Union County's name reflects the support of the people in this area toward maintaining the United States during the Civil War.
Summerville's post office was established in 1865, indicating that the community had started very early. The town was named for early resident Edgar J. Sommerville, with a change in spelling.
Pioneer preacher Daniel Elledge (1864) and his wife Katie moved here in 1871. Elledge had preached in Illinois, Missouri and Iowa before coming west. They first settled at Mill Creek in Marion County.
Daniel W. Elledge
There is a profile of Daniel Elledge.
The Elledges moved to Summerville and "less than a year later he wrote to say that there were 75 members of the church living in that valley." Katie died here in 1875 and the funeral was conducted by Levi Lindsay Rowland. She is buried in the Summerville-Imbler Cemetery, Block 1, Lot 33.
Our information source about Katie Elledge was the aged keeper of the cemetery, the late Emery Oliver. Mr. Oliver was a distant relation of the Elledge family.
The preacher here in 1883 was Joel M. Jones, formerly of Boise Valley.
Island City Map
While the name Island City might bring up visions of a coastal community, its name came from being on an island formed by a slough which leaves the Grand Ronde River west of town and rejoins the river several miles to the east.
Daniel Boone Matheny held a gospel meeting for the church in Island City during October of 1879. He said "Bro. Elliott has recently come and will locate here . . . " We do not have other information about Mr. Elliott.
Writing in the 1885 Christian Standard, Joel M. Jones reported a meeting closed December 14, 1884 that was held at the Iowa School house. Four had been added and the house was crowded. The congregation was known as the Christian Chapel. Jones wrote, "I contemplate some success this winter, though the snow is deep (two feet) and the weather cold."
The Disciples 1888 Yearbook lists 49 members and J. M. Jones as the contact person.
One of the older names for LaGrande was "Grand Rond City" according to the authoritative Oregon Geographic Names by Lewis McArthur and published by the Oregon Historical Society Press.
In 1870, Daniel Elledge wrote that there were 75 or 80 good brethren in "Grand Ronde," but they did not have a preacher. Because of failing health, he would not be able to continue making the trips from Walla Walla on a regular basis.
This was shortly after the valley had been settled by the emigrant pioneers. They met first in halls, school buildings or churches without having a formal organization. In 1891 (1890 according to Swander) 40 members organized under the part-time leadership of John W. Jenkins and began holding regular services. Mr. Jenkins does not list himself as working in LaGrande, but as in The Dalles in 1892. We conclude that he frequently headed his horse toward LaGrande to help part time.
J. W. Jenkins
There is a profile of John W. Jenkins.
It was at the end of 1891 that O. D. Carper, the Superintendent of City Schools, wrote a plea for help in the Christian Standard:
We are very much in want of a good minister in this part of Oregon. We have a nice little city of 3,500 inhabitants. It is growing very rapidly. We have quite a number of brethren here, but no church organization. Any first-class minister who desires to visit this country will be aided in doing so. Please send references with letters. We want a good organizer.
There may not have been a "first-class minister" available, because a traveler reported in November of 1892 that the church did not have a preacher. They numbered 36 at that time.
Special Gospel Meetings:
About 9 out of 10 additions were
by immersion, the rest were by
transfer from another congregation.
In 1893 P. H. McGuffey conducted a night-to-night meeting for the church with Clara Moore delighting the faithful with her song leading.
Preacher Samuel B. Letson may have spend 1894 with them because he filed a change-of-address to Pullman late in 1894.
Their first building was a one-room school house purchased in 1898 with the assistance of A. H. Sunderman. He was preaching each night during the time of purchase. This building was outgrown in 1900, sold and a new building built. This one was located at 1202 Washington (Washington and Depot Streets). It was on the property at the south of the intersection, as shown in a 1903 map.
Due to discord, disorganization and lack of leadership, the church dissolved but was reorganized in about 1913. It appears that Ford Ellis was the leader of the resurrected church. Today the congregation reports the membership as being in the hundreds.
Originally named Forest Cove, the name was changed by the postal authorities because of the similarity with Forest Grove.
The church at Cove, Oregon began sometime before 1880, because of this letter in Pacific Christian Messenger.
Cove, Union Co.,Or.
"Bro. Boli" is Michael Boly who was living near Elgin. There is a profile of Mr. Boly.
March 14, 1880
We had a good meeting on second Lord's day and Saturday evening before. Bro. Boli preached for us, and much interest was manifested, but no additions. Our people in this valley are waking up and showing great interest.
Yours in Christ,
John C. Barnes
Barnes wrote to the Christian Record in 1882:
I am now living in what is known as "Grand Round Valley," Union
county, Oregon. There are a few of our people in this Valley,
numbering from 110 to 125 persons; and out of that number there
are two small churches. One of them is organized and in good
working order. The other one is only partially organized. I am
a member of the last named body.
Now I wish to say to you, and through the CHRISTIAN RECORD, to
the Christian brotherhood every where, that we are in great need
of laborers in this part of the great vineyard. We want brethren
who are willing to work for a fair living. One man could not do
all the work that is needed here. The field is large enough for
three good, earnest and faithful workers, who are willing to make
some sacrifice of time and labor to build up the Church of Christ
in this beautiful valley.
We have, indeed, a lovely country and desirable to live in. It is
true the winters are a little stormy, but not so cold as in Indiana,
north of latitude 38. We are in latitude 47, and the coldest of our
winter days only mark eight or ten degrees below zero.
There is also a Sand Ridge in Linn County, Oregon.
Alicel is on Highway 82 in Union County and Sand Ridge is east of it. By road, it is 3.5 miles east. The postoffice was on the stage route between Union and Summerville. The post office operated from 1875 to 1877. Evidently the town remained for several decades following the closure of the post office.
Dr. Sanderson reports 1891 as the birth year of this congregation. The Disciples Yearbook for 1892 shows the church with 25 members and property -- almost certainly a church building. The building would point to an earlier date for the beginning here.
Union was named before Union County was carved from Baker County. Its political sympathies, when it was established in 1862, need no comment.
Historians Clarence Swander and Victor Hoven both list the beginning of the congregation as 1895. Swander notes cryptically,
After a series of scandalous troubles the church house burned down and the church died. There is hope that it may live again.
The church lasted for more than 25 years, but it seems clear enough that righteousness did not reign here. We are not aware that the church did live again after its building burned.
The Elgin Church came into being just 12 years after the first house was built in the new town. According to local church historian Vanetta McVey, the congregation began as the Elgin Church of Christ in 1897 with 22 members. John B. Lister was the organizer. Small churches in the county area combined to bring the congregation into existence.
John B. Lister
Among those combining forces was Jemima Boly, widow of Michael Boly, a gospel preacher. The Bolys had held services in the Indian Valley area. Records show that she was involved at Elgin as early as 1891. Services were held in the Baptist Church for a while and later in the old town hall. In 1900 W. B. Rose became minister and an octagonal building was erected.
About 1904 Howard Leeds Willis, from New Jersey, became minister. He and Elizabeth were in Elgin in the 1910 census, but were there also in the 1920 Census and the Oregon Death Index shows that he died in Union County, where Elgin is located. The death date is November 26, 1926. One of his family members located this photo of Mr. Willis and has granted permission to use it here.
Mr. Willis, his sister Jenny in the foreground and his wife Elizabeth.
The 1914 Year Book says, "Two young men from this congregation have consecrated their lives to the Lord's work. One of them, William Gressman, is now in the ministry. The other, Clifton Phillips, is preparing for that work."
Clifton and Amy Carson Phillips are pictured at right about 1922. This writer knew Clifton Phillips (father of the late Woodrow Phillips) and has listened to him preach the Word. He would frequently drive a point home saying, "Remember when I'm pointing a finger at you, there are three more pointing back at me." Clifton Phillips' ministry of nearly one-half century has blessed the lives of many.
J. B. Lister|
W. B. Rose
H. L. Willis
1900 - 1903
1903 -- 1904
1904 -- 1911
The Elgin Christian Church, through its elders, takes the oversight of Christian Trails Indian Mission, a project in reaching the Navajo and Hopi tribes for Christ.
Clifton and Amy Phillips
Several other congregations of the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches once flourished in Union County, but there is little record.
- George Hall existed in 1891.
- Alicel was heard from in 1899
- Cove reported its presence in 1900
George Hall does not show on the Union County map of 1895. If any of our readers have further information, please contact us. Charles Dailey
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