History of Stevensville United Methodist Church
Stevensville United Methodist Church (SUMC) began as a school in 1885 in the oldest town of Montana, established in 1841. The school constructed an addition in 1906 and then ceased its operation as a functioning school in the 1920’s. Since its purchase in 1928, this space served the combined congregations of the North and South Methodist-Episcopal Churches. Despite theological disagreements, the church united and learned to live in dialogue and care for each other and the community. The remodeled historic building with a sanctuary dating back to 1928 remains a cornerstone from which people find faith, care, and community engagement in Stevensville, MT.
When Lightning StrikesBen Longbottom
It took a while for Spring to come to our church this year but it did around Mother’s Day with the flowering trees in beautiful bloom! With blooming trees and beautiful flowers, spring also brings thunderstorms and lightening…even to Montana. In fact, on a spring afternoon around 1940, lightening struck this very church. Ben and his mother Ruby were just coming out of the back door of their house next door and they both saw it. Ben says the lightening split the weather vane on top of the church right in half. Ben was about 8 years old at the time and remembers it to this day.
But that’s not the only thing that happened when lightening struck. It also caused a fire in he church. When the bolt hit the weather vane, the electricity traveled through the church attic and into the balcony, going around the metal pipe railing still there today. Howard Longbottom immediately went to the church to check for damage. As he went up into the attic, he smelled smoke. The lightening had caused a small fire in the wiring which then caught the rope that rings the church bell on fire. Howard quickly put the fire out before any real damage was done. Not long after the strike, lightening rods were installed…just in case lightening should strike twice!
Did you know that our weather vane is shaped like a Quill instead of a cross? It is to honor the building’s heritage when it was built in 1885 as the Stevensville Grade School. It served as a school for 37 years prior to becoming our church.