History of Portland Oregon Unitarian Churches

In the year 1878-79, the present edifice on the old site, was completed at a cost of $20,000. The former church building is now the chapel and Sunday School room. In addition to the Christian Union, above named, there are connected with the church a “Postoffice Mission” for disseminating religious literature, and the W. G. Eliot Fraternity of Young People. The society also supports a Mission Sunday School in South Portland with ten teachers and sixty scholars.

The Unitarian Church of America, originating in the New England Controversy of 1820-30, is a small, loosely organized but powerful body, identified everywhere with intellectual freedom, the progress of science, and spiritual religion. It is a church eminent for philanthropy and great scholarship, and numbers among its members, numbers of the leading authors and reformers of the age.

The German Lutheran Church was organized in 1868 by Rev. H. Meyers. Services were first held in Trinity Methodist Church. The first officers were: F. T. Lauterwausser and John A. Fisher, Elders; C. H. Meussdorffer and Henry Lansen, Deacons. The present house of worship, corner of Fifth and Taylor, was completed in 1870. It has a seating capacity of five hundred. The following have served as pastors: Revs. H. Meyers, C. S. Spricher, Henry Gans, G. P. Weaver and A. Meyers. Rev. Henry Doering is the present pastor.

The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Church began its existence in 1883 with Rev. John W. Skans as pastor, who has continued in that relation ever since. A neat church building has been erected on B street, between Ninth and Tenth streets.

The Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1886. Rev. John Tackle continued as pastor for one year, since which the church has been without a pastor.

The English Lutheran Congregation was organized in 1888. Services are held every Sunday by the pastor, Rev. M. L. Sweizig in Central Hall. The erection of a church edifice is contemplated.

The First German Evangelical Reformed Church was organized in 1874, by Rev. John Gantenbein. A few years later the present church building on the corner of Ninth and Stark streets was erected. The services are conducted in the German language, and the church is in a prosperous condition. Mr. Gantenbein is still pastor and the prosperity of the church is largely due to his labors.

The First Christian Church was organized in February, 1870. For several years services were held in Nonpareil Hall, corner of First and Madison streets. In 1881, a lot was purchased on the corner of East Park and Columbia and during the same year the present house of worship was built. The following pastors have served this church: C. Sharp Jr, B. Wolverton, Henry Shader and Clark Davis. At present the congregation have no regularly stationed pastor.

The society of the First German Evangelical Church was formed in 1878. The first pastor was Rev. H. W. Axthelm under whom the present house of worship, on the Northeast corner of Eighth and Clay streets, was built in 1880. Rev. Charles Wachlte succeeded Mr. Axthelm in 1883. He remained two years when Rev. Adam Schlenck was chosen pastor. The present pastor Rev. Herman Schuknecht began his pastorate in 1888.

Benevolent Societies

During the earlier years of Portland’s history, the poor of the city were cared for by the generosity of individual citizens or through the efforts . of relief societies connected with the various churches. As the city grew in population more systematic methods for dealing with want and destitution became necessary. In obedience to this demand the Ladies Relief Society-the first organization to take up the work independently of the religious denominations of the city-came into existence. This society was formed in March, 1867, Mrs. G. H. Atkinson, Mrs. E. Ainsworth, Mrs. J. C. Ainsworth, Mrs. M. S. Burrell, Mrs. J. H. Couch, Mrs. J. B. Congle, Mrs. T. L. Eliot, Mrs. Thos. Frazer, Mrs. A. Holbrook, Mrs C. H. Lewis, Mrs. Donald Macleay, Mrs. S. G. Reed and others being among the original members.

After four years’ work among the poor of the city, the necessity of providing a “Home” where the forsaken and neglected children of the city could be kept and cared for became apparent to the members of the society. To attain this object, the ladies secured the co-operation of W. S. Ladd, Henry Failing, David C. Lewis, Rev. T. L. Eliot and J. C. Ainsworth, who in July, 1871, under the laws of Oregon, became a corporate body and the original trustees of the corporation known as ” The Home.” Soon after the incorporation was secured the society and board of trustees purchased two lots and a small house on the corner of F and Fourteenth streets for $2,000, twelve gentlemen contributing $100 each toward the purchase, which with the money at that time in the hands of the society, left a surplus of $200 after paying for the property. A few months later, a sum of $3,000 was secured for building a ” Home,” which was immediately begun, and in September, 1872, formally opened under the charge of Miss E. Davison as matron. Here for twelve years the society did a grand work, the “Home” being constantly filled with children who were provided with comfortable quarters and pleasant surroundings.

As the city increased in population, the building became too small for the purpose, and in response to the appeals of the members of the society for enlarged quarters and a site further out of town, Henry Villard, early in 1883, donated to the society a block of land in South Portland, bounded by Gaines, Lane, Corbett and Water streets. Upon this land, admirably situated for the purpose, a three-story building, 108×58 feet in dimensions, has been erected, which was opened in November, 1884. It is a handsome and imposing structure, and furnished with every facility for the comfort and health of its inmates. Since it was opened, the average number of children maintained has been eighty. Girls from three to twelve and boys from three to ten years are received. They are provided with comfortable clothing, plain but plentiful food, surrounded with good moral influences, and from the time they arrive at the legal school age until they leave the institution, attend the public schools. When they attain the age they are to leave the “Home,” in most cases they are adopted into families or provided with situations where they can earn their own living.

During recent years, the State Legislature has annually appropriated a certain sum to be expended in maintaining the ” Home.” Last year (1889), $5,000 was received from this source, but outside of the aid it receives from the legislature and from an endowment fund of $13,680, it is entirely supported by voluntary contributions.

In September, 1889, a hospital building costing $3,000, was completed on the block occupied by the Home. It is to be principally used for the treatment of contagious diseases.

Mrs. G. P. F. Wood has held the position of Matron of the Home since February, . 1879. She has proven a most earnest worker and well qualified for a most trying position. . Under her care the children receive judicious training, and are surrounded _ by influences well calculated to leave a lasting impress for good. Among others who are especially deserving of praise for their work in behalf of The Home,” are Drs. Ziba B., Ammi S. and Clarence L. Nichols, who for the past seven years have gratuitously tendered their professional services to the inmates. During this period but one death has occurred among them, a fact due largely to their skill and faithfulness.

The Board of Trustees of “The Home” is composed of W. S. Ladd, Henry Failing, H. W. Corbett, Rev. T. L. Eliot and Wm. Wadhams. W. S. Ladd is President of the Board; Henry Failing, Treasurer and Rev. T. L. Eliot, Secretary. The officers of the Ladies’ Relief Society, to whom, in connection with the officers of the Board of Trustees, the care and management of “The Home” is entrusted, are: Mrs. Amory Holbrook, president; Mrs. H. F. Suksdorf, vice president; Mrs. Theodore Wygant, treasurer; Mrs. C. F. Rockwell, secretary; Mrs. H. Thielsen, Mrs. B. Goldsmith, Mrs. H. W. Corbett, Mrs. F. Alleyne Beck, Mrs. W. W. Spaulding, Mrs. T. B. Merry, Mrs. Eugene D. White, Mrs. C. F. Rockwell, Mrs. J. B. Congle, Mrs. D. P. Thompson and Mrs. Geo. T. Myers, advisory committee.

The German Benevolent Association is one of the oldest charitable organizations in the city. It was formed in 1869, mainly through the efforts of Christian H. Muessdorffer, one of Portland’s most successful German merchants. Among its first officers were: Henry Saxer, president; Charles Burckhardt, treasurer; Dr. Charles Schumacher, secretary and C. H. Muessdorffer, chairman of the board of trustees. To render aid to destitute Germans who come to Portland is the object of the society, and during the years of its existence it has been the. means of rendering timely aid to many worthy emigrants. The society has a hospital fund of more than $20, 000, and in the near future intends to erect and maintain a hospital, ground for which has already been purchased. The work of the society is carried on with the money received from monthly membership dues. The present officers are: John Wagner, president; C. Caesar, vice president; C. Von Wurtzengerode, secretary and agent; Frank Dekum, treasurer; C. H. Muessdorffer, L. Levy and D. W. Hoelbing, trustees.

Among the most practical charitable organizations of Portland should rank the Boys and Girls Aid Society. The good accomplished by a similar society in California induced a number of our citizens to unite in perfecting an organization here. Prominent among those who aided in the preliminary work and who has ever since been a most valuable friend of the society, is Rev. T. L. Eliot, a prominent figure in charitable and philanthropic work during his many years of residence in our city. An organization was perfected in July, 1885, at which time the following officers were chosen: H. W. Corbett, president; F. E. Beach, secretary; L. L. Hawkins, treasurer; W. S. Ladd, H. W. Corbett, P. F. Keen, L. L. Hawkins, Helen F. Spaulding, W. B. Gilbert, F. E. Beach and I. F. Powers, trustees.

The object of the society is to improve the condition of the homeless, neglected and abused children of the State, using such means as are strictly non-sectarian in character. It began work under the provision of an act passed by the State Legislature in February, 1885, called “An Act for suspension of judgment against minors, and for commitment to the care of certain charitable corporations.” Under the provisions of this act it receives “juvenile offenders,” by legal commitment or otherwise, who are in danger of being imprisoned; provides for such until suitable homes or employment and oversight are found for them, and continues a systematic attention to their treatment and condition.

In 1887 a special officer of the city police was detailed to the services of the society. He investigates cases, visits families, attends to all reports at the station regarding boys, attends the courts whenever boys or girls are on trial, looks after the children in the streets, keeps a record of the cases and carries out in general the work as directed by the officers of the society.

The society has been instrumental in securing from the legislature the passage of several bills aiming to improve the moral and physical condition of the young, such as the act restraining the sale of tobacco and cigarettes to minors, and also the bill above referred to empowering courts to transfer to charitable institutions the guardian-ship of minors on proof of sufficient cause.

Among those who have been especially active in carrying on the work of the society is Ira F. Powers, the acting superintendent of the executive committee, who from the start has been a zealous worker, and whose earnest and self-sacrificing labors have gained for the organization such a strong hold on the confidence of the public. F. E. Beach has been secretary from the beginning, and also a valuable co-worker in the cause, while Rev. T. L. Eliot, who may be termed the founder of the society, has been a constant source of good advice and in many ways one of its most earnest and determined advocates.

During 1889 the society was the recipient of $40,000 by the will of Miss Ella M. Smith. This fund is to be invested and only the proceeds to be used. The members intend in the near future to erect a receiving hone, and with the endowment the society has already received, it will be possible to make the institution largely self-supporting.

The present officers are H. W. Corbett, president; F. E. Beach, secretary; L. L. Hawkins, treasurer; Ira F. Powers, H. W. Corbett, J. A. Strowbridge, D. Solis Cohen, L. L. Hawkins, W. B. Gilbert, F. E. Beach, I. W. Pratt, Helen F. Spaulding, trustees; Ira. F. Powers, W. B. Gilbert and Helen F. Spaulding, executive committee.

For a number of years those interested in benevolent work in Portland felt the necessity of a better organization-a more systematic method of dispensing alms. Wm. G. Steel and a number of others connected with the society of Christian Endeavor of the First Congregational Church, at last took the matter in hand and with the hearty co-operation of many others who had been prominent workers in the cause of organized charity, secured in February, 1889, the organization of the City Board of Charities.

Harvey Whitefield Scott. History of Portland, Oregon: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens and Pioneers. Portland, Oregon. D. Mason & Company, 1890.

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