Every church has its own, special story. The story of Old North United Methodist Church in Evansville, Indiana, is unusual because the original, still-standing church building started not as a church, but as a multipurpose building. In 1831, the people in the little community, at that time called Mechanicsville and located 3.5 miles from Evansville, did not want to have to travel all the way to Evansville to go to a church or a school or a meeting. They also, however, did not have enough money to build separate buildings for all three of those purposes. Their solution was to bring together community members from all denominational backgrounds to work together to build a meetinghouse which could be used for church, school, and community meetings of any kind. That building is the one we now call Old North Chapel. It was built largely from native materials including foundation stones and oak timbers found nearby. Hand hewn beams, mortised and secured with wooden pegs, are still visible today. In the late 1800s, a public school was built nearby, and after that the building was referred to as a church and used mainly as a church.
In the early years, there was no regular pastor assigned to the church and the church was used by numerous denominations. However, in 1897 usage of the property was transferred to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Methodist circuit riders were assigned to serve the church until 1916 when a regular pastor was assigned. Throughout its life the church has been a community resource, serving as a school for African American children when the schools were segregated, and serving as a Red Cross housing and feeding site during the Great Flood of 1937.
Although the original 1832 building still stands, there have been numerous alterations and additions to the church property. Both a large sanctuary building and a Christian education wing were added in the late 20th Century. The latest addition to the property occurred in 2018. When 18 acres adjacent to the church property were put on the market, church members met to consider the purchase. In order to preserve the green space and also to maximize future options for expansion and development, the church decided to purchase the plot. The church named the acreage Old North Woods. Indeed, most of the land is wooded; however, there is also a meadow area. In March, 2019, in order to maintain the most natural environment possible and minimize the need for mowing, church members planted 100 pecan seedlings and 50 black walnut seedlings in the meadow. A sign identifying the reforestation area has been placed. A group is scheduled to take inventory of the flora on the plot in April. The Indiana UM Loan and Savings Ministry partnered with Old North UMC to make it possible for the church to take advantage of this one time opportunity to acquire adjacent land which currently serves as a natural green and wooded preserve in the midst of a residential area.
Visitors are always welcome at Old North, to worship or to visit the historic chapel. The chapel building is the oldest public building in the county. It is easily visible from the road, as is the historic plaque which has been erected in front of the chapel to mark the significance of the building and nearly two centuries of people worshipping God in this place.
With proud roots in the first part of the 19th century, Old North remains a vibrant community resource in the 21st century, serving the United Methodist faith community, the Evansville community at large; and reaching out globally through missions.