First United Methodist Church Parsonage

The pioneer Methodist circuit rider William Wesley Van Orsdel—better known as “Brother Van”—arrived in Fort Benton, Montana, on the steamboat, Far West, in 1872. For forty-five years, he traveled on horseback, by wagon, by rail, and, finally, as a passenger, by car, holding services and establishing churches across the state. In the early days, he held prayer meetings in stores, barns, living rooms, and even, at times, saloons. He is credited with having helped found more than a hundred churches, a college, six hospitals, and a children’s home, which, in the years since, have contributed enormously to Montana’s welfare. Because he never married and spent most of his time traveling, Brother Van did not have a home of his own, even though he oversaw the building of approximately fifty parsonages. According to legend, saloonkeepers once gave him a thousand dollars to build himself a home; instead, he donated the money to the Great Falls hospital to help construct a nurses’ residence. When Rev. J. A. Martin had this classic American four-square home built in 1909, he included a room for Brother Van. A lively place, the six-bedroom parsonage also sheltered Martin, his wife, their three children, three boarders, and frequent guests. Brother Van’s room was located at the head of the stairs on the second floor, so he wouldn’t disturb the family when he came in late at night. When Brother Van died in 1919, the governor ordered flags to half-mast. Montana had lost one of her best-loved sons.

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610 2nd Avenue North, Great Falls, Montana ~ Private