The first Methodist church in Kingman, Arizona can be seen to the right in this photo from the Andy Sansom collection.

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 came to Kingman in the 1890s and served as the shepherd for his flock well into the 1920s. His  death 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 countless commemorative ceremonies.

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. He 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 at the corner of Fifth and Spring Street that would complement the recently completed Mohave County Courthouse, and the Bonelli house on the opposite corner.

The first stage of construction was started on February 28, 1917, with the relocation of the original wood church building to the eastern end of Spring Street. That building was then remodeled and expanded. It served as the Church Apartments. A few years later it was severly damaged in a fire that left it a gutted shell. It was remodeled again and survives today as a private residence.

Church Apartments before the building was gutted by fire. Andy Sansom

The new Methodist Episcopal chruch was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The Neo-Classical Revival styled church built of stone cut at the local Metcalf quarry 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. The pipe organ that was installed in 1926 is currently on display at the Mohave Museum of History & Arts on Beale Street.

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.”

As a point of interest, an impromptu wedding reception was held at the Brunswick Hotel. Legend has it that the Hollywood power couple honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona.

The truth is that they after the reception they drove to Las Vegas, Nevada on US 466, and then continued to southern California. They hosted a press conference in Los Angeles the following morning.

A landmark in Kingman is located Immediately south of the church, on the opposite of side of the parking lot wall. It 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.

The Methodist Episcopal church is a point of interest on the narrated, self guided historic district walking tour that was developed by Kingman Main Street. Phase one of the tour was introduced during the National Road Trip Day festivities in May 2022.

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