Churches of Christ & Christian Churches
in the Pacific Northwest
UMATILLA COUNTY, OREGON
October 9, 2009
by Charles Dailey
Athena / Centerville |
Next Chapter . . .
Pioneer Menu . . .
- - Oldest presented first.
Athena / Centerville
By 1871, Jonathan (Rice) and Nancy Gerking, pioneers of 1862, had arrived in what became Centerville and were holding services. They had spent several years with the Bethany Church in Marion County. Their granddaughter Florence married Isaac Newton Richardson in 1878. Dr. Richardson had a dental practice located in the hotel in Centerville. Both families became leaders in the Athena Church.
J. R. Gerking|
Courtesy of Gerking
The charter members were: Adarene Clark,
Charles and Epsie Ann Geiss,
Nancy Angeline "Angie" Gerking,
Benjamin F. Gerking,
Jonathan Napoleon Bonaparte and Lucy Gerking,
John E. L. Gerking,
Jonathan Rice and Nancy Gerking,
Samantha (Stone) Gerking,
Isaiah M. and Mary Sophia Johns,
Dr. M. B. Morris,
Abel and Elizabeth Russell,
Mary Margaret (Gerking) Scott,
Amelia and Nancy Stone, and
Sarah Ann (Gerking) Taylor.
Mr. Richardson wrote the following letter to the editor of Pacific Christian Messenger, published at Monmouth:
Weston, OR. Aug. 5, 1877
D. T. Stanley,
Dear Bro.: I improve this opportunity of writing a word to let the readers of our valuable paper, the P. C. Messenger, know how the cause of Christ is prospering in this part of the country.
Since Bro. C. M. Ely's last report there have been four additions by relation, two reclaimed and one by baptism.
Dr. I. N. Richardson
This (Wild Horse) congregation numbers 52 members in good standing. It was fully organized in 1875.
The elders are J. R. Gerking, P. Ely and E. Moser; deacons, A. Russel and J. B. Gerking.
These statements are given in part to correct the report of No. 19 of the Messenger.
The church is in a prosperous condition, and we hope to be able to do more for the cause in the near future than we have in the past.
Our scattered condition prevents us from getting together oftener than once a month.
The brethren are generally poor having labored under the disadvantages of a new country and the squirrels. But we have learned how to kill squirrels by the thousand and are now able to raise good crops.
We meet on the first Sunday in each month for preaching. Our audiences are very large considering the newness of the country, and the respect shown religious exercises by the young ladies and gentlemen far exceeds that of any other neighborhood I ever preached in. I trust they will maintain their good reputation.
We have a Sunday school at the Gerking school house. Supt., W. E. Junkin.
Query: Is there such an office spoken of in the New Testament, as that of clerk. If not why does the Christian church have the clerks office.
Yours in Christian love,
I. N. Richardson
(We have maintained the spelling and punctuation of the original.)
In the letter, elder "P. Ely" is Philologus Ely.
Historic Athena Christian Church.|
The church will celebrate its Cen-
tennial in this building August 10,
2003. The bell tower was
removed in the 1940s.
This small-town congregation near Milton began in 1873 according to their own records. J. H. Moore reported to the Christian Messenger in 1880 that he was preaching here. He was raised among the Baptists, but became convinced of the claim for being Christians only.
By 1885, the congregation was showing more strength. An article in the January 31 issue of the Christian Standard by R. H. Moss reports:
Centerville, Dec. 18. -- We have just closed a meeting of twenty-four days, resulting in 34 additions - 23 by primary obedience and 11 by relation and letter. Bro. C. J. Wright was with us the last half of the time. He did some of the best preaching, both in the assembly and by the fireside. Eleven heads of families were among those baptized, and were of the best and most intelligent in the community. The others, with one or two exceptions, were from the Sunday school.
The meeting had accomplished a revolution in our community that will tell for good in time to come. The interest was intense and attendance large throughout. The hearts of parents were made to rejoice by seeing their children yielding obedience to the Savior. Ours were gladdened by the obedience of our two eldest sons. We thank the Lord and take courage.
The 1887 Christian Standard reports the preacher that year was "Bro. McDonald." Late in 1887 or early 1888 Neal Cheetham was preaching there while still living in Waitsburg, WA. Almost certainly, he commuted by train.
Jonathan R. Gerking
Dr. Isaac N. Richardson
Jonathan R. Gerking
J. H. Moore
Rufus H. Moss
S. Wm. P. Richardson
Samuel B. Letson
John B. Daisley
Gentry Rushing (photo)
Samuel Lawson Greene
Melford W. Smith
Charles Arba Sias
J. W. Jenkins
Victor Emanuel Hoven
1871 -- 1874
1875 -- 1878
1879 -- 1881
1881 -- 1882
1882 -- 1885
1887 -- 1888
1889 -- 1890
1891 -- 1892
1893 -- 1894
1895 -- 1897
1897 -- 1899
1900 -- 1902
1902 -- 1903
1903 -- 1906
1906 -- 1908
In 1889 the town's name was changed to Athena. One record places the size of the congregation in 1893 at 275 members.
Dr. I. N. Richardson returned to Athena in January of 1895 to conduct a gospel meeting. He reported in some personal correspondence that he immersed 54 into Christ at Athena and that 16 others were added to the church.
The church constructed its beautiful, historic building in 1903. A 1910 map notes that the building had electric lights.
J. W. Jenkins was minister in 1903. That same year, a seven-week gospel meeting was conducted by William A. "Bill" Moore with 80 baptisms and 103 total responses.
Bob Gilliland had provided a photo of the Gerking family
headstone at the Blue Mountain (Kees) Cemetery.
While the meetings at the Elkhorn Schoolhouse did not turn into a permanent congregation, we have included the story here as a sampling of the many small groups that met over the entire northwest region in those earliest years.
Elkhorn School House,
west of Athena, Oregon, 1898.
C. M. Ely, writing in the Christian Messenger of 1880 said,
Beyond a doubt, those first contacted for the Lord here became part of the permanent congregation that latter settled at Athena.
We had a pleasant meeting at the Elkhorn school house, about eight miles west of here (Centerville) yesterday. I preached two sermons. There seems to be a growing interest at that point. A union Lord's day school has just been organized here.
Our thanks to researcher Kayla Durfee for locating the photo of the Elkhorn school house.
The congregation here first met in a school house that measured just 18 by 26 feet. That may have been adequate because there were originally 12 members at its beginning in 1880. So wrote W. B. Henderson to the Christian Standard in 1886. In a later issue, he said they organized in (as opposed to casually meeting) April 10, 1881.
The Helix congregation built on the corner of Aurora and Solar, in the southwest corner of the intersection. There was a parsonage to the south on the same property.
R. H. Moss became the full time preacher here in 1882 according to one account. He was supported by a cooperation of the Christian Churches in Umatilla County. He moved to Athena by 1885.
John Daisley preached at Helix, beginning August 1, 1889, and divided his time with the Milton congregation.
In 1898 A. H. Sunderman was the preacher and wrote to the Christian Standard that he was devoting one-half of his time to Helix and the rest to evangelizing other communities in the area including Pilot Rock. Mr. Sunderman had formerly been a Methodist preacher and was taught the way more accurately by David C. Kellums.
In 1907 George Simmons was the minister and in 1913 it was W.F. McCormick.
By the 1930s, the building was closed and the congregation was meeting at Athena.
The town of Milton was named by pioneer William Samuel Frazier in honor of the English poet John Milton. An early mover in this community close to the Washington State border was John Newton Stone with his wife Susan.
John N. Stone
Mr. Stone was a direct descendent of the famed Barton W. Stone and had moved to Oregon from Illinois. They had three daughters including Verna Stone Lamb, Katherine and Lorena and a son, also named John N. Stone.
(J.N. Stone: 1860-1947, Susan Agnes Stone: 1863-1938)
One record says,
"In 1885-86 he made a canvas of the North and South Forks of the Walla Walla River and found some interest in the Christian Church and created a good deal more."
Scottish-born John B. Daisley was invited to conduct a gospel meeting at Milton (1886) that continued for several weeks. The church met upstairs over a saloon that courteously closed during the services.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Daisley started with committments from the following charter members:
Mrs. Jenny Berry,
Mr. and Mrs. Bussell,
Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Elam,
Mr. and Mrs. John Hastings,
Mr. and Mrs. John Newton Stone,
Mrs. Mary J. Stone,
Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Taylor,
Ransom and Delilah Wells and
Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Wright.
John Newton Stone reported the meeting in the Christian Standard of January, 1887:
First Milton |
He (Mr. Daisley) commenced the meeting November 22, and continued until December 12, with the following result: 1 from the United Brethren, 1 from the Presbyterians, 2 from the Catholics, 1 from the Seventh Day Adventists, 5 from the Methodists, 7 reclaimed, and 23 from the world, making in all 40 additions to the church.
Mr. Stone became the clerk of the church.
The next year a church building was erected. Mr. Daisley moved to Milton and continued to lead the church until 1891, then returned from 1895 - 1897. W. M. Messick, a Bethany graduate, came in 1892.
The second Milton |
Christian Church building
In his retirement years, J. A. Lord was a member of the congregation. His dedication to his Lord's work at Milton can be seen in reading his personal profile.
The congregation built an extraordinary building in 1918 and has sent many Christian leaders out into the harvest field.
Much of the following has been extracted from the official history of the First Christian Church of Pendleton and printed in Pioneer Trails, the monthly publication of the Umatilla County Historical Society.
In 1892 a Mrs. Darting and Mrs. Ella Phay canvassed Pendleton for members of the Church of Christ. They found seven who were interested in forming a congregation. The little group met in member's homes for worship and communion.
As the numbers grew, they engaged evangelists John B. Daisley and Samuel Letson to conduct a seven week gospel meeting in the fall of 1892. Three were added. In a meeting the following year by E. K. Taylor, 40 more were added. More meetings were conducted and in 1893, the group organized, but with just 15 members.
The 15 launched the first Sunday School ever held in Pendleton. It met in the County Courthouse Building on Main Street and for the first six months, was totally free of males.
Isaac Newton Richardson was the minister beginning in mid-1895 (not 1896). He was followed by C. A. Dotson in 1897, R. A. Copple in 1898 and John B. Lister in 1902.
After years of moving between the Court House, the Armory, the Congregational Church and several other buildings, they were able to erect a church house in 1903. There were gospel meetings conducted at that time and 145 more were added.
At the building dedication, groups of Christians attended from Walla Walla, Milton, Athena,
Adams and Weston.
By 1905, membership had reached nearly 500.
The location can be seen on the panorama.
Three years later, world traveler Andrew Mackenzie Meldrum came to be the preacher. He returned to his native Scotland to marry Helen Crockatt of Glasgow. While he was away during 1908, the church building burned due to a fire in a nearby stable. Even his personal library and artifacts were destroyed.
When they returned from Scotland, he led in the construction of a beautiful granite building that still stands. (His father in Scotland was a stonecutter by trade.) The cornerstone was placed in 1909. The granite was quarried at Eagle Valley in Baker County and shipped by rail to Pendleton. It was moved from the rail station to the building location by teams of horses.
Charles Reign Scoville was on hand for the dedication of the new building in the Spring of 1910. With him came six of his evangelist team. Arlene Dux Scoville sang a special number. Groups came from Heppner, Dayton, Waitsburg, LaGrande and many other places to join the celebration.
The bottom photo is from a postcard postmarked in 1911. Sometime after 1916 the church renamed itself The Christian Church.
There was a girl's conference at the church in 1916 and we have mounted a photo of it on a page by itself in case the viewer wants to look for a friend or relative.
The community began about 1880 and was named for Echo Koonz, the daughter of a prominent pioneer family.
Little is known about the congregation that once met here. The Athena Christian Church supplied some leadership and manpower to get it started about 1897. Joseph Belford Saylor married Minnie Laura Gerking, a grandaughter of Jonathan Gerking. After leaving Athena, they settled for a while at Echo. This family may have been the foundation of the congregation.
Historian Swander finds Echo on his list for 1899, but believes that it began earlier.
The information about Pilot Rock has been hard to locate, but a congregation was probably established there by A. H. Sunderman in the fall of 1898. He was living at Helix at the time and wrote to the Christian Standard saying there were about 30 members in Pilot Rock and he was hoping to organize them.
Mr. Sunderman succeeded in his plans because historian Swander finds the church on his list in 1899 but knew nothing more about the group.
Kayla Durfee has furnished the following fascinating file from the Athena Press. Note the number of Christians involved and the excitement in planting a new congregation.
May 30, 1913 -- Christian Church Notes
The village of Holdman showing the United |
Brethren Church. The white building in
the distance is probably the school house.
The Christian Church may have been built
after this rare photo was taken.
-- Used by permission.
The article was written by Andrew Mackenzie Meldrum when he was minister of the Christian Church at Athena.
The Christian Church organized at Holdman, Sunday, May 25, was the
occasion of a big day at Holdman and will long be remembered as one of
the happiest of days. A number of brethren from Athena, including Mr. and
Mrs. James Potts, Mr. and Mrs. Jos. N. Scott, Miss Zelma DePeatt, Miss
Merna DePeatt, Mr. and Mrs. George Woodward and Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Meldrum
and a number from Helix, accompanied by their new pastor, Mr. W.F.
McCormick, went by autos to assist in the services.
The morning sermon was delivered by the Athena pastor, after which a
sumptuous dinner was provided by the good people of Holdman. The church
was organized in the afternoon, Mr. Meldrum acting as chairman; he was
also successful in raising enough money to erect a new church building.
Mr. Holdman, a generous citizen for whom the town is named, donated a
site worth $200, and has also promised to furnish cement sufficient for
Mr. McCormick preached a fine sermon in the afternoon. In
the evening Mr. Meldrum organized a Teacher Training class of 20 members
and preached a sermon, at the close of which two young ladies confessed
Christ, making five additions during the day.
Jos. N. Scott and the Misses DePeatt rendered valuable assistance by
their excellent singing. Mrs. Arthur Scott was elected teacher of the Training class.
After a visit to Holdman in 2002, Mrs. Durfee writes, "Today, there are two homes and a grain elevator, and the lonely old school house with its broken glass windows."
To DOCHS 8/02
Union County or back to Pioneer Menu