Portland Prairie M.E.Church, Houston County, MN
The following document was posted at the back of the Portland Prairie Church. Sources cited for this information were: The HISTORY OF HOUSTON COUNTY - 1882 and OLD TIMES ON PORTLAND PRAIRIE - 1851-1880 By Uncle H. V. Arnold.

The Portland Prairie
Methodist Episcopal Church

Our Past

A Minnesota Conference of the Methodist Church was formed in 1855, its annual meeting being held in the spring for several years. Thereafter, circuits and charges or stations began to increase as the settlements extended. A small village had been growing up at Caledonia, the county seat, which gave a name to the circuit. At first the Caledonia Circuit included as outlying stations, Hokah and Brownsville, to which was added Popes Prairie, Portland Prairie and Winnebago Valley. Hokah and Brownsville having later been dropped from the circuit.

Mr. Cramer met a Methodist minister on a Mississippi steamer, and requested him to see Mr. Hobart, the Presiding Elder, and have him send a minister down to this region; and the Elder learning, in this way, that there were some Methodists near the state line south of Caledonia, sent down an appointment Bro. Ransom Scott, an exhorter who had already held a meeting there, and so on the 1st of December, 1855, Rev. Mr. Hooper arrived here and preached at the house of widow Coll, which was below the state line and burned in 1863.

At the second appointment a class was formed, composed of the following persons: Mrs. and Mrs. Peter Paige, Mr. and Mrs. J. McNelly, Mr. and Mrs. A Gilbert, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Green, Sarah Albee and Mr. Cramer. J. McNelly was designated leader.

These pioneer meetings were described as most remarkable, producing a profound effect upon the audience, which was manifested in various ways.

Soon after this, a sad affair occurred, the full horrors of which were not realized for months afterwards. It was on the 9th of December that Ransom Scott, the exhorter above mentioned, went to Portland Prairie to have a meeting, and notwithstanding the snow that was on the ground, and was still falling in a boisterous storm, he persisted in attempting to return, contrary to the urgent advice of his friends. He lived with Mr. Young, near North Ridge, an uncle of his about eight miles away. That he did not return for several days caused no apprehension, on account of the character of the traveling. Soon, however, the facts became known, and a careful search was instituted, but not a single trace discovered. The next May his remains were found scattered about in a ravine, two miles beyond his home. The wolves had devoured him, excepting a part of his feet, which, encased in his boots the ravenous beasts could not penetrate; only a few shreds of clothing remained. His skull was some distance away. His Bible, hymn book, pocket book, watch, and pocket knife were also found. Possibly he was attacked by the wolves, but the probability is that he perished in the snow, and his body being found, they proceeded to appease their appetites. He was a promising young man, twenty-six years of age, and was from New York State.

The first church services were held in homes. In 1858 the McNelly school house was built. The first service of any kind to be held in the building was the public funeral service of Wesley Albee, son of Leonard Albee, who died July 5, 1868, Rev. J. W. Klepper preaching the sermon.

The conference year 1875-6 no minister was returned to the Circuit. The people of the prairie took this opportunity to build a church. On the 30th of January, 1876, the board of trustees, previously chosen, met at the residence of George Cass, to consider the subject of building. The sum of $875.00 was reported as being pledged to the project. George and Ellen Cass gave to the society a deed conveying a lot. A building committee was appointed, consisting of F. Healey, Henry Robinson, George Cass, and E. I. Arnold, with Mr. Cass as treasurer. The subscription afterwards got up to $1540.00; Mr. J. McNelly procured a plan from St. Paul. The contract was let to Mr. Tuttle, of New Albin, and such commendable expedition followed that the building was completed the following June. "The church has a spire, and the windows have blinds. The building is in every way neat and tasty, and is a credit to the little Methodist community."

At the bottom of the document is the following invitation:

Please join us for our annual church service and potluck meal, at 11 a.m. on the last Sunday in July.

More Pictures of Portland Prairie Church | Family Tree Page | Jeff and Nate's Page

Photographs by Nate Wiegrefe and Marge Galus Sandlier, September 2000 and June 2001.

Created August 30, 2001
Marge Galus Sandlier