COVENANT UNITED METODIST CHURCH
By L.J. Noel for the Bicentennial Year 1976
The history of the Methodist Church in the Gardiner Reedsport area begins with the establishment of a Methodist Mission ten miles north of Salem, Oregon in 1834 by Rev. Jason Lee. Rev. Lee visited the Umpqua Region late in 1837 for the first time. Again in 1840 he toured the Umpqua Valley: traveling to the rivers' mouth where he found the greatest Indian population.
It was his intention to establish a branch mission at the mouth of the Umpqua. It was never realized because of advice from his associates and guides. They warned it was too wild and remote - too far from civilization. Not verbalized were their fears of harm committed against him even during this trip.
In 1817 circuit riders were appointed for both sides of the Willamette River, organized by the Superintendent of the Oregon Missions, Rev. Wm. R. Roberts. Dr. James H. Wilbur, from New York, was made Secretary in 1849 of the Oregon-California Methodist Conference and in 1853 was appointed superintendent of the Umpqua Mission field based near Roseburg; he travelled the whole of the Umpqua Valley including Gardiner. In 1853 he preached at the home of Ira Wells, near Elkton, which was the beginning of the Elkton Methodist Church.
Soon circuit riders began to have regular routes (as often as three times to the same place in' summer). They usually arrived on Friday and rested all day Saturday they gave services at 11a.m. and 2 a.m. on Sunday. People would gather from miles around and make it an all-day outing. Besides Dr. Wilbur, other Methodist circuit riders included Mathew Eldridge, E.D. Driver, Rev. Aldrich and R. A. Booth.
In Gardiner people probably met in private homes for services until a church was built. In 1899 Warren P. Reed and his wife, Margery, sold property to the First Methodist-Episcopal church of Gardiner at the corner of Marsh and First Streets for $200.00.
Trustees named in the document were: Henry Wade, P.S. Chandler and Mrs. Lucy Baldaree. Other legal documents of the same date dealing with the church names; Jno. S. Lyster, J.W. Reed, J.C. Gray, Charles Smith, Ellen Reed and Z. Zabriskie. Rev. Edmondson was the minister at the Gardiner Church and his charge included the Elkton Congregation until 1903 when Elkton was assigned a minister.
A young people’s group was formed in 1901 called the Epworth League. The following has been copied from the original large framed certificate hanging in the Narthex of the Covenant United Methodist Church.
The Epworth League was organized in the Methodist Episcopal Church, Gardiner, Oregon in May 21, 1901. The Epworth League of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized by the representatives of the Young Peoples Society at Cleveland, Ohio May 15, 1889 by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church May, 1892.
Board of Controls
Isaac W, Joyce, President Joseph T. Bury, Gen. Sec.
The following ad has been copied from the “Gardiner Gazette” dated May 31, 1907
Sunday School 10 a.m.
Preaching 11 a.m.
Preaching 7:30 a.m.
Prayer meeting, Wednesday evening at 7:30. Visitors in the city are cordially invited to attend our services.
W.S. Gordon, Pastor
Whether there were two buildings between 1900 and 1911 or just one has not been determined. The building in existence in 1911 was destroyed by fire. It was probably built 1904 or 05. Another church was built to replace it in 1912. In the new church was also a new bell. It was bronze, cast in 1911 in San Francisco· by W.T. Garrett & Co. and was 27" wide at the bottom, 20 ˝ “high and 3" thick. It is now at the home in a Salem church.
First Methodist Episcopal Church of Gardiner later became the Gardiner Community Methodist Church, The Gardiner church built in 1912 continued to be used until 1965 when the present building on Frontage Road in Reedsport was built and is known as the Covenant United Methodist Church.
Names of pastors serving the Church followed. (See those names on the front page of History)