The Little Log Church
The Yachats Gazette was pleased to be able to speak with Mary Crook, Events Coordinator, and Donna Hirschman, Saturday Volunteer, about the history of the Little Log Church, located on the corner of 3rd and Pontiac Streets.
TYG: Do you want to tell us a little bit about the history [of the church]?
Mary: Sure. The Little Log Church was finished in 1930. The lot here was a double lot, and it was purchased in 1929 by a minister [Rolla J. Phelps] who became the first pastor here.
TYG-Graphic Design: Isn’t it unusual for a minister to purchase his own lot?
Mary: Well, he was able to do it, even though it was $200, which was a lot of money back in that time. He had to get permission from the group he was affiliated with. He served this area--it was called the Bay View Mission. He served Waldport, Yachats, and up Yachats River for quite a while. He and his wife lived in Summit, Oregon, between Newport and Corvallis, in the Coast Range. And [before moving here], they made this trip monthly, by wagon. It was not an easy trip.
TYG: Does that town even exist anymore?
Mary: Yes, it’s still here. But it’s small! [laughter] So, he came through Yachats and he wrote “As I was coming through Yachats, I was impressed by its need.” So he applied to have a permanent church here and serve this area.
TYG-GD: What denomination was he?
Mary: It was an evangelical denomination, the Oregon Conference of the Evangelical Church of Oregon. So they got volunteer help, of course, but Reverend Phelps put together the church pretty much by hand with logs donated from timber stands up the Yachats River. So he was then able to provide regular services, and Sunday School. Mrs. Phelps, his wife, played this organ that you see here during services. They were in their mid-50’s when they came here to start this church. The bell that is at the front of the church was donated by a church in Portland.
TYG: That must have been a trek to get it down here!
Mary: They actually had to use a ferry. The highway wasn’t finished, so it was no easy task. But they did it! And along about 1993, the building was condemned because it was unsafe. The logs were rotting, the foundation needed to be restored. So the City had to decide, “Well, should we tear it down and put a parking lot here? We always need parking...” [laugh] And the community said “No, you’re not getting rid of this!” And so they had a volunteer team, a lot of whom were retired people, who helped restore the church. They literally took it apart. They had to get logs to replace the rotten logs. They saved as much as they possibly could: you can see here some of the glass--that wavy glass--that’s the original glass, and as much as they could keep, they did. They’d had a wood stove here, but they didn’t have heat.
TYG: So they had to modernize the heating system.
Mary: Yes! And they put in track lighting so we have art shows and things like that. It’s been restored as close as possible to the original layout in the shape of a cross.
TYG-GD: When was the [extra room at the back] added?
Mary: That was in 1996, so after the restoration.
TYG: So the restoration happened pretty quickly, then.
Mary: Mostly. That was 5,500 man hours of volunteer time. [Mary gets up and shows us a picture of the volunteers.] These are some of the volunteers--this guy just happened to be riding down the street [on his bicycle].
TYG-GD: Aw, I recognize some of those faces! ... So, what happened between the 30’s and the 90’s? That’s quite a time span.
Mary: It turned out that there were more people with the Presbyterian congregation in this area than Evangelicals, and so the Presbyterian congregation took it over in the mid-1950’s. It remained a Presbyterian church until the congregation outgrew the building, and they built a new one.
TYG: That building is pretty beautiful as well.
Mary: It’s lovely! And it’s called the Church of the Agate Windows because, when they built that church, the pastor at the time said, “I want to have something that really reflects this area. We don’t necessarily want to have stained glass, but let’s have some windows that reflect the natural resources of this area.” So the whole community got together and started gathering agates.
TYG: I’m guessing it’s double-paned windows with the agates in the middle?
Mary: Well, I’m not sure exactly if they’re double-paned with agates in the middle. But they had to come up with a special epoxy so that the unpolished agates could adhere to the surface. And there are six panels--very, very heavy.
TYG-GD: Did they slice them? I can’t remember if they’re flat on one side.
Mary: No, I don’t think so. [Turning to the area behind the pulpit] This picture here [of the three wise men seated on camels] was painted by two art teachers in 1955, I believe. One of them was a very avid agate collector. He had a collection you wouldn’t believe, so he donated a lot of his private collection. He said, “Oh, finally, I can get rid of these things!” [laughter] So this was the seed, as it were, of the Church of the Agate Windows. So we have a little collection box in the corner there with some of the agates that were collected for that project.
|Three Wise Men|
TYG-GD: And then somebody got a frame for it?
Mary: Yes. And they actually put it on masonite. We do have curtains that we can pull across in front of the painting when we have special occasions like weddings. It works very well in December, but it’s a little distracting in June. We did have a very nice wedding a number of years ago, and it was the grand-daughter of one of the artists. It was in June, but she wanted that painting on full display.
TYG-GD: You perform weddings, correct?
Mary: I have a wedding service, called “Weddings by the Sea,” which I started in 1995. I do a lot of weddings here, and then I go to places like the Overleaf, or the beach, or the bluff by the Adobe, private homes, fishing boats, one--and only one--on horse-back. [laughter]
TYG: That wasn’t a good one, I’m guessing? How do you do that, logistically, on a horse?
Mary: Well, I’ll tell you about it briefly. It was over in Coburg, near Eugene, at a riding stable. The couple met; they were horse people. And it was pouring rain, pouring. We waited about an hour and a half in case the rain would let up, but it would not let up, and I was very grateful, because they had planned to ride one mile to where they wanted to have the ceremony. And that meant one mile back! So I only had to ride about 30 feet, because they had it in the indoor arena--and I was still sore for three days! [lots of laughter] [...] I decided that would be my one and only wedding on horseback.
But speaking of animals, that brings me to the Blessing of Animals that we have here on the grounds every October. It’s the first Sunday in October, which is the Sunday closest to the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Our [former] curator, Isabel Prescott, who used to live across the street here, was very fond of St. Francis. So when she passed away, we decided to have a sculpture of St. Francis created by Brian McEneny and we put it in the garden in her memory. So then we decided that since it was the garden of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, that we would have an animal blessing every year. So we have had mostly dogs, but we have had the two ferrets, and a garden king snake, a bearded dragon, a rat, a tortoise, and one of Lauralee Svendsgaard’s donkeys. [laughter] Oh, yes, and the fire department goats.
TYG: I like how we can all just say “the two ferrets” and we all know what we’re talking about. [laughter] [The two ferrets belong to Council member Greg Scott, and the goats belong to Fire Chief Frankie Petrick.]
Mary: And we had a llama one year. So we’ve had quite a menagerie of animals being blessed. I can’t remember when I started this, but it’s an annual thing, and we usually have a dozen or so animals.
Donna: And this past year we had a lot of visitors in town who brought their animals; a lot of them are dog people.
Mary: You know, people will do just about anything for their animal, and so it means a lot. But I get in trouble, because every year for the past three years I’ve been blessing the moles, so the neighbor across the street said, “I wish you wouldn’t bless the moles.” [laughter]
TYG-GD: So when did the museum aspect enter into all of this?
Mary: When the Presbyterian church was finished, up on 7th Street, then this property was turned over to Lincoln County, which in turn turned it over to the City of Yachats. The provision was that it would stay a museum.
TYG: In 1989, right?
Mary: Yes, I believe so.
TYG-GD: Does it have a specific focus, as a museum?
Mary: Well, it’s twofold: to house items that represent local history, and items from families of this area that they might have donated, and to showcase local artists.
TYG-GD: Ok! I was just wondering, because I wasn’t sure where that electric hair curler fit in.
Mary: [laughs] That was in storage at the Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. Before it became a bed and breakfast, it was run by Lane Community College, and they had a lot of historical items there. So they had that on display, then they put it in one of the closets, in one of the bedrooms. Then they expanded, and added a few more bedrooms. They didn’t have room for the hair curler, so Michelle Korgan--I think we saw each other in the parking lot at the grocery store--said, “Would the Little Log Church like a hair curler?” And I said, “Oh, yes!” [laughter] So we acquired a hair curler. And that is one of our most attractive attractions! People go over there and they either say, “What in the world is that?!” Or they say, “Ohhh, I remember those! I have a burn on the back of my neck!” [laughter] So there are either memories, or curiosity.
TYG-GD: Well, it does look like a Medusa.
Mary: So the hair curler is a very strong attraction, as is our sea shell collection.
TYG: Yes, it’s a beautiful collection!
TYG-GD: I remember when we first moved here, I came in and saw the sea shell collection and was really inspired! It took me a few years to realize that we don’t have any of those shells here! [laughter]
Mary: There was a Yachats resident by the name of Alice Stein, who passed away a number of years ago. She had a huge shell collection, down at Ten Mile. In 1964 she and her husband started traveling all around the world, and their object was to find as many sea shells as they could. I have been in their home--after he passed away--and I would not be surprised if she had one million sea shells. In the house, in the basement, floor-to-ceiling shelves... So before she passed, she parceled out as many as she could to universities, and libraries, and the Little Log Church. So we acquired a minute fraction of her collection. It took our curator, Karl Christianson, about one year, coming in on Thursdays, to identify the shells and make a list of their common name, their scientific name, where they were found, and then create a coordinated number list, so that people can say, “Oh, what is number four?” and then look at the list.
TYG-GD: That must have been a fun project, though!
Mary: Yes, it was--and it’s a big attraction.
TYG-GD: Are they lacquered?
Mary: I don’t think they’re preserved.
TYG: What else is really cool and a big attraction?
Mary: Well, this organ here is an operable organ, and it’s a pump organ. It’s used for things like weddings, or Christmas concerts.
|Bellows Organ at the Little Log Church|
TYG-GD: So you actually have to press the pedals in order for it to play.
Mary: Right. That was donated to the church by Virginia Gilmore, who owned the Rock Park Cottages down the street and is a strong member of the community. It was in her home for a long time.
TYG: Very odd proportions! Just considering the height of the bench section versus the key section.
Mary: Well, and you notice that the bench is tilted. That’s so the organist can get down and really pump.
TYG-GD: Do you have many organists who know how to do that?
Mary: I’m so glad you brought that up, because we’re recruiting. If you know of anybody... The organist we used when I moved here was Inez Lush. Her husband was also a musician. Inez just played that organ beautifully, and she was succeeded by Cheryl Wade, who was the organist for the Presbyterian church. And when Cheryl and her husband moved out of the area, we recruited another organist from Waldport, who retired about two years ago. It’s getting harder and harder to find people with that skill.
TYG-GD: I don’t suppose that Milo, jack-of-all-trades, can play it?
Mary: It’s a completely different instrument.
Donna: Another thing on these too is that they have all those stops. You have to be able to [adjust] them while you’re playing, and while you’re pumping. And you’re using [this lever beneath the keyboard] too, like a bellows. So it’s not like a piano would be today, or even a modern organ. My grandfather had one like this, and he was marvelous at it. But he’d be playing, and then all of a sudden you’d see him pushing and pulling the [stops], because they have to be at a certain level to get the tones you want.
TYG: Are these the original benches?
Mary: These pews were given to the Little Log Church when it was built--it was finished in 1930--by a church in Philomath. It holds close to 60 people--I say 58 very good friends. [laughter]
TYG: If we go back in that other room, we really didn’t talk much about what’s in there...
Mary: I have something to tell you about that! [We move from the chapel part of the building back to the side entrance and the rear room of the museum.]
TYG: This is the sea shell collection--these are all numbered?
Mary: All numbered, and the coordinating list is here. [...] Now, a year ago November, so November 2015, we had a visit from this little girl, all grown up [shows us the little girl in an old photo]--her name was Marilyn Myers. This was what she looked like when she lived here, at the Little Log Church. Her father, Lyman Myers, was the pastor here in 1940-41. This is Dorothy Myers’s wedding dress. Marilyn Myers came to visit us, and she spoke to a group here at the Log Church about what it was like growing up in Yachats. And Dorothy and Marilyn came to visit us in 2001. I happened to be on duty as a volunteer that day. So they came in, they introduced themselves, and they had not been in this part of the museum ever, because when they lived here the manse was here, the house where the pastor and his family lived. So Marilyn and her mom were walking around the museum, and looked at all of the pictures, and they looked at this picture here. And Mrs. Myers said, “Hey, I think that’s Daddy in that picture!” meaning Lyman Myers. So I got a chair and pulled the picture down so they could get a closer look at it, and this man here, with his arm at a right angle, was Lyman Myers about 1940, smelt fishing. You can see the smelt nets [in the photo], how big they are. And here is a smelt net that was donated to us. You can see how big it was, and how heavy.
TYG: It’s a big piece of wood, but it’s interesting to see how they’ve done the netting, how light it is.
Mary: That was a hand-made net.
TYG: It’s beautifully done.
Mary: And so when Marilyn spoke to us, she brought us a few of the articles that were part of her memories here in this church. Marilyn brought a big, blue bowl--that was what her mother made bread in, almost every day. And she brought this toy chicken. That was given to her by the woman who owned the cottages where the bookstore is now, Planet Yachats, C&K and all that. If you put a marble in the chicken’s head, and push the head down, the marble will come out and “lay an egg.” [laughter]
Donna: And I think one of my favorite pieces is this crazy quilt.
TYG-GD: Why is it called “crazy”?
Donna: It’s all different kinds of patterns, and all different kinds of materials, silk and velvet.
TYG: It’s the quilt equivalent of collage.
Donna: It’s all hand-stitched, with all different kinds of embroidery.
Mary: And it took three years to make, between 1880 and 1883.
TYG: Well thank you so much for your time!
Mary: Thank you very much--it was a pleasure seeing you!
NOTE: The Yachats Gazette had a last minute update from Mary Crook about a potential donation to the Little Log Church: a carillon! A Yachatian couple have offered to donate this recorded, state-of-the-art, bell chime system with up to 2,000 options, including chimes on the hour or at designated times during the day, or even special occasion peals. The City of Yachats needs to approve this, and the Little Log Church would of course make it suitable to the nature of West Third St. (and not Big Ben, for example). The Presbyterian church had a carillon system, but now that seems to have gone silent. The donors picked this carillon for the Little Log Church specifically.