Sunday, March 6, 2011


Twenty-five years passed after Sanders County was formed before Heron built the Heron Methodist Church, circa 1931. Women held bake sales, and tied quilts for 25 cents each to raise money for the church. Courtesy Georgia Knott MacSpadden collection.

Religion crept into the valley slowly, but was no more preventable or controllable than the snow-melt of high water that swept huge log drives to market each spring.
"When we first went to church, we went to church in the schoolhouse," Charlie Knutson said. Mother and father and all of us kids. When I was a little fella.
"Well, there was a lady who used to teach us in Sunday school. A preacher would come. He wouldn't preach all the time, but every now and then, he'd come on the train. I think he come from Thompson Falls. That's right, umhum. I think he was a Methodist. Now I'm not sure. I wouldn't swear to that, but I think he was. Started coming in there about WWI time; about 1916 or so."1.
In July, 1913, Reverend John Lang of Pittsburgh, PA arrived and assumed charge of "the newly organized Presbyterian church at Noxon.2.
"Billy Ellis' grandmother and he went to church and Sunday school in the little church.*3.
"I went to church in the church. I know. I sang in the choir all the time I was a little girl," Rhoda Knutson said.4.

In October, 1913, the newspaper reported,
"Rev. M.(sic) Lang has resigned his position as pastor of the Presbyterian church here. The church has been mainly supported by the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church, but the European war has caused a deficiency of funds and this church has lost its support, hence Mr. Lang's resignation. Mr. Lang has made a number of friends here who are sorry that he will be compelled to enter another field. Mrs. Lang is the primary teacher in the Noxon school."5.

In winter, as in summer, the Heron Methodist Church on Main Street, between the business district and the school in Heron, Montana, served the needs of all area residents. The church kept a penny jar to pay for the oil to heat it. Coope in Sandpoint, Idaho gave them oil. Northern Pacific Railroad donated the black wooden pews on which the faithful sat, or kneeled in front of to pray. Courtesy Georgia Knott MacSpadden collection.
November 1914, Reverend Lang was again saving souls at Noxon, and with the help of Mr. Williams, was building a parsonage. He preached throughout the winter 1914-15, expanding his efforts to Tuscor as well.6.

March, 1915,
"Reverend Pringle of Kalispell was conducting a series of religious meetings in Noxon."7. But a year later, in January 1916, "Rev. John Lang left for Washington, leaving his wife behind, boarding at the F. I. Diver home."8.
Methodist Rev. Wilder Nutting, of Thompson Falls preached every other week, Thursday evening and Friday morning at Noxon schoolhouse in April 1920.9. Later that same year, during the summer, Methodist Rev. Lewis E. Metcalf was appointed to preach at Noxon and Heron.10.

The Heron Methodist Church, pride and joy of the religious community of Heron, Montana. Weddings and funerals brought the community together, in addition to rousing sermons preached to faithful members of the congregation by various ministers. Courtesy Georgia Knott MacSpadden collection.
Noxon certainly had a variety of ministers, and more than one church building, during the first couple of decades of the hamlet's existence. Just who the preacher was or what year the preacher's stove blew up one night, and burned the parsonage to the ground is unrecorded.

Clifford Weare had been losing wood in Noxon. Sleigh riders had been taking posts from his post piles to fuel their sledding party bonfires. But they'd not touched Weare's woodpile. Weare told George Jamison that some son-of-a bitch had been stealing his wood. So he took a brace and bit and drilled a hole in a chunk from the woodpile, put a stick of 60% dynamite and a cap and fuse in it, plugged the hole up, and put the chunk of wood back in his wood pile.
"If I'd knowed it was the preacher all he needed to do was speak up," Weare said.
That preacher left town.

The first recorded Methodist Minister came April 1921, according to information supplied by the Methodist Church.
"Services were held in Noxon Public School. It was called the community church. Then financial problems arose. It was then that the Methodist church was established in 1924."*11.
(Rev. R. L. Glasgow came in 1921, serving until 1923 as Noxon Methodist minister. Rev. H. L. Davis (1923); J. M. Johnston and C. F. McConnell (1924); Rev. W. E. Pierce (1925-26); Rev. H. J. Van Vliet ministered 1926-28, 1929-32 and again in 1937-40*12.
(insert 3 pixs page 181)

Perhaps at the urging of the Methodist minister who'd begun traveling regularly to Noxon. Land deeds recorded at Sanders County courthouse show the following: Lot 12 in Block 3, June 23, 1921, from NPRR $37.50 to Geo. Phillips, B. M. Winter, Maude Larson and M. C. South, trustees. The land was filed August 1922 'to be used as a place of divine worship'. Records show June 28, 1921, filed September 5, 1924, Lot 11, block 3, $125.00 from NPRR to Martin A. Larson. October 11, 1924 Lot 11, Block 3 warranty deed #115 Sanders County, Noxon. Martin Larson and Ann Larson to H. A. Larson, Maude Larson, R. E. Phillips, Vern Watterson, E. L. Lee and successors.

However, turning a piece of brush and timber-covered land into a church building was a different thing. Lanky Jamison said,
"My grandmother, Mrs. S. S. Brown, had Katie Engle come, Lilly Cotton, Carrie Gore, Fanny Hampton, they all met at grandmothers house for tea and crumpets."
"Grandmother wrote children's stories. Sunday School Brown got the first Sunday School classes going. From Sunday school you went right into church. Madeliene Larson thought she was much better than anyone else. S. S. Brown thought he was pretty important, too."13.
Ruth Knutson said,
"When they started that other church ... they got money. Mother collected money for that church that they built."14.
Noxon moonshiners contributed the funds for it, too.15. Not all recollections of the year the church was built agree. If the following confuses you – it confused me, too. Take your pick.

Stewart Hampton said he dug the basement for the Noxon church in 1922. A minister came in 1928.16. Stewart Hampton helped dig the church basement. The mules he was using ran away. The project was begun in 1925 according to Stewart Hampton.17.
According to Lanky Jamison, "In 1924 the building of a church began. Stewart Hampton helped with the digging of the basement, using his horses. Marion Larson's pair of white mules, Jenny and Lacy, were used, too, pulling the fresno.
"Everett Jenkins had a team of mules and a team of horses. And they had two or three plows. And they plowed it. Gene Green, Lyle Green's dad, used Old Dad Foley's team of horses. And he had a fresno. They'd plow ahead, tearing it up, and then use the fresno to scoop it out. It was a community affair. If you had a team of horses you'd bring your horses. There was quite a bunch.
"Men dug the basement for the church in one day using horse and a fresno. Larson and Jamison's horses."18.
Clate Bauer hauled lumber from John McKay's sawmill to help build the Noxon church.19. Frank Lyons and Cliff Cox donated lumber for the church. They were logging in Blue Creek, sawed it in their mill.20.

(insert pix Gertrude Lee pg 182)
Florence 'Fanny' Hampton and Kate Hampton.
Circa 1960s. Courtesy Stewart and Agnes
Hampton collection.

The Noxon School Buzzer published a historical piece in 1926, saying that in the summer of 1925 most of the townspeople and homesteaders in the surrounding valleys, pitched in and helped in every way they could to begin construction of the church.*21.
"The community paid for it," Weare said. "[Rev.] Van Vleit was quite a good carpenter. He come over and he got my team for excavating the basement you know. I donated towards it $20 dollars. Van Vleit was an awful nice fella. Him and his wife, both. Van Vleit built the building."*22.
Reverend W. E. Pierce, Methodist, served the community throughout 1925-26. November 1925, good attendance showed up at the school auditorium where Sunday school meets every Sunday. Church services begin in the auditorium at 7:30 p.m.*23.

Rev. Pierce organized a Boy Scout Troop. Pierce was Scoutmaster and John Jenkins the assistant scoutmaster. The Scouts met every Tuesday evening in the High School Auditorium.*24. With the addition of a junior choir, Sunday school attendance rose to 54, and evening services were also well attended. Attendance gradually increased to 60. The choir sometimes sang for both church and Sunday school.
"An Easter program, including plenty of good songs and recitations," was to be prepared by the sunday school and given in the evening at church services 1926. 56 attended Sunday school. The newly formed choir added interest to it.*25.
The new Community church building was completed February 11, 1927.*26. The schoolhouse bell was moved to the church 1927.*27. Noxon Community Church -- the only building in Noxon designated "solely as a place for divine worship" was a dream completed.

Although the dates seem conflicting, Rev. H. J. Van Vliet was the first minister to conduct services in the building after it's completion ... some say in 1926, some claim in 1928. He's also often been credited with its inception.

In truth, it was the women of Noxon who conceived of a church, then pushed, prodded and shoved until it was an accomplishment.

Foremost among the early women striving to bring Christianity to the fabulous valley were Mrs. M. Lang, Annie Pringle, Maude Larson, Mary Knutson, Mrs. F. I. Divers, Fannie Hampton and Mrs. S. S. Brown, all of whom wanted their families to know the Lord. Young girls passed out songbooks, distributed bibles, brought homegrown flowers to decorate the alter, and minded toddlers in the basement nursery. Fund raising bake sales became continuing annual events to provide religious materials.

But dreams don't always work without flaws and Noxon's church members had periodic disappointments.
"Van Vleit was the first minister. Then they moved away and a young fella, an Irishman from Coeur d'Alene came," Clifford Weare said.
"All the old women around town had him over for chicken dinner, a patting him on the back, what a nice fella he was. Boy, I wished I was a preacher then! Hahaha.
"One day a girl got off of the train and asked where the parsonage was and she went up there. She was pregnant. About eight months along, looked like. So she went up there and she went in. And in about two hours both of them come out, took the train and they never came back. Hahaha. They got married in Thompson Falls. Oh, my, that was an awful let down. Hahaha."*28.
Carmen Moore and his wife were married in the Noxon church, in a short ceremony.
"Robert Jenkins and Laura, his wife, were our witnesses when we were married. I don't recall any activity being held in the church other than funerals and maybe get-togethers held there for children maybe on Easter or something like that," Clifford Weare said.
"I don't know as the church influenced my life any. But I guess it was all right having church there. The only time I attended was to a funeral of someone."*28.
Rev. Van Vliet baptized Clate and Velma Bauer's small son, Charles, at the Bauer's ranch, and Carmen Moore was baptized at the same time.*30.

  1. Charlie Knutson, tape-recorded oral history November 18, 1983.
  2. Sanders County Independent Ledger, July 11, 1913.
  3. Billy and Edna Ellis, letter April 24, 1987.
  4. Rhoda Knutson, tape-recorded oral history November 18, 1983.
  5. Sanders County Independent Ledger, October 15, 1913.
  6. Sanders County Independent Ledger, November 6, 1914; Behind These Mountains, Volume 1-pg. 211.
  7. Sanders County Independent Ledger, March 26, 1915. "Harry H. Pringle of Noxon lost 4,000 posts to fire on Pilgrim Creek in 1905. Behind These Mountains, Volume 1-pg. 75; pg. 85-86, and NPRR records: Harry Pringle, 1904 depot agent. H. H. Pringle was elevated from day operator to Station Agent on NPRR in 1906, but was quite a boozer and lost the position.
  8. Sanders County Independent Ledger, January 28, 1916.
  9. Sanders County Independent Ledger, April 8, 1920.
  10. Sanders County Independent Ledger, August 5 and 19, 1920. Heron didn't build their Methodist Church until 1931. A. J. Kline and his wife, Sophia, were active in getting people to gather and build the original Heron Community church. A. J. Also played guitar and fiddle, along with several others, for dances at the Heron school. (Letter, June 1991.)
  11. Alta Esler, biography of Noxon Methodist Church, 1984.
  12. Alta Esler, biography of Noxon Methodist Church, 1984.
  13. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, tape-recorded oral history January 8, 1987.
  14. Rhoda and Charles Knutson, tape-recorded oral history November 18, 1983.
  15. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, oral history February 19, 1990.
  16. Stewart and Agnes Hampton, oral history November 18, 1983.
  17. Stewart Hampton, oral history, var.
  18. Loren "Lanky" Jamison, tape-recorded oral history January 4, 1987; Clayton Bauer, tape-recorded oral history November 1979.
  19. Velma Webster Bauer, letter 1978; Loren "Lanky" Jamison, oral history February 19, 1990.
  20. Carmen Moore, tape-recorded oral history April 20, 1988. Lyon's mill was in Rock Creek.
  21. Alta Esler, biography of Noxon Methodist Church, 1984.
  22. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history March 10, 1972.
  23. Noxon High School Buzzer, Edition #3.
  24. Noxon High School Buzzer, November 1925.
  25. Noxon High School Buzzer, 1926.
  26. Noxon High School Buzzer.
  27. John Knutson, oral history 1970.
  28. Clifford R. Weare, tape-recorded oral history March 10, 1972.
  29. Carmen Moore, tape-recorded oral history March 16, 1988.
  30. Alta Esler, biography of Noxon Methodist Church, 1984.

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