The Free Methodist Church in Moose Jaw began as a mission in 1900. The new society occupied a hall supplied by prominent realtor, Mr. Robert Snowdy. It was near the north end of Fourth Avenue Bridge .
In 1903, they laid claim to the first church building in town – the little white Presbyterian Church. This building, moved to the corner of High St. W. and Third Avenue is nowadays the home of the Chinese United congregation. Free Methodists occupied it for 50 years.
In 1900, Moose Jaw was quite a town with at least 5 general stores, 30 or 40 other merchants, 4 hotels, a dairy, a livery stable, the CPR shops and offices and the depot being built. There was 1 school, a J.P., a deputy clerk, sheriff, police magistrate and a NWMP constable. There were 5 or so lawyers, and 5 or so churches.
Before all that development, when the town was first established in 1883, what you might have seen were a few settlers’ shacks, a collection of tents with board fronts and a few buildings which were nearly all stores to supply the needs of the settlers which would be coming by train or by ox and covered wagon.
Before that, this area belonged, of course, to the Indians who roamed the plains and lived off deer and buffalo and berries. What do the Battle of Little Big Horn and Custer’s Last Stand have to do with the Free Methodist Church in Moose Jaw ? Well, the remnants of Chief Sitting Bull’s band who had fled to Canada from Montana after that historic battle were literally fugitives or refugees looking for a place to settle. They were described as “haggard, lean and unkempt”. The buffalo were no longer roaming through southern Saskatchewan and severe drought and severe winters had meant a meager supply of food. In fact, they were reduced to eating the decaying flesh of horses that had died in the winter.
In 1882, 115 Sioux made their permanent home on the banks of Moose Jaw Creek at The Turn. You can see The Turn when you drive out 9th Avenue toward the airbase, down over the edge of the hill looking east just as you leave the city. The men from this Sioux band hoped to get employment as well as handouts from the white men building the CPR.
A prominent early citizen of Moose Jaw and charter member of the Free Methodist Church , Mr. Robert Snowdy, was a great friend of this rag-tag band of Indians. He and the Pastor, Rev. Wees, would drive together out to the encampment and take provisions. He also found employment for some of them in Moose Jaw homes where they were said to be reliable workers and good friends.
One middle-aged woman named Molly found out where the pastor’s family lived in rooms at the back of the 3rd Avenue church, and paid them visits at intervals. She always conducted herself with dignity and, of course, always left with provisions.
One Christmas morning, Molly came to see them, perhaps not realizing it was a Sunday. Having come to the back door and finding no one there, she proceeded through their rooms until she came to a closed door. It was the door to the sanctuary and when she opened it she found herself facing the congregation. She stood in her black braids and shawl, staring at a surprised audience. Then, oblivious to the fact that Rev. Wees was in the middle of a sermon, she called out a hearty « “Merry Christmas ev’body.” After the service she had Christmas dinner with the Weeses. She dumped her second helping into a cloth that she had brought with her and took it home, probably for some children. And the Weeses packed a box for her too.
Nowadays, our church is well established in Moose Jaw and it hasn’t moved far from where the first development of the city took place. We’re still serving the people of Moose Jaw and we are still helping the disadvantaged. Much has changed in Moose Jaw in its 112 years but the mission of this church to spread the gospel and help people in many ways is still the same as it was when it was first established.