The little city of Hanford was only a year old and still part of Tulare County when the Rev. John McKelvey served as minister of the First Methodist Church in 1877.
The Itinerant preacher covered his circuit by horse and buggy, traveling to Hanford, Grangeville and Kings River churches and various revival meetings. Although the Hanford church remained part of the Grangeville charge until 1880.
Upon separation, the Rev. J.R. Gregory was appointed as Hanford church’s first full-time minister. His salary was set at $500 although he received only $442 and part of that was in the form of hay for his horse, a side of bacon, a log of fruit, eggs, a chicken and homemade butter.
That same year, a committee was appointed to study the possibility of building a church. A lot was purchased for $80 at the southeast corner of what is now Eighth and Douty streets (site of the present Masonic Temple), an old schoolhouse; moved onto the site and the congregation had the first building it could call its own.
On each of the three occasions, the church expanded with a building program, it was caught in bad times with a debt.
In 1891, the congregation sold its property to the Masonic Lodge and rented the building until a new church could be built on another site. Located at the northwest corner of Irwin Street and Lacey Boulevard (now the Fox Theater location), it was the first one the Hanford Methodists would have from scratch. Membership in 1896 was 172 members, a figure that was to double within the next four years. The Rev. George A. Miller, later to serve as bishop, was pastor from 1896 to 1899.
With growth of the congregation, thoughts turned again to constructing a new facility. The present church was consecrated in 1927 and cost about $38,000. The pipe organ cost another $4,500, furnishings $2,700 and the architect’s fee was $2,000.
Depression days hit the church hard and the balanced on the $10,000 mortgage incurred in 1927 was due the latter part of 1935. Without any warning, the title company phoned one of the trustees and told him foreclosure proceedings would be filed at 11:55 a.m. Aug. 17, 1935. A race against the clock began to raise the needed $9,000, but lending institutions also were strapped and none would help.
That Saturday stands out in church history. Exactly 10 minutes before the deadline, trustees walked into the title company with the cash payment. The church had been saved! A former range rider, Charles Kreyenhagen, who wasn’t even a member of the church, had been moved to advance the money. He had faith the membership would repay him. Although payments were small and sometimes late, he never pressed for payment and the debt was paid in full on Feb. 2, 1943.
The old parsonage, moved from the Irwin/Lacey site to Center Street property and remodeled at the time the existing church was built, was sold to be moved from the property to make way for the Christian education wing completed in 1960. That is the only totally new structure added to the church site. To blend with the Spanish-influenced main building, it was finished in the same type stucco.
The south side of the education wing houses two ground level rooms with restrooms and a connecting kitchen, making it well adapted to serving small groups. The north structure has four ground level rooms for classes and rooms upstairs that are used by the Boy Scouts.
Another parsonage on North Douty Street was secured and eventually the present parsonage on Chestnut Avenue was purchased.
The most visible change in the church’s worship area are the stained-glass windows added in the early 1970s — a total of 13 large windows and a dozen smaller windows.
The cross atop the tower once illuminated with hard-to-replace incandescent globes and equipped to rotate, now is in a fixed position and gleams brightly in red neon. Pilots say it is an unmistakable Hanford landmark.