The Molalla Methodist Episcopal Church is located at 300 East Main Street in Molalla, Oregon. Excepting for the Dibble House, it is the crowning glory of our town’s historical buildings. The lofty spires of the church reign proudly at the center of town. From 1906 to 1908, the building was carefully and patiently planned by the church’s Board of Trustees. The land was donated by George H. Gregory. Local carpenter, 45 year old Oliver Willard Robbins, did the framework and exterior finish on the two-story, 4,495 square foot structure. Other parishioners helped by hauling lumber, gravel, building materials and some carpentry work.
The architectural style is in the line of the Gothic Revival Style called Carpenter Gothic Style or Rural Gothic Style. It is a North American style designation which became popular in the late 1800s. The Carpenter Gothic style is applied to wooden structures built by house carpenters. It improvises upon features of churches carved in stone in the more elaborate Gothic Revival Style. This particular church has a tent roof and a bell tower with a weather vane. It has two bull's-eye windows near the peaks of the north and east sides. On the outside, architrave molding is above the basement windows. The entry has a gable roof with a barrel arch and decorative rafter ends. The downstairs has large, daylight basement windows. Around 1980, stained glass windows were added on the main floor but they were later moved to the foyer of the new Molalla United Methodist Church, located at the Y Corner in Molalla.
On March 26, 1906, the Board of Trustees of the Molalla Methodist Episcopal Church held their first meeting to plan the new church. It was held at Mackrell’s Harness Shop at 3 p.m. and was called to order by Rev. Henry Spiess, Pastor of the church. Attending were W. P. Herman, President of the Board, Oliver Willard Robbins, Secretary and Dr. J. J. Leavitt, Treasurer. In the next six months, these four men made most of the decisions regarding building the church. They discussed the plan to build the church on a 66’ x 120’ lot. The plan was selected from the 1904 Catalogue of Church Plans by architects Benjamin D. and Max Charles Price. It was Plan No. 3, size 24’ X 40’, under Perspective No 19A. The men met once a month for several years but, it appears, that the main part of the church was finished by the middle of 1907.
At the April, May and June meetings, it was decided not to use the church plan for the basement. Instead they changed to basement walls “eight inches thick and four feet high above the footing of cement and gravel, then five feet of framework above to bottom of sills so as to make nine feet clear for the basement”. They placed an order for 20 barrels of cement, purchased from Robbins Bros. Store for $77.00. They also ordered lumber. Oliver Willard Robbins was “instructed to find a suitable gravel bed and secure teams and men” to haul the gravel for the basement.
At the July, August and September meetings, the Secretary wrote to the Board of Church Extension and asked for a donation of $400. Lumber was “contracted to Ernest Lehman for the sum of $375.00 less a $40 donation by him”. Fred Schafer delivered the lumber for a fee of “$8 for 12,700 feet of sized lumber and $17.50 for 11,800 feet of dressed lumber”. They ordered 300 three-inch tiles to drain the basement. They instructed Robbins Bros. Store to hold 20M, #1 Cedar Shingles for the roof.
At the October 1st meeting, the secretary was instructed to make sure that all the bills of lumber were delivered and paid for. The Secretary “reported that the west side of the roof was on the new church”. He also ordered “ground strips for plaster” for the interior walls and “procured galvanized iron for valley gutters, rain conductors and a deck for the tower and a vane for the top of the tower”. Robbins Bros. Store was ordering doors, windows, molding and shingles for finishing the building.
By the end of 1906, most of the financial decisions were made. Oliver Willard Robbins was paid $365 for carpentry work. In addition to Oliver, the following carpenters were paid a total of $402 for their work: James F. Robbins; H. Larson; W. D. Adams; W. J. E. Vick; George Gregory and F. E Albright. Lumber and other materials cost $510. Donations from community members, listed below, totaled $610 and the trust fund bond was $400. A donation of $55 was made by the Molalla Ladies Aid Society, George Gregory donated $150 and F. E. Albright donated $50. The following people donated in increments of $1 to $25: Mrs. L. Austin; Mrs. R. Boswell; D. D. Boyles; George C. Brownell; George Case; Mrs. M. Case; Eliza Daugherty; Otis Daugherty; Mrs. W. H. Davidson; Mary Engle; P. Faurie; Gottlieb Feyrer; Rhoda Grey; O. L. Hammond; Barton Jack; M. J. Jack; Ellen Kayler; Mrs. P. J. Kayler; P. J.Kayler; Matt Leabo; William Mackrell; Mrs. E. J. Maple; G. J. Newton; Jas Rastall; Robbins Bros.; Ediff Robbins; Ipha Robbins; Levi Robbins; Mary Robbins; Mrs. Asa Sanders; E. A. Shaver; Mrs. W. H. Steininger; John Taylor; J. L. Tubbs; J. H. Vernon and Miss J. Vogt. The old Sanders Church was sold for $35 in September, 1909. Pews were ordered in 1912. They were constructed by L. L. Lantz, who bid $125. The church furnished the lumber. The Molalla Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated in 1908. The first pastor was Pastor Henry Spiess. The building was used as a church for 88 years.
The Molalla Methodist Church began as a congregation on the Butteville Circuit of the Methodist Church. Jason Lee, a Methodist minister, came to Oregon, in 1834, and started the Methodist Church in the Oregon Territory. He often rode by horseback to lead the various church services in the area. On April 2, 1854, a group of Methodists held their first meeting at a log schoolhouse near the spot where the Needy Post Office was established a year later. Three years later, a donation by E. G. Boynton from his land claim gave the congregation five acres that were set aside for a “burying ground and a meeting cabin”. The area is at the Northwest corner of Stuwe and Sconce Roads in Canby and is five miles west of Molalla. In 1858, a 20 by 24 wood framed building was constructed. It was named Rock Creek Cabin. Sometime later, it was named Rock Creek Church. This building remains today and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The first circuit riding minister for Rock Creek Church was Chauncey Osborne Hosford. He was born in New York in 1822. In 1845, he emigrated to Oregon on the ill-fated Steven Meek wagon train that took the Eastern Oregon cutoff through the desert. He took his ministerial training at Willamette University and went on to become one of the most renowned pioneers in Oregon. He died in 1911, at Portland.
In 1869, the Molalla members of the congregation moved to a small Methodist Church that they built on the Asa Sanders Land Claim. This humble building is the one sold for $35 in September, 1909. In 1996, the Methodist Church moved to a new building near the Y Corner in Molalla. They sold the historical church to a private party. Since 1996, it has served as an event center and two different schools. The inside has been updated and the building is in excellent condition.
Photo #1: Around 1910, East Main Street had a wooden walk way and a muddy road. From left is the Molalla School, the Christian Church and the Molalla Methodist Episcopal Church. Photo from the Gena Cline Collection.
Photo #2: A 1990 photo of the Molalla Methodist Episcopal Church. It looks much the same today. Photo from the author’s collection.
Photo #3: The original plan for the church, from the 1904 Catalogue of Church Plans.
Photo #4: The original pews constructed by L. L. Lantz, in 1912.
“Chauncey Osborne Hosford”, An Illustrated History of the State of Oregon”, 1893, Page 449
“First Methodist Church”, Clackamas County Resource Study, Building #812, Altier & Hayden, 1984
“History of the Molalla United Methodist Church”, Author unknown, 1996
“Molalla Methodist Episcopal Church”, Booklet of the Minutes of the Board of Trustees’ meetings, On file at The Molalla United Methodist Church at Molalla, Oregon, Dated 1906 to 1917
“Rock Creek Methodist Church”, National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, by Paul Hartwig, August, 1973
Unrecorded interview, by the author, with Carol Haushalter, Church Historian for the Molalla United Methodist Church at Molalla, Oregon, December 18, 2018
@2020 Gail J. McCormick