When you go looking for the earliest churches in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you just have to remember that a church is not a building, it's a congregation. Wherever two or more of you are gathered in His name. And among the many things that the Phoenix pioneers needed to survive in such a harsh place was faith. So, to find the earliest churches, you have to find the earliest settlers.
My personal favorite is the group that began with John P. Osborn (yes, the guy with the farm that they named the road after), his wife Pauline, the Reverend Lewis Hedgpeth, his wife Margaret, and their families.
To find this church, in addition to traveling back 130 years, you would have to go waaaay north of town to the Osborn farm, which was between Central and 7th Street, and, obviously, on Osborn Road. There you would find the tiny congregation meeting in the little schoolhouse. Then it moved to a building which was donated by Edna Smith, originally called Smith's Chapel, and then Bethel Methodist Church. As the congregation grew, a new building was built in 1893, and 1914, and when the congregation grew out of that, a newer building was built in 1948. That building still exists, and has been preserved as part of a retail center. Yes, it's just behind the Starbucks.
|Register of Members of Bethel Methodist Church in 1885|
|From the Sunday School Record Book of Smith's Chapel in 1890|
|Smith's Chapel/Bethel Methodist Church chronology 1881-1954|
|1908 article about Bethel Methodist Church|
|Bethel Methodist Church in 1948, 7th Street and Osborn, Phoenix, Arizona.|
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