Churches of Christ & Christian Churches
in the Pacific Northwest
LEWIS COUNTY, WASHINGTON
November 8, 2005
by Charles Dailey
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This county was named in honor of Captain Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. That expedition was in 1804-1806.
This western Lewis County community has a French name meaning "a small valley surrounded by green hills." An easier way to pronounce it was Baw Faw. To complicate matters even more, it is on Boistfort Road, spelled with a t. Evidently usage has dropped the hard-to-pronounce letter t. But notice that the Yahoo map retains the letter t in their spelling.
The Government Road
and Tacoma. Several
churches were built on
this route including
Castle Rock and
After some clearing, Boistfort Valley is about two miles wide and 14 miles long.
Key pioneer families with a Christian Church heritage were the Charles F. Whites, the George Buchanans and the Turner R. Roundtrees. The White family had arrived from Peoria, Illinois in the spring of 1852; the others settled at Boistfort the following year.
The Christian Church was organized in 1863 and met in homes and the school house. It apparentlly did not have its own building, but did meet frequently at the Boistfort church building after it was built in 1888.
The first preacher was probably Edward Harris. He had arrived in the area in 1866 and married Mary, the recent widow of Martin D. Roundtree, son of pioneer T. R. Roundtree.
The Disciples Year Book of 1892 lists 25 members at Boistfort. Disciples historian Peterson also included Boistfort in his 1897 listing of churches.
A report appeared written by U. L. Harmon of Chehalis to the Christian Standard of 1893:
Chehalis, Sept. 28. -- At a meeting recently held at Boistfort, Lewis County, Washington by Elders Tinley and Boyles, 18 persons were added to the church. The elders, who had formerly served but resigned, were selected again to serve the congregation. The meeting was a splendid success.
Circuit-riding Judson Brown included "Baw Faw" on his monthly preaching rounds during 1900.
It appears that two gospel preachers shared the name of Judson Brown. Mr. Brown in this story was single and based at Winlock, Washington. He was born in Missouri, according to the 1900 census.
Another Judson Brown preached in Michigan and Idaho. He was born in Canada and entered the United States about 1877. He later retired in Colorado with his 37-year-old unmarried daughter. He told the census taker that he was a widower. This Mr. Brown had attended Bethany College is West Virginia.
The Boistfort church probably dissolved as the families moved to Centralia and other larger communities.
Historical background for this section came from the 42 page book Baw Faw written in 1976 by Bernice Sweany Roundtree Dawley, granddaughter of Edward Harris.
In 1870, a Church of Christ with 27 members was established at Ford's Prairie, 0.7 mile west of Interstate 5 at the main Centralia exit. "Uncle Sid" Ford was a judge and also kept a small hotel which may be seen in the photo.
1st Centralia Church
on Ford's Prairie
between 1871 and 1876
Among the charter members were Dr. James and Emeline Roundtree of Illinois and their children Mary Adeline, Jasper and Julina Jane. They had spent a winter at Milwaukie, Oregon after traveling with the Murphy-Davidson wagon train in 1852. James' sister Mary married Ethan Allan Shirley who became a trustee of Christian College in Monmouth, Oregon.
Eventually the Roundtree family settled near Ford's Prairie and helped establish the Church of Christ. Centralia (then called Centerville) is in Lewis County.
Thomas Taylor, formerly a Baptist, was the first minister. Like most of the earliest churches in western Washington, their meeting place was built on or near the military road (now Jackson Highway). In 1871 they built a 20' x 30' building at Ford's Prairie. We think that it is the low building in the photo at the right. Notice the wagon trail. The house on the left is probably the Halfway House owned by John Buchanan.
There is a profile of Thomas Taylor.
Mr. Buchanan also operated a stage line from 1860 - 1872 when the railroad was completed from Olympia to Tenino. The stage line then served Monticello on the south and Tenino on the north. Mr. Buchanan was a member of the Christian Church. He died in 1908 and is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery. (John Buchanan of Centralia was not brother to preacher Amos Buchanan.)
In 1876 the church building was dismantled and moved (largely by Jasper Roundtree) to the NE corner of East Pine and North Gold streets in the developing town of Centralia, also located on the old military road.
A related comment is recorded in Centralia, The First Fifty Years:
"The marriage had taken place in the little Christian Church on Gold Street. That pleased Adeline (Roundtree Borst) because she felt as if the church almost belonged to her family. . . . Her father and mother had been among its first members. Then her brother Jasper had helped tear the building down and move it into town. Jasper, folks said, wheeled part of it in, in a wheelbarrow, and some of it he even carried on his back." (Page 120)
Joseph and Adeline (Roundtree) Borst's home is is open to the
public Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Because of the coming of the railroad in 1872, the focus of the city had moved to this new area. We wonder if the new location, just one block from the tracks, proved to be noisy because thirteen years later they built at the NW corner of West Pine and North Silver, three blocks from the tracks. They built another building on that same location in 1910.
The hand-written Articles of Incorporation filed with Lewis County state in part:
"That the terms of admission to membership to and in said Church of Christ shall be that the applicant shall believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God and shall confess the name of Jesus before men, repent of his sins and obey the command of Jesus by being immersed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
Full time workers sent out from the congregation include David Byerlee, Jewell Roberts, Carl Gelder, Lyle Sellards, Gerald VanDoren, Clinton Rigg and Jack C. Marshall.
Through the years, the congregation came to be called the First Christian Church of Centralia and that common usage was made legal in 1956. In 1961 the congregation purchased land for its present facility at 1215 West Main.
Some of this information has been supplied by local church historian Donna Joachim.
Napavine in Lewis County is seven miles south of Chehalis, just off I-5. Its name is from an Indian word meaning small prairie.
The earliest record of the Napavine Christian Church may be the one in the Christian Standard of January 9, 1886. A. Harman writes:
There has been none of our preaching brethren at Napavine till I went there this summer. My first two sermons were delivered in a hall where the Methodists held their service. After the Methodists had dedicated their new house of worship they invited me there, and I accepted.
My first sermon there resulted my having the privilege of taking three confessions. They were all heads of families. I was about to close my service when one came forward, without invitation, and said "I wish to confess the Savior; two more immediately followed and I baptized them in the Newaukum river on next Lord's day, the Methodist minister being present.
This story records the beginning of the congregation. It must have flourished for a few years because by 1913 they built the building as seen in the photo.
Spelling and grammar of the original have been retained.
With the coming of automobiles, members could easily drive to Centralia or Chehalis. This has been the fate of many small congregations from the past. The church no longer meets and the building has been remodeled into the Napavine City Hall.
Named in honor of General Winlock E. Miller, an early land owner, the town had a long history by 1900.
A Church of Christ was organized at Winlock in 1888 by James S. McCallum. They built a two story building the next year. It was located on the northeast corner of SE Church and SE 2nd. It is reasonable to think that the street was named for the church building since it was the only church on the street.
The local newspaper, The Chronicle, reported that the first pastor was "Rev. Fuller." Nothing more is known about this man.
The Disciples Year book of 1892 lists 10 members and Arthur Davis as the contact person.
The 1900 Federal Census shows Judson Brown living in Winlock, where he is listed as "minister." Mr. Brown was single and living in rented quarters.
The church disbanded in 1909, making the life of the congregation just 21 years.
Disciple historian Orval Peterson lists a Christian Church in Mossyrock in his 1897 listing of Churches of Christ and Christian Churches. One of the early circuit-riding ministers was Judson Brown in 1900.
The Landis family was involved in the early days of the Mossyrock Christian Church with the building being built in 1908. But it died and was later resurrected as the Mossyrock Community Church about 1940.
Supplying the leadership at this time was Melvin Core, a local school teacher who was later ordained by the Chehalis Christian Church to the work of ministry.
A Stone-Campbell related church was in existence here as early as 1893 because Elder Ulysses E. Harmon wrote to the Christian Standard, an Ohio publication, about the church in Boistfort. His letter was dated September 28, 1893. Perhaps the group disbanded temporarily and was restarted.
According to their own history, the development of First Christian Church began in Chehalis in 1897. R. E. Dunlap held a gospel meeting, using the Baptist Building. Attendance averaged 75 each night. By 1899, a group had formed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ulysses E. Harmon.
Some of the early members were
Mrs. C. L. Adelofte,
Ulysses E. Harmon,
Ellen M. Harmon,
John H. Miller,
Mrs. S. E. Miller,
F. M. Rockwood,
James H. Wheeler,
Minnie Wheeler and
There was no regular preaching in the earliest years. James Wheeler, father of William Wheeler, preached some as did C. F. Goode. Judson Brown included Chehalis in his monthly preaching circuit in 1900.
At first, the church met in the homes of its members. Several protracted meetings were held in public buildings. By 1904 the church had formally organized and by 1906 they were in their first building. The current building is an updated version of the original one and at the same location, 1175 Prindle Street.
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