Pioneer History logo - 2.3 K
Churches of Christ & Christian Churches
in the Pacific Northwest

Benton County - 4.6 K
November 6, 2005
by Charles Dailey
College index

Corvallis  |  Lobster Valley  |  Monroe  |  Philomath  |  Summit

Early Faculty at OSU with W. W. Bristow

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The identity of some communities has been lost over the intervening 150 years. Pioneer preacher Levi Burch sent the following report to The Christian Record:
I attended a meeting on Oak Creek, Benton County, Oregon Territory, commencing on Saturday before the 2d Lord's day in this month. And the result of the labors of the meeting was nineteen additions to the church, eleven of them by confession and immersion. This was truly a happy meeting, and will long be remembered.
August, 1856, page 256.
There was an Oak Creek community in Linn County, but we cannot identify one in Benton County.

Monroe Mapquest

The community was named for James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States. Monroe originally supported a sawmill and later a flour mill.

Clarence Swander says they began in 1891, but historian Doug Dornhecker says they were there as early as 1858. He also reported them to be 25 in number in 1871.

The preacher in 1878 was J. L. Wigle and the church met in Beaver Creek school house. The preacher in 1880 was still J. L. Wigle.

Summit Mapquest

The town is north of Highway 20 and nearly to the Lincoln County line. It once enjoyed rail service and had its own post office at the crest of the Coast Range.

Several families of the Mulkey clan had migrated to this area, although in 1895 the population was only 72. Very little information has been left about the church, but it was active by 1877.

Local preacher D. C. Baughman, originally from Stone County, Missouri, wrote the Christian Messenger in July 28 with this report:

The meeting announced in the Messenger for Bros. Waller and Roberts did not reach us until the evening before Bro. Waller arrived, consequently owing to our scattered condition, our congregation was small on Saturday, but on Sunday our house was crowded, and we believe a general interest manifested, although we had no additions.
"Bro. Waller" was Mac Waller, among the most effective preachers ever based in Oregon and the other man was John Engard Roberts, preacher at Halsey and Aumsville.

The community enjoyed a growth period following the construction of the rail line that began in 1879.

Some sense of who lived in Summit can be seen in the records of the Summit Cemetery.

Philomath Mapquest

The town name in a Greek word meaning "a lover of learning." Philomath College was opened here in 1867.

Alexander Vance McCarty reported preaching at Philomath a decade earlier. He wrote to the Christian Record in 1856:

Success has frequently attended the labors of other preaching brethren. Brother Mac Waller held a meeting recently on Mary's River, and I think he obtained 10 accessions to the cause. On last Lord's day I passed through the neighborhood, and called a few of the neighbors together and spake to them the word of life, and one noble soul confessed the Lord.
Mary's River is the older name for Philomath. It was the Mary's River Settlement. The Mary's River itself was probably named for a daughter of Joseph Avery, a founder of Corvallis.

The congregation was "organized" in June of 1878 with 30 members. The elders were John A. Bounds, Dr. Drury Davis, and Wallace Post. In a gospel meeting that year 12 were added, seven by confession of Jesus as Lord, two were reclaimed from the world, one from the Cumberland Presbyterians and two from the Missionary Baptists.

Living very close were several families of Mulkeys. Luke and his family and Johnson and his family including married sons who owned property. They lived four miles west of Corvallis.

It is known that Philip Mulkey of Lane County came to Benton County on a regular preaching circuit and it is most reasonable that he preached where his cousins attended church. The church included Drury and Frances Davis and may have included William F. and Mary Lewis Allen.

An informative paragraph appeared in the Pacific Christian Messenger of early 1880. It was written by J. L. Wigle.

. . . . I passed the night with our esteemed Bro. and Sister Kisor, at Philomath. Bro. Kizor is building a hall for the accomodation of the public. We look forward to the completion of this building as a propitious time for a meeting in Philomath.
He was talking about a church building, so there must have been one, although there is no memory of one now in the community.

Corvallis link Mapquest

Corvallis is Latin for heart of the valley and it is just that. While The First Christian Church of Corvallis reports 1890 as their year of beginning, the silver-tongued Alexander Vance McCarty reported establishing a congregation after the New Testament order in the winter of 1866. They had 40 - mostly pioneer - members when they began and reported 40 members five years later.

There is a profile of A. V. McCarty.

Alexander Vance McCarty - 4.4 K
Vance McCarty

But the overland pioneers were completing their earthly sojourns. A. V. McCarty himself died just two years after establishing the congregation. Nathaniel and Mary Briggs had come from Douglas County, but Mary died in 1870 and Nathan was very aged by 1890. James and Nancy Cook had settled here, but he passed on in 1879.

Ebenezer and Agnes McElroy had lived here while he was teaching at the college, but he had become State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 1870s and they moved to Salem. He was following in the steps of Dr. James McBride and Dr. Levi Lindsay Rowland in that office. Agnes McFadden McElroy was a niece of Alexander Campbell and they had been married near Bethany College in West Virginia.

It is easy to see what happened to the pioneer Christians, especially if they did not evangelize successfuly in the community.

Historian Clarence Swander says the first meetings of today's present group were in the home of Professor W. W. Bristow in 1890. The home was located at 10th and Monroe. The 1889 College catalog lists W. W. Bristow as "Professor of Book-Keeping and Bee Culture." A photo of W. W. Bristow is on the Oregon State University history page.

Church planter William F. Cowden recently from Alleghany City, PA, held a 10 day meeting and appointed a group of men to carry on the work. They quickly called Jesse H. Hughes of Kansas City to be the minister.

The photo of Professor W. W. Bristow at the Oregon State University web site.

We have a larger version on this photo link.

Corvallis Christian Church in 1892- 8.8 K
Dedicated in 1892

The church rented the second-floor Fisher's Hall immediately. When they outgrew that facility, the Opera House was rented until a permanent building could be completed. That building is pictured, although the photo was taken a few years later as seen by the power lines. Interestingly, a founder of Corvallis was Joseph C. Avery and the church built on his Donation Land Claim.

Such rapid growth may have been caused by a number of immersed believers living in the area, but having no one to provide leadership to establish a congregation.

Early Ministers:
Underlined names
lead to personal profiles.
Jesse H. Hughes
I. J. (or J. L.) Mercer
William Kellaway
Frank Abram Powell
A. D. Skaggs
Leroy F. Stephens
G. S. O. Humbert
1890 - 1891
1891 - 1892
1892 - 1893
1893 - 1894
1897 - 1898
1898 - 1900
1900 - 1904

Charles A. and Ianthe Sehlbrede moved here and he became chairman of the elders in 1919. This family had been responsible for establishing the church in Roseburg, Oregon. He had formerly served as U. S. Commissioner at Skagway, Alaska. Following this, he led in founding the Church of Christ in Coos Bay, Oregon.

There is a separate profile and photo of C. A. Sehlbrede.

Today this Disciples of Christ congregation occupies its building of 1925, but it is thoroughly maintained and modernized.

Lobster Valley

While this congregation began about 1915, we are including it for historical reasons. William S. Wilson and Charles A. Hendrix moved here with their families from the Crescent City, California area and not finding a church, established one. The congregation has always been a capella. Some of the descendents of the original families still meet and worship together in this isolated valley near Alsea in Benton County.

The church at one time met in the schoolhouse of District No. 40. In one public document a member of the congregation wrote,

We try to restore the New Testament church in its entirety and purity, and have no organization, societies, or innovations besides those mentioned and applied in the New Testament itself.

The Church of Christ maintains the Hendrix Cemetery and the listing, including Charles Hendrix and William S. Wilson, is online. Evidently the body of Charles Hendrix's wife Sarah was moved here after the cemetery was started because her death date is shown as 1906.

The listing of the Hendrix Cemetery at Lobster Valley.

Congregations also existed in Alsea and Bellfountain.

To DOCHS 2/02

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