In 2007, Jack (my late husband) & I joined Francis Street First UMC. We were both raised as Methodists with parents that were active in our respective churches. After attending several churches of different denominations in St. Joseph in our quest for a church we arrived at Francis Street First & immediately fell in love with the church and the people. We felt at home.
I often wondered why I felt the connection with this church the way I did, but I never did anything about it. I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
Now, this is where my story becomes a Francis Street First history lesson for both myself and you. People who know me know I’ve always been interested in genealogy—a gift from my Grandmother. As a result of this fact we are all going to follow the genealogy of this church. Why you may ask? Because the church’s genealogy & my personal genealogy are connected from the beginning!
While I personally was not born or raised in St. Joseph, my grandmother’s family came here in 1840 & earlier. My grandmother’s great uncle (my third great uncle), Judge William C. Toole, came to this area originally in June,1836. Once again you are probably thinking “so what”! Just bear with me and I will explain.
In 1836, four brothers & three sisters of the Toole family of Kentucky, arrived in the Platte Purchase while it was still part of the Indian lands. They were what you would call “sooners”, they were in effect “scoping out” the most promising lands. However, they were stopped by government soldiers, who prevented them from entering the “promised land” because the treaty had not yet been signed. What they did & where they went while they waited, I don’t know. It was at least several weeks (read months) before they would be permitted to enter the Platte Purchase land as settlers. Regardless to say they were among the earliest settlers.
Who are these four brothers, Edwin, Walter, Daniel Jr., and William C.? Two were lawyers, and three were preachers—Methodist preachers. Now, while you are sitting there thinking “she can’t add” let me assure I can. The oldest brother, Edwin Toole, was already a lawyer when they entered the area and he in fact became the 1st Circuit Clerk of Buchanan County, being appointed in 1839 by Judge Austin A. King. Edwin’s younger brother, William C. was admitted to the bar in Missouri in 1848.
Walter was a Methodist minister (preacher) in Macon, MO; Daniel Jr. was a Methodist preacher in the Southern Circuit; and William C. was also a Methodist circuit preacher.
Now, we will go into the genealogy of Francis Street First and get to know William a little better. William joined the Methodist church as a preacher in 1838. He was 19 years old at the time. This was the same time that he came back to St. Joseph. He visited all the rural communities in the surrounding area conducting religious services in the cabins of settlers, or under the trees. It was reported in the St. Joseph Daily Newspaper of July 17, 1903, that he was probably the only living preacher, certainly the only one living in St. Joseph, who conducted religious services in the first log church of the town in 1841, which stood in the vicinity of Third & Jule streets, in what is now (1903) the wholesale district.
In the interest of time I won’t go into the details behind the split in the Methodist Church in 1844/45, however the church in St. Joseph didn’t split until 1849. The split resulted in the American Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the American Methodist Episcopal Church. By the beginning of the 1900’s the American Methodist Episcopal Church, South built a church at 12th & Francis and took the name of Francis Street Methodist Church. At this same time the American Methodist Episcopal Church built their church at 8th & Faraon and took the name of First Methodist Church. Both churches were referred to, and thought of, as sister churches. In truth, their only differences went back to the issue of slavery and the members views on the subject!
Back to my third great uncle, Judge William C. Toole, at the time of his death, February 17, 1909, he was the last charter member of the First Methodist Church. He was writing the history of the First Methodist Church which was completed by Dr. Charles J. English and placed in the cornerstone box and sealed into the cornerstone of the church on June 10, 1909 by Bishop William A. Quayle.
If he were here today, I’m sure he would be so proud that the Methodist church he started preaching for in 1838, split over social issues of the day in 1849, and reunited in 1995 to become one church once again. A church of compassionate members with empathy, sympathy, and compassion for each other and the community, able to celebrate 175 years as the Methodist Church of St. Joseph!
As a recipient of your outpouring of love, compassion, empathy, and sympathy at the time of Jack’s untimely death and my living nightmare I can vouch for this church and its members compassion and caring! Thank You from the bottom of my heart.