A Virtual Walk Through Jacksonville History

Stop 6: Historic Presbyterian Church

 

Let’s wrap up the “houses of worship” portion of our virtual tour with a stop at the historic Presbyterian Church at the corner of California and 6th streets.

Photo credit: Peter Britt, c. 1885. Oregon Coll., University of Oregon Library.

One of the most beautiful churches in the valley, this church was the culmination of the hopes of the small contingent of Presbyterians in Jacksonville led by William Hoffman. For many years prior to its construction, they had been holding their services in the Methodist church, the local school, and homes.

Pioneer William Hoffman, his wife Caroline, and their six daughters came across the Oregon trail in 1853 from Indiana to Jacksonville. The Hoffman family had been Presbyterians for years, and Hoffman had served his Covington, Indiana, congregation as a ruling Elder prior to migrating West. For part of the trip, the Hoffmans joined a “preacher wagon train” of ministers and their families. They rarely traveled on Sundays in order to “keep the sabbath.” In the journal Hoffman kept of his family’s travels to Oregon, his happiest moments seemed to be those spent listening to preachers and preaching, attending prayer meetings, and giving thanks to his Heavenly Father.

William “Squire” Hoffman. Photo credit: SOHS 1725

It is no surprise then, that William Hoffman was instrumental in the creation of the Presbyterian community in Jacksonville and the building of its church. In 1857, he was one of the first Elders elected when Rev. Moses Williams formally established the Rogue Valley’s first Presbyterian congregation in the Hoffman home during a visit to Jacksonville. When Rev. Williams returned to the Bay Area, Hoffman struggled to maintain the small congregation and at last persuaded Rev. Williams to return to Jacksonville to be the full-time minister. Rev. Williams also organized the first Presbyterian congregations in Ashland, Phoenix, Medford, Eagle Point and Klamath Falls.

In 1879, Mr. Hoffman and C.C. Beekman (his son-in-law) purchased land from James Clugage for the site of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Beekman went on to pay off the note, buy the church bell, pay for the heaters, and contribute in many other ways to the parish, despite not being a member himself.   Another of Hoffman’s sons-in-law, David Linn, was the carpenter and contractor for the building, and George Holt (no relation) was the mason. The entire community, Presbyterian or not, worked to raise money for the church, holding ice cream socials, bake sales and other fundraising activities. The local paper, The Oregon Sentinel, reported on each phase of work as it progressed. Construction began in March of 1880 when the foundation was laid by George Holt. The building was finally dedicated on December 4, 1881. The Oregon Sentinel reported that the total cost of the construction was just under $4,500, over half of which was donated by C.C. Beekman (the actual cost is estimated at closer to $6,000). The stained-glass windows were made in Italy, shipped around the Horn to Crescent City, and were carried to Jacksonville on the backs of mules. As noted, C.C. Beekman also bought the church bell, making a special trip to San Francisco in 1880 for that purpose. The one he chose weighs 1,000 pounds, has a deep distinctive tone, and can be heard for at least eight miles.

William Hoffman served as Sunday school superintendent at the church, as well as trustee, and is prominently named, along with Rev. Williams, in the dedication plaque at the entrance of the church. Reverend Moses Williams remained in Southern Oregon. He is buried in the Hoffman family plot in the Jacksonville cemetery.

“Dedicated to the memory of Rev. M.A. Williams and the following noble pioneers
who organized this church November 22, 1857

Wm. Hoffman
Caroline Hoffman
Elizabeth Hoffman
J.D. Van Dyke
Keziah Van Dyke
Wm. Wright
Jane Wright
A.J. Butler
E.P. Rand
Mary Gore”

Over the years, the Presbyterian congregation swelled to the extent that, even with a two-story addition to the historic church building, three services a day could not accommodate the average number of worshipers. By 1994, church Elders began looking for alternative sites. In June 2006, the congregation moved to its new campus in Pheasant Meadow; soon after, it also moved from the Presbyterian Church of USA to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Subsequently, the Lumen Dei congregation rented the historic church for its Sunday services for several years. More recently the bottom floor has been rented by Joni and Friends, a Christian ministry for individuals with disabilities. The sanctuary remains open for prayer and meditation.

Photo credit: Carol M. Highsmith

Photo Credit: Historic American Buildings Survey, OR-113

Photo Credit: Historic American Buildings Survey, OR-113 

Join us next week as we continue our virtual walk through Jacksonville history!


References/Sources:

Kingsnorth, Carolyn. “William Hoffman: Merchant and Public Servant.” Jacksonville Review Feb. 2016

Lewis, Raymond. “Moses Allen Williams Father of Presbyterianism in Southern Oregon.” Table Rock Sentinel 9 (Mar. 1989): 15.

Oxner, Patricia. “Amazing Grace: Jacksonville’s Presbyterian Church.” Table Rock Sentinel 9 (Mar. 1989): 22.

Diary of William Hoffman, Journal of 1853 travel from Covington, Indiana to Jacksonville, Oregon

Ross, Marion D. “Jacksonville, An Oregon Gold-Rush Town.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians XII.4 (1953): 19-25.

Engeman, Richard H. The Jacksonville Story. Medford, Or.: Southern Oregon Historical Society, 1990.

Laplante, Margaret. Jacksonville. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2010.

The Oregon Sentinel [Jacksonville, Oregon] 13 Aug. 1879: 3; 3 Sept. 1879: 3; 10 March 1880: 3; 12 May 1880: 3; 24 Nov. 1880: 1; 10 Dec. 1881

 

 

 


info@historicjacksonville.org

© 2018 Historic Jacksonville, Oregon