Wenatchee Valley Church History
What follows is a brief history of the Brethren churches in Wenatchee.
Compiled December 12, 1928 by Geraldine Eller
In Russia that land of may interesting legends, it has been said there was a man who was to have all the land he could measure from sun rise to sunset. To justify his claim he must run about it all. “The man starts at sunrise bending very effort that he may encompass much and claim his desired possession. He sees the waving trees in the distance and determining that they shall be his he takes them in his race. He catches a glimpse of a shining river and putting forth renewed energy he says., “That shall be Mine.” Thus he ever enlarges his circle to include new revelations. Then to his amazement he sees that day is slipping out. He finds he has gone too far. With the speed of the wind he runs faster and faster to reach the place from which he stared. At last with one heroic effort he finishes the task, reaches his goal. He falls upon his face from exhaustion, when the group turns him over they find he is dead, gaining it all he has lost his life.”
In writing his account the historian has caught many glimpses of lives and happenings that are filled with interesting experiences. The history of this church is peopled with those who have lived lives of courage and adventure, of deep spiritual attainment. Each revelation intrigues one farther to explore and seek out more light. Should that be attempted fully and completely one should also encompass much, but having gained all the history would never be written.
It seems certain that Bro. R. E. Hastings was the first member of the Brethren church in this valley. He come to Wenatchee May 2, 1902, became connected with a transfer company and was at the depot to welcome the first incoming colony of Brethren.
In the early spring of 1903 Eld. Amos B. Peters with his wife Barbara and three younger children Mary, Marvin and Hiram seeing the possibilities for agricultural development in the raw, sage valley of the Columbia organized and led a party of eight Brethren with their wives and children into Wenatchee. Those members were from the congregation at Cando N. Dak. They located themselves about five miles north of the city in the distinct know as Sunnyslope. Among that first group were Dr. L. A. Miller and family of five children, Bro. Jesse Peters and Family of five children, B. C. Holland and wife with three children, Bro. And Sis. Baughaman and eight children, Bro. And Sis. O. A. Gordon and two children, Bro. M. S. Peters and three children, Bro. and Sis. J. J Sharp and two children. Making a total of fifty-two person coming to Sunnyslope and two already in town. Immediately following in the next few months came Sam Neher and family, Bro. Jacob McMillen and D. J. Coffin. Of this number only fifteen are living with in the bounds of the Wenatchee churches. The fall of 1903 another party of Brethren arrived some of whom are still living here.
Church services were begun at once but a formal organization was not affected until Aug. of 1903. Meeting were held in the Old Beacon Hill school house until the erection of the church building in 1904, on lots donated by Arthur Gunn. Brethren David and Enoch Eby were the organization board and Eld. A. B. Peters was chosen as the first Elder. He held this office consecutively until 1916.
Bro. D. J. Coffin was elected to act as the first clerk, Bro. J. K Sharp the first treasurer. Brethren Wm. Baughman, Jacob Mc Millen and J. K. Sharp constituted the first board of trustees.
During the summer of 1903 Sis. Lizzie Baughman was taken by death. Thus the first funeral was held and interment was made near the church site, creating the Sunnyslope cemetery which is still being used. A mother had been taken, leaving a husband to care for eight children, the youngest of which was only three months of age. Death, sorrow and loss had come to knit the little church closer together.
Each year brought new colonies led by Eld. Peters. Members settled then on the east side of the Columbia river and in town. Because it was difficult for them to make the drive out to the Sunnyslope church several of the members met in town for services, creating the first mission point. Bro. and Sis. R. E. Hastings, Bro. and Sis. Penrod, and Sis. Lucinda Barnhart met at the home of Bro. and Sis. Leavell during the winter of 1907 and 08. Services were held there until the Advent church was secured four months later. Only one of these charter members are here now.
Due to the great distance and the difficulty of crossing the river the East Wenatchee members called a meeting May 16, 1908 in the old school house of district 121. There a separate congregation was formed known as the East Wenatchee church of the Brethren. Eld. A. B. Peters was elected as the first elder-in-charge. Brethren A. E. Bolen, C. E. Inks, and M. D. Frantz formed the first board of trustees. The church books recorded a membership of fifty-three souls, only twelve of which are still holding membership in this church.
In Sept. 1908 the Canal Co. deed the congregation two plats of land. One was for a church and the other for a cemetery. December 5, 1908 a building committee consisting the Brethren Howard Bolen, M. D. Frantz and G. F. Rhodes was appointed. This committee was retained until the completion of the church in June of 1909.
The location of a church in East Wenatchee did much to bring the services closer to the members but still there were some that were far distant. In Dec. of 1911 services were begun in the Majestic Flats school house at the south end of the valley.
In 1911 the city members, still a part of the Sunnyslope church, changed their services from the Advent church to the basement of the public library. There they were held for a while until they rented the C.T.U Hall on Orondo Ave. where services were continued until the present building was first used.
In 1915 a plan was brought forward to divide the East Wenatchee congregation into a north and south organization but this failed and they continued as one body. In 1917 a motion for the consolidation of the three Brethren churches in the valley was made but it was also defeated.
The year of 1920 found much progress in both churches. East Wenatchee had secured the first pastor on partial support. Bro. C. V. Stern filled this important position. On Sept. 25, 1920 the city group called a special council for the purpose of separating themselves from the mother church at Sunnyslope and forming a new organization. This was accomplished and Bro. W. A. Deardorff was elected as the first elder-in-charge. Bro. C. R. Weimer was elected clerk. The membership roll contained 78 names at the time of organization.
By the year 1921 the Sunnyslope church had definitely withdrawn from any plan of centralization and the city church was favored for consolidation with East Wenatchee. The plan was considered premature. The matter came up again in 1922 the vote of both churches showed a large majority in favor of the plan
Bro. C. W. Guthrie of Los Angeles, Calif. was pastoring the East Wenatchee congregation at the time, having been called by the church in March of 1922.
At a special joint council called June 16, 1922 a union was formed. Eld. Deardorff of the city church was retained as Elder. The first trustees were M. H Racus, G. W. Leavell, L. H. Metzger, S. H. H. Shechter and E. J. Brubaker. The name The Wenatchee Valley Church of the Brethren was adopted. The members of the first Ways and means committee were E. D. Gensinger, L. H. Metzgar, John Crist, L. J. Sellers, and C. R. Weimer. This committee is still functioning in the erection of this building. The two churches continued to have separate services however until 1924. The united church immediate filed papers of incorporation.
The committee purchased property as follow: Lots 6, 7, 8, 9, Block I, Orchard Heights, City of Wenatchee at a cost of $5000. Under the direction of the committee work was begun on the first unite. In Nov. 1923 Eld. J. J. Filburn turned the first shovel full of earth to start the excavation for the basement. The first sisters to help with the work in feeding the laborers were Sis. Nettie Graybill and Sis. S. H. H. Schechter.
On Feb. 27, 1924 Bro. Ira Lapp was chosen pastor of the combined churches. He had been called to the care of the East Wenatchee church in Oct. of 1923. The dedication of the first unite was held May of 1924. In the fall of 1914 work was again pushed forward on the church and during the winter of 1924-15 a Sunday School annex costing approximately $1750 was completed, together with a modern six room parsonage. On March17, 1926 Rev. Ira Lapp was granted a leave of absence which became permanent and Bro. Paul Graybill was elected to fill the vacancy. He held this position until July 1927 when Rev. C. Ernest Davis of Modesto Calif. was secured as pastor. It is under his ministering care that the church is being completed.
At their request of the Ways and Means committee a special council was called Sept. 14, 1928. The problem of completing the church was considered and a call was placed for Eld. Geo. Carl of La Verne, Calif. who came to us as financial manager. At a special council on Oct. 30, 1928 the church went of record in favor of the following motion; The Wenatchee Valley Church of the Brethren hereby authorizes its Ways and Mean committee to proceed with the erection of the proposed church building as rapidly as funds permit, and to enter into such contracts and agreements, make such purchases, and perform such other acts as shall be necessary in the execution of the work.
On November 18, 1928 the church chose Bro. W. B. Stover, formerly first Brethren missionary to non-Christian lands and now pastor of the Brethren church at Seattle, Wash., to deliver the dedicatory address in laying the corner stone for the new church building. On Dec. 16, 1928 before the members of the mother church at Sunnyslope and the members of the Wenatchee Valley church and friends the corner stone was laid. A structure dedicated to God and the service of mankind shall be reared upon it.