).

For years the log on the bottle promoted a now discontinued company, The Townley Milk Company, and was replaced by Oklahoman based Braums Dairy.

In 1993 the historic building and its iconic symbol barely missed destruction from fire.  Now housing a deli Hop Ky, operated by Sang Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant.  The area, now in a growing Asian district, was reflected in this new multi-cultural element. The article noted the building had been a grocery, a record store, the Beer Box, a florist, and a take out resturant (Owen, Peggy. "Landmark Milk Bottle Building Survives Fire, Repairs to Start", Oklahoman, April 25, 1993, pg. 11)

Historic Setting: Kamp's Grocery and Courts

In Oklahoma City, along the broad Classen Blvd. north and south of the juncture of NW 23rd and Classen are many historical gems. They hark back to days when this area was 'out in the country' and on the edge of the growing community.  They remind of heady expansion and opportunity and growth: all things well worth remembering as a new century dawns and continued renewal and rebirth occurs in its rediscovered neighborhoods and business districts.  They are examples of small businesses that succeeded and contributed to the development of the capitol city of Oklahoma.

Kamp's Grocery and Kamp's Courts - In 1910 two German immigrants discovered what was then the outskirts of Oklahoma City and settled down to establish business. Kamp Brothers Grocery at NW 25th and Classen Boulevard was well known for top quality groceries, deli, breads, and service.

In 1928, the  business name was used  in ads appearin local newspapers.  The image of the cute apartments solicited a short ride to see the area.  The urged people to come discover the cozy but green living space where every one had their own garden.   "Kamp Courtyard" advertized they were  bringing a new style of living along NW 25.  

More recently, the business transformed - and moved - to Midtown ( "Kamps1910 Cafe."; 10 N.E. 10th ).

Yet, the history lingers on along the corridor, hinting at a past worth preserving and remembering.

A Friend of Wesley: I.M. Putnam

When Wesley built its first wooden structure in 1910 at NW 32 and Military they were helped by the donation of chairs by I.M.Putnam.  

The astute ladies also salvaged some chairs from a pavilon that had burned in Putnam Park.  Applying elbow grease and some fresh paint they augmented the rough plank seating in the wooden building with sawdust on the floor.

Putnam was one of the architects of residential planning in early day Oklahoma City. He promoted home ownership and boostered Oklahoma City via his company Putnam Real Estate.  His chief competitors where named Shartel and Classen.

For more information:

A Friend of Wesley: Anton Classen Family **UPDATED**

Oklahoma Digital Collection
This early business leader of the city was also a Methodist and he supported several early Methodist colleges, churches, and outreaches. He donated land to the church  in the early days now known as the "Triangle".  For many it was thought this was merely another example of his long standing support of Methodism and Oklahoma City groups.

The Triangle at NW 25 and Classen Blvd and the later landscaping all were evidence of the same generous spirit that supported the early Epworth University effort.  To see an excellent historical overview of Classen Blvd. which fronts Wesley on the east, see this page.

Now, through research of this blog, it has been discovered  that there was more than mere civic support behind his gifts.  While searching through early membership rolls it was found that the brother of Anton H. Classen was a member of Wesley Methodist Church.

John Randolph Classen, his wife Nysa and daughter Ruth J., while living at 1512 W 30th Street united with the church on June 8, 1919.  The pastor at that time was Dr. Dean C. Dutton.

Also, it has been discovered that other relatives were also members of Wesley.  Anton's father had been a member of the German Methodist Church of Oklahoma City. There was a daughter there as well named Anna Helena Sophia Classen Wahl.  The Wahls and several of their children's families were active members of Wesley (The McBride family and McAlister family). [See entries on the Wahl's elsewhere on this blog]

In the dedication program of May 1928 it reads: "Between the church building and Classen Boulevard in the foreground to the east is a triangular plot of ground which was given to the church by Mrs. Anton Classen and her late husband.  Mrs. Classen has provided a plan prepared by Hare and Hare, landscape architects of Kansas City, Mo., and will park the triangle according to the plan, thus providing an ideal setting for this beautiful Temple of God."(pg.16)

Select Biographies: Dr Earl DuWain McBride

Another noted member of Wesley Methodist Church was Dr. Earl McBride. He was a strong member of the church, serving on numerous committees and in leadership roles including the Lay Evangelism group and donated the first loud speaker for the church sanctuary.

The son of Almeda Frances Tucker and A. Aaron McBride. He was born Jun. 15, 1891 in  Severy in 
Greenwood County, Kansas and died Sep. 20, 1975, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County Oklahoma.  

Moved to Oklahoma around 1900 and was raised in Watonga, Oklahoma. Attended Epworth University and the University of Oklahoma. Graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, Ny, Ny. Practiced Medicine in Ralston, Navina and Hitchcock, Oklahoma until WWI. Served in WWI as a captain. 

He was the first board certified Orthopedic surgeon west of the Mississippi. He opened McBride's Reconstruction Hospital in 1919 and later opened the McBride Clinic and Bone and Joint Hospital at NW 10th and Lee. 

He married Pauline Mary Wahl September 3, 1913 in Oklahoma City. They were married for 62 years. They were members of the Wesley United Methodist Church. He was active in the Oklahoma Society for Crippled Children (writing a history of their work), Past potentate of the India Temple Shrine (33rd Degree mason, Shriner and Jester) and an early member of the Oklahoma City Rotary Club. 

He was buried, alongside his wife, in September of 1962 in Oklahoma City at Rose Hill Burial Park.

See other photo and information here.

The Bride's Room

The Cherubs Overhead

In the sanctuary are eight cherubims who, 'hovering at the base of ceiling arches with wings unfurled,  hold aloft the triune lights.  The amber globes of the lights symbolize the light of the Gospel.

The story is told that the artisan who crafted these creatures from the Bible similar to angels was inspired by his own grief.  His small infant son had died and so he gave each of these heavenly creatures the features of his son.

Impossible to verify, 'the sweet, childish face and cap of curls which each cherub wears makes it easy to believe that they may have resulted from the wish of a loving parent that his cherished child might always dwell in the presence of God.'  (Madalayne Allen. These Stones Will Shout. Wesley United Methodist Church, 1988).

The Choir

The Baker Chapel

The Baker Memorial Prayer Chapel seats approx. 30 people. 
It has been used for small weddings, children's programs, and prayer times.
The Chapel was made possible through gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Marion R. Baker, in honor of Rev. and Mrs. James W. Baker in 1953

Mortage Burning

Church Directory of 1935-36

1935-36 Church Directory

Back Cover designby Harry Hahn

The 1928 Dedication Week

The Organ

When the sanctuary was built in the late 1920's the organ was an important aspect of the worship scheme. That organ has been built by the Geneva Organ Company of Geneva, Illinois.  It was purchased through the local branch of the John W. Jenkins' Sons Music Company.  They also installed it for the dedication in May of 1928.

The dedication occurred on May 21 at  8 p.m. in a special recital with Powell weaver, organist of Grand Avenue Temple in Kansas City, Kansas.   He was assisted by baritone, Kennis N. Wessel.

Weaver was a concert organist and composer who had received his musical education at the New York City Institute of Musical Art under the directorship of Frank Damrosch.    He later studied privately with Pietro Yon (organ) and Perry Goetschius (composer). Additionally, he spent two years studying in Italy with Remnigo Kenzi and Ottorino Respeghi in Rome. 

Wessel was a "Wesley boy" who had been educated in New York City under Francis Rogers, Bruno Hahn and Arthur Belbore.

Musical selections included "Prima Sonata", "Marche Russe", "Swing Low, Swing Chariot", "Italia Rhapsody", "Jesus Bambino", and "Toccato from Fifth Sympanthy" by Widor.  

The "Triangle": Classen's Gift to Wesley

Early Oklahoma City residential growth was the result of several leaders involved in real estate, transportation and other business. Among the the figures of the area of Wesley were I.M. Putnam, James Shartel, and Anton Classen. Each one established large residential districts that are now historic hallmarks enriching the beauty and diversity of the city.

The small leftover land west of Classen Blvd. and east of Douglas was donated to the nascent church about 1911, shortly after the move from NW 32 and Military to the corner of NW 25 and Douglas. Classen, a Methodist, was supportive of the Epworth University (1904) and many churches.    With the construction of the new sanctuary in 1928, the land was given a face lift from the widow of Classen.   It now serves as parking for the church.

The Memorials in Glass

Architect Leonard H. Bailey (Bailey and Alden) from ideas and sketches provided to him by the pastor, Dr. William Forney Hovis, designed the sanctuary of Wesley. 

The building is in an “L” shape with sanctuary and educational units and was completed in 1928. The Educational unit’s design style is termed Collegiate Gothic and when first opened was a three story, fireproof building with 40 x112 feet and with 43 rooms designed to address the religious education needs of a congregation of over a thousand. 

The sanctuary was designed to provide visual inspiration through every means possible.  The architectural style of English Gothic replicates many churches of the Middle Ages. Those great European buildings were virtually ‘sermons in stone.’  In an day when few people could read, when services where often conducted in Latin, the challenge was to teach and inspire.  As a result, the music, the architectural designs, artwork, and decorations evolved as teaching tools to share the Christian message of hope and faith. 

The sanctuary is finished in cathedral style art-brick, the wood in beams and pews a deep walnut stain, and fourteen chandeliers of Swedish iron hang from the ceilings and beams. Throughout the sanctuary are thematic representations in wood, stone or glass of basic tenets of belief.  These include the use of the Gothic arch, the use of the number three to represent the doctrine of the Trinity, and the stories in light and color seen in the many windows.

As you examine the sanctuary look for instances of the use of triple symbols.  These represent the concept of the Trinity and are seen in the three entrances and exits into the sanctuary, the clusters of three lights and other examples. The Chi, the Grapevine, and the Shield. The Gothic Arch is often described as being hands clasped in prayer to remind of the need for daily meditation. The arch can be found on the end of pews, on trims, and in the structure itself. As such, it invites a person to come sit and contemplate on things of the spiritual world.

The Stained Glass 
The lovely windows were produced by the Kansas City Stained Glass Works Company.  Well known for producing outstanding art glass, they produced glass for The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St. Luke’s Episcopal, Austin Avenue Methodist and First Christian Church (all of Kansas City). 

The Tour is designed to start in the Narthex (1) and then begin on the right -

Narthex (1)
In this area, there are various donations and gifts such as plaques, furnishings, and decorations.

Cloister, North (3)
(West) “The Nativity” – Mrs. William E. Rowland
(Center) “The Boy Christ”- Mr. & Mrs. J. Edgar Strader
(East) “Christ at the Door”- Mrs. Clara Bell & Family

North Transept (3)
“The Transfiguration” (1928)-Mr. & Mrs. Hillard John Scott
(West) “The Last Supper” –Mr. & Mrs. L.R. Springer
(Center) “Jesus and His Mother”- Ladies’ Bible Class
(East) “The First Disciple” - The Larkins Family (Charles N. Larkins, Lucille Larkins Huguety, and Robert Carl Larkins), “in loving remembrance of our wife and mother,” this would have been Anna Maggie Larkin who died in 1924 in Oklahoma City. 
Chancel  (West or Choir) (4)
“The Beckoning Christ” (Come Unto Me) (1928) - Mr. Overstreet, father of Mrs. Campbell Russell

South Transept (5)
“The Good Shepherd” (1928)- Mrs. Jessie B. Fleming and Mrs. Virginia C. Shike
“Rich Young Man”- T.Harold and Captain W.E. Corkhill
“Gethsemane”- Mrs. D.G. Murray & Family
“Best Friend” – Mrs. Laura S. Day and Miss Olga Stokesberry
“Empty Tomb”- Mr. & Mrs. O.H. Putney

Cloister, South (or Ambulatory) (6)
(East) “Holy Women of the Tomb”- Mrs. N.A. Whittaker and Family
(Center) “World Encircled” – WCTU (Women’s Christian Temperance Union)
(West) “The Ascension”- Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johnson and Miss Minnie Suitor
East Window (7)
“Jesus Blessing the Little Children” (1928)- Mrs. Florida Knight.

Triangular Plot (East) – Fronting east entry area between Douglas and Classen Blvd. Land donated by noted early Oklahoma City founding leader, Anton Classen (before 1928).  Mrs. Classen later donated landscaping and other improvements.

Sermons in Light

New Sanctuary Connected to Historic Church

Massive Growth of 1920's Chronicled in Historic Photos

On the walls of the church Parlor are photographic evidence of the membership increases of the 1920's. Records indicate that in 1921 membership was 815 and by 1930 it had swelled to1243 members.

Young Married Boomed Wesley Growth

When Wesley was founded in 1910 the member list was just over one hundred people. In 1921, however, the membership books revealed 815 people on the list.  The growth was due to a combination of factors.  The pastors of the day emphasized evangelistic outreach and programs to address the needs of all ages. In addition, the community was expanding, improved inner urban trolleys, and the advent of the automobile made the once long distances fade away.  Wesley was in the right place at the right time for massive growth. Here is a cropped photo of the 'Young Married Peoples Class" of May 22, 1921.

Selected Biographies: Joseph Bradford Thoburn (1866-1941)

Another noted early member of Wesley was Joseph B. Thoburn  (1866-1941).  He was noted for his 6 volume work on Oklahoma history ( a standard in schools for many years).  He is thought to have taken some of the earliest photographs of the Craig Mound at the prehistoric site called Spiro Mounds, and was instumental in helping to establish both Epworth College and Oklahoma City College.

He published numerous articles (36), founded the Chronicles of Oklahoma, and wrote some eight books and was a member of the 1903 Board of directors for the Oklahoma Historical Society.  "From 1913 to 1917, while in the University of Oklahoma history department, he conducted the first scientific excavations into Oklahoma's prehistory, including the cave-dweller culture of northeastern Oklahoma, the basketmaker culture of northwestern Oklahoma, and the mound-builder culture in Delaware, LeFlore, and Kay counties. He then joined the OHS staff in 1917, serving until his retirement in 1931." 

Additionally, an aunt was a notable Methodist missionary to India. Isabelle Thoburn (1841-1901).  Her brother was Bishop James Mills Thorborn and he wrote a biography of her,  Life of Isabella Thoburn, (Jennings and Pye, 1903) (A Free ebook at

Joseph Thoburn died March 2, 1941 after a stroke.  His funeral was held at Wesley Methodist Church, March 4, 1941. The services were under the direction of Watts and McAlce Funeral Services with internment set for Rose Hill. Rev. Hugh B. Fouke, senior minister of Wesley conducted the service.

His pallbearers were Allen Williams, M.M. Gibbons, Clifton Grossman, Roy Wheeler, Merle Woods, and Claude Hensley.  Honorary bearers included: C.S. McCreight, Robert A. Hefner, Dr. Earl McBride (also a "Wesleyite"), Gen. W.S. Kay, R.C. Bradshaw, and many others. 

(See general history entry here).

Joseph B. Thoburn. A Standard History of OKLAHOMA. An Authentic Narrative of its Developments from the Date of the First European Exploration down to the Present Time, including Accounts of the Indian Tribes, both Civilized and Wild, of the Cattle Range, of the Land Openings and the Achievements of the most Recent Period. The American Historical Society, Chicago and New York, 1916.

Ebook version here.
He is listed in the biographies THOBURN Joseph B. p. 760, 2192

Paul F. Lambert. Joseph B. Thoburn: Pioneer Historian and Archaeologist. Oklahoma Trackmaker Series. ublished for the Oklahoma Heritage Association by Western Heritage Books; First Edition edition (1980) ISBN-10: 0865460094 / ISBN-13: 978-0865460096

Selected Biographies: Dr. Jack S. Wilkes

One time mayor of Oklahoma City, Dr. Jack S. Wilkes (April 9, 1963 - May 3, 1964)  had served as President of Oklahoma City University from 1957 to 1963. After that, for a year he served as pastor of Wesley Methodist Church at NW 25th and Classen in Oklahoma City.
Jack Wilkes was born in Honey Grove, Texas, on August 5, 1917 and later settled in Oklahoma City.   Wilkes was an ordained Methodist minister, pastoring at various churches including Wesley United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.  He also served as President of Oklahoma City University from 1957 to 1963.

Wilkes ran for Mayor with the backing of the Association for Responsible Government (ARG), an organization promoting efficiency and integrity in City government.  The election was dominated by concerns about metropolitan planning, Urban Renewal and the retention of the Mayor-Council-Manager form of government.

During Mayor Wilkes’ time in office, City government became more centralized and citizens passed a sales tax to buttress the City’s finances.   The City’s Airport Trust received a large grant for improvements at Will Rogers World Airport and over $317 million was committed toward City growth.  The City also celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Land Run in 1964.

Mayor Wilkes resigned in May of 1964 to become President of Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana.(City of Oklahoma City website and Historic Oklahoma County)

The Forgotten Loop of Route 66

Historic Route 66 - where you can get your 'kicks' according to an old pop song, is commonly known for the major points along its route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Usually those points are known because of that popular song and just as it says, Oklahoma City is very pretty and in the days of the major use of Route  66 (pre Interstate) travelers would have passed by Wesley United Methodist Church.  The light shining through its stained glass windows in the evening just might have been what was in mind when the city was declared to be pretty.  This small loop in and around the area of NW 23rd and Classen Blvd. is a largely overlooked source of history in relation to the "Mother Road." (A previous entry looked at some of the other interesting sights at )

Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the home of Mrs. A.H. Tyler, 1220 NW 29th, on November 10, 1910. In the meeting were the first 28 charter members of the nascent church.  The first pastor was the Rev. F.A. Colwell appointed by Bishop Quayle of the Oklahoma Methodist Episcopal Conference.

The first church location was a simple structure with a sawdust covered floor.  The "Tabernacle", as it was then called, was located at 32nd and Military (32′ x 70′ ). The 1910 Journal of Methodist Episcopal Church, newspapers, and other documents indicate the Conference held at Alva, Oklahoma assigned the first pastor.  In October of 1910,  Frank A. Colwell as appointed pastor and  D. G. Murray was District Superintendent of this district.

In 1911, the congregation moved to NW 25th and Classen and in 1928 dedicated the lovely Gothic sanctuary with its large organ and many stained glass windows. A triangle of land in front of the church was deeded and developed by early Oklahoma pioneer business leader, Anton H. Classen and his wife.  In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal, South and the Methodist Protest Church formed a union to become the Methodist Church.  In 1968, the Methodist Church allied with the Evangelical and United Brethern churches to form the new United Methodist Church.

Today, the church is nestled in an area poised to experience a rennaissance in business, residences, and community.  A newly identified "Asian District" highlights the presence and contributions of Asians in Oklahoma City and the Paseo Art District.  Nearby are several historic residential areas: Edgemere and Crown Heights, Gatewood, Military Park, Mesta Park, Heritage Hills.  

Just a block west of Wesley is Oklahoma City University and the two have enjoyed a close relationship since the school relocated to Oklahoma City in 1919 from Guthrie.  The music department at OCU and the music program at Wesley have enjoined a special relationship as Deans of that department and faculty there have frequently served as Music director for Wesley.  The worship arts of music, choir, organ, drama, and speech have been enriched by this tie and Wesley was often viewed as a 'university church.'

Anyone traveling the old road in the heyday of the route would have passed this church, seen it's windows, and probably heard its organ or choir singing.  Yes, Oklahoma City was indeed very pretty....on Route 66.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Select Biographies: Dr. William Forney Hovis

William Forney Hovis was born in 1872 in Wesley, Pennsylvania.  He married Aimee Parry in 1902 and pastured in Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Minnosota.  He retired in 1938 to devote himself to his writing.  After the death of his first wife he remarried Ina and had children Willliam Jr (1914) and Keith (1916).

Hovis published numerous works from an early date in his ministry.  Some titles are:

  • Quality Folks: Practical Meditations (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1908).
  • My Words: As Reported by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul. (Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham, 1911).
  • Heart Sonnets. (Boston: R.G. Badger, The Gorham Press, 1913).
  • Poetic Sermons. (NY: Revell, 1932).
  • Consolation. (Indianapolis: Cornelius, 1935).
  • Sin and Salvation: A Study in Origins. (Nashville: Tidings, 1954).
  • A periodical in the 1930's called, The Reveille.
Hovis home circa 1928
He served as the pastor of Wesley Methodist Church 1925-1928 during a crucial building program that added educational space and a new sanctuary.
Wesley Methodist Church, ca 1930

Select Biographies: Rev. Frank A. Colwell

From Wesley Church history files

The summer of 1910 Bishop Quayle contacted an old friend who pastored in northestern Kansas to come to Oklahoma City and help develop a new church in the growing northwest section of the city. Methodist minister Frank A. Colwell packed up his family and moved to the bustling and booming city of this new state.  He immediately set to work meeting with individuals from two otehr Methodist churches who had promised to help with the new work and soon a snug wooden structure was in place and by the annual conference that November the church in the "cow shed" on NW 32 and Military would be formally organized  with some 132 members and named Wesley Methodist Church.

He was born Jun. 16, 1860 in Henry County, Missouri and died Nov. 26, 1937 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

"F.A. COLWELL, CITY CHURCH'S FOUNDER, DIES - Heart Disease Is Fatal To Contractor Here." 

From Wesley Church History files
F.A. Colwell, 77 years old, retired contractor and former minister who founded the Wesley Methodist Episcopal church here in 1910, died of heart disease Friday at his home, 1213 Northwest Twenty-first street. Twice in the last 47 years he left the ministry to enter the business world. For the last five years he had been inactive because of ill health except for a brief entrance into politics in 1934 when, as Republican candidate for county commissioner, he was defeated by Mike Donnelly, Democrat.

In 1904 he founded the Grace Methodist church, Shawnee, now known as the Draper Avenue Methodist church. As a contractor here, he built many homes and apartment houses in the northside of the city.

Native of Missouri

Colwell was born in Henry county, Mo., June 16, 1860. In his youth, his family moved to Wellsville, Kan., where Colwell was engaged in the hardware and lumber business until he was 30 years old. The he entered Baker university, Baldwin, Kan., to study for the ministry. He was pastor to several western Kansas churches in the northwest Kansas Methodist conference until 1903 when he moved to Shawnee, abandoning the ministry to enter the piano business.

In 1904 he organized and became pastor of Grace Methodist church, serving five years until he left the ministry once more and entered the real estate business in Oklahoma City.

Funeral Set Monday

A clergyman again, he established the Wesley Methodist Episcopal church at Northwest Thirty-second street and Military avenue, later moving to the present site at Northwest Twenty-fifth street and Douglas avenue.  Ill health forced him into temporary retirement in 1911 after he had
brought 100 persons into the church congregation. Two years later, he entered the contracting business.

His wife, Mrs Mary J. Colwell, whom he married in Lebo, Kan., Feb. 1886, survives. Other survivors include two daughters, Miss Isa Colwell, of the home; Miss Blanche Colwell, Los Angeles; a son, Luke A. Colwell, a real estate salesman, also of the home; and two sisters, Mrs Alta Stewart, 4301 North Butler place, and Mrs Molly Husselman, Fort Smith, Ark.

Funeral will be conducted in Wesley Methodist church at 4 p.m. Monday by Rev. Hugh B. Fouke, pastor. Burial will be in Memorial Park cemetery. The Street and Draper funeral home is in charge of arrangements. (Oklahoman, obituary, 11-27-1937, P.14/14/with photo) 

Become a Friend of Wesley

A special "Friends of Wesley" group is made of individuals, organizations, and businesses who wish to support the historic preservation of the century old and historically significant Wesley Methodist Church (Wesley United Methodist Church) founded in 1910.

The inspiring windows dating to 1928 honored people significant to local Oklahoma City history but also to the history of Oklahoma Methodism.

The church founding and development was guided by lay people who were leaders in Oklahoma City development in real estate, banking, business, and education.

It stands as a rare remaining example of Methodist Churches in the English Gothic style and as work by a significant early architectural firm.

Donations may be sent to:

Church Treasurer
Wesley United Methodist Church
1401 NW 25th
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma