A hundred years ago no town called Muleshoe existed, let alone a Methodist Church in Bailey County or Muleshoe. But on Oct. 12, Muleshoe Methodists will celebrate 100 years of Methodism in Bailey County.
Muleshoe came to exist when two events occurred at about the same time: the Santa Fe railroad resurveyed the path of its tracks, bypassing the town of Old Hurley, then about two miles north from present day Muleshoe on Highway 214; and the Coldran Land Co. came in to develop land that had been a part of the Muleshoe Ranch.
The Old Hurley Church was organized in 1908 and was built by the Coldran Land Co. as it developed what later became Bailey County. The church was used as a community church and shared circuit pastors with the communities of Bovina, Summerfield and Black. These circuit pastors made their rounds by bicycle, horseback, buggy and on foot.
According to one handwritten account found in an old scrapbook, "the parsonage was in Bovina, & it was pastures all the way & lots of gates to open & close, & I mean close that was an unwritten law never leave a gate open."
According to these early accounts, the pulpit was moved several times to different locations within the church, once being moved near the door so people would have to pass by the pastor so he could "keep cowboys from being rowdy near the door, but I never did see cowboy misbehavior at church."
The story is also told of the time Miss Dottie Wilterding, the church organist and a charter member, playing one Sunday to the accompaniment of a rattlesnake that had chosen to slip inside the organ and would shake his rattles every time she moved the pedal upon which he had chosen to rest.
After it became apparent that the center of activity would be where the train depot was built, which later would become Muleshoe, the members decided to move the Old Hurley Church there.
The church was heavy, having been constructed from oak lumber brought in from Michigan by the land company, and it also had to cross sandy terrain, so "this church was so heavy there wasn't enough horsepower with one tractor, the only one in the country and it was used for threshing, so it set on the prairie for awhile & finally was moved to Muleshoe."
The building was moved a second time to its permanent and current location, what is now identified as 507 W. Second Ave., and was shared by all faiths in the beginning.
Maureen Wilterding Hooten, whose grandparents were charter members of the Muleshoe Methodist Church and active members at the Y.L. Methodist Church, remembers that they never knew if it would be a Baptist or Methodist minister coming to dinner on Sunday after the service.
Many different denominations used the building, holding what were called union services, until 1925, when a parsonage was built and the Rev. I. D. Farmer became the full-time, resident Methodist pastor.
The church building was used for many years, remodeled from time to time, adding a Fellowship Hall in 1942. The congregation grew large enough that a bigger building was needed, so in 1956 a new sanctuary, chapel and several classrooms were built. In 1965, a parlor, kitchen, new fellowship hall, and more classrooms were added.
A bit of history is located in the church steeple where the original bell given to the Old Hurley Church by Mr. E. K. Warren now resides. He purchased the land for the Muleshoe Ranch from the XIT Ranch, but he never lived in Texas.
Warren, who owned a factory in Michigan that made corset stays and buggy whips, later gave land to every church in town and donated the land for the old city park and the Boy Scout grounds.
The communities of Progress and Y.L. also had Methodist congregations dating back to 1927, being served by circuit pastors in the beginning. These churches played an important role in the lives of the families who had settled in the large Muleshoe Ranch area as it was being developed, and provided opportunities for worship as well as social interaction.
But as time passed and Muleshoe grew, the members of these community churches voted to discontinue their services and move their memberships to the Muleshoe group. Progress joined with Muleshoe in 1965 and Y.L. in 1975.