A History of the First United Methodist Church in New Orleans
When the Western Conference of the Methodist Church met in 1805, young Elisha Bowman was sent to New Orleans as a missionary. After two months, he wrote a fellow preacher that he had left for Opelousas, "preferring the watery waste and pathless desert" to New Orleans. Louis Hobbs, who was sent in 1812, stayed one year, converted 26 people, and contracted consumption. 1813 saw Rev. William Winans sent by the Mississippi Conference. He accomplished little, but did hold services.
The stoutest friend Methodism had in the city at this time was Theresa Cany, a fugitive from Santa Domingo, who sang and shouted her religion in services at her home. Mark Moore began a real advance for Methodism in 1818 - services were held in a flour inspector's loft at Poydras and Carondelet. It was purchased by Judge Edward McGehee. But the yellow fever epidemic nearly wiped out the congregation, and another preacher was not sent until 1824. Benjamin Drake spent two years here.
Also in 1824, Judge McGehee bought a lot on Gravier between Baronne and Carondelet for $2,000. Here was built a frame church, 48 feet by 36 feet. In 1825, twenty years after the first missionary had set foot here, New Orleans Methodists dedicated their first church.
This building was soon too small, and a site on Carondelet and Poydras was purchased. The year was 1835. Soon a large brick building was built. Again, Edward McGehee was the leading contributor. Forty thousand dollars was owed to him. He would accept only $2,000 of it, and this he sent to Mississippi to build a new church.
In January of 1851 fire destroyed the church and the St. Charles Hotel. A new site on Carondelet was chosen, and plans were laid. The building was finished in 1853 at a cost of $50,000. You will recognize it today as the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
Fifty-three years later the congregation again was too big for its church, and First Methodist Church was erected on St. Charles Avenue in 1906. With the coming of the Interstate System and the Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge, the St. Charles Avenue church had to be torn down. In 1956, it merged with the Canal Street Methodist Church, and the present building at Canal Street and Jeff Davis Parkway (see the map below) was built. It was first occupied in November of 1960.