St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church


March 30, 2021

St. Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, now located at the corner of North 5th and D streets, was completed in 1854—the first church built in Jacksonville, the first church built in southwestern Oregon, and the oldest wood frame structure in town.  It was erected in 1854 and dedicated New Year’s Day 1855. It is also one of a handful of churches claiming the title of “Oldest Protestant Church West of the Rockies.”

Two pastors can be credited with its construction—Joseph Smith and Thomas Fletcher Royal. Both had arrived in Jacksonville in October 1853 as part of a “Preacher Wagon Train.” Smith is credited with beginning the church’s construction; Royal with completing it in 1854 as its pastor and guiding force. Royal’s wife, Mary Ann, was one of the women who visited various gold camps asking for donations toward its construction.

Royal went a step farther. In his memoirs, he recorded walking into a Jacksonville saloon and asking gamblers for help in building the church. When they questioned his willingness to use gambling money to build a house of worship, Royal reported replying, “Oh, yes. And we would put it to a better use.”

The building originally faced 4th Street but was rotated 180 degrees to its present location at the corner of 5th and D streets in Jacksonville when the new Jackson County courthouse was completed in 1884.  During the 1930s, it was one of the few buildings that the City of Jacksonville refused to permit Depression Era miners looking for any residual gold to undermine.