In the early days of settlement in Northern Colorado, communities couldn’t afford to hire full time pastors, so instead traveling preachers would maintain a “circuit” of communities which they would visit. Services would be held in one-room schoolhouses, courthouses, and living rooms. Oscar McMains was one of the first circuit riders to serve Northern Colorado, offering Methodist-Episcopal services to communities in the Big Thompson and Poudre River valleys in 1867. He founded the first Methodist churches in both Fort Collins and Loveland.
Circuit riders were assigned to new circuits each year, which meant that McMains wasn’t around long before he was replaced by Rev. George Swift (which was probably just as well since McMains held views on dancing that were contrary to the church at large, and he was known to over-imbibe communion wine on occasion). Swift was in turn replaced by Rev. J. R. Moore who served a two-year term ministering to Poudre valley residents. Services were held in the Old Grout building on the west corner of Linden and Jefferson Streets.
In 1873, the Larimer County Land Improvement Corporation donated land on the southwest corner of Mason St. and Laporte Ave. to the Fort Collins congregation. There they built a 30 x 40 foot frame structure, which made it the largest room in town. The only problem was that the town ditch, just a block and a half west of the church, was leaking so much water that getting to church services in your Sunday best often meant wading through water and mud.
In 1878, the congregation lifted the building, placed it on logs, and rolled it over to a new location on E. Mountain Ave. that had been donated by A. L. Emigh. The church was retrofitted and congregants no longer had to wear their waders to get to services. The congregation remained in this location, which was about where Jazz Alley is today, until 1897 when a new brick edifice was constructed at the corner of S. College Ave. and Olive St. This building was enlarged four times, but by the middle of the 1950s, the congregation had grown so large that they needed to look at building a new church. In 1960, the congregation purchased a six acre site at Elizabeth and Stover. The cornerstone laying ceremony for the new church building was held in the fall of 1963. There have been two major additions to the current church building since that time.
First United Methodist still has membership records dating back to the late 1800s. Reading through the list is like reading through a Who’s Who of Fort Collins. The Averys, Akins, Emighs, Stovers, and Seckners were but a few on the membership rolls from the late 1800s.