St Paul's Past

We have gathered photos and history related to St Paul’s past here.  We hope you enjoy reading about our long and proud history here is Socorro.

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

The Saga of the Bell at St Paul's

The bell which hangs in the belfry at St Paul’s United Methodist Church has a rather interesting story related to how it ended up at St Paul’s.  

The bell came from a small New Jersey town called Trinton Falls.  It had been the bell of the Methodist Episcopal Church on Wayside Road which burned to the ground in 1815, the only remaining evidence of the church was a 16″ diameter cast iron bell.  The bell had been a gift to the church from an unnamed German farmer. In 1844 a new church was built and the bell was again in use. The church was then known as the Trinton Falls Methodist Church.  The church did not flourish as most of the parishioners had affiliated with other churches.  In 1883 the building was sold for another use, however, the bell and movable parts of the church were sold by the congregation, with the hope that there might be another opportunity for them to be part of a church. That hope was slow to come, but after WWII an auction to raise money for a new church took place in Tinton Falls in 1946.  Lydia and Les Rigby bought the bell for $40 and immediately installed it near the back door of their farmhouse where it stayed until 1968 when they sold their farm.

When the farm was sold the realtor made arrangements for certain items to be stored on the premises until The Rigby’s could make arrangements for their move to their new home in Socorro, NM.  Unfortunately the day after the Rigbys moved people came with shovels to remove shrubbery, plants, the bell and several other fixtures. The Rigby’s were never able to prove that the realtor opened the gates for this thievery and the realtor denied any part of what happened, However the next door neighbor avowed that the realtor was involved. Not wanting to cause trouble for the neighbor the Rigby’s did not pursue the incident further.

Six years later an attorney from Tinton Falls phoned the Rigby’s to tell them that the farm had been sold a second time, However he had been unsuccessfu in closing the transaction because of a fault in th property description which was unacceptable to the new purchaser. He suggested that the easiest way to correct the situation would be by the issuance of a new deed with the corrected description.  The Rigby’s agreed tothe issuance of the new deed and immediately contacted their old realtor with an ultimatum. “We will sign the new deed as soon as our daughter-in-law in Eatontown receives the bell, the coach lamps and the other items.”  She called three days later to say they had arrived  and the Rigby’s signed the new deed.

IN 1975, Mrs. Clifford Thompson drove to Atlantic Highlands, NJ to visit her daughter and husband, Mr & Mrs Frank Titus. The Rigby’s had recommended a realtor to the Titus’ when they moved to New Jersey.  Upon her return she visited the Rigby’s home and said” I brought you a present from New Jersey.  Whereupon she handed Mrs. Rigby the dong from the bell.  The bell was in the trunk of her car.

The bell was given to St Paul’s United Methodist Church in October 1981 and received by Pastor Larry Castillo-Wilson.