History of Westminster Presbyterian Church
October 6, 1855 in the Lewis Harkins and Susan Davis blockhouse on Claquato Hill, our church was born. Rev. George F. Whitworth organized the small group of believers and during the Indian War; they met in the blockhouse and later in the Davis cabin. Whitworth didn’t miss a Sunday with his rifle and Bible riding his horse from Olympia. He stopped at Fort Henness too. Soon he was assisted by Rev. Goodell alternating once a month on Sunday. The original group, Levi Gates, Henry Stearns, Susan Davis, Phoebe Judson, Emmeline Goodell presented letters or personal testimony of being reborn and they chose to be Presbyterians as their denomination.
The following day October 7, 1855, they had a religious service, Goodell, Telesphore Brouillette Claquato Chruch communion and Mrs. Mildred Spinning was received and Phoebe’s children Anna and William were baptized. Others joined soon; Mr. and Mrs. Charles White, Caroline Davis, Cyrus Frederick, Mrs. Mary Jane Davis, Austin Young, the Spinnings, Josephus and Anna Axtel. Henry Stearns was named Elder and Sunday school supt. He led singing with a do, ra, mi or his melodion, Levi Gates was Deacon, the Mills brothers also played instruments. With the first lumber from the Davis mill, Lewis and his brother-in- law Mr. Clinger built the Claquato Church on the hill. Several denominations met in the church. When Rev. Goodell died in 1859, Davis deeded the church to the Methodists. Our church continued on for 18 years in the home of Henry and Mary Stearns with baptism, weddings and funerals by the lay minister.
Rev. J.R. Thompson, 1877-1880 our 3rd minister, gathered the remnant from the Stearn’s home and our church incorporated and started meeting in the Quincy Ave. School in Chehalis. Under the 4 th minister Rev. Brouillette, the church was received by the Presbytery in 1882. Brouillette gave the land and brought the lumber to the site. He was ill and 2 of his 3 children died. Mrs. Brouillette buried them and with her remaining child started the first Sunday school this side of the Columbia River. It cost $2,500 for the church and the stained glass windows graced each side. Here the pulpit chairs, bell and Pump organ were purchased.
Later Dr. Kennicott bought the church moved it to his land and meetings and school met there. After a time he sold it and 2 homes were made from the lumber. The Guilds began in 1882 with men and by 1887, 44 member were in the Guild. They started a fund for the first church and after it became too crowded they asked Mr. Uquhart to buy the lots on Market for a new church.
By 1889 the name Westminster was added to the name. The first Prayer meeting was held in 1893.Our 12th minister Rev. Monfort, supervised the fund raising and mortgage from the Church Erection Fund to build the Manse on Market St. For a year there was no minister, but the members continued to raise funds to pay off loans. Rev. MacKenzie came in 1905, prints were made and construction began on the church. The Schwarz and Middaugh brothers build the church with two doors and the Davis and Langhorne stained glass windows. The building would hold 300 and had the 1 st pipe organ in the state. The pews were bought in WS and the bell was from the State St. Church. The total cost was $9,042.57 including the organ.
We were the downtown church in very plain view and 12 circles plus 2 missionary groups helped buy Bibles, hymnals, serving dishes and anything that was needed in the Manse or church and for our mission outreach. In 1942 when Mrs. St John’s coffin was difficult to carry up the narrow stairway, Mr. St John the first Ford dealer in Chehalis, had a new front designed and paid for. This pushed the building forward to the sidewalk and the Davis family insisted the large window be placed in the new addition. The two smaller ones were moved in the original church above the doors that were removed. The plaque was dedicated to Laura Belle St John, Lorrie St. John Urquhart, Emily St. John Stearns. The important early families continued to serve.
The 22nd minister Dr. Crooks realized the Manse was crowded with Sunday school classes and the over 200 children needed more space. The Manse was moved South on Market Street and ground was broken for the new addition. It was dedicated Dec.
During Rev. Shuman’s time the church sponsored Operation Goodwill inviting foreign students from the University of Washington to see a country Thanksgiving week-end. This continued over 20 years. Whitworth Way was named and dedicated in 1966. That same year the first Pre-school in Lewis Co. was started. New stained glass windows were added and Assistant ministers were hired. The faithful pipe organ was restored and the sanctuary remodeled. An elevator was added. Two services were added and the playground was dedicated in 1995.
The Annex was purchased in 1997. The offices were moved to the Annex and a History Room, Prayer Room and Children’s Library were added. The Pre-school moved there too. The first mission trip to Malawi was in 1998 and the church continues to support the efforts there. The church has an outstanding bell choir and choir. Duets on the pipe organ and wonderful piano delight the congregation. The 150 and 160 anniversary celebrations brought back former members and added much to the History of our church. The elm trees were cut, but the outcome was our church became more visible to the downtown area much as it was when it was first built. Rev. Ralph Carr was minister for 31 years. To honor his years of service, in 2015 the Annex was renamed the Carr Community Center. It currently hosts many local events and continues to build community in our city.
The seasons of our church has ever been based on Faith, Hope and most important Love. We welcome people in our old building with new and strong focus on God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Our present minister is Pastor Ed Wegele and his wife Nichole. Church service is at 10:00 with fellowship following.