Our History

A History of the Northfield United Methodist Church

Old car

Print this page and take it with you as you embark on a driving tour in the Northfield area to learn about the history of the Northfield United Methodist Church.



Begin your tour here...

1. First Methodist Worship in Rice County—July 22, 1855

Directions: Take Division Street/Highway 246 southward out of Northfield. Leave 246 just south of the intersection of 246 and 82, then briefly continue southward on 82, then turn right onto 22 at the “Y” of the two roads. Total distance to the site is just under three miles from the intersection of Jefferson Parkway and Highway 246 to the Eleanor Salisbury Farm. The farm is on the left hand side of 22, and has a white fence near the road, #12685.

Log cabinA log cabin near the road (perhaps similar to to the photograph to the right of a cabin built on a nearby farm in about 1862), was where the first services were held. At the time, a road connecting Hastings and Faribault ran near the farm (a portion of that remains in a dirt county road running eastward from 22 just about a quarter-mile north of where the Larkin cabin once stood). A livery station was located at the intersection.

At this location on Sunday, July 22nd, 1855, the first Methodist worship gathering was held in the Northfield area. Dr. John L. Scofield, a community leader, physician and surgeon, preached in the Edmund Larkin home, described by William McKinley as a “log house on the edge of the big woods, filled with beds and boxes, pots and all the rude furniture in frontier cabins and with as many people as could get inside of it.” Dr. Scofield preached on Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.”

The following week, July 29th, William McKinley, later to serve as pastor of the circuit and as a leading minister in the Minnesota Conference, preached on Psalm 4:6: “Many there be that say who will show us any good, Lord….Lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” Services continued at this site until the fall.

2. Methodists Relocate to Drake Farm—fall of 1855

Brick houseDirections: Return northward on 22. A short distance before you reach the Y of 22 and 82, you will see a 19th century red brick home off the road on your left. This is roughly the site of the original Joseph R. Drake home and farm (near which the Fountain Grove Post Office once stood).

In the fall of 1855, the Wisconsin Conference included this new preaching point in their Cannon River Mission, which extended all along the Cannon River Valley. The Reverend T.M. Kirkpatrick was appointed Presiding Elder, and he moved the preaching place to the Drake farm since it was more centrally located. Dr. Scofield organized a Methodist class that met regularly at the Drake home. The second quarterly meeting of the Cannon River Mission was held on this farm on February 25, 1856.


3. Grave-markers of Early Leaders—Dr. John L. Scofield and Joseph Drake

Joseph S DrakeDirections: Continue into Northfield on Division Street/246. Enter the Northfield Cemetery, opposite the high school and Bierman Funeral Home.

In the south central section of the cemetery you will find grave-markers for Dr. John L. Scofield, as well as for Joseph R. Drake, and their families. Incidentally, near the western/front face of the cemetery you will also find the grave-marker of Nicholas Gustafson, the Swedish immigrant killed in the Jesse James Northfield Bank robbery attempt of 1876. Del Gustafson, a relative of Nicholas, is a member of the Northfield United Methodist Church.

4. Methodists Worship in Northfield Schoolhouse—summer of 1856

Directions: Go to 300 Union Street in Northfield (current site of the First Congregational, United Church of Christ).

In the summer of 1856, the preaching place was moved from the Drake farm to a schoolhouse which stood where the First Congregational Church now stands. In August of 1856, William McKinley was appointed to Northfield, as well as to other points on a circuit, including Chubb Creek, several settlers’ homes between Northfield and Prairie Creek, East Prairie, Joseph Drake’s home, Cannon City, and Faribault. A total of 150 members and probationers were reported by the next conference. ( Joint Methodist, Baptist and Congregationalist services were held in the Congregational church at this site from summer 1918 to August 1919, in the absence of the Congregationalist pastor during World War I.)

5. Methodists Build Their First Church in Northfield—May 1859

Directions: Go to about 310 East 6th Street between College and Union.

BarnIn the spring of 1857, a lot and foundation for a church were procured at this site. A financial depression in the territory hindered the building of a church there. A church was finally completed in May of 1859. The church once overlooked a pond (now low ground filled with homes) which was known then as “Methodist Pond”. There is no remaining photograph of the church. However, the church that stood here was remembered in the Northfield News in 1897 as “…more like a small barn with windows on the side than a modern house of worship. The inside…was the plainest of plain; no electric lights, no carpets, no papered, painted or frescoed walls, no cushioned seats or upholstered furniture adorned the inside of this pioneer church, but into this modest, homely, and unpretentious building was put the labor of love and self-sacrifice of the men, women and children of the church, and they were proud of it and loved it with a love that few people feel for the church today. This was the only church building in Northfield, and the Methodists generously shared it with the Congregationalists and the Baptists.” A parsonage was built in 1868 on a lot adjoining the church. There were six charges in the circuit at that time: Northfield, Dundas, Northfield circuit, Cannon City, Faribault and Cannon Falls. Total circuit membership was 721.


6. Methodists Build Second Church in Northfield—1877

Directions: Go to corner of 3rd and Washington.

Steeple churchAt this site in 1874, new property for the church was purchased. Due to a fire, the parsonage on East Sixth Street was destroyed, and a new parsonage was built on this new property in 1875. It later became the Skaar apartment house (currently owned by the Gene Drentlaw family, members of our congregation). In 1877, the old church on East Sixth Street was sold, and construction was started on a new church adjacent to the new parsonage. Only the lower rooms could be constructed and used at that time, due to financial constraints. The building was finally completed as a two-story frame building and dedicated in 1883 to serve an expanding congregation. In 1899 the Minnesota Annual Conference was hosted at the church. Membership had risen to about 350 in the Northfield congregation.

7. Methodists Relocate Church—1924

Directions: Go to the corner of 3rd and Winona.

Parrish HouseIn 1921, property was purchased on this corner lot for a church. The old residence of Carleton President, F.B. Hill, was purchased and turned into a Parish House, the offices and education wing of the church (the large building still stands at 419 East 3rd Street, and is used by Carleton College). Soaring costs made new construction of a worship facility impossible. In 1924, the old church from 3rd and Washington was moved to this site, just to the east of the Parish House, remodeled and dedicated on September 12-14. By 1946, part of the Parish House was used as an apartment for the pastor’s family; the old parsonage on Washington Street was sold. In 1951 a new parsonage was built, just to the west of the Parish House.


8. Methodists Build New Church—1965, Remodel and Expand--2001

Directions: Go to the property at 1401 and 1411 Maple Street

Gathering spaceThis location, farmland at the edge of Northfield when it was purchased, is the current site of the Northfield United Methodist Church and adjoining parsonage. The current church building and parsonage were constructed about 1965. The architect was Edward Sovik, a Northfield architect who gained international recognition for similar church plans. A new Gabriel Kney organ was added to the church about 1995. Significant additions and remodeling in the spirit of Mr. Sovik’s original design for the church were completed and dedicated in 2001 during the tenures of Pastors Clay Oglesbee, Holly Aastuen and Janet White. In 2007 a remodel of the kitchen was completed.

The Roll of the Preachers, Lead Pastors, and Associate Pastors of the Northfield United Methodist Church—1855-2005

Dr. John L. Scofield 1855 First lay preacher, not appointed
William McKinley 1855 Organizer, lay preacher, not appointed
T. M. Kirkpatrick Fall 1855 Appointed to Cannon River Mission
Dr. John L. Scofield February 1856 Appointed to Cannon River Mission
William McKinley 1856-1857 Founding Pastor, Northfield Church Thomas Day 1857-1859
Ezra Tucker 1859
John W. Stogdill 1859-1860
G.W. Richardson 1860-1861
J.W. Bennett 1861-1862
Joshua M. Rodgers 1862-1864
Samuel T. Sterrett 1864-1867
John Wesley Martin 1867-1870
William W. Rork 1870-1872
Noah Lathrop 1872-1874
Thomas M. Gossard 1874-1876
Sylvanus G. Gale 1876-1879
George Robson Hair 1879-1881
Levi Gilbert 1881-1883
Franklin M. Rule 1883-1885
Addison Crawford Williams 1885-1888
Frank Brooks Cowgill 1888-1892
Samuel H. Dewart 1892-1897
Richard Noble Avison 1897-1900
James M. Brown 1900
Frank A. Cone 1900-1907
Wilbur Ruth Keesey 1907-1911
Milton G. Shuman 1911-1915
Edgar V. DuBois 1915-1918
J. Arthur Rinkel 1918-1925
John W. Taylor 1925-1930
Henry L. Weiss 1930-1932
Merrill Ray Abbey 1932-1937
LeRoy H. Klaus 1937-1945
Paul M. Wilkinson 1945-1948
Richard Gilmore Douglas 1948-1958
Russell A. Huffman, Jr. 1958-1961
Lawrence G. Rule 1961-1967
William Thoburn Horst 1967-1979
Thomas D. Brennan 1979-1987
Trina Zelle, Associate 1986-1989
Theodore G. Colescott 1987-1997
Holly Aastuen, Associate 1989-2001
Janet White, Associate 2001-2005 
Clay D. Oglesbee 1997 - 2008
Mary Keen 2006 - 2008
Donna Buell 2008 - 2015
Marty Raths 2008 - 2015
Rachel McIver Morey 2015 -
Jerad Morey 2015 -