Santa Cruz County History - Religion & Spirituality

Santa Cruz Spirituality: Pietist-Methodist
by Paul Tutwiler


  1. Methodist
  2. Free Methodist
  3. African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
  4. German Methodism
  5. Scandinavian Pietism

Pietism arose in seventeenth century Europe as a reaction against the rigidity of doctrine and practice which was creeping into Protestant bodies. Pietists did not break with the Protestant traditions, but they organized themselves with less structure and formality. The three main branches of Pietism are the English ("Methodism"), the Scandinavian, and the continental European, the last of these never having been represented in Santa Cruz, as far as I know.


Originating in England in the late 1720s, Methodism came to the United States in the 1730s. With a Church of England background, a non-Calvinistic worldview, an emphasis on helping and evangelizing the poor, and the extensive use of itinerant preachers, Methodism in the U. S. was admirably suited to be in the forefront of Protestantism in the West, and it is typical that the first Protestant congregation in Santa Cruz, the only one to exist before California became a state of the Union, was Methodist.

After various separations, especially between North and South, the larger number of Methodist bodies in the United States, including the so-called "German Methodists," joined in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church.

Bibliography: C. V. Anthony: Fifty Years of Methodism: A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church Within the Bounds of the California Annual Conference From 1847 to 1897. San Francisco: Methodist Book Concern, 1901. The author, Charles Volney Anthony, was a Methodist Minister and the younger brother of Elihu Anthony, who figured in the founding of Methodism in Santa Cruz. C.V. gives some details about himself on pp. 23, 74, 159, 172, 341, 362, 373, 388, and 432.

» United Methodist Church, Santa Cruz. 1848-2010.

United Methodist Church
United Methodist Church on Church Street
From Santa Cruz Public Libraries' Postcard Collection.

This was the first Protestant church in Santa Cruz and the third Methodist Church in all of California. It dates from 1848, when the newly arrived Elihu Anthony, who had been a pastor in New York, became its "preacher." In 1850 the congregation had its first church structure and its first resident pastor, James W. Brier. (Anthony, Fifty Years of Methodism, pp. 14-15)

A noteworthy occurrence of Christian brotherhood - although with a curious twist - took place when Elihu Anthony arrived in Santa Cruz. It is narrated on p.14 of Anthony, Fifty Years of Methodism:

Hearing great praise of Santa Cruz, both on account of its climate and productiveness, Anthony decided to make it his home. He reached the place about the first of January, 1848. He came with his traveling outfit, and began life in the place where he was to spend most of his days, by camping on the Plaza. The weather was inclement and life in a tent disagreeable, especially to the young mother and two small children. Under these circumstances the Spanish Padre showed them no small kindness. He pointed them to a house belonging to the church, where they could find shelter from the storm. Anthony, anxious not to receive favors under a misapprehension, frankly told him that he was a protestant preacher, and that he expected to hold meetings in the near future. This, however, made no difference to the priest, who not only continued to urge them to accept his offer, but expressed himself gratified that a protestant preacher had arrived, saying that he hoped the protestants might be made better for his labors. There was great need of it, he said, as they had morally corrupted his own people.

More on Elihu Anthony can be found on pp. 17-23 of his brother's history.

About 1851 the Methodist Church established three "Academies" in California. One was in San Jose, but moved to Stockton, where it remains today as the University of the Pacific. The others were in Sacramento and Santa Cruz. Neither lasted long. (Anthony, Fifty Years of Methodism, p. 78-79, which also names the teachers in Santa Cruz)

The first Methodist church building stood at the corner of Mission and Green Streets. The congregation rebuilt the church in 1862, but in 1891 it moved to the Church St. structure, which had been vacated by the Congregational Church the preceding year. In 1914 it erected in the same location a larger building, which it razed in 1965 after moving in 1963 to its new church at the present address. (Some of these details are in Anthony, pp. 15-16, but they can be found more extensively here and there, along with other information, in Koch, Parade of the Past, pp. 29-30; Elliot, Santa Cruz County, p. 69; SC Sentinel, Aug. 9, 1963; San Jose Mercury News, May 18, 1993; and 2010.)

The address is now 250 California Ave., Santa Cruz 95060, tel. 429-6800. (2010 Yellow Pages)

» First United Methodist Church, Watsonville. 1852-2010.

First United Methodist Church
First United Methodist Church, Watsonville
From Santa Cruz Public Libraries' Postcard Collection.

1852, the year of the first Methodist service in Watsonville, is taken as the founding date of this congregation. Its first church structure was built in 1853 on Main Street (then Pajaro Street). Very soon there were two Methodist churches, one North and the other South. The latter, however, sold its structure to the North one and ceased to exist in 1862. In 1874 the congregation dedicated a new church at the corner of Rodriguez and West Beach, where it was still to be found in 1946, although in Polk 1946 its address was 303 Van Ness Ave. It moved again, to Stanford Street, where its present structure was dedicated in 1954. (Lewis, Watsonville Yesterday, p. 65)

Note the listing of the Methodist Episcopal Church-South in the Pacific Sentinel of March 28, 1861.

All the above information can be found in detail in The First Methodist Church, also titled Methodists of the pajaro valley: keeping hearts "strangely warmed," since 1952, Watsonville, 1992. This monograph, however, states that the first structure was built in 1854 and that the Methodist Church South structure was incomplete when it was bought.

There are additional details about Methodism in Watsonville, including its outreach in Monterey, in Anthony, Fifty Years of Methodism, pp. 204 and 212-213.

The address of the congregation is now 229 Stanford St., Watsonville, 95076, tel. 724-4434. (2010 Yellow Pages)

» Boulder Creek United Methodist Church. 1865-2010.

Methodist meetings were held in Boulder Creek as early as 1865, but the first Methodist church there was built in 1874. When it burned down, in 1885, it was replaced by a second structure, which in turn burned down in 1907, and the present structure was built in 1908. Both conflagrations were attributed to opponents of the temperance advocates who labored to eliminate drinking and prostitution. (The United Methodist Church - Boulder Creek, California - Centennial Souvenir, 1974 pamphlet, a copy of which can be found in the Boulder Creek Public Library.)

In the first years of this Methodist congregation its church was said, properly speaking, to be in Lorenzo, "Boulder Creek" being the nearby post office. It lost membership in about 1890, when Presbyterian Churches were established in both Boulder Creek and Felton. (Anthony: Fifty Years of Methodism, pp. 340-341) This Methodist congregation was in fact incorporated as the Lorenzo Methodist Episcopal Church in 1892. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 113)

The present church is at 12855 Hwy. 9, Boulder Creek 95006, tel. 338-6232. (2010 Yellow Pages)

» Corralitos Methodist Episcopal Church. 1885.

The Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 127 are distinctly for this church, and not for the Corralitos Free Methodist Church, which is found below, in Free Methodist. I have no evidence that the Corralitos Methodist Episcopal Church went beyond the legal incorporation stage. Not to be counted in totals.

» Methodist Church in Soquel. 1888-1915.

Soquel was supplied this year [1888] by John Clark, a local elder. Services were held regularly in the early fifties. They were generally conducted by local preachers, and the place of meeting was a school house. The organization of a Congregational Church led to the abandonment of the place by the Methodists. C. D. Cushman, formerly a member of conference, happening to reside in the place, resolved to have his own Church represented in Soquel... [He succeeded, and the situation remained much as it had been.] In 1896 it was called Soquel and Valencia.

It still had members in 1897. (Anthony: Fifty Years of Methodism, p. 419)

A detail which can be added to the above account is that the congregation was incorporated in 1892 as the Soquel Methodist Episcopal Church. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 204)

Finally a church was built, and it remained in use until 1915, when it was abandoned, torn down, and the wood was used in the construction of the relocated Pennsylvania Avenue Methodist Church in Santa Cruz. (SC Sentinel, Dec. 8, 1957)

» Grace Methodist Church. Santa Cruz, 1890-2000.

About 1890 "... a lot was purchased on Pennsylvania Avenue in East Santa Cruz, and a chapel erected thereon. A Sunday school and occasional services are maintained there [about 1900]." (Anthony: Fifty Years of Methodism, p. 16) Use of the structure was, in fact, suspended from 1900 to 1905, but the congregation was revitalized and formally organized in 1907. (SC Sentinel, Dec. 8, 1957) At that time its name officially became the Pennsylvania Avenue Methodist Church. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 477) In 1914 the congregation moved to Soquel Avenue and erected a new structure. (SC Sentinel, Dec. 8, 1957) (Curiously, the Santa Cruz Historic Building Survey, Vol. 1, p. 124, states that the new church was built around 1925.) This, however, was destroyed by fire on October 8, 2000, (SC Sentinel, Oct. 9, 2000) and has not been rebuilt. (My observation, 2010.)

The name of the church was changed to East Side Methodist Episcopal Church in 1922. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 477) The address was "Soquel and Cayuga" in the Santa Cruz County Directory, 1923-24 and in Polk 1925, and 375 Soquel Ave. in Polk 1930 and 1946. In 1946 its name was changed to Grace Methodist Church, (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 477) and in Polk 1950 its address was 1028 Soquel Ave. In Polk 1970 it began to be called Grace United Methodist Church.

» Green Valley Methodist Episcopal Church. Watsonville, 1890.

The only evidence I have that there was such a congregation is the Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation n. 187. Not to be counted in totals.

» Redwood Christian Park. Conf center, Boulder Creek, 1920s-2010.

Used as a Methodist camp since the 1920s, the location above Boulder Creek was established formally as a Methodist camp and conference center in 1947 by what is now known as the California Redwood Christian Association. (McCarthy, Grizzlies, p. 92 and Clark, Place Names, pp. 290-291) Redwood Christian Park is at 15000 Two Bar Road, Boulder Creek 95006, tel. 338-2134. (2010 White Pages)

» Monte Toyon Camp. Conf center, Aptos, c1931-2010.

As of 2007 this camp was owned by United Methodist Church California Nevada Annual Conference, ( 2007) but I do not find this attribution in 2010. It is, however, operated by United Camps, Conferences and Retreats. ( 2010) The Methodists acquired the property in about 1931. (article dated 4/1/51 in The McHugh Scrapbook, vol. 3, pp. 90-93) It is located at 220 Cloister Lane, Aptos 95003, tel. 688-5420. (2010 Yellow Pages)

» Freedom Community Methodist Church. Watsonville, 1948-1998.

This church was organized in 1948 in a building that had been the Roache School at 221 Roache Road; by 1969 the name of the street it was on had been changed to Airport Boulevard. (clipping — source lacking — in Pajaro Valley Historical Association Archives) The Congregation's actual year of incorporation was 1957. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 2064) In June 1998, the Congregation merged with the First United Methodist Church of Watsonville. (church newsletter of June, 1998)

» Live Oak Community Methodist Church. 1949-2008.

Ground was broken for this church in 1949. (SC Sentinel, May 23, 1949) Known as the Live Oak Community Methodist Church at least until 1998, (1998 Yellow Pages) it was then known simply as the Live Oak Church, but listed under United Methodist, (2002-2003 White Pages). It next became a second site of the United Methodist Church, Santa Cruz, although a project to rebuild it, announced in the SC Sentinel on Feb. 19, 2007, has not, according to my observation since then, been completed, and it is not listed in the 2010 Yellow and White Pages.

» Aptos Community United Methodist Church. 1949-2010.

This congregation's first church structure began to be used in December, 1949. In 1950 its building program was 90% complete, and it was known as the Aptos Community Church. (SC Sentinel, Dec. 22, 1950) It was located at 8060 Valencia. (1956-1961 Yellow Pages)

Then, according to the SC Sentinel, May 29, 1967, construction on the present church was expected to be completed in late 1967. It was listed at its present address in Polk 1969. The address is 211 Thunderbird Dr., Aptos 95003, tel. 688-2210. (2010 Yellow Pages and 2010)

Free Methodist

Free Methodism was founded in 1860 in New York by Methodists who wanted to be truer to the original inspiration of Methodism. Melton's Encyclopedia, *230, classifies it under Holiness, rather than Methodist.

» Corralitos Community Church. 1884-2010.

The Free Methodist Society of Corralitos held services as early as 1884, and in 1894 they bought property for a church on Browns Valley Road. This church is now a recreation hall, and the congregation worships in the present church, which it dedicated in 1967. (Malmin, Corralitos, p. 111) It was still the Corralitos Community Free Methodist Church according to the SC Sentinel, July 26, 1984. It is at 26 Browns Valley Road, Watsonville 95076, tel. 722-4363. (2010 Yellow Pages)

» Light & Life Community Free Methodist. Live Oak, 1909-2004.

It appears clear that this was the same as the Free Methodist Church at 24 Water St., Santa Cruz. (SC Surf, Jan. 2, 1909) It also seems clear that it was the same as the Free Methodist Church at 35 S. Branciforte Ave., (Santa Cruz County Directory, 1923-24 and Polk 1925 through 1946) at 534 S. Branciforte, (Polk 1950) and 530 S. Branciforte. (Polk 1955 through 1975) It appeared at 960 Brommer St. in Polk 1976, and through Polk 1988 it still had its original name. It was still listed in the 2004 Yellow Pages, but, as I observed in 2006, it is no longer there, and a Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall occupies its site.

» Wesleyan Methodist Camp Ground. Conf center, Scotts Valley, 1945-1976.

Affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, this campground existed from 1945 to 1976, off the intersection of Scotts Valley Drive and Mt. Hermon Road, but this property is now the location of the Hidden Oaks condominium development. (Seapy, Scotts Valley, p.123; Clark, Place Names, pp. 398-399; and, for the final year, 1976 Yellow Pages) A chapel on the grounds also served as the church of the local Free Methodist congregation. (observation made in 2006 by a long time Scotts Valley resident) The congregation's church was advertised as being located in Wesleyan Park in, for instance, the 1974-1976 Yellow Pages. Once, at least, it was called the Scotts Valley Free Methodist Church. (Valley Press, Feb. 19. 1964)

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Two bodies of African-American Methodists were formed before 1800. The larger of the two, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, seems not to have been represented in Santa Cruz, but the other, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, (Melton, Encyclopedia *202) had an historical presence here.

» Zion Chapel. Watsonville, 1867-1890.

A branch of the AME Zion Church in San Francisco, this was organized by the Rev. A. B. Smith on November 20, 1867, as reported in a Nov. 30, 1867 newspaper article found in the files of the Pajaro Valley Historical Association. It is not clear whether the article is from the Appeal - evidently published in San Francisco - or from the Watsonville Pajaronian or Pajaro Times. In 1890, according to the U.S. Religious Census, there were 50 AME Zion members in Santa Cruz County. Evidently these belonged to Zion Chapel.

» AME Zion Church. Santa Cruz, 1905-1911.

The establishment of this congregation was announced in the SC Surf on Nov. 20, 1905, and its meeting place was Temperance Hall. Later it was at the corner of Vine and Park streets in Santa Cruz; (SC Surf, Jan. 13, 1906, July 21, 1906, Jan. 4, 1908) then it held services in Farmers Union Hall or Carpenters' Hall. (SC Surf, May 16, 1909, June 17, 1910, Dec. 17, 1910, and May 25, 1911)

Temperance Hall was originally on Mission Street where Vine Street (now Cedar Street) came to it from the south and ended. It was moved a short distance twice before it was razed, in 1930. (Koch, Parade of the Past, p. 32)

Farmers Union Hall was at the southeast corner of Pacific Avenue and Soquel Avenue. (Koch, Parade of the Past, p. 96)

German Methodism

This group of churches originated not in Germany, but in the United States, among German immigrants, and it was, as remarked above, incorporated into the United Methodist Church in 1968.

» German Methodist Episcopal Church. Santa Cruz, 1884-1925.

The Centennial German Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated in 1884. (Santa Cruz County Articles of Incorporation no. 122) Services were listed in the SC Surf as early as January 23, 1884 in Temperance Hall, and the church structure was built in 1884. (Historic Building Survey, Vol. I, p. 64) It was listed as the Centennial Methodist Episcopal Church in the Santa Cruz County Directory, 1923-24 and Polk 1925. According to R. E. Gibson, the German Methodist Church "held German language services until World War I. After that, the building became Salvation Army headquarters and is today a dance studio." (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 22, 1994) In 2005 I observed that its site, 708 Washington St., was the TriYoga Center.

Scandinavian Pietism

The imposition of Lutheranism in Sweden was countered by a Pietistic movement, and some Swedish immigrants brought this to the United States. The various streams of the movement in the U. S. united in 1885 to form the Swedish Evangelical Mission Covenant Church, which is now the Evangelical Covenant Church of America, Melton's Encyclopedia *178.

» Mission Springs Christian Conference Center. Scotts Valley, 1925-2010.

This center, which started as a religious campground in 1925, is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church of America. ( 2010) It is at 1050 Lockhart Gulch Road, Scotts Valley 95066, tel. 335-9133. (2010 White Pages)

» Felton Bible Church. 1961-2010.

In 1961 a bible study group organized itself into a congregation, then affiliated itself with the Evangelical Free Church, and in 1962 built a new church structure on the former "Boyland" property. (SC Sentinel, Oct. 24, 1986) In 1987 the congregation was still known as the Evangelical Free Church. (The San Lorenzo Valley — Scotts Valley 1987-1988 Business directory. Felton: Valley Graphics, 1987)

The website 2010 identifies the congregation as belonging to the Evangelical Free Church, but does not note when it changed its name to Felton Bible Church.

The Evangelical Free Church, Melton, Encyclopedia *179, was formed in 1884 by non-Lutheran American Scandanavian congregations that did not wish to join the Evangelical Covenant Church.

The Felton Bible Church is at 5999 Graham Hill Road, Felton 95018, tel. 335-3418. (2010 Yellow Pages)

» Community Covenant Church. Scotts Valley, 1974-2010.

Called the Evangelical Covenant Church" in 1984, (SC Sentinel, July 26, 1984), this congregation was known as the Community Covenant Church in 1993. (1993 Yellow Pages) It is at 2700 El Rancho Dr., Scotts Valley 95066, tel. 438-4276. (2010 Yellow Pages and 2010)

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