John Willard

Our recent look at the old German Methodist Episcopal Church in Davenport prompted Ernest W. Winckler Jr., of Davenport, to share some history on the building's many years as the home of El Bethel Church.

Other readers who remember the 140-year-old building at 830 W. 6th St. include Rev. McArthur Anderson, pastor of Pentecostal Church of God. His church occupied it in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Winckler's family played a prominent role in the history of El Bethel, which worshipped at the 6th Street church from 1929 until 1953. Built in 1861 by German immigrants, it served a variety of congregations until it was acquired in 1996 by United Neighbors Inc. The agency is looking for ways to save the building.

According to a church history, El Bethel's roots date back to 1922 when the Rev. John Milton Hinkle and his wife, Lillie E. Hinkle, came to Davenport to start a church for the Methodist Home Missions Department. After her husband's death, Lillie Hinkle continued as pastor at the church. Known as Grace Church, it was located in west Davenport.

In 1929, she and most of the other members of the congregation organized a new church, El Bethel, and moved into the old German Methodist Church building at the northeast corner of 6th and Warren streets. Officers of the new church included Winckler's father, Ernest Winckler, who was elected treasurer.

El Bethel grew. It became affiliated with the Assemblies of God in 1935 and bought the St. Paul Lutheran Church building at 14th and Main Streets in 1952. The church built its present building in 1970 at 4721 Northwest Blvd., where it is known today as Freedom Assembly.

El Bethel, a predominantly white congregation, sold the 6th Street building to Pentecostal Church of God, whose congregation is mostly black. In its earlier years, Pastor Anderson said, the membership was more racially diverse, with long-time minister Alfred Boyd, who was black, having a white man as assistant pastor, Wallace Gilmore.

Pentecostal Church of God, which began more than 60 years ago on Judson Street, prospered in the little chapel at 6th and Warren Streets. It moved to 537 W. 15th St. in 1965 and built its present church at 1234 Ripley St. in 1992.

Anderson and his wife, Esther, met at the 6th and Warren church when they were children. He remembers the coal furnace that warmed the church in winter and those hot Sundays of summer when the congregation's singing carried through the open windows, filling the neighborhood with joyful sounds.

"We had many good years in that building," he says.

Giving thanks

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, I offer a hearty "Thank you," in no particular order, to those who have provided research assistance, photos and other help with our local history explorations over the past year:

 Don Herrman, Elliott Aviation; Margaret Rogal, Deborah Shippy, and Eileen Hoeg, all of the Moline Public Library; Cheri Bustos, Connie Lannan and Blanche Schutjer, all of Trinity Medical Center; Terry Strader, St. Mary's Catholic Church; Larry Wright, Warren Packaging Corp.; Amy Groskopf, Karen O'Connor, Mary Ann Moore, Pat Richardson and Sarah Wesson, all of the Davenport Public Library Special Collection Department; Judy Belan and Kathleen Seusy, both of the Rock Island County Historical Society; Linda Barlow and Kathy Horrell, both of Genesis Medical Center; Mary Stibolt, Cafe Express; Barb Sandberg, Moline Preservation Society; Diane Oestreich, Rock Island Historic Preservation Association; Patricia Swearingen, Clarissa C. Cook Home; Cindy McDermott, Alcoa; Roy Booker and Lynda Booker, both of the Quad-City Times; Kris Leinecke, Rock Island Arsenal Museum; Vicki Stapes, Rock Island Arsenal; Charline Barnes, University of Northern Iowa; Rev. Levi Glispie and Gwendolyn Meadows, Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church; Kory Darnall; Schuetzenpark Gilde; Harvey Prinz, German American Heritage Center; Michael Weindruch, WOC-AM; Cathie Rochau, Quad-City International Airport; Eunice Schlichting, Putnam Museum; Rich Craddick, Davenport Jaycees; Vicky Speth, Mississippi Valley Fair; Brenda Lloyd, Girl Scouts of the Mississippi Valley Inc; Merlin "Rocky" Nelson, Hampton Historical Society; Dawn Saul, Marycrest International University; Sister Marcia Costello, Congregation of the Humility of Mary; Kara Bunte and Fred Luckenbill, both of the American Red Cross; Paul Fessler, United Neighbors Inc; Kirby Winn, Augustana College; Vern Wriedt; Henry Vargas; Richard Schmidt; John Norton; Rick Sundin; Charlene Perkins; David J. Carter; Deb Backstrom; Shirley Rucker; Nancy Dopler; Doug Miller.

John Willard can be contacted at (563) 383-2314 or jwillard@qctimes.com.

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