Our Society has been around for over one and a half centuries. The Historical Society was first chartered in 1855 to preserve the history of the Baltimore Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. After the divisions in the Conference resulting from the Civil War, the Society was re-chartered as the "American Methodist Historical Society" and, under the leadership Rev. John Franklin Goucher, the collections became a vehicle for the celebration of the common heritage of the Methodist Episcopal Churches of north and south and of the Methodist Protestant Church.
Before the 1904 Great Fire of Baltimore, collections were kept in the Methodist Book Depository downtown. As the fire advanced on the depository, a Methodist Postal Worker, working to move mail out of the fire zone, realized the danger to the depository and began moving its artifacts uptown. Artifacts such as the pulpit built by Robert Strawbridge, were carted far uptown, all the way to 22nd Street and the stone First Methodist Episcopal Church on the campus of the Women's College.
It was an appropriate place to keep the historical collections. The church's congregation was the heir to the first Baltimore meeting of Methodists, which had built its first meetinghouse on Lovely Lane and hosted the Christmas Conference of 1784. The present great stone church was built in Dr. Goucher's pastorate in 1884 as a centennial monument to that conference which was the birthplace of the denomination. This church has been our home ever since.
In 1955, the society marked its centennial. Under Rev. Kenneth Ray Rose, its pastor at the time, First Methodist reclaimed the name "Lovely Lane" and set aside part of its building for use as a museum. The generosity of church members Jessie Wheeler and Wilbur Reynolds Leitch enabled this project to come to fruition. Rev. Edwin Austin Schell became the Conference Archivist and served as our Executive Secretary for the next fifty years.
In the 1960's, union of the Evangelical United Brethren Church with the Methodist Church and reunion of the Baltimore and Washington Conferences brought a rich history of German and African-American history into the collections of the society. The "American Methodist Historical Society" was rechartered again as the Conference Historical Society. In 1966, Baltimore hosted a celebration of 200 years of Methodist activity in America.
The United Methodist Church authorized "Commissions on Archives & History" in each conference and the members of the Commission elected by Annual Conference, began to work in tandem with the Historical Society's Board to preserve the history of Methodism in this area. The Society and the Commission worked with the Strawbridge Shrine Association to acquire the Robert Strawbridge House and the John Evans House and to open the Strawbridge Shrine as a historical park with both houses on the grounds.
In 1984, Baltimore hosted the United Methodist General Conference and the Bicentennial celebration of the denomination. At that time an effort began to restore the century old Lovely Lane Church, an effort that is still underway.
Rev. John Franklin Goucher addresses to 1906 Joint Commission on Federation from the Strawbridge Pulpit as Bishop Earl Cranston presides from Francis Asbury's desk. Dr. Goucher holds the pocket bible of Bishop Thomas Coke and the saddlebag of Freeborn Garrettson is slung over the arm of the pulpit, all from the collections of the American Methodist Historical Society. photo in the Rev. John Franklin Goucher Papers.