The Marston Memorial Historical Center houses material documenting the history of the Free Methodist Church and, to a lesser extent, other Methodist movements in America and early Methodism in England.
The Free Methodist Church was founded in 1860, primarily as a result of controversies within the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The principal founder was Benjamin T. Roberts (1823-1893). Free Methodism initially grew rapidly, forming congregations across the continent. With their commitment to mission and to racial equality, early Free Methodists could be found in black and mixed congregations, on mission fields in India, Africa and China, and in rescue missions in cities across the U.S.
The collections at the Marston Historical Center emphasize the church’s Call to holy living, including not only personal piety but also redemptive action within society. Documents record the beginnings of a children’s home, a home for unwed mothers, academies and colleges, camp meetings, and the formation of new annual conferences. In addition to correspondence, pamphlets, and various manuscripts, the Center houses bound publications such as hymnals, the FM Discipline, Digest of Free Methodist Law, conference Minutes and Yearbooks showing ministerial appointments,The Earnest Christian, The Free Methodist (useful especially for biographical information) and Missionary Tidings.
The Marston Memorial Historical Center is named in honor of the late Bishop Leslie R. Marston, who was largely responsible for establishing the Center in the FM Headquarters in Winona Lake, IN, in 1969. The collection was sustained by the hard work of his daughter Evelyn Mottweiler and later overseen by Mrs. Frances Haslam when the denomination moved its headquarters to Indianapolis in 1990.