Historic Church Continues Pride of Ownership
to this Day
Sanders County Ledger - Thursday, July 29,
by Sandra Gubel
and appropriate that a church would be awarded with one
of Thompson Falls Beautification Committee's "Thumbs Up"
exactly what happened to Community Congregational Church
of Thompson Falls. The members of the church were
recently honored for "Continued Pride of Ownership" in
the category of institutions.
church, which will celebrate its centennial next year,
has a lot of history to it. It is one of the
earliest structures in Thompson Falls, as well as being
one of the first houses of worship. From the
beginning, the church has made changes that have
reflected that continued care and upkeep.
recent remodeling project undergone by the church,
according to chairman of the board of trustees, Dan
Whittenburg, became a major "rebuild issue," when it was
discovered that there was a problem with the floor
joists. The board, at that time, realized that the
was not set up very well for handicapped
accessibility, and that moving caskets in and out of the
doors also posed a challenge. So, the former door
was closed up and made into a large glassed window
area. It is now an area to showcase a
beautiful stained glass creation.
presented to the church in 1997 by Jackie Basham
Rossing of Acme, Washington, done in honor of the
50th wedding anniversary of her parents, Jack and
entryway was rearranged and remodeled, with new carpet
added. The rearrangement makes it
easier for people to in and out as well as sign a
guest book and other functions, Whittenburg added.
in the window there brought in a whole lot more light,"
which makes the entry much more pleasant, he commented.
was relocated to the Preston Street side of the
building, and with a large gently sloping ramp, the area
can easily accommodate people coming in wheelchairs, as
well as caskets, Whittenburg said. The steps have
been rebuilt and re-railed.
project is not quite finished, noted Whittenburg.
The sign to the church will be relocated, discovered to
be a little too much in the path of an underground
sprinkler system that has been installed.
sidewalks along the street will all be sloped, to enable
much easier access throughout the area. "We wanted
to create an atmosphere that anybody can get in the
church," Whittenburg concluded. And while on one's
way, people can also observe a special feature to the
walkway, leading to the new entrance. In a
miniature step back in time, the concrete was specially
stamped, lending the authentic appearance of
members of the church, originally Methodist Episcopal,
met beginning around 1889 under the guidance of Rev. D.L.
Monroe --and it is not know how long he served-- the
cornerstone of the church, located at the corner of what
is now Preston and Jefferson streets, was dedicated
October 24, 1905.
service for the laying of the cornerstone, Mr. D.V.
Herriott led the choir, stationed in a wagon, with an
organ. Lots for the church were secured from Sen.
Edward Donlan in September 1905. John Willis
donated two lots for a parsonage. E. Courtney
started the framework November 13 of that year for the
38 x 50 building that included a bell tower nine feet
Cone, the pastor in charge, came to perform the ceremony
from Plains, and dedicated its foundation. The
newspaper account afterward noted that "before the stone
was put in position a glass can was placed in the
orifice which contained a copy of the New Testament, a
copy of the Northwestern Christian Advocate, and a copy
of the Epworth Herald, both publications of the
Methodist church; a copy of the Sanders County Ledger; a
brief written history of the church with the name of the
donor of the lots, building committee and etc.
can were also put the coins of the realm in the various
denominations. A piece of the pottery ware from Florin's
potter, was placed along side the can in the orifice.
records indicate that there was irregular worship of the
church until 1909, when Rev. Samuel Taylor became the
first sealed pastor. The church's parsonage was
built between 1913 and 1918.
received a bell for its bell tower in 1920. In the
May 20, 1920 Sanders County Ledger, it was written that
a 1,000 pound, historic bell had arrived from Virginia
City, for use at the Methodist church. "The sound
of this bell floated only a short time ago over the
graves of the desperadoes that
infested Montana in
the early sixties and were hung by the vigilantes,
mainly through the effort of Col. Sanders, whose
name our county bears. So our bell is an
historical bell, and perhaps its sound will bring
back former memories to those who have forgotten
their religion and their church going habit and
again get them into the habit of reaching for the
Bible and hymn book."
Phillips was pastor of the church from 1930 to 1933.
The 1938 Christmas program was canceled due to a measles
epidemic. The annex, new bell tower was built, and
the old building was repainted then. Until 1938,
at which time the Rev. Emile F. Mignery, Jr. was
pastor, there had been 19 different pastors to serve
Following Rev. Mignery, who left to go into the military
service as a chaplain, was Rev. J. Eldon Whitesitt who
also later became an Army chaplain. The Rev. B.D.
Fridley became pastor in July 1944, and served until
1951. During the time Fridley was pastor, the
annex, named after him, was built. Rev. Olah
Moore took over the ministry with the departure of
Pastor Fridley. She remained one year. In
fall of 1952, the Rev. Clair Olney came from Iowa to
take over the pastorate. He stayed until 1957.
Moore served again from 1957 to 1961. Other
pastors have included Rev. Gebhardt and Lobell Bennett.
From 1969 to 1974. Rev. Bruce Kline served the
congregation; from 1975 to 1977, Interim Chaplain Tim
Hawkins pastored the church. In the longest-
enduring service to the church, Pastor Gaylund Olson has
guided the church from 1977 to this day.
church history, it was noted that on Easter Sunday 1960,
the church was packed with 525 worshipers. This
was during the period that the Thompson Falls Dam was
during this period, the second "term" that Rev. Olah
Moore served, that the church became affiliated with the
United Church of Christ (Congregational).
the Pairs and Spares, young adult group of the church,
worked to rebuild the church entranceway.
According to a Ledger article during the period, "A work
party early in the summer found the sill under the
present bell tower to be unsound. The proposed
addition will include a 12 x 12 foot entranceway
connected to the sanctuary by a short, glassed hallway
and will be large enough to provide ample space for a
guest book and hanging of outer garments during cold
weather. Cost is estimated between $2,000 and
$3,000 depending on amount of volunteer work done."
time that Gaylund Olson has been pastor, another big
project to the church has been tackled. A formal
dedication ceremony was held to acknowledge a completely
remodeled interior of the church. The project
including new wiring and lighting fixtures, windows,
insulation and interior western cedar siding, new
electric baseboard heating, a sound system, that
provides sound through two recessed speakers to the
sanctuary and other speakers in the annex, nursery
and bell tower. Glass in the nursery was
installed at rear of sanctuary. A new railing installed across
in front of the balcony. A high ceiling features
covered, exposed beams.
noted that numerous hours of volunteer labor from
members of the church's congregation, and
non-members, went into the work of tearing out the
interior, installing the insulation, sheet rock and
other work not hired done. The entire project
was estimated to cost around $35,000.
|Below is a hand
written note on the history of the church.