The Quest

The Quest

A ceremony at the cornerstone laying for the St. Johns Methodist Church in Kingman, Arizona on February 25, 1917. Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts

St. John’s Methodist church is the oldest congregation in Kingman, Arizona. Their first church at the corner of Spring and Fifth streets was completed in spring 1889, and the first service was held on May 8th of that year. The church served the growing congregation until 1917. It also served as a focal point for community activities

Reverend Thomas H. Dodd served as the shepherd for his flock well into the 1920s. But when did he come to Kingman? His  death in Phoenix in 1930 was lamented throughout the community as he had officiated at high school graduations, weddings, dedications of buildings such as the Mohave County Courthouse, and commemorative ceremonies. But when did he leave Kingman?

These were years of dramatic change, both good and bad, in Kingman, in Arizona and in the world. Arizona transitioned from territory to state in 1912. Dodd presided over many funerals during WWI and the Spanish flu pandemic. And in 1917 he officiated at a ceremony during the laying of a cornerstone for a stately new church that would complement the recently completed Mohave County Courthouse.

Construction officially started on February 28, 1917, after the relocation of the original wood church building to the eastern end of Spring Street. This building was then remodeled and served as the Church Apartments. Damaged in a fire years later it was remodeled and remains as a private residence. You can see the old church in the background of this photo from February 25, 1917.

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986, the Neo-Classical Revival styled church built of locally quarried stone the old church now serves as a Mohave County services facility. Several architectural historians have noted that it is one of the best examples of this type of building in the state.

A pipe organ was installed in the church in 1926. It is currently on display at the Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

The church figures prominently in Hollywood history. On March 29, 1939, during a break in the filming of Gone with the Wind, Clark Gable traveled to Kingman to wed Carol Lombard. Serving as best man was his close friend Otto Winkler, an agent with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. An article published in the daily press noted that, “The Reverend Kenneth M. Engle of the “First Methodist Episcopal” church officiated the service. Howard Cate, principal of the Kingman High School, and the reverends wife served as witnesses.

Immediately south of the church, on the opposite of side of the parking lot wall, is a tangible link to Kingman’s earliest history. The sprawling mesquite tree is estimated to be 200 years old. It is a remnant from a forest of mesquite that was cleared during the early years of the city’s development.

This historic church is the next step in the narrated historic district walking tours being developed by Kingman Main Street. I am excited about this project as it will help build a sense of community and it will also enhance the visitors experience. And I greatly enjoy pulling back the veil that separates the past from the present.

The quest for answers is a bottomless sinkhole, or so it seems. And, of course, time is finite. So, when it comes to research I have to adhere to self imposed restrictions by setting a timer. And yet at times, even with pressing deadlines or an acute awareness that there are other Jim Hinckley’s America projects that require my attention, it is difficult for me to return to the here and now.

And with that said, it’s time to get to work. My search for answers about the Reverend Dodd, or why Clark Gable and Carol Lombard married in Kingman, or why the Madonna of the Road statue destined for Kingman ended up in Springerville, Arizona, or why a Canadian soldier and grifter was murdered east of Kingman along the National Old Trails Road in 1919, or …. will be a project for a another day.