“The reason I (Helen) am in this world today is because my parents met one another around 1914 at Central Wesleyan College in Warrenton, Missouri; my brother also attended that college from 1937-1939.”
This was an email message I received from Helen Ueleke, daughter of Rev. William H. Wolfe who graduated from Central Wesleyan College, and her daughter Norma Ueleke Engelhardt. The two were writing me following a story published in last summer’s Annual Conference issue, in which president Central Methodist University President Roger Drake referred to some historical language about Central Methodist being the one and only Methodist college in Missouri.
Drake was correct, but the Ueleke ladies were suggesting that the readers of this magazine would be well served by providing some information about other Methodist colleges we used to have in the state. Central Methodist University may be the sole survivor, but there was a time when there were many others.
These astute readers also wondered why Central Methodist University wasn’t the keeper of the records when Central Wesleyan College closed.
I turned to my friend John Finley, keeper of all historical knowledge of Methodism in Missouri. As for the CMC records, that one was easy, and relates to heritage. Central Methodist in Fayette traces its roots to the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Central Wesleyan in Warrenton goes back to Methodist Episcopal Church.
“My father also attended Central Wesleyan College (Warrenton) in the late 1930’s but had to transfer to Northeast Missouri State College (now Truman) to complete his degree,” Finley said. “He often expressed a resentment against supporters of Central Methodist for forcing other Methodist related institutions to close following unification.”
Others have blamed the closing of other colleges on this fancy new requirement called “Accreditation.” And then there were the general tough-times of the 1920s and 1930s.
But the hard feelings between the north and south are indisputable. The people of this era were only a generation or two from the Civil War – some of the people around then had witnessed the Civil War with their own eyes. Sure, mergers had happened, southern labels had fallen away, but that doesn’t mean everyone was willing to forgive and forget.
“When CWC was looking for an institution to take over their records, the last place they would have considered would be a southern Methodist school,” Findley said.
So now that I was in a conversation between two parties with direct family ties to Central Wesleyan, I was compelled to share my own. In 1856 at the age of 12 my Great, Great Uncle Frederich Koenig (see picture at the top of this page) moved from Germany to Bland, Missouri with his family as part of the great German migration. He went to seminary in Warrenton, and was a German Methodist minister, serving churches in Cape Girardeau, Appleton, Summerfield, Redbud, Highland and Drake in Missouri, and Bible Grove, Florence, New Mella, Ellis Grove and Nokomis in Illinois. He had seven children with his first wife, and after she died he married again and had another five children, scattering Koenigs out all over the place. He’s buried at the St. John’s cemetery in Granite City, Ill., and 31 fellow ministers came to his funeral – apparently the last attendance number for pastoral bragging rights before it’s all over.
But then there’s still the second part of the Ueleke request – that readers would like to know about all of the other Methodist colleges. I agreed, but that would take weeks, perhaps months, of research. That, or an email to my friend John again. This time he gave credit to where credit is due, to his co-worker Joy Flanders, who compiled this list of colleges several years ago for the General Board of Archives and History. You’ll find this list, and a map, on pages 20-22. You may be surprised to learn that there used to be a Methodist college near you.