A History of Barrington United Methodist Church

Milestone I: The Dundee Circuit

Barrington United Methodist Church as we know it today is the result of the work and worship of those who have met in its congregations for the past 170 years and counting.

The story of our church really begins in the year 1833 at the close of the Blackhawk War, when the treaty with the Native Americans removed most of them to the reservations west of the Mississippi and opened this land for settlement.

From the barren New England states came the “Yankee Pioneers” and their families, seeking land and new opportunities. They came first to Chicago, then out to the prairies, buying their land for $1.25 an acre.

The first families that came to the Barrington Area arrived between the years 1834-1840. Traveling down the Fox River, they found this wild and beautiful country, and the end of their long journey.

The Yankees were a determined and hardy group. They had to be to survive. The Methodist Preachers rode across the Alleghenies with the pioneers, and all historians agree that these Methodist men of God, the remarkable breed of men known as the circuit riders, were greatly responsible for bringing order to the new frontier.

Early frontier Methodism was organized into classes of around 12 persons, who usually met at private homes once a week to review their sins, pay their tithes and receive spiritual encouragement from their lay leader. Their circuit rider would come to town, usually once a month.

The first Methodist class or group of this kind in our vicinity was organized in 1840 at Barrington Center, in the Dundee Circuit. It had 8 members, including the Class Leader, John Allen.

They worshiped first in homes, then for 13 years in a stone school-house, which was located at the corner of Bateman and Algonquin Roads.

Milestone II: The Barrington Center Church

Then, in the year 1853 a church, known as the Barrington Center Church, was built on the corner of Old Sutton Road and Dundee Road, in Miller’s Grove, (now Barrington Hills.) It was, “A plain, neat frame edifice 34′x 52′, with a short steeple and a bell.” This Barrington Methodist Episcopal Society flourished and in 1858 was considered to be the strongest church in the Dundee Circuit, with a membership of 85.

This church still stands today on Route 68, repaired and enlarged with a picturesque cemetery beside it. Many of the early Methodist pioneers are buried there. Today it houses the New Friends Wesleyan Church, a Korean congregation. During the Civil War, this church was the gathering place for the entire rural area, and was used as a recruiting station. A huge boulder stands in the church yard with a bronze tablet containing all of the names of the men in this area who fought in the Civil War and were recruited from this church in 1860.

Milestone III: The Barrington Station Church

In the year 1854, the Northwestern Railroad came to Barringrton, and more and more families were moving to the small village, or “Barrington Station” as it was called then.

It soon became apparent that, in addition to the Barrington Center church, a new church, more centrally located, would have to be built.

A lot was purchased at the corner of Ela and Franklin streets ( site of the present St. Anne Catholic Church,) and in the year 1858, construction was started on this church in Barrington Station. From the yellowed, brittle pages of the old account book kept at this time, it is plain to see why this was no small undertaking. The congregation was small and money was scarce.

When finished in 1859, it was a simple white frame colonial church, complete with bell tower and spire. The bell was brought from the old Center church and installed with ceremony.( The new bell that was struck in 1861 hangs in our memorial garden today.) The new Barrington Station Church would seat about 125 persons and cost around $2,000. For several years the same pastor would preach in both churches, in the Center mornings and at the Station in the afternoon.

This new church served our community for over 12 years. By 1871 (the year of the great Chicago fire) the town of Barrington Station had prospered and a larger church was needed. At this time, the church had 84 members and 6 probationary members.

The Station Church was sold to the Catholics for $550 and became the first St. Anne Church. The ladies of the church were able to accumulate enough money to purchase a lot on Cook Street on which to erect a new church.

Milestone IV: The Cook Street Church

Our new church on Cook Street was dedicated December 22, 1872 with great ceremony. It was a beautiful church by the standards of that period; a two story, white frame building complete with two spires. The bell had been moved from the former church at Ela and Franklin and carefully hung in place. There was beautiful stained glass in the Gothic windows.

The church with furnishings, including a fine $500 organ, cost about $4,000. It was lighted by 87 oil lamps and kept warm with two large drum stoves. In a 1900 winter cold spell, the heat was so inadequate that the minister preached from the pulpit wearing overcoat and gloves!

For 57 years, the Cook Street Church (that is today the Masonic Temple) was the focal point of many church and community activities. Records show that the downstairs meeting hall was in great demand for temperance meetings, literary societies, Epworth League, the Grand Army of the Republic meetings, lectures, concerts and a youth Social Center. In those days, the church was the very core of the home and community life. The rules were strict–the road was straight and very narrow.

As the years rolled by, changes had to be made. The steeple was lowered because it had been struck by lightning twice and twice rebuilt. Electric lights and a furnace were installed. In 1915, extensive improvements were made in the auditorium. The women in the Ladies Aid Society were busy doing all sorts of things: sewing, quilting, serving chicken pie and oyster suppers. One of the family names that appears repeatedly in the long history of this church is Rieke, and we are privileged to recognize Lola Rieke, who joined this church as a teen-ager in June, 1924.

Milestone V: The Hough Street Church

For over 50 years the Cook Street Church had served her people well. Then talk began of the need for a new church. In 1925 plans were being formulated for taking this step.

That year, Rev. H. L. Buthman was assigned to our church, and he was greatly interested in carrying forward such a project. He was a young man with fresh ideas, an out-going, pleasant personality. He quickly endeared himself not only to church members, but to people in the community, as well. He was affectionately know as “Boots”. He took a leading part in the campaign to raise the necessary funds. The goal was $60,000.

All was going according to plan–the pledges were coming in, details were being worked out, when unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances occurred. The 1929 Depression hit, the bank closed, and Reverend Buthman was dying, at the age of 36.

It is difficult to put into words the desperation and panic of that period. John Bell, a member of the church, went to the hospital to see Boots shortly before he died. The young minister said that he was ready to go, if it was his time. His only regret and fear was that the building plans would be dropped and the new church would never be built or delayed for years. So, a committee of 5 men, names well-known in the history of the church, decided that in spite of a seemingly hopeless situation, they would go ahead; and they promised Boots it would be done.

A church building was on the market, formerly used by the Zion Branch of the Evangelical Church, and now vacant.( One of our church members had even stored automobiles in it.) This was purchased for $700, to be remodeled into a new Methodist church. Robert Work, a member of our congregation, and well known Chicago architect, had examined the old church, built in 1880. He found it sound, with heavy oak timbers and peg construction. The lines were good and he designed it in the colonial style.

311 S. Hough St. churchThe old church originally faced Lincoln Street. A new foundation was built, and the whole church was lifted and moved to face Hough Street! The old bell was taken down from the Cook Street church and hung in the new belfry. The church was dedicated on January 25, 1931.

As the membership grew, and more space was needed, two educational wings and a chapel were added, and class space was taken to build a balcony for additional seating,

This Hough Street Church was known as “The Church in the Heart of the Community, with the Community at Heart” and out of its strong sense of service came many of the organizations and agencies that serve this area today, such as Family Service of Barrington Area and Meals With Wheels. Founders and board members of such agencies as Hospice of Northeastern Illinois, Barrington Youth Services, Barrington Area Council on Aging, CROP Walk , Scouts, Barrington Area Development Council, CPR Training, Barrington Area Community Foundation , Community Blood Drive, Leadership Academy, Barrington Giving Day , Leave a Legacy and the Literacy Program have come from this congregation. Several members have served on school districts’ Boards of Education. For many years, the church housed Church Women United’s food pantry. It was the traditional meeting place for community groups, ranging from Boy Scouts (the church sponsored a troop) and Girl Scouts, to AA.

The church has a tradition of reaching beyond itself, helping with the Night Ministry, Woodlawn Feeding Program, and Humboldt Park Methodist Church Homeless Program in Chicago. It has been a strong supporter of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and Marcy-Newberry Association through financial contributions as well as board membership. It brought families of displaced persons from Europe into our community and church, starting them on a new chapter in their lives. (We now have a growing Hispanic Ministry.) Members were involved in the Experiment in International Living, and could always be counted on to host students from other countries while they were in our community through a variety of programs. A strong relationship with a school and hospital in Nepal continues today. Mission dollars support programs in China, Africa and India. In addition to our domestic youth mission trips, several BUMC adults have participated in short term mission trips to Honduras, Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala, Chile and Panama.

Milestone VI: The Algonquin Road Church

On the afternoon of October 28, 1998 a mass of black smoke expanded over the village center darkening an otherwise bright, blue Autumn sky. Then word spread that the historic white church on Hough Street was on fire. The cause was traced to the use of a heat gun that ignited old, dry wood during remodeling work.

The evening of the fire, church members gathered to comfort one another, to worship God, and to pray for guidance and for the strength to do the hard work that lay ahead. The Barrington community responded with help in so many ways. Members of the Fire department helped retrieve significant items from the church that had not been claimed by the fire. Salem United Methodist Church opened their doors and their hearts to our need. District 220 allowed us to meet in schools and money poured in from every church in town and from all over the country.

The congregation became nomadic, meeting in school gymnasiums. Members filled car trunks and rented trucks with supplies that had to be moved after every worship service. A building committee was formed and planned diligently for a new building.

Rising Steeple by Bob Hooper
Rising Steeple by BUMC member Bob Hooper

The site for the new building was chosen at the corner of Route 59 and Algonquin Road in Barrington Hills. The ground breaking was celebrated on July 1, 2001. Construction started in early 2002, with the first service in the new sanctuary on March 2, 2003. The Service of Consecration was celebrated on Sunday, October 5, 2003. The current church building stands just down the road from the school house at Algonquin and Bateman Roads where eight pioneers organized a Methodist meeting group in 1840. The new church steeple at Algonquin and Barrington Roads stands as a symbol of the faithfulness and perseverance that has held the congregation together for more than 170 years.

Barrington United Methodist Church redefined itself during the arduous journey of rebuilding the church. The mission statement “Building a community that creates disciples to serve all people” was adopted to remind the church that it is a community of people serving God and neighbor. The congregation learned first hand that a building makes the work of the church much easier, but the members are the life of the church.

The new location has allowed the congregation to host many community musical events, add a preschool and kindergarten program, and start a new Hispanic church. Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary based at Northwestern University has offered many learning opportunities on-site at Barrington United Methodist Church to benefit the congregation, denomination, and community. The new building produced new opportunities to serve the community through music, teaching, and gatherings. Since the move to Barrington Hills, BUMC has evolved into a regional church with members from all the neighboring communities.

This church’s deep commitment to mission on the international, national and local levels never wavered or diminished after the fire that destroyed its building on October 28, 1998. Now, we look to the future and realize that it holds as many challenges and opportunities as it once did for those sturdy and committed pioneers who decided to settle among the beautiful woods and fields of the Fox Valley so many years ago. We have a heritage of overcoming adversity and embracing challenge.

In the more than 170 years of our church’s history, each generation has faced the same basic problems; only the staging is changed. We are today a congregation of over 900 members, heirs to a priceless legacy given to us by God, and through the toil, prayers and vision of the generations before us, congregations and clergy together.

The church was here when we arrived. It has had to expand because we came. Those who follow us will find a church only as good as we help to make it in the years we worship here.

This page last updated on December 28, 2011