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History of the Plymouth Congregational Church

When the New Plymouth town hall was built, everyone in the community helped with the construction. It was used by the first school during the week and on alternate Sundays by the Methodists and Presbyterians. The two denominations worked harmoniously, but after Rev. James Burns fell from a roof and was seriously injured and Rev. Clemons moved to Caldwell, the community was without a pastor until the Methodist conference sent a minister to preach here every other Sunday. The conference found this was impractical and recalled the Rev. Bradley the latter part of 1899.

The community gained another minister when Rev. Stevenson moved to his homestead east of the town site and preached for the Presbyterians, while Rev. W.L. Strange, who arrived in September 1900, preached the alternate Sunday for the Methodists.

Neither organization could maintain a pastor and support the church without aid from members of the other and outside assistance, but neither denomination wanted to abandon the field in favor of the other. Since there was some discord and dissatisfaction among the two groups, J .M. Shaw, a Presbyterian, conceived the idea of abandoning both churches to unite in one Union church. Among the group were members of many denominations but not one Congregationalist, so Mr. Shaw suggested that in the interest of harmony the new church should be called the Congregational Church.

The following Sunday, Rev. Strange announced a meeting to be held at the Shaw home February 5, 1901. As a result of the meeting, 21 of the 24 attending voted in favor of the organization of the Congregational Church.

March 1, 1901 a general meeting to organize was held at the Shaw residence and the charter membership roll was completed with 33 names, including persons then members of Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Lutheran churches. Supt. Rev. R.B. Wright of Boise received those present into membership and confession of faith. Rev. Strange was elected pastor and Fred French was elected clerk. Susan B. Mason Circle, a ladies group in the church until recent years, was named for Susan Mason, a charter member.

On March 14, 1901 a vote to adopt the name Plymouth Congregational Church of New Plymouth was carried. A building committee was appointed and members were urged to write to their friends requesting financial assistance for the new building. The new church was welcomed into fellowship with the Congregational churches in April 1901.

The first annual business meeting was held in the town hall January 2, 1902. Rev. Strange's salary was set at $550.00 with the recommendation that money due on past salary be collected. Rustin Shaw was elected superintendent of the Sunday School.

When enough money was secured to obtain a loan and grant of $1080.00 from the Congregational Church building fund, a contract was let for the building. Lumber was hauled by the people of the community from Dry Buck, bricks were burned in a kiln a half mile south of town, the building was painted, woodwork oiled and pews sand papered and varnished by the Ladies Aid Society. Carpets were donated by Montgomery Ward and hymnals came from a church in Chicago. The building cost $3000.00 including donated labor.

On April 13, 1902 the bell in the tower of the 75 by 55 foot red brick building tolled to call the people to the dedicatory services. The building was built in a L shape with a sanctuary about 30 by 40 feet and a Sunday school room about 25 by 30 feet.

Reverend Strange served for two years and was followed by Reverend John Kershaw who stayed one year, Rev. C.W. Greenlee for four years and Rev. T.H. Gilbert, two years.
Reverend H.F. Knight came in 1911 and stayed for more that five and a half years, later returning to build his home here, constantly helping the church in every way he could. Reverend and Mrs. Knight spent their last days here.

The Rev. McDonald was pastor for less than three months as the result of being called a chaplain in World War I. Rev. J .E. Sears came in 1917 and during his pastorate, the official board investigated the cost of placing a proper foundation under the building to eliminate water seepage that caused the wall to settle.

At a special meeting of the congregation in May 1919 Rev. Clayton S. Rice was called as pastor. July 1919 unfolded another chapter in the history when a vote was taken to erect a new building. By November 1919 plans for the present building were presented by the building committee.

The prospectus stated, "Because we are vitally interested in making sure that every child, every man, every woman in this village and the entire country around about shall have an opportunity to develop physically and socially as well as spiritually and mentally --because we are vitally interested, we say --we propose these plans to you, hoping that you, in turn, will become as enthusiastic over them as we."

The congregation did accept the recommendations and erected the present building not only for religious services but with a basement to accommodate the athletic and community affairs of New Plymouth. That was essential at the time for the village did not have a gymnasium for indoor sports or a community building suitable for meetings.

During the process of tearing down and rebuilding, the church services were held in Pioneer Hall. At the first meeting, a funny incident took place. The congregation was asked to stand and sing "Standing on the Promises. " A prominent deacon stood up and accidentally stepped on the tail of a dog that had wandered in and while the dog howled the deacon sang and searched for the source of the howl.

Materials were salvaged as the old building was torn down, bricks were cleaned and re-used. Church members and many others from the community donated labor to the new edifice, but costs increased. To add to the worries, the apple market slumped and unfavorable financial conditions prevailed over the valley; however, the church building society decided to go along with the local group and the building was completed at the cost of a little more than $32,000.00. The community outside the church and congregation gave $1573.00 in cash and an $850.00 loan and grant loan was received from the building society.

After 19 years in the red brick building, the same bell called people to worship in the new building on February 21, 1921 when it was formally dedicated by Reverend Rice, assisted by a former pastor, Reverend Knight.

During 1920 Rev. Rice held services at Valley View School, three miles southeast of New Plymouth following morning services here. After completion of the new building the Valley View Congregational group was invited to join with this church. This school building was moved into the city of New Plymouth and is in use today.

Under the pastorate of Rev. William D. Price, in 1923, a group of young people chaperoned by Rev. and Mrs. Price spent several days camping at Smith's Ferry. This is believed to be the beginning of a "church summer camp" -not the permanent camp at Pilgrim Cove at McCall. In 1924 the decision was made that the Idaho Congregational Churches develop their own grounds for camp. The Idaho Conference Board had grave doubts as to their ability to develop their own. But, Rev. Rice, who was now Superintendent of the Idaho Conference, undertook the responsibility, and decided to establish a camp at Smith's Ferry, following Rev. Price's first camp, a tree lined shore near the Payette River, north of Horseshoe Bend. Rev. Rice and his wife, Helen, loaded their Ford with the barest of essentials and away they went, with Mrs. Kramp to serve as cook. Camps were held for the years 1924, 1925 and 1926 at Smith's Ferry, but they could not renew the land lease, so another site had to be found. Rev. Rice, along with Rev. Arthur Ford of McCall discovered a site at Payette Lake. The Idaho Board lacked confidence enough to back the purchase, so Rev. Rice borrowed the money from Roy H. White of New Plymouth and bought two lots on what was known as Glen Cove tract. A name change was suggested by Katherine Judy, the daughter of Rev. Clayton Judy of New Plymouth, perhaps sharing the vision of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, and renamed the campsite "Pilgrim Cove", in 1927. In 1928 under the leadership of Gus Gustason, a Finnish log builder, "Ye Rice Meeting House" was constructed, giving honor to Rev. Rice for his vision of establishing a permanent summer camp on the shores of Payette Lake.

The first daily vacation Bible School was inaugurated during Rev. A. I. Ferch's pastorate in 1925; the numerical strength of the Bible School increased to more than a 200 enrollment by 1926.

Rev. Clayton Judy came October 26, 1926 and stayed almost four years. The church brotherhood was active under his guidance and one of their activities was making plans for a fall fair. The American Legion, without knowledge of this brotherhood's action, was also planning a fair, so the two groups joined in promoting the enterprise that developed into a Community Fair in August 1927. Rev. Judy had extensive experience in fair work and was of assistance in the organization. The fair was held in the basement community room with great interest shown by the community and exhibits and displays crowding the basement. Again in 1928 the second Community Fair was held using the basement and grounds of the church. The present Payette County Fair is the outgrowth of the venture by the Congregational brotherhood and the American Legion.

Reverend Charles D. Gaffney came during August 1930 and continued as pastor for almost six years to serve the longest pastorate. The Easter Sunrise Service, followed by an Easter breakfast in the basement was one of the bright spots under the Gaffneys. Music and dramatics became an outstanding feature in the church life. Part of this pastorate extended through the depression days when there was need for much welfare work and no person could have done more than Rev. Gaffney did, with the support of his wife Peg. Along with his church duties he was chairman of the welfare board of New Plymouth.

Reverend William A. Roberts arrived January 1, 1937 and left in September 1939. During this time, the church constitution was revised and brought up to date. The treasurer's fund increased when Rev. and Mrs. Roberts suggested and were the main solicitors for the enormous public sale held on Main Street with one of Rev. Knight's sons as auctioneer.

                It was during the years from 1921 to 1938-39 that the church gymnasium served the community many times. It was the only gymnasium for New Plymouth schools to conduct men's and women's basketball games with neighboring towns. Many athletes have their athletic memories rooted in the church basement.

Reverend Virgil C. Carlson spent almost three years here. The shut-ins and older people of the community remember Rev. Carlson with affection for his many and cheerful visits. After Rev. Carlson left, the church asked Rev. John Anderson, dean of the College of Idaho, to act as interim pastor. During his term of service the church raised enough money to pay the final indebtedness to the Church Building Society and with great satisfaction the church held a mortgage burning service May 21, 1944.

In the summer of 1945 Kenneth Ubbelohde came as a pastor. Since he had not previously been ordained, the church called a council of representatives of Idaho churches to examine him as a candidate for the ministry .That examination was held on the afternoon of April 25, 1946. The candidate being found acceptable, the ordination ceremony was held that evening. During his ministry the Mary Martha Guild was organized. When the Reverend Mr. Ubbelohde resigned, he did so to enter Boy Scout work.

Our church has been a sponsor of Boy Scout work with the meetings held in the basement ever since Reverend C. S. Rice's pastorate. The faithful wives of our pastors organized and worked with the Girl Scouts and the Camp Fire Girls.

Reverend John Anderson again served as interim pastor until the arrival of Charles Jaekel who served as summer student pastor until Reverend J. Edwin Elder came to us September 1, 1948.

The spring of 1949 saw the beginning of the annual Flower Show with 28 entries. Armoral Tuttle urged the Women's Fellowship to sponsor the show for the community at no cost. It was in May of 1950 the church voted to establish a fund for the purchase of new pews in anticipation of its 50th anniversary .The Marshall Fixture Co. of Payette made a bid of $3,003.85 for 20 pews, each 14 ft. long and one pew 11 ft. long, all of oak wood and golden oak finish. They were installed in the spring of 1952. The old pews saw 50 years of service.

Reverend Elder served in numerous local, Idaho Conference and Pilgrim Cove committees. During 1951-52, the most important business transacted was the re- incorporation of the church.

J. Edwin Elder left his pastorate in the fall of 1951 serving only a short time as Reverend John C. Towery took over his responsibilities in August of 1952. Rev. I. N. Stanley served as interim until Rev. Towery arrived.

In 1953 came a big problem. The thirty year old roof was leaking and had to be replaced. Stunz Lumber bid the project for $704.35 and with volunteer labor and a private loan which was paid off at $13.00 a month at the rate of 6% for 5 years the roof was replaced.

Reverend John Towery had a very fine program for the young people. The Sunday School was revitalized and both Junior and Senior Pilgrim Fellowship groups were active. On July 8, 1956 Reverend Towery offered his resignation as pastor of the church to accept a pastorate at Green River, Wyoming. By October 10, 1956 Reverend Leonard Fuqua accepted the pastorate of the church as an interim, and by December 16 Reverend Macon accepted the pastorate. It was during Reverend Macon's pastorate the constitution was again revised and the office of moderator was included in the church offices. The coal heating plant was replaced by an oil furnace and the coal storage room was remodeled into a kindergarten room. The young people took on the remodeling, by lowering the ceiling and paneling the walls.

Reverend Robert J. Allen accepted a permanent position as pastor February 15, 1957 and he preached his first sermon March 10, 1957. It was during Rev. Allen's pastorate a memorial committee was formed and the funds placed in their control. The public address system was installed during 1957 as a gift from Dr. Earl Harvey. Reverend Allen resigned his pastorate of the church effective May 31, 1959 because of ill health.

It was January 6, 1960 that the first discussions were made of the possibility of selling some excess church property and using the funds to build a new parsonage. A building committee was appointed January 10, 1960 with A. L. Collinsworth elected as chairman. On February 11, 1960 the original church parsonage was sold to Chris Hjorth for $1,500.00 and moved to a location on Locust Street. It wasn't until February 28, 1960 that Reverend Allen was dismissed from his duties.

Reverend Don Mills, pastor at large for Idaho Churches, came to New Plymouth for three months to help build our church and obtain a permanent pastor. Reverend Mills arrived in New Plymouth December 2, 1960 and preached his first sermon December 4. 1960.

During a business meeting December 8, 1960 it was decided to call Reverend James Wood as pastor. Rev. Wood arrived in New Plymouth December 30, 1960 but didn't take over his duties until March 1, 1961.

It was during the ministership of Mills and Wood the church was considering a merger with the United Church of Christ (UCC). The cabinet meeting minutes reflect much discussion on the matter. The Deacons committee recommended acceptance of the constitution of the UCC with the recommendation that the New Plymouth Congregational Church vote to accept the UCC. The vote was taken April 23, 1961 to accept the union. At the end of Rev. Wood's service yoking talks were initiated with Weiser, with both agreeing to seek a pastor who would split his time between the two. After six months of seeking a pastor it was voted November 11, 1962 to dissolve the joint effort.

Reverend Richard England came from McCall to be our minister in 1963 and served for the next 5 years.

During Reverend England's pastorate the elevator was installed at a cost of $466.00. This project had taken a lot of imagination, planning and hard work. It has proved to be a great benefit to the church, especially to the older members.

With the help of lay leadership, Rev. England founded a strong Pilgrim Fellowship Program with teenagers. They were a strong addition to the church.

The time came when it seemed impossible to pay a full time minister a living wage so the church was at a low ebb. After several more years of using interim and lay ministers (Roger Fletcher, 1968 and Reverend Stanley Banks, 1969) and dedicated work of many of the members, a solution was offered to us. The Fruitland Church of the Brethren was also having financial problems so we joined forces with them to share a fine minister they did not want to lose. Brad Skinner, the UCC Conference Minister asked Reverend Earl Traughber to consider preaching at New Plymouth. The Fruitland governing board first rejected the idea, but after reconsidering, they approved Earl going to New Plymouth on a trial basis for one year. It was so successful that he remained 19 years.

In this way Reverend Earl Traughber became the minister of both churches. His first Sunday with New Plymouth was May 1, 1969. The services were from 9:30 to 10:30 in New Plymouth and from 11:00 to 12:00 in Fruitland.

A joint pastoral committee consisting of members from both congregations coordinated the pastor's activities at each church. A secretary assisted the pastor with daily business. New Plymouth was to pay one-third of his salary and share one-third of his time. In 1975 New Plymouth accepted one-half of his salary and one-half of his time.

During Rev. Traughber's pastorate several improvements were made to the building to make it more useful and attractive. The basement ceiling was lowered in 1971. The chimes were installed on the roof and dedicated December 12, 1971. The sanctuary was remodeled by lowering the platform, paneling the walls, adding new lights and recarpeting the floors in 1974 at a cost of $2800.00, paid for with memorial funds. Then in 1977 the kitchen was remodeled with new cabinets and flooring and new wall cabinets with swing out dividers for Sunday School classrooms were installed in the main downstairs area. An outside stairway was added from the sanctuary in 1980 to replace an outdated open metal and wood outside fire escape that had been attached to the west side of the building from the time the building was constructed. The original wooden gym floor was replaced with concrete in 1986 at a cost of$1020.00.

Reverend Traughber was instrumental in joint sponsorship with Fruitland Church of the Brethren of a Laotian family. Sam and Bonnie Phakdy and daughter Gina immigrated to New Plymouth in 1977. Church members assisted in their assimilation of American culture. They continue to live and work in the Boise valley.

Pomeray's Class

The New Plymouth junior-senior high school building, constructed in 1938, was destroyed by fire December 18, 1984. Our church was one of the first to offer much needed temporary classroom space to the school district to complete the school year. The building was used as classrooms until the new school was completed in November of 1985. In January of 1984 a new sewer line was laid from the church to the city line. In the winter-spring of 1987-88 the area behind the sanctuary was remodeled to provide office space for a secretary and the pastor. In 1989 heating ducts were installed to bring heat to the entryway. Also in 1989 a new kitchen drain was installed to fix a problem with slow drains that plagued the sinks for years as the old pipes were overgrown with roots.

Steady growth resulting from the leadership of Rev. Traughber required additional personnel. The work load was becoming too much for one pastor. A three month summer intern was employed for 6 successive summers beginning in 1976. The summer of 1983 was spent without interns. A full year student intern was begun in September 1984 because of additional growth.

After much discussion both congregations agreed that each should have its own full-time pastor to maintain continuity of programs. Thus, the New Plymouth congregation began a search process in April of 1987. Over the next few months the New Plymouth church reviewed itself by completing a profile to be submitted to prospective ministerial candidates. January 19, 1988 Reverend Doris Dunn of Denver, Colorado was called to New Plymouth. Doris and her husband John Crouch and five- month-old daughter Nellie arrived in New Plymouth in April of 1988.

A new attractive white metal roof was installed on the building in the fall of 1988, replacing the old roof that had begun to leak after a hard winter in 1987. Williamson Roofing of New Plymouth replaced it at a cost of $10,500.00. In the fall of 1987, 1988, and 1989 the church sponsored an auction to raise funds for the new roof and general expenses. Each auction was a success, netting about $3500.00 each year.

On Sunday, March 3, 1991 Plymouth Congregational Church celebrated its 90th anniversary of the signing of its charter. A special service lead by Reverend Doris Dunn proceeded a potluck dinner and program. "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" was sung as the blessing for the meal, as it was the first song sung at the organizational meeting in 1901. Special recognition was given to the early day basketball players, fans, and cheerleaders. Those receiving a toy Nerf basketball for their part in these games were Larry Tuttle, Dorothy Wander, Polly Edwards, Helen White, Bob Purcell, Dick Platz and Dorothy Bower Grasmick.

Armoral Tuttle, Ray Knight, Kate Goodwin, Doris Peart and Bessie Henry were given special recognition as being the most senior members present, with a flower centerpiece from the tables. Various people reminisced about the "good ole' days" or shared with everyone what they remembered as something special that occurred in the church. Joe and Ilo Schmid lead the group singing of old favorite songs.

Helen White and Larry Tuttle celebrated their birthdays on Sunday, March 3rd along with the 90th anniversary party. They were both born, raised and have lived all of their lives in the community of New Plymouth. Together, they blew out the 90th anniversary cake candles.

The church was decorated in a red and blue theme with balloons flying from the stair railings. Ham, turkey, rolls and drinks were furnished and prepared by Women's Fellowship.

Rev. Doris Dunn served as pastor until August 15, 1992. Rev. Susan L. Howe, who had interned at Boise First Congregational and who had done some pulpit substitution at New Plymouth was called to serve half time. As we could not pay a full- time salary, halftime seemed to be our answer. From 1992 unti1 1995, Susan commuted from Boise, where she lived with her husband, Jeff. In 1994 Emily L. Howe was born to Susan and Jeff, thus becoming the first "pastor baby" born in this church. In 1996 Susan and Jeff moved to New Plymouth, buying a small farm southeast of New Plymouth on Elgin Road. Jeff continues to commute to Boise where he is an attorney.

It became more and more apparent that our church could and should not rely solely on plate contributions for total support of the church. An endowment fund was established January 10, 1993 with $50,000.00 donated from the Luella Rhinehart estate. It was decided that "Plymouth Congregational Church Endowment Fund" principle funds could not be spent; however dividends can be used for capital improvement or mission outreach of the church. In 1996 the Endowment Committee agreed that with bequests over $1,000.00, one half will be deposited in the Endowment Fund, with the other half going to the Memorial Fund.

In 1994 the beautiful wood entry doors that were originally installed in 1921 were refinished and restored to their original condition, with funds from the Luella Rhinehart estate. Also in 1994 a Rodgers Organ was purchased for $14,900.00, new community room carpet was installed and the church entered the computer age with a donation of a computer from Raymond and Nancy Jones, Chuck and Jody Darrall's son-in-law and daughter.

Pew Bibles, renovation of the cry room, new hymnals and a sprinkler system for the hayfield rounded out improvements for 1995.

The original carillon served us well, but as time marches on, things need updating. The older inner-mechanism was returned to the factory and newer digital and CD drivers were installed, improving the sound quality .Padded choir chairs, and another new handicapped accessible sidewalk was poured, in 1996.

With the establishment of the Endowment Fund, we were now receiving dividends that were not previously available. These funds enabled us to repaint the sanctuary and entry way, along with installing iron railings near the pillars, repainting the exterior, and paving the parking lot on the east side of the building in 1997.

In 1998 new choir robes were purchased with a donation from Ray Knight. Ralph White installed a tie and rail fence surrounding the parking lot and restored hot water to the restrooms, as the hot water pipes were disconnected during the basement remodel in 1971.

Women's Fellowship engaged in community outreach through their rummage sale called the "House of Bargains". They bounced from various local buildings each summer as one building would become unavailable. This was a needed service to the community as it provided low cost clothing and household items. The summer of 1999 was the summer no site could be found for the House of Bargains~ thus the service was suspended. Discussions of buying a building or renting have been conducted, with no remedy found as of yet. The Women's Fellowship has sponsored for many years an annual Bazaar, with much of the proceeds being used for church needs such as paying the phone bill, garbage collection and general church needs.

During the summer of 1999 the fir sanctuary flooring was refinished by a volunteer crew and new carpeting was installed in the sanctuary, stairways, entry and office for $10,000.00. In the winter of 2000 the pew seats were refinished to their original oak finish.

As Religious Education has always been an important part of the church, it must be noted that many folks have donated many hours of volunteer work to promote the education of our youth and adults over the years. S.L. Pomeroy served as Sunday School Superintendent for many years, beginning in the 1940's, and then Evie Crabb became Superintendent in the early 60's and held the position until her death in 1973. Under her leadership several programs were begun or continued: Pilgrim Youth Fellowship, the Easter Egg Hunt and the Halloween Party .The tradition of a summer Bible School was maintained until the 1980's. Evie's niece, Karen Crabb Kersey took over the helm of Sunday School Superintendent in 1978 and continues as a co-superintendent to this day. The Sunday School has sponsored various church activities during recent years. For example, Bible Buddies, in which a youngster is teamed with an adult for a short time, exchanging favorite Bible verses and culminating with revealing each other's identity. A Secret Pals program similar to the Bible Buddies has also been a great intergenerational experience. Sunday School has "adopted" a needy family as suggested by the school district for Christmas and/or Thanksgiving, collecting food or gifts to be given to the family during the holiday. The Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween Party bring dozens of community children to the church for a splendid time. The Christmas pageant depicting the birth of Christ also involves all the children, each playing a needed part.

The Koinonia Group of younger adults formed during Rev. Traughber's service is still active, despite all growing older, providing Pilgrim Cove scholarships through funds raised at the annual pancake and sausage dinner in late February and other fundraising events over the years. Our history would not be complete without mention of our music program. Plymouth Congregational has long had a tradition of musical talent shared with the congregation. The choir has been a big part of our Sunday worship services. Kate Goodwin aptly played the organ for services for many, many years. Ilo Schmid began playing for the church on an occasional basis in 1968, sharing her marvelous talent with us, and is our current full-time organist and choir director.

It should also be noted that countless members have served many hours of time and miles of travel to Central Pacific Conference meetings, Pilgrim Cove Camp and the Idaho Association meetings.

New Plymouth Congregational Church grew from services conducted in a tent in 1895 to our present facility that has been updated throughout its 100-year history. Programs relevant to their time have been instituted under the leadership of 31 ministers and interims. Past and present dedicated members and friends have made this church what it is. With God's blessing, this church will continue its service to the community of New Plymouth, Idaho for many years to come.

Dennis Holbrook and Tim Hughes 

Planting the Centennial Oak Tree 

March 2001