Thompson: McCleary church’s influence extends longer than it’s history

By Linda Thompson

For The Vidette

The humble beginnings of the fine structure on the right as you come down Third Street in McCleary must not be forgotten.

As I was reading “The History of the Methodist Church 1910-1960,” it struck me that even though the building is only 93 years old, the Church has been a large part of this community for 109 years. The 50-year history was written 59 years ago. The building was dedicated in April 1926 by the people who built it for the people who inspired it. Ada L. McCleary did not live to see the church that was dedicated to her memory, but her work was not forgotten. The first name of this church was The Ada L. McCleary Memorial Church. Her death, after a short illness, in 1923, left the town shaken. Mrs. McCleary was the wife of the town’s founder, Henry McCleary, and she, in her own right, was an exceptional figure wherever she went.

The church, however, soon became known at the McCleary Community Church and eventually the United Methodist Church.

As I came to the end of the book, I thought I should paraphrase a quote from the end for our beginning.

“We would like to see much greater accomplishments take place in the next fifty years of this church than has been accomplished in the past. Our statistical table shows we have been advancing rapidly in the last ten years and we would like to continue to do so with the blessing and help of Almighty God. I count it as both pleasure and privilege that I had part in serving this church during its half century existence.” — A. Poobus

In the beginning, before the church was even planned, records were not kept, but memory was relied on. Those memories include many visits by the ministers and students who were sent here to do their bit of missionary work. McCleary was considered the back woods, in the earliest years.

Sometimes the man in Elma would serve. Once a group of theology students, from the College of Puget Sound, entertained on Saturday night and one stayed to preform church services the next day. R.T. Anderson, who traveled about, much as the old-time circuit rider, would call here and offer church services at one of the school houses.

There is a record of the Rev. L.D. Cook who was sent here and actually stayed for a number of years. He sent for his wife and they had a temporary home in McCleary. There was no set minister’s salary then, but he continued to stay anyway. He took whatever part-time job he could, making himself popular among the men until a “subscription” was made up, allowing him a living income. No record of when he came, but he moved on in September 1917.

On Aug. 12, 1924, Mrs. Frank Hawking, secretary of the Church Board, was instructed to issue a check for $1,000 payable to Mr. Elmer Briscoe for the two lots on Third and Pine described as Lots 1 and 2, Block 9, Original Plat of the Town of McCleary.

The actual construction of the church was begun by Fred Soller, of Olympia, a builder who had been successful with other jobs in McCleary and Olympia. Henry McCleary started the financial campaign with a promise of $5,000. Others signed up for various sums with the deductions to be made from the company payrolls and credited to the Church Account.

The Women’s Society made a subscription of $1,000, and an advanced payment of $50 was made in March. This Society then planned monthly dinners to meet their obligations and they put in a whole year of strenuous effort under the leadership of Mrs. B.E. Flaning, president, and Dora Lanning, secretary. They were then holding meetings in the Knights of Pythons Hall, down town, and were already making plans for a fireplace in their part of the new church.

The history of the church, in 1925, was largely the story of the women working together with the Rev. R. Gailley, in the tumultuous task of equipping the new church with their kitchen. The Fireside Room directions came from Mrs. Frank Chagnan. The Society created a savings account and at various times, placed a deposit of $100 or $200 in the bank. From this money they also purchased a piano for $43. (Not the piano that is there now. That was donated by Peri Wiseman Smith.)

Where is the history of this building going to take us next?