Ministers of various denominations visited Baker County and held meetings at different places, but no one was a resident minister within the county prior to 1868. The Rev. Ellsworth, of La Grande, came to Powder River Valley frequently in 1864-5, and later Elder Newton of the Methodist church, south, held meetings, frequently at Auburn and in the valley. The Rev. Koger of the Baptist church preached at Wingville a number of times, but the Methodist Episcopal church was the first to appoint a resident pastor and hold regular services.
The following sketch of the work of the church was kindly furnished by a minister who has been a pioneer laborer in the cause:
“The first Methodist preacher who visited Baker City and Powder River Valley for the purpose of preaching the gospel to the people was Rev. John Flynn. He came in 1864-5, was acting as presiding elder, and several times each year crossed the mountains on horseback, from his home in Walla Walla to build up the church in this country.
Following him was Rev. J. G. Deardorff in 1866-8, who occasionally preached in this part of Oregon. Also Rev. Wm. Roberts and Rev. I. D. Driver traveled through by stage in the interest of the American Bible Society, and preached at Baker City occasionally during the years from 1864 to ’69. The first Methodist class was organized at Baker City in the year 1868, by Rev. F. Elliott, who was pastor until 1870. Among the first members here were L. W. Nelson and wife and Wm. Brown and wife who yet live honored members of this pioneer church. In 1870 Rev. H. B. Lane was appointed to this church, but continued only a part of the year. Following him was Rev. L. A. Powell and after him came Rev. G. W. Adams in 1874. During the pastorates of Bros. Powell and Adams the church edifice was erected, on the corner stone of which is the date – 1874.
The presiding elder from 1870 to 1874 was Rev. H. K. Hines, who did much pioneer work all over Eastern Oregon. In 1875 Rev. A. Joslin was appointed to this charge, who served it for two year. Following him was Rev. W. T. Koontz, who was pastor from 1876 to ’78, then in succession came Revs. R. W. Bland, J. W. Maxwell, Mr. Dimmitt, L. A. B. Anderson, W. T. Chapman, S. M. Driver, E. G. Fowler, J. H. Woods, B. F. Harper and the present incumbent, W. T. Ford.
The first of March 1893, there were about 170 members, a flourishing Sunday school, an Epworth League, and all its collateral societies very active. This society will build the present year, a fine and quite expensive brick edifice, which will be an honor to our young city.
The Methodist Episcopal Church is now organized in Sumpter Valley and has a membership of twenty. They intend building a house of worship there during the coming summer. The first sermon preached in that valley was by Rev. G. W. Kennedy in the house of Thomas Britten, in July 1881. The church was organized by him after a successful revival in the winter of 1891-92. This little society keeps up a good Sunday school.
In the winter of 1881-2 there was a gracious revival of religion held in the neighborhood of Pocahontas which resulted in the organization of a large membership into a Methodist church. During the summer following, a building was erected called Wilbur Chapel – named for the old veteran Methodist preacher and missionary – ‘”Father Wilbur.” This church was organized under the pastorate of Rev. J. W. Maxwell.”
To the foregoing history of the church the following notes and incidents were appended by the same author:
“The first pastor of the Methodist church in Baker City, was an Englishman. He had a great many ‘hups’ and downs and ‘hins’ and ‘houts,’ but was always bound ‘eavenward. He had a great deal to say about the depravity of the ‘uman ‘art.
” The brother who was pastor in 1870 was on his way to one of the mining towns where there had been but few preachers before him. He stopped at a house to enquire the way. The good man of the house asked him as to the nature of his business. He replied, “I am looking after the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” A little boy standing by spoke up: “Papa, I saw some wild sheep up on that ridge yesterday; wonder if them aint the one’s he’s looking after.”
The pastor of 1878-9 was a young man and unmarried. He was a man of lofty ambitions. His administration was both wise and otherwise. One of the most notable things which he accomplished was to take a belle out of the home of a widow lady of his charge – one which she had kept for nineteen years – and appropriate the same for church purposes.”