Camp Creek Church

From Lane Co Oregon

History of the Camp Creek Church

by Shirley J. Petersen

Pouring the foundation, 1949.

The original Camp Creek Community Church goes back much further than 1943 when the people of Lower and Upper Camp Creek met on March 14 to organize, with Evangelist G.B. Schmid presiding over the meeting. The valley was first settled in the 1850s. Early pioneers gathered in homes, or the school, until they built a church out of logs in 1869, which was located at the entrance to the cemetery.

A few years later, land east of the cemetery was donated by Fred Brown, Lola Lane's grandfather. The church build on that property was dedicated as a Methodist Church in 1895 by Mr. I.D. Driver, a minister who dedicated Methodist churches throughout Lane County. According to Lola Lane, Rev. Driver had twenty children and owned a hog farm where the University of Oregon is now located. When the course of the road was changed the building was moved to its present site in 1912, onto land donated by Ed Brattain. This was done with a team of horses and it took two weeks to accomplish the task of dragging the church to the new location.

Sometimes only a Sunday School was held. On other occasions students from Northwest Christian College provided leadership so the community could have church services. Evelyn Imbach Fisher remembers everyone huddled around the old wood stove to keep warm, with ice on the floor from the leaking roof. By 1941 the building had deteriorated so badly that it was abandoned.

People continued to meet in the Upper Camp Creek school. In 1942 Charles Railsback, a missionary from Alaska, was visiting in the area. When he saw the old, unused building, he stayed long enough to help establish the church.

The first pastor of the newly reorganized church was Dale Harter, a student at Northwest Christian College. He was assisted by Mary Winn. A romance soon blossomed which was encouraged by the congregation.

Robert Imbach served as elder, with deacons Fritz Miller and Leonard Willets. Fran Chase, who was church pianist for many years, was elected clerk and Hester Fisher, treasurer. Among the original charter members still attending in 1986 were Fran Chase, Hester Fisher, Lola Lane, and Eugene and Evelyn Fisher.* A decision was made to pay the preacher $5.00 per week and dinner on Sunday. The fellowship dinner which was held in the fall became an annual tradition.

Plans were made to remodel the church. The building committee reported that the carpenter was "as economical as any" and desired $1.50 per hour plus 10% of the material cost, including his transportation. This seemed high to the members. The men volunteered to meet to tear off ceiling boards and any other jobs they could do.

Prayer meetings were held in the homes during the winter of 1944 as both schools were uncomfortably cold. Events that year include a joint dinner held by the Upper and Lower Camp Creek Sunday Schools and the organization of a church orchestra by Faith Imbach. The Harters left to pastor in Falls City, Oregon, and Evert Gustafson was selected as the new pastor. The building committee chairman, Gene Imbach, reported that the chimney and shingling were completed.

The name was changed to Camp Creek Church in 1945. A library was proposed, and fire insurance purchased. The newly remodeled church was dedicated in May. In July it was decided that as many as possible should bring $1.00 to apply to the remaining debt of $17.05. Average attendance that summer was 35, and the figure rose to 57 in November. The pastor's salary was raised to $15.00 per week.

1941 Sunday School class.

In January, 1946, Fritz Miller talked about starting a missionary society and Lola Lane was elected church secretary. Betty Ray Miller, whom Fritz later married, has served for years as leader of the society which was formed.

February 10 was a cold Sunday morning, so a good fire was built to warm up the church ... by the time the members arrived, the building was in ashes! Only the bell survived the fire. All the work that had gone into the newly redecorated and remodeled church was destroyed! The stunned congregation met for Sunday School and worship in the community hall, and revival services started that evening as previously planned. Later $3,500 in insurance money was received, and a decision was made to spend $5,000 to build again.

Warren Cornelius, whose great grandfather, Vivian L. Dunten was one of the original homesteaders, came to live in the valley with his wife Muriel. They were asked to take over the leadership of the church from November, 1946, to January, 1953.

Plans were drawn for the new 28'x70' building, but the work was postponed because of the expense. In 1949 lumber was purchased for $754. It was decided to build the framework and finish the outside but leave the inside to be done later.

Mr. E.H. Hotaling was chosen as chairman of the building committee and Thursday evenings were set aside for work on the construction. By January, 1951, curtains had been purchased for the baptistry and platform. A service of dedication was conducted in July.

Rev. Ben Janz, who brought his family here from Canada, pastored the church from September 1953 to September 1956. Village Missions (an international organization that recruits leaders, supplies, pastors and financial assistance to small churches) was asked to provide full time pastoral leadership for the community. Kay Hicks and Viola Aday were the first interim missionaries and served November 1956 to January 1957. Chester Petersen was followed by Russell and Virginia Wayland in August, 1957.

In 1958 the pastor's salary was raised to $40.00 per week, toward the Village Missions goal of $200.00. A new parsonage was built.

Orville Johnson and his wife Bertha, came to pastor the church in July, 1960. New hymnals were purchased in 1962 and a new organ in 1963. James Powers became pastor in 1964. It was during this time that the Sunday School Superintendent, Curtis Christian, was called into the ministry and is now serving with the American Sunday School Union as director in Southern Oregon.

Others have gone out in full time service from the church. Among them, Louise Imbach Morris and her husband Jim, who have served as missionaries to Thailand for many years, we well as her brother Stuart, and his wife Faith. Dick and Karen Chase ministered in Korea before going to the Philippines. Craig Curtis returned to the church as youth pastor after finishing his training at Multnomah School of the Bible.

In 1966, Kurt Imbach, with his wife Lois, came to Camp Creek. He was followed by Roy and Amanda Leeman in 1968. During the seven years the Leemans were here, new Sunday School rooms were added, bathrooms were built in the church, and the building was redecorated. Then the present fellowship hall was built.

Bob and Janet Elwell served as pastors of the church from October 1975 to June 1982. The present Village Missionary, Allan Tow and his wife Linda, began their ministry in Camp Creek July, 1982. The church celebrated the fortieth anniversary of its reorganization March 13, 1983. Plans have been made to enlarge the fellowship hall and remodel the church.

Over one hundred and twenty-five years have passed since the church was started on Camp Creek and the work goes on. This history does not tell of its importance in the lives of people and of their faithfulness to serve throughout the years.

Among those who have served is Lola Lane, better known as Missy, who is now in her eighties and says she taught Sunday School since she was eight years old. She also organized many Christmas programs, helping provide bathrobes for the shepherds and wings for the angels. Her home, which sits on the hillside above the church, is known as the church annex because the youth group and other meetings are held there. Always with something Missy has fixed to eat!

This also does not tell of the many weddings, funerals, and baptismals that have been held in the church important events in the lives of those who live in the community. All we can say is to God be the glory; great things He hath done!

  • Twenty-three persons were listed as charter members: Mrs. Zelpha Watson, Mrs. Lola Lane, Mrs. Frances Chase, Mrs. Hester Fisher, Mrs. Harriet Stevens, Mrs. Hazel Barkelew, Mrs. Mary Peckham, Mrs. Hannah Miller, Mrs. Etta Lane, Fritz Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Willett, Miss Marie Shaw, Mrs. Viola Chase, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Imbach, Miss Evelyn Imbach, Mr. and Mrs. Gene Imbach, Eugene Fisher, Mrs. Bertha Fisher, Mrs. Johanna Knox, and Mrs. Cleo Lane.
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