In 1838 Edward B. Force inherited from his father-in-law, Albert Westervelt, a mill and a farm at Red Mills. A barn was built by Edward Force a short distance south of the mill in 1840 and was outfitted with seats in 1842 for Christian religious services. In 1843, Force donated a lot for construction of a Methodist Church. His neighbors contributed large logs to the mill to be used in the construction of the church. Rev. Manning Force, Edward's brother, laid the cornerstone. (Information acquired from the Bergen County Historical Society website: “REDMILL AND ITS HAUNTED HOUSE” by Kevin W. Wright)
In 1843 The Methodist Episcopal Church of Paramus at Red Mills was erected on the west side of Paramus Road, Paramus, NJ, (about where Mack Cali stands now), on land that was deeded to the Methodist Conference by Edward B. Force. Trustees incorporated the church on March 14, 1843 and Rev. Nicholas Vansant of the Cross St. Methodist Episcopal Church of Paterson added Arcola to his charge in April 1843.
The name of the town had been changed to Arcola in 1870. So, the name of the church was changed to The Methodist Episcopal Church at Arcola and recorded on May 12, 1873 . The first parsonage was built along side the white frame church in 1873, to be the home of the first married minister, Rev. Thomas Hall.
In 1899 the original frame church was remodeled and enlarged. And in 1903 the parsonage was modernized with steam heat, a bath, and electric lights. The church and the parsonage were all surrounded by a beautiful park that was erected by E. D. Easton, who had purchased the Force Farm in the 1850’s. In 1909 the pipe organ was installed in the church and half the expense was paid for by Andrew Carnegie.
On St. Valentine’s Day in 1911 tragedy struck! The church, the parsonage, and all records were destroyed by fire. Through the great kindness of Mr. Easton, the land across the road was given to the church in exchange for the former location. A new Tudor-style stone church was erected on the east side of what is Paramus Road today. It was dedicated on October 13, 1911. On September 6, 1949, Easton’s Georgian home, was acquired to be used as the “Parish House”.
Through the years Arcola’s Methodist Church has seen many a hard time and good times too. This included World Wars I and II as well as the advent of suburbia and the influx and decline of membership.
But in 1968, The Methodist Church united with The United Brethren of Christ Church to become The United Methodist Church. At that time our local church became The Arcola United Methodist Church.
On December 9, 1989, Arcola United Methodist Church (AUMC) practiced it’s motto of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” by entering into an agreement with a Korean congregation to share church facilities. This congregation became Arcola Korean United Methodist Church, (AKUMC). They built their sanctuary next to a joint education building connecting the two churches. We are two churches, sharing one property, serving one God.
I wonder if Mr. Force had any idea of the impact he would have on his community when he allowed his barn to be used for religious services! Or, what Mr. Easton’s thoughts were when he switched properties after the fire. Surely God had a plan and these men were important instruments in this plan!
Who knows what God has planned for our future? Why don’t you come out and be a part of that future! We had meager beginnings, just like Jesus had - WE WERE BORN IN A BARN!!! HOW AWESOME!.