The First Eight Months of Oklahoma City.
HISTORY OF THE M. E. CHURCH IN OKLAHOMA CITY AND
A SKETCH OF ITS PASTOR, REV. A. G. MURRAY
When Oklahoma was opened to settlement the great M. E. church had representatives in the rush. Rev. James Murray was the one to Oklahoma City. There was ample time and opportunity to have obtained an admirable location for the church building and parsonage, but some way or other Rev. Murray failed to secure one. He was elected mayor of the city at the election held by the Oklahoma Colony in the big tent of which mention is made elsewhere in this volume He acquired considerable property, or rather lots, in the city for his own use and left the church entirely upon its own bottom. It's the same old story: Get a preacher infatuated with politics and the hunger for the empty honors of office drams the elevating ardor, from his religion. However, on the 23d of June 1889, Rev. James Murray organized with seventeen members the M. E. church. They did not rush out into the highways and byways for sinners as was expected, and his health being poor Rev. Murray made application to be relieved of the charge. It was granted and on the 21st Of July, 1889, Rev. A. G. Murray, of Baldwin, Kansas, was sent to take under the shadow of his wing the little flock of Methodists who sighed and longed for a shepherd to lead them in the paths of peace. The Sunday School of this church was organized by Dr. D. W. Scott, June 9th, 1889, with about twenty scholars, mostly adults. On January 1st the average daily attendance was one hundred and forty with an enrollment of one hundred and sixty. Just as soon as Rev. A. G. Murray had shaken hands with a few of the members of his congregation he went to work to build a place of worship. Without
single dollar's worth of property to begin with he labored early, late and faithfully and on the 27th of December, 1889, a handsome church building was dedicated. The property on the first of January was worth at least twenty-five hundred dollars and not a cent did the society owe. The first conference held in the territory convened in this church with one hundred ministers in attendance. Bishop W. X. Ninde, of Topeka, Kansas, presiding. So large are the congregations that attend the services that it has been deemed advisable to enlarge the building. The vocalization of the choir, a most excellent one, is as follows: Sopranos - Mrs. A. C. Peyton, Misses Jessie Hammers, Ettie Ray, Annie Rice and Mrs. C. L. Beard. Altos - Mrs. J. W. Pettee, Miss Nellie Bourne and Mrs. C. A. Richardson. Tenors - M. L. Bixler, and L. Joyce. Bassos - Capt. Hammer, H. B. Mitchell and C. L. Beard. Chorisier - N. M. Tubbs. Organist - Mrs. F. L. Cramer.
REV. A. G. MURRAY
the pastor of the M. E. church, was born in Montgomery county, Ohio, and at the age of twelve years moved with his father to Miami county, Indiana, where he spent seven years on a farm. When Fort Sumpter was fired on he was in the senior class in college and but nineteen years old, yet he was the tenth man to enroll his name for service when the first call for troops was made. He served in the Fifty-first Reg. Ind. Vol., as a private for two years when he was promoted to a first lieutenant. He was the ranking officer during the incarceration of the officers of his regiment in Libby prison. He was in command of the regiment for half a year and was regimental adjutant from '63 to '65, when the war was over he settled in Peru, Indiana, where he was a struggling pedagogue for ten long and weary years. He joined the Kansas conference in 1876 and has been stationed by that conference in Osage City, Marysville, Centralia and Alma. He came to Oklahoma at the request of Rev. B. C. Swartz, superintendent of missions in the Indian Territory, and Bishop W. X. Nindle, of Topeka. He is an earnest, able, efficient pastor, beloved by his congregation and exactly the "right man in the right place." The Gazette of October 28, had this to say of the dedication services:
Six months ago today the Rev. J. Murray preached the first sermon ever delivered by a Methodist minister in this city. It was an open air meeting and how different from the one of yesterday and last night. A little later on the superintendent of M. E. missions in the Indian
Territory, Rev. Swartz, sent Rev. A. G. Murray to this place as a missionary and pastor to look after Methodists who had flocked here with members of other denominations and sinners too, in their laudable efforts to better their condition in point of this world's goods and to find a home in this land of prodigal provision and where nature's hand seems always open. Rev. A. G. Murray needs no introduction to newspaper readers in this part of the moral vineyard. He is well and favorably known to all our people. He has worked zealously, cheerfully and without complaint in sunshine and rain, in wind and calm for the upbuilding of the Methodist church in this city, and yesterday his cup of joy was filled to the brim. His solicitations, his anxiety happily ended when the comfortable, tasty and creditable edifice, shaped and reared under his supervision, was yesterday dedicated and denominated the worship place of his people in the future. His work as far as building a church out of lumber and nails is concerned, is ended for a time, but his work of doing good goes right on without rest or inter-mission and the consecration of the church building yesterday adds vim and vigor to his movements. Every Methodist in the city expanded just a little yesterday. They couldn't help it. It was an expansion time. No church ever had a brighter, better, more intelligent or generous congregation than that which literally jammed in the M. E. building yesterday morning and last night. The only mistake made in building that new church is that they didn't build it large enough to accommodate the people. At least one hundred stood up, sat on the railing and on the floor. Every inch of room was judiciously managed and occupied and then scores failed to even get inside the building. It was a red letter day for the Methodists and nobody blames them for slightly spreading themselves. When the hands of the church clock pointed to eleven yesterday morning almost five hundred people were waiting for the services to begin. It was a notable gathering of this city's representative people, Presbyterians, Baptists, Christians and those without the compass of and creed were there. Lawyers, doctors, mechanics, clerks, real estate men, teachers, bankers, capitalists and laborers were there to witness one of the most important events in the history of this city and territory. On the platform sat the Ladies' Aid Society, L. Country-man, Gen. Cramer, Judge Violet, Hon. Sidney Clarke, Postmaster Beidler, Rev. Bill, of Guthrie, Dr. Scott, Rev. Swartz, Rev. James Murray and Dr. Bernard Kelley, of Topeka, Rev. A. G. Murray, representatives of the press,
the choir and a number of others. Dr. Kelley delivered a masterly sermon on "Christianity" taken from the text found in Ephesians III, 15--"Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." Its delivery occupied over and hour but so grandly eloquent and interesting was it that the flight of time was unnoted. If Dr. Kelley could preach just about once every week two-thirds of this city's inhabitants would be shouting Methodists in less than three months. At the close of his sermon he told a few collection stories and asked the audience to raise $300 to free the church from debt and in just twenty minutes by the clock raised $339. In the evening Rev. James Murray occupied the pulpit and fully as many persons listened to his eloquent words as had heard Dr. Kelley in the morning. Then came the dedicatory services per-formed by Dr. Kelley, ably assisted by the Revs. Swartz, Murray and Hill. They were beautiful, simple and impressive. Rev. Swartz got the floor under protest and told how he had sent Rev. A. G. Murray down here to work for the Methodists and pointed to the building as one of the results of his labor. For all this Brother Murray had received less than fifty dollars for his support. Preachers had to have bread and butter and occasionally chicken-Methodist preachers were always death on chickens-now would not the magnificent audience help him to obtain some of the palatable things of this life? Solicitors were sent out and a handsome sum was soon collected for the pastor. The gleaner's barrels were then opened and their contents announced as follows: Miss Jessie Hammer $11.10; Miss Annie Hazen, $1.32; Miss Ida Hazen, $1.15; Miss Minnie Rice, $9.17; Miss Nellie Bourne, $6.46; Mrs. Pettee, $21.40. Four prizes, morocco bound bibles, were awarded to the four gleaners having gathered the most. Mr. Kelley made the presentation speech to Mrs. Pettee, and Dr. Scott grew rapturous in delivering Miss Rice hers. Rev. Swartz claimed that Drs. Kelley and Scott made his speech and handed Miss Hammer her prize. Capt. Hammer in fitting words presented Miss Bourne her little volume of glorious truth. The choir - haven't said anything about the choir yet - sang "Scatter Seeds of Salvation," or something like that, when the benediction was pronounced and the great congregation-the greatest ever in Oklahoma City - scattered to their respective homes.