St Paul’s Past
A Brief History of St Paul United Methodist Church and its Antecendents
Condensed by Lynn Brandvold from a history written by Re. Larry Castillo-Wilson in 1982
The story of Methodism in Socorro is some of the oldest Protestant history in New Mexico. The first Protestant minister to do any work in Socorro was a Methodist. Benigno Cardenas was a renegade Catholic priest who was converted to Methodism by Rev. E. George Nicholson, the first Methodist Missionary to New Mexico. In 1854 Cardenas preached the first Protestant sermon in Socorro. In 1855, Rev. Dallas D. Lore made an on-site inspection of New Mexico mission work. He undertook a reorganization of the work and organized a circuit with four appointments: Peralta, Jarales, Polvadera and Socorro.
The next important Methodist to travel to Socorro was the Rev. John L. Dyer, the legendary “snowshoe priest” of the Colorado Conference. He was so named because when the snow was deep he made the rounds of his circuit on snowshoes. In 1860 Rev. Dyer was appointed Superintendent of New Mexico. During the year 1869-1870 he traveled and preached all over New Mexico. He asked the Bishop to recruit and appoint a friend he had known from the Northwest Wisconsin Conference, Thomas Harwood. Rev. Thomas Harwood was the trailblazer for Methodist work in New Mexico. He spent nearly half a century evangelizing, starting churches and establishing schools. Off and on during the 1880s and 1890s Thomas Harwood’s headquarters were in Socorro. He was the District Superintendent of the English and Spanish Missions. Harwood was also the first president of the Board of Trustees of the New Mexico School of Mines in 1893. In 1895 Thomas Hodgson served both Socorro and Magdalena. But with the closing of the smelter in 1896, the membership was scattered to other towns until only one family was left. The church was closed and the pews, pulpit, books and organ were moved to Kelly.
After this there was no appointment of a minister in Socorro. But the Spanish mission continued and grew into the Harwood Methodist Church which continued into the 1990s but is now closed. From 1897 to 1940 there was no English-speaking Methodist work in Socorro. In the mid-1930s a period of renewal and rebuilding began and the population started to grow. St Paul Methodist
Church was organized on July 21, 1940 with 11 charter members. The small group held services in a little red brick school house on California Street which no longer exists. Later, they met in the
old Episcopal Church across from the Firehouse and then in the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Garfield. At some point between 1940 and 1950, the church began to be called St. Paul’s
United Methodist Church
In 1950, the main structure of the present church was built. Cecil and Elsie Goad donated the property on Goad Hill. The church received a grant of $10,500 from the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church and raised $12,000 in cash and pledges toward the building. Most of the planning and actual construction was accomplished by Rev. J.C. Sprouls and the men of the church. The present parsonage was built in 1955.
In 1982 a modular building containing a Fellowship Hall, a large classroom, and two bathrooms was added to the existing structure. It was moved in February, rearranged and connected to the
existing kitchen. Much of the work was done by the members of the church. Vernon Houston served as chairperson of the building committee and Bob Tacker was chairperson of the trustees.
Six stained glass windows were added between 1997-2000. The windows were designed by Rev. Annette Sorensen to celebrate the Christian Year. They were made by Donna Decker and financed by an anonymous donor.
Under strong leadership St. Paul’s continues to grow and has an active congregation very involved in the community