Roseville church celebrates 130th anniversary

First United Methodist Church opened on Washington Boulevard in 1883
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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First United Methodist Church celebration

Dinner at 6 p.m. Friday, March 1, in Backman Hall at the church, 109 Washington Blvd. Cost $12. To make a reservation, call Phoebe Astill at (916) 786-2338.

Barbecue, live music and guided church tours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 2

Special church service at 10:15 a.m. Sunday, March 3

For more information, visit


For some 17 years, beginning in 1866, Methodists living in what would later become Roseville met in homes and barns to practice their religion.

Back in 1850, a handful of ranchers settled the area, which had been home to Nisenan Maidu for thousands of years. In 1864, the Central Pacific Railroad laid tracks in the area for the nation’s first continental railroad and named the rail line crossing Junction.

It wasn’t until 1883 that parishioners moved into the First United Methodist Church of Roseville, which also happened to be the town’s first permanent house of worship, said local historian Phoebe Astill. This Methodist church still stands on the corner of Washington and Church streets, and is celebrating its 130th anniversary with special events Friday, March 1, through Sunday, March 3.

Astill says the church is significant because it’s the oldest one, and still used by parishioners. She also has a personal investment in the building.

“My great-grandfather helped build the church,” Astill said. “I’m a fourth-generation member of the church.”

In 1882, Ana Judah, widow of railroad developer Theodore Judah, donated the land on which the church was built. The first services were held on March 4, 1883. The story goes the entire town — including the bars and brothels — closed down so everyone could attend.

In 1906, Southern Pacific Railroad moved its facilities to Roseville and the area’s population boomed, incorporating as a city in 1909. The rail yard remains the largest west of the Mississippi.

Throughout the years, the Methodist church has undergone several additions, but the original building remains standing and is frequently used for meetings and the 8:30 a.m. service.

The United Methodist Church has, among other things, founded Goodwill Industries in 1902. They credit their group with establishing higher learning institutions, starting hospitals and shelters for children and promoting world peace.

“The importance of the anniversary at First UMC is to acknowledge all the people who have passed through its doors in 130 years of existence,” said parishioner Barbara Hulse. “For those who have passed on and those currently here, acknowledging all the prayers that have been said, all the work that has been done in the community and the world because of those people who believe in God.”

Hulse said she appreciates the church because it is a place to “make friends in Christ, grow in our faith and serve our awesome God.”