St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Detailed History

Section 1—Early Days of Episcopal Missionary Work in Grays Harbor and in Montesano (1885-1896)


The Rev. Reuben D. Nevius, D. D. was a pioneer priest and founder of many of the Episcopal churches in Southwest, Washington. In the mid 1880s as the missionary in charge of St. John’s, Olympia, Rev. Nevius made what he believed to be the first Episcopal missionary visitation to the towns on Grays Harbor—Elma, Montesano, Cosmopolis, Aberdeen, and Hoquiam, holding worship services in each of these places. This first visit to Montesano occurred in July 1885 accompanied by the Rev. Lemuel Wells; they conducted Episcopal services in the Mt. Zion Congregational Church. 


Another visit occurred on May 10, 1886, and services were held in the building that formerly stood where the Pennell building later was built. The Missionary Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the Jurisdiction of Washington, the Rt. Rev. John Adams Paddock, D. D., visited Montesano for the first time in August of 1886. On the afternoon of August 29at the Baptist church he baptized and confirmed Dr. Eugene and Mrs. Carrie Story, and baptized their daughter Eugenia. The annual report of the bishop to the district convention of 1886 showed that Dr. Nevius had held services in each of the towns in Grays Harbor. After this initial work, Dr. Nevius recommended a resident pastor be placed in this area. The local laypeople working with Dr. Nevius for this mission effort were H. Mansfield, warden, L. B. Bignold, treasurer, and G. F. Nehf, clerk.


The next year Dr. Nevius made another visit to Grays Harbor, accompanied again by Rev. Wells (later Bishop Wells), again holding worship services in each town. Dr. Nevius then headed to Yakima, and was absent for a couple of years. Returning in 1889, he became the missionary appointed for Grays and Willapa Harbors. Records of official acts in these places were kept in a memorandum book that, about the year 1890, he transferred to the Rev. John H. Forest Bell with which his mission field was divided. During this time Mercedes Bignold was also christened. Rev. Bell resided at Aberdeen, and held infrequent services in Montesano. Dr. Nevius reported to the convention of 1890, that services had been held in Elma, Montesano, Aberdeen, and Hoquiam, and that there were 3 communicants in Elma, 4 in Montesano, 6 in Aberdeen, and 4 in Hoquiam.

Under Dr. Nevius, services were held in the Methodist Episcopal church, in a public hall (“the rink”), and in a little brown house provided by Dr. Story. During this time the mission in Montesano was called Holy Trinity. On January 7, 1894 the Ladies’ Guild bought 2 lots for a church for $625 and raised more than $300 of the purchase price. Those lots were never built on and were then later occupied by the house of Mrs. W. E. Johnson. 


In 1895 the Episcopal Society commenced work again with the Rev. L. W. Applegate and Charles O. Oxnam officiating alternately. In 3 months the congregation expanded quickly, having to move twice to more spacious areas. The auxiliaries grown out of this work were: a Sunday school with an average attendance of 53, five teachers and a superintendent, a gymnasium and a reading room; and a bible class held in Mr. Oxnam’s room at convenient seasons, to which all enquirers after the truth are invited. The Ladies’ Guild also raised several hundred dollars, which was applied to a building fund. In 1896 the Rev. Henry Steele was in charge. 



Section 2—The Start and First Years of St. Mark’s as a Mission (1907-1920)


During the next 11 years no organized mission work was done, with only sporadic services being held. Organized Episcopal church work in Montesano and the greater Grays Harbor area was re-started by the Rev. George Buzzelle in June 1908. Wendell Brackett had earlier started holding services as a layreader in Lent 1907 in the old Presbyterian church in Montesano, as had a Mr. Springer. The Rev. F.F.W. Greene and Rev. Buzzelle held services at the Odd Fellows Hall, and the Rev. C. W. Dubois later of Centralia also officiated. 


The first Women’s Guild was organized June 18, 1908 at the home of Mrs. Myra K. Bishop. During the year 1909 the Women’s Guild performed several functions in support of the church, including raising $100 for the building fund and $2 to the General Missionary Fund, keeping the church building swept and decorated for all services, and furnishing a Christmas tree for the Sunday school children. 


The church’s first building was established at St. Mark’s present site and was first occupied on April 28, 1909. At this time a church building at Porter was sold and the furniture from it--the altar, font, chancel rail and pews, were brought to Montesano, where they were in use for a long time. And, proceeds from the Porter church building sale were placed in a trust fund and loaned to the Montesano church.


The Rev. George Messias was in charge briefly after the present church was built. Following Rev. Messias, the Rev. Dr. G. Clement King took charge as General Missionary. Finally, the Rev. Clarence H. Lake was appointed the resident missionary in charge in Grays Harbor in December 1910, the same year the Diocese of Olympia was officially established as its own diocese.


On December 1, 1910, Joseph E. Calder through Edward K. Bishop (Myra Bishop’s son and trustee of St. Mark’s church) obtained a $300 mortgage for the building lots at St. Mark’s. Money pledged toward payoff of this mortgage, $50 each, came from Edward K. Bishop, Charles L. Springer, A. E. Graham, Joseph E. Calder, L. R. Moss, and George Everett.


It is recorded next to the Communicant log entry for Myra K. Bishop in the Canonical Church Register that St. Mark’s, Montesano was named for St. Mark’s, Evanston, Illinois during this time. The first three entries in this Communicant’s log were for the Bishop family, who came to St. Mark’s from Evanston.


On March 3, 1911, the first Pancake social dinner was given by St. Mark’s Guild at the home of Dr. Franklin L. and Dille Carr, with $12 received. 


Gifts and memorials for the altar were presented to the mission in 1911. A beautiful brass altar cross was given in memory of Mrs. Martha S. Sherman, a devoted communicant of St. Mark’s Church, Evanston, Illinois. This cross was given by Mrs. Sherman’s daughter, Mrs. J. J. Charles, through Myra Bishop. Two brass alms basins suitably inscribed were presented to the mission by the Sunday school and the Girls Guild. Both the altar cross and the alms basins were blessed by the 1st Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt. Rev. Frederic W. Keator, D. D., at the time of his visit to St. Mark’s, December 17th, 1911. Rev. Lake continued in charge through 1912, then the Rev. Clarence Thwing, M. D., who was in charge of St. Luke’s mission in Elma, also held services in Montesano infrequently during 1913.


St. Mark’s struggled through the period of 1914-1920, being able to only intermittently pay its assessment and hold services occasionally. Mr. Calder and Mr. Bishop and a few others, specifically those in the Women’s Guild, continued to be organized to have some worship services and the annual Pancake Day dinners through those tough times.


On December 14, 1918, the St. Mark’s mortgage was paid off



Section 3—St. Mark’s Operates as a Mission of Holy Trinity, Hoquiam (1921-1950)


St. Mark’s re-started fully in 1921, with worship services held mostly on Sunday evenings. The Rev. Sylvester P. Robertson, rector of St. Andrew’s, Aberdeen, started supporting St. Mark’s, riding the train from Aberdeen to conduct services on alternate weeks with St. Luke’s, Elma. After less than a year, the Very Rev. George G. Ware, the dean for Southwest Washington and the rector of Trinity Church, Hoquiam took over services at St. Mark’s. Percy and Edith Parker assisted as Sunday school teachers and Mrs. Ware was the organist. St. Mark’s was considered a separate mission of the diocese, but was tied to Holy Trinity, Hoquiam via their vicar. At this time the St. Mark’s Episcopal Guild was formed, and was very active in the work of the church.


In 1927 the recorded budget for St. Mark’s was:

          Dean Ware’s salary--$420



          Diocesan Assessment--$230



                   Total Current expense--$694.50

                   Notes payable--$180

                   New Sidewalk--$150



Dean Ware continued in charge of St. Mark’s until his death in a car crash in the summer of 1929. Services were conducted again by the Rev. Sylvester P. Robertson of St. Andrew’s, Aberdeen until the Rev. Elmer B. Christie became rector of Trinity, Hoquiam in 1930. Rev. Christie served St. Mark’s through March 1934, then moved on to St. John’s, Olympia. 


The city of Montesano celebrated the bicentennial of George Washington’s birthday in February, 1932. The Rev. Christie from St. Mark’s was the preacher at the special union service; his subject was “George Washington, Christian”. It was fitting that Rev. Christie would be the speaker at this occasion, as Washington was an Episcopalian. 


An interesting occurrence came up at the Diocesan Convention, held at Trinity Church, Seattle in November 1933 involving St. Mark’s and Rev. Christie. It was found that there was not a quorum of qualified congregations present to conduct business; it was short one congregation (11 needed) with their assessments paid in full. Rev. Christie figured out and decided to pay the $13.50 short in St. Mark’s, Montesano’s assessment so a quorum could be certified and the convention could continue.


By late 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, times had gotten tough to the point where the St. Mark’s Guild called for Rev. Christie to appoint a new Bishop’s Committee of persons other than those in the active Guild, and for the Bishop Committee to assume all of the duties and responsibilities of the church management. The Guild discussed its inability to carry the church load unassisted and decided that if aid was not received, then Rev. Christie’s back salary should be paid and the church closed. In late 1934 the Bishop’s Committee voted to pay off all debts and close the church, but this was quickly overturned and the church struggled on.


In early 1935 the Rev. George F. Pratt came to Trinity, Hoquiam and St. Mark’s, and a new group known as ‘The Women’s Auxiliary of St. Mark’s Church’, affiliated with the Diocesan Auxiliary, was formed. One of their first acts was to recognize the service of Myra K. Bishop at St. Mark’s via a letter to her son. The Women’s Auxiliary formed an Altar Committee to handle the weekly altar preparations and flowers and linens. Their other work for the next several years included help with some of the rector’s salary, vestibule repairs, and part of the missionary pledge and half the church’s assessment to the Diocese.


In 1937 Rev. Pratt started a Sunday organ recitals radio program on KXRO, Aberdeen; Mr. Percy Parker assisted by playing the cello occasionally.


Rev. Pratt served until July 1939, and was followed by the Rev. David W. C. Graham from December 1939 through April 1941. The Rev. J. Thomas Lewis, who came from McMinnville, Oregon with his family, then served from May 1941 until his death in October 1943. 


In 1942 the Bishop Committee applied for a Church Building Fund gift of $2000 to build a parish hall. Even though request this was not approved, the Diocese instead gave to St. Mark’s from the Diocesan Church School Advent Offering of 1942 about $520 to help build a new parish hall. This addition was named Calder Hall in honor of Joseph E. Calder, the widely known Montesano pioneer and co-founder of the Vidette, and the long time warden and administrator at St. Mark’s. The addition was built and usage began in March, 1943. The Auxiliary paid over $100 toward new furniture for the church.  


The Rev. H. Alfred Rogers served at Trinity and St. Mark’s from June 1944 to May 1945, and was followed by the Rev. B. Stanley Moore from November 1945 to June 1951. During this post World War II time St. Mark’s grew considerably, with the church school growing enough that 4 teachers were needed in 1947. At this time the people at St. Mark’s began discussing operating as a mission separate from Trinity, Hoquiam.



Section 4—St. Mark’s Operates as Part of the Eastern Grays Harbor Mission (1951-1984)


On June 24, 1951, St. Mark’s became a part of the Eastern Grays Harbor Mission, along with St. Luke’s, Elma and St. Anne’s Guild, McCleary. This combined mission had a joint Bishop’s Committee, common budget, and shared a vicar, while maintaining separate buildings, services and programs. The Rt. Rev. Stephen Fielding Baine, Jr. attended the first service and celebration at St. Mark’s with its first vicar, the Rev. Warren P. Frank. Rev. Frank was young, age 28, married with one child and had just graduated from seminary. Under the leadership of Rev. Frank later that year the choir grew to 8-10, the Sunday school grew to about 23, and attendance grew to the high 30s average for each Sunday service. The annual budget for St. Mark’s mission at the time of consolidation was about $1200.


On April 18, 1954, a large upgrade of the entire facility was started following Easter Sunday. The remodel included doubling the size of Calder Hall,building a second floor over part of the hall, greatly enlarging and improving the chancel, sanctuary and choir space, and building a more

spacious sacristy. Rev. Frank said at the time, “we believe that the remodeled St. Mark’s will be one of the better and more adequate of the small churches of the diocese and we feel that Mr. Street (the architect) has

done an excellent job for us. Certainly it is going to make it possible for the Episcopal Church to serve the people in this community much more adequately, and also to be of greater service to the community as a whole.”


Rev. Frank served until June 1955, when he left to become rector of St. James, Kent. He was succeeded by the Rev. John Mann in January 1956. Rev. Mann came from Huntington Station, New York and was married with three children. In mid 1957 St. Mark’s purchased their first vicarage at 210 E. Broadway in Montesano. During Rev. Mann’s time attendance increased more, to an average of the mid 50s for each Sunday service. All during this time the worship service at St. Mark’s alternated between weeks of Holy Communion and Morning Prayer services. In June 1958 Rev. Mann accepted a call to the staff of St. John’s Cathedral in Spokane.


The Rev. Rex Clift Simms came from Texas to serve the mission in January 1959. He was 62, married with two older children. Early in his tenure Rev. Simms was seriously injured in an automobile accident returning from a Bishop’s Christmas party in Seattle, needed several surgeries and never fully recovered. This limited his work at the mission and he had to retire with a medical disability pension in June 1964. 


Rev. Simms was followed by the Rev. Charles C. (Chick) Carman, the son of the then Bishop of Oregon, in December 1964. Rev. Carman was 32, married and had two young children, necessitating the sale of the first St. Mark’s vicarage and purchase of another larger one at 722 W. McBryde in Montesano. At this point the worship service became Holy Communion every Sunday each month, except for one with Morning Prayer. Attendance started dropping, back to the low 30s. Rev. Carman left to take an appointment at St. Matthew’s, Auburn in May 1966.


The Rev. Ernest Radcliffe served at St. Mark’s from June 1966 to December 1969. Rev. Radcliffe was 40, single, and came from the Church of Canada. In January 1970, he was followed by the Rev. Edward O. Winckley, who had been the vicar of the church of the Holy Communion in Tacoma. Bishop Curtis had Rev. Radcliffe and Rev. Winckley exchange positions, as they were both having problems with people in their congregation, and it was thought the exchange would help both congregations. Rev. Winckley, married and 63, was trained in England and spent 30 years in South Africa as a missionary before coming to the United States. He was very active in the Order of St. Luke and spent a good deal of time in the healing ministry. His health problems forced him to retire in August 1972. Attendance further dropped to the mid 20s during this period.


The Rev. Robert L. Christie became vicar in September 1972. He was married, 36, with three children, and came from St. James, Kent. He was also the son of the Rev. Elmer Christie, who had served as rector of Trinity, Hoquiam supporting St. Mark’s back in the early 1930s. Rev. Christie was well liked and very successful, and attendance at St. Mark’s grew again to the low 30s. During his time at St. Mark’s, he also celebrated with an occasional folk mass service.


Rev. Christie served until October 1979, then he left for All Saints, Vancouver. He was succeeded by the Rev. Walter Knowles who served the mission from July, 1980 until April, 1984. Rev. Knowles came from the Church of Canada, was married, 29 and had one child. During this time attendance and support dropped significantly to the point that in 1983 there began some discussions toward dissolving the Grays Harbor mission altogether. Later it was decided by a majority vote of the congregation of St. Mark’s to dissolve the Eastern Grays Harbor mission into the separate mission congregations of St. Mark’s, Montesano and St. Luke’s, Elma.



Section 5—St. Mark’s Operates as an Independent Mission (1984-Present)


On March 31, 1984, St. Mark’s and St. Luke’s split into independent missions. The Rev. George Sheldon served on a supply basis for St. Mark’s from October 1984 through May 1988. Attendance remained steady in the mid teens weekly during this time.


In 1987-1988, St. Mark’s shared its facility with Village Lutheran church.


On May 4, 1988, the Diocese of Olympia selected the Rev. Hume W. (Skip) Reeves to become the “Twin Harbors Program” Missioner, for 4 small and struggling congregations: St. Mark’s, Montesano, St. Luke’s, Elma, St. John’s, South Bend, and St. Christopher’s, Westport. This program was established to allow for an oversight priest on a 5-year plan to train and develop the four congregations to eventually become self sufficient, in all areas of their lives—administration, stewardship, outreach, worship and spiritual development, education, evangelism, pastoral care, and maintenance of their facilities. Also, this program was to develop candidates selected from these small congregations to become non-paid priests for their churches. The Diocese provided funding to support Rev. Reeves as the Twin Harbor missioner during the years 1988-1993.


On November 29, 1989, the St. Mark’s Bishop Committee selected Lorraine Dierick as its candidate for priest in this local priest’s program.


On August 29, 1992, Frances Lorraine Dierick was ordained as a transitional deacon and then as priest and first dedicated vicar for St. Mark’s on March 27, 1993.


In early 1991, St. Mark’s started a weekly after school children’s church program, led by Lorraine Dierick and Dorothy McMeekin.


In 1996 the local priest program became more church community focused, with the training and appropriate labels of Total Ministry and Ministry of the Baptized.   In 1996 Dorothy McMeekin and Joyce Avery were chosen to train for and become deacons, and on March 15, 1999, they were ordained as the first deacons for St. Mark’s.


In late 2000, Bonnie Campbell starting preaching and serving as a worship leader, especially for monthly Morning Prayer services.


In August 2007 Corby Varness was commissioned by the Diocese as a catechist, honoring her gifts for teaching young children. She continues to lead the children’s church held on Friday afternoons at St. Mark’s.


In 2008 Bonnie Campbell was ordained transitional deacon and then priest. This provides a second priest to work with Rev. Lorraine Dierick and enhance the already strong worship team. And, Corby Varness and Jim Campbell have taken a preaching class and are starting to preach in the sermon rotation at St. Mark’s.


Section 6—Present Focus for St. Mark’s


Since Rev. Dierick’s ordination in 1993, St. Mark’s has been able to re-focus its mission efforts significantly. The church’s focus has changed from major efforts dealing with finances and maintaining its existence, to now being able to focus on outreach support to the larger Montesano community and beyond. 


There is real energy and commitment to ministry using the Total Common Ministry model at St. Mark’s. The congregation at present is small, about 40 people, and most of the members are older in age, but they are young in energy and service and support to each other. St. Mark’s faithfully carries out the Total Common Ministry model of everyone being an active part of the whole church community in operation.


Everyone has their gifts to share and roles to play in the St. Mark’s church community. Whether it is as a Bishop Committee member, Treasurer, Altar Guild person, organist, children’s school or bible study teacher, priest or deacon, all usually find several ways to answer the call to participate. There are no roles with pay involved, and there is no real hierarchy based on pay or title. Everyone feels valued with whatever they do in the church community. Total Common Ministry is alive and works well at St. Mark’s, a church that is “Large Enough to Share, and Small Enough to Care.”