Gardiner & Reedsport

Covenant United Methodist Church

By Beth Hurlocker 2002

The Church In Gardiner

In the 1950's the Gardiner Methodist Church was heated by a pot-bellied stove that burned wood. Pete Jones built the fire on Sunday Mornings. There was cold water piped to a kitchen sink in the back room of the big building and bathroom plumbing , which could be reached by going out the back door to a room in the corner of the building. In a very small room there were a toilet and wash stand. The back door for the church was opposite the back door to the two story parsonage. Both buildings were very old, but had been well maintained. When the tide was in and rain was steady, water stood under the church building. It also would sway slightly in very high winds.

Sunday School classes met in the sanctuary and in the back room. First, all who attended met together for a time of singing and announcements led by the Sunday School Superintendent. When the children marched along with "Onward Christen Solders"' dust would rise from the bare floorboards.

In the later 50's a big improvement project made the back section of the church into one large room where pot-luck dinners could be held, and more class space was available. A more complete kitchen made the building more usable. An oil furnace was also added; that heated the whole building. Many couples supported the church with their building and maintenance abilities. Ed Marshall and Claude Edwards were mill electricians who gave generously to the repairs of the church and parsonage. Frank White was in the construction business, and gave direction and time to repairs, and the addition to the church. The larger kitchen facility allowed the women to serve weekly dinners to the Lions Club for several years, a money making project. Velma Marshal, Lois Rookard, Ruth White and Elene Jones spent many hours painting, wall-papering and cleaning in the parsonage. They were also known to do some remodeling themselves with crowbars and hammers, preparing the way for the men to change rooms into more usable space.

The downstairs area of the parsonage became more class space and meeting space for youth groups. An apartment for the pastor was made upstairs. This smaller area was easier to heat with electric heat. The only bathroom was up stairs.

An active group of women held monthly meetings of the Women's Society of Christian Service. They met in different homes each month, studied the mission programs and responded to requests for money or boxes of supplies. One project they contributed to for several years was an orphanage in Alaska. Stella Morris served as president of the women. She reached out to newcomers in the mill community and welcomed them to the church.

Marie Fuller contributed her talents as a pianist for Sunday School music. She also was a strong soprano in the choir. She and Milo Griffith sang duets, too, with Myrtle Griffith as their accompanists. Marie's home was a favorite place for meetings the Women's Society when no one else volunteered a home.

Doris and Al Knight and son, Doug, moved to Gardiner from Forest Grove where they were members of the Methodist Church. Al was moving to take a job in the Long Bell sawmill, and they bought a house next to the Gardiner Methodist Church. Doris had taught a Sunday School class of pre-school children in Forest Grove, was active in the women's group, and worked in a book store.

They were active in the Methodist Church in Gardiner, in the Masonic and Eastern Star Orders and started a Flower Shop in Reedsport. They supported the decision to move the church to Reedsport when the old building became unsafe. Doris shared her knowledge of great art works by giving talks to the Sunday School children. She used a slide of a painting, projecting the picture onto a screen, then she pointed out the significance of the artists use of positioning of the figures in the painting, and the choice of colors chosen. Some biographical information was also given about the painter. In retirement she belonged to the Art Club and continued developing her painting skills. History isn't just a record of happenings and dates, but in a church's history the preachers, teachers, musicians and caretakers all have names that should be remembered.

For the Gardiner/Reedsport church, there is an accurate list of ministers. These men and women dedicated their lives to God's service, and the Methodist Conference sent them to preach Biblical truths and actions to the Lower Umpqua Community. The building used was in Gardiner, but the congregation came from homes along the Smith and Umpqua Rivers, Scottsburg, Gardiner. Reedsport and Winchester Bay.

Laymen and laywomen who served were stewards in Methodist terminology. There were stewardship and finance laymen who were concerned with teaching members about tithing so the minister could be paid and the church building maintained. Trustees were needed and treasurers and secretaries to help keep records.

Musical Talent
People with musical talents shared their abilities in choirs to lead the singing of God's praise. Myrtle and Milo Griffith, Marie Fuller, Elene Jones provided music for Sunday services and for Sunday School singing. Jim Brevik played a fiddle accompanied by his wife, Marie, and Alden Paull also played a fiddle and sang. As some of our pianists aged, new musicians gave their time and talents: Ellen Niederer, Judy Warren and Carol Mulder. Ed Marshall played his clarinet or saxophone for special music at Easter and Christmas.

John and Ruth Lyons brought musical talents when John became a teacher in the Gardiner-Reedsport school. Ellen Niederer directed a children's choir far several years assisted by Luana Myers. Daniel Niederer accompanied the Junior choir and played when Ellen sang solos. An electric organ was purchased in1962 or 1963 to replace the old pump organ. Milo and Myrtle Griffith were both musicians. Milo learned to play the cello and played solos for church special music. He also sang in the choir which practiced in homes since there was no heat in the church in the evenings. Myrtle accompanied the choir and Milo sang tenor. When he was in good voice, the choir could sing "God so loved the World". Their home was flooded when all of downtown Reedsport was flooded in 1964, before the dike was built. Milo, with help from his brother-in-law, was able to raise the piano and saved it from water damage. Much of their music was spoiled in spite of efforts of helping hands to spread it out on newspapers where it would dry. Ellen Niederer and Luana Myers were some of the church members who helped them salvage music and belongings.

Paul and Beth Hurlocker also sang in the choir. They moved to Reedsport in 1952 and attended the Reedsport Community Church until Al and Doris Knight and the District Superintendent, Meredith Groves, persisted in getting them to attend the Methodist Church, moving their membership from the Coos Bay church. Paul was lay leader for many years, the representative to Southern District. Extension Society, active in securing land for the Loon Lake Camp. He was also instrumental in finding land in Reedsport where the church could be relocated. Beth also sang in the choir, taught Sunday School classes and Vacation Bible School. She was active in the WSCS and helped with the Lions Club dinners, both in Gardiner and after the church moved to Reedsport.

John Lyons, band teacher in the schools, became choir director at the Gardiner Church. Practices were held in their home across the street from the old parsonage. Students were encouraged to join choir. Ruth was an accomplished soprano who often sang solos for church services. She also sang for other groups when her accompanist, Arlene Keefe, was available. John also had carpentering skills. He renovated the house where they lived while Andrea was in school.

Teaching stewards gave their time to bring biblical stories to the community's children. Through Sunday School classes and Vacation Bible School classes many dedicated people made children welcome. Alden Paull was an enthusiastic Sunday School superintendent and led singing before classes began. Stella Morris gave generously of time and concern by calling on families with children so they would come to class, and be part of special programs on Christmas and Easter observances.

Teachers to remember are: Elene Jones, Margaret VanNote, Stella Morris, ministers and minister's wives, Anita Bowers, Luana Myers, Kathleen and Jack Inman, Myrtle and Earl Sykes, Pat and Tom Huebner, Elmer Rice.

Children Programs

One Vacation Bible School in Gardiner was especially exciting because our minister, Gertrude Sorlein, had a pet monkey named Elmer. He didn't attend everyday, but often came to visit, an intriguing possibility to the children each day.

The children's Christmas program was an evening of special music with a candle light procession of children, after adults were seated. Recitations and the pageants with scripture stories of the birth of Jesus were followed by a visit from Santa. Al and Clara Herra of Al's Market. provided oranges and candy for each child. George Larsen was one man who dressed up as Santa, as well as others who I can't name.


Membership and attendance were greatly influenced by the International Paper Co. mill expansions in the 1950's and 60's. Some families moving into the lower Umpqua communities from the south were Methodist, so attendance was increased. More teachers, musicians, and business men shared the load of responsibilities.

William Tuck became chairman of the building committee, when the decision was made to build a new church building, relocating in Reedsport. He headed up a financial drive assisting a "planner" from Portland sent by the conference. A list of the officers in 1964-1965 is attached. This reflects people from the forest service, teachers, mill workers and woods workers moving in to take the jobs available in the expanding economy. Encouraged by the population increase, members agreed that a new building in Reedsport was a possible goal.

The Parsonage

A home was purchased in Reedsport which would be the new parsonage, large enough for a pastor with a family, and more modern, with an attached garage. The church building was ready in 1966. The Gardiner property was sold to the Gardiner Volunteer Fire Dept. The last wedding performed in the Gardiner building was the marriage of Janet Phillips and Robert Hilliard.

The Reedsport Church

A reprint of an article from the 1965 Umpqua CourBer by Rev. Benjamin Owre is included here. This article gives credit to the connectional system within the Methodist Church; other church groups helped with encouragement and financing so this community could have better facilities for the ministry. A large debt was incurred, and some of those who pledged an annual or monthly amount toward the building fund, left the area to take other job opportunities or were assigned to other branches of the companies who employed them. Money raising projects were to become part of the church's social life. In the summer during July's Fleet Days Festival a pancake breakfast was served in the high school cafeteria. Luana Myers was chairman and chief pancake mixer. Pete Jones and Pat Huebner were specialists in scrambling eggs, others flipped pancakes and fried eggs, filled syrup pitchers, cleared tables and scraped plates, readying them for the dishwashers. Many young people worked along with the adults keeping coffee carafes full, and juice glasses ready. Alden Paull donned a high, white chef's hat and stood at the 22ndand highway 101 intersection, slowing traffic, so signs would be noticed.

A crab feed was held at the church when Dan Campbell, a fisherman, donated crab. Tickets were sold in other southern district churches and through service clubs. Don and Lois Johnson helped prepare the crab, backing it and serving crabs along with salads.

At a Community Christmas Bazaar the women prepared corn dogs for shoppers to buy, along with items such as breads, cookies, pies, cakes and candy. Nettle Elsevier was the supervisor in preparing the corn meal batter for the hot dogs, ane deep frying them (before Microwave cooking was available). The women's group continued to serve dinners to men in the Lions Club and that was a steady source of revenue for several years.

An auction was held after a pot-luck luncheon, John Noel acted as auctioneer Crafts, embroidery and knit items, canned food, jellies, sweets, etc, were brought to be auctioned. Special chocolate cookies made by Jim Bates were prize items on which the young people would bid.

Church building shared

Our church building was shared with other groups such as the Seven Day Adventist worshipers. They used the building on Saturday and they helped with work parties in correcting drainage or the original flat roof section toward the front of the building. A non-profit group held a Day-Care nursery in the basement rooms. Needed changes such as installing a drinking fountain, low enough for children, bathroom requirements, etc. were made to accommodate that group.. They used the Sunday School classrooms which made it difficult for our teachers on Sundays.

Bible Pictures on blackboards, for instance, used by church school classes weren't acceptable to the nursery school staff! The joint committee of church representatives and nurser school representatives failed to work out the conflicting demands. The licensed day care workers moved away from this area and the school closed.

Boy Scout troop used the building

Pete Mulder led a troop meeting at the church. Gregg Mulder stained the building as part of his Eagle Scout project. A small choir continued to provide special music for Sunday mornings service. They also joined in with choir from other churches in the sub-district for an annual Sunday afternoon event. Each church choir sang for the congregation and then two or three numbers were sung by all the choirs together. Our choir was directed by Ellen Niederer and accompanists changed: Judy Warren, Emma Weber, and Carol Mulder were pianists and sometimes Ellen played and directed, too. She was our musician from 1961 to 1989.

Maintaining and improving the grounds as well as the building and parsonage.

This took many volunteers in work partes: The trustees led in making plans for repairs and workers responded, as their abilities and time allowed. Landscaping around the new building was a slow, steady project. Under pastor Ted Hulbert's leadership 1967-1970, a plan was made for shrubs and trees to be planted in beds on the Frontage Road side of the building, keeping minimum of maintenance as a goal.

Ellen and Bob Niederer transplanted a small vine maple they brought in from the wilds; Hinmans denoted bark chips to spread over the beds. Wild Oregon Grape bushes were planted near the door, facing Ranch Road.

Ron Gray planted a section of the ground near the mobile home park with pine and fir seedlings. He envisioned this as an investment for the church on ground not needed for parking.

Building Improvements

The flat roof sections of the building were all changed to pitched roofs so leaking problems were solved. We needed to ask the Southern District Extension Society for financial help. The forced oil furnace was replaced with an electric furnace, installed be Ed Marshal and maintained by him during his lifetime.

A handicapped accessible bathroom was added to the main floor of the building and a ramp made wheelchair access to the front doors of the church. Pastor Jeannie Stoppel applied for grants . The church building became a poling place for residents in the Forest Hills addition to Reedsport. Having the wheel chair access helped voters, too.

Some tall trees were felled so a knoll could be leveled off and the edges of the lawns defined. Then, men worked in more work parties, put in cement sidewalks around the lawn rectangled so parking areas were designated.

Families Move Away

Since the new building was established in Reedsport, some Gardiner families gradually found another church home. Some were Lutherans and a Lutheran Church was built in Reedsport. Some were Baptist and the Highland Baptist Church became their place of worship. Evangelical churches also came into the communities.

Methodist members were faithful in worship and in serving the church with their talents. The following list of the officers are indicative of the people who worked together since 1966 where records are available, and are more accurate then memory. Enthusiasm and zeal would increase and decrease, but worship and learning experiences were provided in spite of the economy. Our pastors were diligent, responsible, and hopeful, leading the congregation in John Wesley's teachings.

Historical Materials: Bibliography:

1 Short history, written be Linda Noel, July 1976

2. History of Covenant United Methodist Church, December 1984, written by Linda Noel for Rededication Service..

3. An Introductory Study of Covenant United Methodist Church, September 1977, by David Albright for D.S. Bruce McConnell.

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