The History of the Methodist Church
in Caro, Michigan
In 1855 the first itinerant Methodist minister, Reverend I. B. J. McKinney, came to the settlement of Centerville, now Caro. In 1865-66 the local organization was separated from the Watrousville circuit. On August 8, 1870, the first church building was dedicated at the Burnside-Sheridan Street site. During the pastorate of the Reverend M.W. Gifford, this frame edifice proved to be too small and the Opera House was rented for services while the old building was being torn down to make room for a new brick structure, which was dedicated on May 6, 1894, at a cost of $16,000. This congregation was known as the Caro Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Caro Methodist Protestant Church had been organized as a mission in 1899, and the Reverend Robert Rutledge was assigned as pastor in 1902. A church building was erected on East Sherman Street and dedicated in 1903.
In May, 1939, a Uniting Conference was held in Kansas City, Missouri, which united the former Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Protestant Church into one denomination to be called The Methodist Church. After this union, the Caro Methodist Episcopal took the name "First Methodist Church", and the Caro Methodist Protestant Church took the name "Sherman Street Methodist". On September 25, 1941, these two congregations merged in Christian fellowship as "First Methodist Church of Caro," meeting at the Burnside-Sheridan Street site. In 1959, under the leadership of Reverend Ralph Churchill, it became apparent that a new building would be needed. A future site consisting of ten acres plus 792 square feet on Gilford Road was purchased from John P. and Margaret D. Dawson, with a bequest of $7,000 from Mrs. Lavinia Allen.
The Caro Evangelical Church was organized at the home of George Kohn in 1872, with six charter members. Meetings were held in private homes by Reverend W. Berge who served a circuit including Caro, Cass City and Sebewaing. A frame church building was purchased and dedicated on December 25, 1887. In 1905 a masonry building was dedicated at the corner of State and Hamilton Streets. The Fairgrove Evangelical Church was organized on December 17, 1876, by the Reverend John Miller, as a mission of the Caro Evangelical Church. The church building was located on Sheridan Road near Fairgrove Road. A merger between the Evangelical and the United Brethren denominations caused the Caro and Fairgrove congregations to be known as the Caro Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Fairgrove Evangelical United Brethren Church, although no actual merger occurred on the local level in Caro. The denominational merger occurred in 1946. On February 26, 1966, the building at Fairgrove was destroyed by fire, and the congregation joined with that of the Caro Evangelical United Brethren Church on Palm Sunday, 1966.
In April, 1968, delegates representing the Evangelical United Brethren and the Methodist Church met in Dallas, Texas, and consummated the merger of the two denominations, forming the United Methodist Church. Consequent to this event, discussions occurred between First United Methodist Church of Caro and State Street United Methodist Church (formerly Caro Evangelical United Brethren) which led to a merger of the congregations it January, 1971, under the leadership of the Reverend Ben Whaley and Reverend G. Charles Ball. The merged congregation continued to meet at the Burnside-Sheridan Street church. Plans were made for a new structure on Gilford Road. During the ministry of the Reverend Ronald Thompson, the structure was dedicated September 8, 1974. The cost exceeded $670,000.
In the ten years following, loyal service and dedicated giving made possible the payment of this debt and the Mortgage-Burning Dedication in October of 1984, the bicentennial year of United Methodism in America. The congregation looks backward with appreciation for all that has gone before, and forward with a sense of challenge to new ministry and mission. Addition of an elevator and air conditioning has made our church more accessible and comfortable. We continue our ministry and mission in the Caro area and invite you to join us.