It had been a struggle to get the rough log church constructed, and many of the people seated there that day must have had blisters on their hands and aches in their backs, but perhaps their great joy in what they had accomplished acted like a balm on any pain.
It had been only a year and five months since the Rev. John N. Dennison of Seattle Methodist Church, in answer to many requests, had sent the Rev. Albert Atwood to organize a Methodist class on Vashon. On April 4, 1884, the first meeting was held. Luckily, we have Rev. Atwood’s own words to tell us what happened when he came to the Island: “I went over on Saturday morning, reaching there about 10 a.m. and engaged the school house for services the next day. Two or three messengers consented to go out in different directions and announce the meetings. I called on as many of the members [these were members of the Seattle Methodist Church who lived on Vashon] as possible whose names I had on the list.
“Before the close of the day I learned that a Presbyterian minister had come to the place, that he expected to reside there permanently and organize a church, and would begin his work the next day. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I am sorry, but I have secured the school house for two services tomorrow, and announcement has gone out to that effect. However, I will willingly share the service with him, and he can take half of the time.’ The next morning the house was filled with people. I preached and the Holy Spirit was present. Several arose for prayers…Then I announced my mission, … and read the names on the class book whose membership was transferred to that place.
“The following were the names read: C.A. Barton and wife, Geo. Jacobs, A.N. Sayres and wife, J.W. Simpson and wife, J.S. Markham and wife, Lizzie F. and Anna S. Markham. I invited the seeking ones to join with us, and the following persons gave me their names as probationers: W.A. Markham, Julia E. Markham, J.S. Marknam, Jr., Sarah C. Markham…
“Some blamed Brother Denison and myself for being there at that time, but so far as we were concerned, it was a kindly interposition of Providence in our behalf which enabled us to establish our work there on a more promising basis, perhaps, than we could have done a week or two later.”
In the Conference of 1884, the Rev. F. Ailward was appointed as our first minister and it wasn’t long before plans took shape for a real church to be built, something that would replace the alder grove where the Sunday School kids met and the various places that the church services were held. N.B. Ward donated an acre of ground for the new church, and on May 12, 1885, Revs. J. N. Denison of First church Seattle and L.A. Banks of Battery Street, Seattle, laid the corner stone. During the winter, logs were gathered and hauled to the site, then hand‐hewn by men who had worked all day in the logging camps or on their land and then would work after supper by lantern light on the logs for the church. Shingles were shaved by hand. Lumber for some of the inside work and the pews was donated by the Seattle Church. Gradually, the structure took shape until in June a celebration was held as the last log was hauled into place, with everyone present pulling on the rope. After the roof was added work began on the inside.
And then, finally, it was done. On November 13, 1885, at the dedication, Rev. Dennison cautioned, “Brethren, this church is going to cost you something. Your children will not be content to just be raised in the woods, you will have to build schoolhouses and give them advantages.”
When Mrs. William Leech arrived on Vashon with her husband in 1892, she wrote ““We found a log church with a frame work at the front on the outside as a tower for the bell.” Soon a new church was built. Although it has undergone some modifications, the basic configuration of
the church built at a cost of a bit more than $2,000 remained similar to its appearance when it was dedicated on August 30, 1908. Trustees at that time were: President, C. A. Barton; Secretary, J. T. Thompson; Treasurer, Abraham T. Tjomsland. Other Trustees included E. E. Van Olinda, L. C. Beall. Sr.. S. J. Steffenson, L. C. Beall, Jr., B. Reed, and S. Huffman. A. T. Tjomsland also supervised the work on the building.
With completion of the new building, the Log Church was moved to the back of the church property, where for many years it provided storage. In 1927 the Log Church was restored and used for Sunday School and other church meetings. In 1928‐1934, A. T. Tjomsland added the Sunday School rooms and a
The old Log Church was finally razed in 1948. In 1951 the House across the street from the church was purchased and used as a parsonage. Remodeling and re‐orientation of sanctuary and remodeling of kitchen and social hall were completed in 1963. In 1964 the education building was constructed and dedicated. In 1971 a new parsonage was built.
Following several years of planning and fundraising under Pastor Tom Martin, newly appointed Pastor Joyce O'Connor‐Magee suddenly had responsibility for overseeing the complete renovation of the church building, which began in December 1999. In sharp contrast with the original log structure that cost "nearly $1000," the extensive remodel project had a price tag that was just a bit under one million dollars.
The first stage of the project involved a complete gutting of the interior of the building in order to bring electrical and plumbing installations up to code. A complete speaker system and sprinkler system were installed. The sanctuary was enlarged by twelve feet, along with additions that included a new kitchen, larger bathrooms, storage and furnace room, and provision for easy wheel chair access. Perhaps the most remarkable part of this project was that at the conclusion of the worship service on October 15, 2006, Lay Leader Eric Walker set fire to the mortgage. Cliff Moore, who had been project manager for the renovation, stood on
the left, as Bob Ellis read a document noting that the mortgage had been retired.
In 2013, both the church and education building went through extensive remodeling and repairs.
|from "Methodism in the Northwest" by Erle Howell|
This reminiscence by Mrs. William Leech, who was here with her husband in 1892‐1895, gives a vivid description of living conditions on the Island at that time.
Preacher and His Wife Had to Rough It on Vashon
“On Saturday afternoon we took the little steamer (Glyde) for Vashon Island. I never could describe my feelings, it was all so strange and the gray, misty day ‐‐ it was almost dark when we reached the Island. The first thing was a steep, long, long hill; there was a small boy … with a horse and buckboard waiting for me. William had to walk and soon disappeared on a path. I was frightened. However in some way we reached the top of the hill and the home that was expecting us. The next morning the mist cleared away and the sun came out to welcome us.
Our hostess said, ‘If you don’t appreciate it now you will soon learn to do so.’ The year was 1892 and the words are those of Mrs. William Leech. Her husband, the Rev. William Leech, a
transplant from Kansas who had come to the Puget Sound for his health, had been appointed to serve Vashon Methodist Church after the Rev. C.R. Pomeroy, a retired minister who had been serving here, decided to go to California for the winter.
One can feel the desolation and loneliness felt by Mrs. Leech as she spent her first days here:
“We found a log church with a frame work at the front on the outside as a tower for the bell. We could see so few houses that we wondered about the congregation. We had been earnestly praying that there might be some demonstration to strengthen our faith that there had been no mistake in leaving all that was near and dear to us in the east and coming to the Puget Sound country … So when William preached that morning in December his first sermon at Vashon, at the close he gave an earnest call for those who desired to know our Savior to come forward, and five persons…came forward, found peace, and took the first step to become members of the church.
“We felt it was a direct answer to prayer and that there was a work for William to do in the northwest corner of our U.S. and for all the years since, we have felt His presence and help…
“The parsonage to be was in the same lot with the church. It was unfinished and on stilts ‐‐ with no steps either back or front to get into it. The people were so glad to think they were going to have a pastor to live with them, that they soon had the steps in place and after, in Seattle, William had purchased the necessary furniture, stoves, tables, chairs…we moved in, but the people had to loan us bed clothes for our bed, because our things that had been shipped … did not reach Seattle until Spring. It was the coldest Jan. and Feb. with heavy snow that we have ever seen here. We were not very comfortable ‐‐ water dropped on the kitchen floor would freeze.”
The deep snow created problems for everyone. One morning, when a young man asked Mrs. Leech if she felt blue, she replied, “Why shouldn’t I be? With a sick husband, green wood to burn, freezing cold and so little to cook, just beans?” The young man soon changed some of that. He arranged for dry wood to be delivered to them, went hunting and brought them some food. “When he came back to us about 4 p.m. I wish you could have seen him. He had flour sacks with something to eat in each one and corded up behind him and in front of him on the horse. There were big slabs of salted salmon, and the grouse (like chicken), dried fruits and canned huckleberries. We had something to cook and eat. Trust in the Lord…”
At that time the roads were like trails through the heavy timber and there were ravines and high hills… It was difficult to get anywhere on the island. It was not easy for the people to get to church, but they got there. The organist walked two miles each way.”
In the spring, her husband had to go away for about a week to take a course. She felt afraid to stay alone, so the same helpful young man invited her to stay with his sister, Anna’s, on the south end of the Island. “Can you ride horseback?” he asked.
“I was not sure but thought I could try. He put a woman’s side‐saddle on the horse for me. I thought I saw a twinkle in his eye as they were helping me on. ‘Man,’ I said, ‘You promise me that you will let the horses walk all the way.’ He said, ‘Nothing will hurt you’ and they walked gently along for quite a way. Then when he came to the place where the trail was wider his horse started on a trot and, of course, the one I was on started on a trot to keep up. When I started to bounce I shouted for help. He stopped and all was well again. When we reached the
top of the hill, the horses had to be left there. We walked in switchbacks down the hill and there was the dearest little home site at the edge of the salt water and Anna was so kind and motherly and the children so nice. And when the tide was out I was on the beach, my first time.
“It was all so strange and interesting. When it came time for the next change, I was put into a rowboat and Anna’s husband started with me on a 3 mile trip around a point on the way to the father’s place. It was wonderful.” She got back home just about the same time as her husband returned, and they shared their adventures with each other.
“Easter came and offering for missions. I made a promise and of course wanted to fulfill it. Bro. Thompson had a large strawberry field and had to hire pickers. I asked him if I might pick for a few days. He said ‘Yes.’ So I commenced. The second day I was so lame! Bro. Thompson said he needed some gooseberries picked and how would I like to take a box and sit and pick gooseberries. I called down blessings on his head.”
By the time a year had gone by, the Leeches had settled in. They raised chickens, and some vegetables. Rev. Leech had put casing around the parsonage’s stilts so the wind wouldn’t whistle under and they had dry wood for the winter. And the work of the church went on. In 1896, it was time for the young couple to leave Vashon Island. Practical as ever, Mrs. Leech says, “The last thing we did when the time came to go was to have a good big drink of water.”