Moro Community Presbyterian Church

Moro PresbyterianOriginally First Presbyterian Church of Grass Valley in Moro

Elihu Bone Scott and Elihu Owen McCoy donated a city block for the Moro Community Presbyterian Church. The church was organized on July 10, 1887, and the first structure was built that year on the SW corner of the block at 4th and Scott.

In 1900 it was moved to the NW corner, 4th and McCoy. At that time, a manse was built on the NE corner of the block at 5th and McCoy. Rev. J.M. Morrison was pastor when the church was founded, having come W from Clarinda, IA as did the Coleman, Woods, Axtell, Pinkerton, Dougherty and Bennett families. Pastors included Morrison, Jack Adams, Benjamin T. Smith, Elmer McVickers, Henry Hansen, Arthur Hicks, Charles Parrott, Allan McRae, Lawrence Mitchelmore, James Moberg, Bill Gearhart, Al Solomon, Dr. Goodenberger, Leo Tautfest, Dick Morgan, James Crislip, Sue Goodin and Bob Stone.

~ SCJ, 8 July 1972; SC: FTR; Wasco and Sherman County Directory 1898; Harriet J. Scott, 1991; Heritage Homecoming Celebration, 110th Anniversary, Community Presbyterian Church, Moro, Oregon.


A Brief History of Moro Community Presbyterian Church
~ Heritage Homecoming Celebration 110th Anniversary Community Presbyterian Church, Organized July 10, 1887, Moro, Oregon

In 1887, Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the first Sherlock Holmes story, Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on one of their lesser known musicals while Edison and Swan produced Ediswanelectrical lamps.

Farther west, in Oregon, something more profound took place: nineteen men and women – under the direction of home missionary James McCalmont Morrison – followed God’s leading and petitioned the Presbytery of Oregon to form a church known as the First Presbyterian Church of Grass Valley. It was located in Moro.

Reverend Morrison, a Princeton graduate, his wife and nine children, had lived for a time in Clarinda, Iowa. When they came west, so did families of Axtell, Woods, Dougherty, Coleman, Bennett and Pinkerton, many of whom became charter members. They’d come seeking a new place of belonging. As with many of us, they found it in Moro. [Note: Some of these families were here before 1887.]

A session of three was elected at the meeting in the one room school: Joseph Black, J.H. McLean and O.W. Axtell, clerk. A year later, October 7, 1888, after hours of labor and a commitment to the work of God, services were celebrated in the rectangular sanctuary built on the lower edge of the block, facing down hill on a lot directly across the alley from the present location.

Not far away, the Monkland Presbyterian Church formed in 1892 with thirteen persons including Hope and RusselBelshee’s grandparents. Rev. Morrison and Moro’s second pastor, Silas Elder in 1900, preached mornings in Moro then rode horses to Monkland for an afternoon service and back to Moro for Sunday evening service. In 1921 most Monkland members merged with the Moro congregants eliminating one cart and pony trip a week for the pastor and expanding the number of hand fans seen moving the hot summer air on summer Sunday evenings.

Evangelist A. Jack Adams was called in 1905 until 1912. Robert Mosely brought his motherless children from Virginia to serve a year. Then Reverend Adams came back and stayed until 1916. He was followed by Benjamin Trueblood Smith in 1917 who was known to take part in harvest, various war drives and community service projects as well as guiding his flock. When he died, his widow remained in Moro. Elmer McVickers served from 1919 to 1921 and was followed by the Reverend Henry Hansen. In 1921, a romance bloomed. Reverend Hansen married the widow Meldora Smith. They served until 1927.

The basement of the church was blasted in 1927 when Arthur Hicks pastored. He sat atop the nail keg holding the drill so Truman Strong could strike it with a sledge to prepare the charge of dynamite. Not a hole was broken in the church floor. Rev. Hicks was followed by Charles Parrot from 1929 to 1930.

Hard times followed. Crop yields came in at half the usual and prices dropped as much. Several helped the pastor-less church during this time including men from Utah, Seattle, Portland, and Robert Hutchinson of the Congregational Church in The Dalles. The ladies of the Missionary Society served especially well these years.

Allan McRae came on a trial basis at a salary of $10 a week. Full of faith, within three months, he brought his wife and family to Moro. Seeing the struggle that the Presbyterians and the Methodists were having keeping the two churches alive, he lovingly nurtured a merger which resulted in 1934 in the Moro Community Presbyterian Church of Moro.

1934 saw the arrival of a new Seminary graduate, Lawrence Hugh Mitchelmore. He’d served an internship for a year and the congregation liked what it saw. Apparently, the feeling was mutual. Music expanded under his leadership. With the help of Christian Endeavor group, the tennis court appeared. Pastor Mitchelmore left in 1938 and the Hansonsreturned until 1941.

James Moberg came with a large family to Moro. He was followed by James McFarlane who came from Wisconsin to minister to us. Our church was kept active at home and with prayers reaching our young men and women serving during WWII. Helen Sayrs gifted the church with an organ in memory of Carl Peetz, her nephew. She took lessons and learned to play the organ, then served as organist for many years. Bill Gearhart arrived in 1949. His good humor and love of fishing endeared him to Moro. He married many couples whose families remain active today. The sanctuary was rotated a quarter turn, improvements made to the basement and classrooms added during his tenure. The circular window was placed in the sanctuary.

Rev. Solomon followed. During his interview, Dewey Thompson, of the pastor-seeking committee, asked if he’d work with young people. Rev. Solomon, educated in California at Berkeley and San Francisco Theological Seminary, shot back: “Will you people work?” This question – still relevant 45 years later – resulted in his call.

In 1956, Dr. Goodenberger and his wife arrived. They were missionaries, teachers, counselors, too. Dr. Goodenberger was also a cabinet maker who added some to the upstairs kitchen.

The congregation grew with the county through the influx of workers on the John Day Dam project. Many families followed and church membership reached 160. A new manse was dedicated in 1959 and that year our church hosted Presbytery for the first time.

Several pastors served in the next few years after Rev. Goodenberger’s departure in 1962. Leo and Mollie Tautfestarrived in 1963 and stayed until 1969. Leo is remembered for his gentle outreach and his introduction of the Heifer Project to Sherman County residents – though our heifers appeared in the form of small goats. Dick Morgan followed in 1970 through 1975. Both he and Mary were always young at heart and brought energy and devotion to their ministry. Then came Angus Crocker remembered for his concern for the poor, saving the environment and his love of family. He served until 1983. James Crislip expanded the music for worship in 1984 with his trumpet, his vocal range and Michelle’s soprano voice. Jim’s life as a former music teacher provided a wellspring of fine music from which to draw. He left behind a reputation for service and a restored pump organ when he and his family moved to Washington in 1990. Jim led the celebrations of the 100th anniversary notable for great music, wonderful food and a spirit of appreciation for God’s faithfulness, hallmarks of the Moro church.

Several pastors assisted during the following year until Sue Goodin brought her teaching and engaging preaching to us in 1992. She served until mid-1996, counseling and helping organize committees that worked together.

As we celebrate our 110th anniversary, God has provided an interim pastor, Philip Oliver, who joined us in December of 1996. Ordained in the Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) and using his skills as a pastoral counselor, Pastor Phil continues to nurture our discovery of the church’s place in the community and the role each of us plays in God’s ministry in Moro.

Ours is a long and gracious heritage in an era when people rarely remain in a community for longer than a few years. Some members have roots back to the Monkland church and the earliest days. Each pastor who served left behind friends and some even extended family.

Carrie Jackson exemplifies the importance of our heritage. She joined the church in 1891. In the 1950s, still a faithful member, she donated the circular window behind the pulpit that captures Christ’s calm assurance and continues to bless congregants into the third and fourth generations.

There are new faces celebrating our history today. Both are needed, the old and the new, to give our congregation strength for the work ahead. Today we remember our heritage and celebrate the promise those before us gave when they faithfully chartered this church. They step from their generation to our own, to teach us and touch us with their lives.

Charter members: Mr. and Mrs. O.W. Axtell, Mr. and Mrs. John DalrympleMr. and Mrs. James Woods, Mr. and Mrs. J.H. McLean, Mr. P.A. Scott. Mrs. C.T. Donnell, Joseph M. Black, Mrs. M.J. Leet, Mrs. Laura Moore, Mrs. America Moore, Mrs. Jane Moore, Mrs. Nancy Bailey Morrison, and Miss Mary Cushman.