The Church today in the
DuPont Historic Village
Soldiers from Camp Lewis with DuPont townspeople in front of the "Campside Church," 1917
(Museum Photo Collection)
(click image to enlarge)
WWII Memorial Dedication
April 1, 1945
(Museum Photo Collection)
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Taken at the 100th Anniversary Celebration of WWI at the State Capital in Olympia, 2019.
The bell was rung during
(Museum Photo Collection)
(click image to enlarge)
DuPont Presbyterian Church
90th Anniversary — Historical Events Remembered July 9, 2000
by Lorraine Overmyer (reprinted with permission)
In 1906 DuPont started out as a town of tarpaper covered buildings called “Old Town” to house the construction crews sent here to build the DuPont explosive plant. Its location was on and adjacent to where the 1843 Ft. Nisqually site was located and consisted of about 50 houses and a cook shack.
After the carpenters finished construction on the plant, their attention was turned to permanent housing for the employees. As the married men and their families arrived, a pleasant community life began to develop.
Initially the Superintendent's house, the Assistant Superintendent's house, and 58 homes for the workers were built between 1909-1910. By 1917 there were a total of 111 homes, two stores, a butcher shop, club house, hotel and playground. The town was built for employees of the plant and the company owned all property. The local media noted its beauty, and it was featured as a model city.
Records indicate that from the very beginning, the spiritual life of the community played an important part in the development of the community. A non-denominational church and Sunday School met in the Factor's House at the 1843 Ft. Nisqually site during 1909 so the church was a part of the community from the very beginning.
In April 1910 a petition of organization was presented to the Presbytery of Olympia and on July 10, 1910, the first session minutes were recorded, and the first elders and trustees were elected.
And so, 90 years ago our church was officially born.
It must have been an exciting time, for the records leave room to visualize some of the events. One such quote is, “An organ was purchased with a fund started from a candy sale given by Miss Sally Ogren and other girls.” I’m sure they didn’t sell Babe Ruth or Butterfingers, but instead fudge, taffy or divinity made in one of the Village kitchens.
The record of work of the women’s organization, known as “Kings Daughters,” shows a dedicated and hard-working group. Their dues were 10 cents a month whether they were present or not. Considerable contributions toward the realization of the new church were raised through cake sales, strawberry socials, “round robin teas,” bazaars, and dinners—and all of this in the Factor's House for there was not yet a church building. By March 1914 a building fund of $366.75 is mentioned and the congregation numbered 24 members. By 1915 the fund had grown to $824.75 and $450 of that amount had been contributed by the Ladies Aid. Just imagine the amount of cooking and sewing that was done to raise that amount in a year’s time!
In the fall of 1916, a canvas was made of the community for pledges for the erection of this building, and a committee was formed to proceed with construction. Records show 148 subscribers pledging in amounts of $1, 2, 3, 5, 15, 25, 35, 50 and 100 dollars. To indicate the broad base of support, there were only two $100 and two $50 dollar contributions, with the majority of pledges being under $5. Much volunteer labor was contributed, and though the DuPont Co. had not yet conveyed the land, their permission was given for the building project. Mr. W.A. Smith, the assistant plant manager and an elder, was a prime mover in the building of the church and his name appears frequently in the records. He drew the plans for this building after visiting numerous churches in the area, and was responsible for obtaining considerable financial aid from the DuPont Co.
Rapid progress was made on the building during 1916-17, and in March of 1917 invitations for the dedication of the building were sent out. They read, “The First Church of DuPont, through its building committee, request you who have made this building possible by your interest and assistance to come and see the practically completed structure on Wednesday evening, March 7, 1917. No admission fee. No charges. Entertainment. Refreshments”.
And so, for a cost of $4809.06, this building was built.
At this time World War I was in progress and Rev. Harry Templeton was active in support of the soldiers at Camp Lewis. He organized a group of talented youngsters from the church who were known as “Templeton’s Tots," and were highly sought after to provide entertainment and never played to empty benches even in the rain. This church became known as “Campside Church” as there were no chapels at Camp Lewis and many soldiers attended services here to worship and enjoy the fellowship. At times there was not even standing room and they stood on the porch or downstairs. The ladies did Red Cross work, sewed on patches, knitted and cooked—and did these same things again during World War II.
Though by World War II Camp Lewis had become Fort Lewis and had its own chapels, the church continued to have close association with the military. On Easter Sunday 1945, the memorial monument which stands in front of the church was dedicated. The names of sixty-three young men and five young women who served our country in World War II are listed on the marker.
The Ladies Aid continued their fund-raising activities, and an entry in the record for December 1922 states, “A chicken dinner was served clearing $85.00.” Tickets were fifty and thirty-five cents. At that price it must have been a full house to clear $85.00!
On April 10, 1928, the DuPont Co. conveyed a deed to the first Church of DuPont for the property on which the church and the manse are located. The house which became the manse was moved from its original location at 203 Barksdale. The manse and the land were gifts of the DuPont Co.
In 1927 discussion was held as to the location of a belfry, which indicates it was not part of the original building, and that may account for the leaks in the roof that we experience from time to time. On Children’s Day, June 12, 1955, the Northern Pacific Railroad presented our bell, saved from a locomotive headed for the scrap heap, to call the children of the Village to Sunday School. Nick D’Arcy, Sunday School Superintendent, in accepting the bell said, “We feel it fitting that this bell which so ably served to call people to new locations and adventures can now spiritually call people to new lives and unlisted horizons.” Mr. Stevenson, on behalf of the railroad said, “This bell was an instrument of service calling out its friendly note of warning to motorists, pedestrians and trainmen cautioning them to pause a moment and determine the safe course, then after a moment’s reflection, proceeding on the right path. I thank you for furnishing a shelter for this bell and may its tones ever be mellow. Who knows? It may be heard by your children’s children calling upon them for a moment’s reflection before continuing safely on their proper course. And too, maybe someday, an old man may pass this way and hear the bell and feel proud, and in his heart may be happy because of the symbol which you preserved."
From the beginning of the church until 1947, the church was heated with wood—a task requiring MUCH attention. Les Munyan and George Peterson took that on themselves over those many years. The stoking of the furnace during the night so that the congregation could be warm was indeed a service of love, and I think of that very often as I look at the window up front dedicated in Les’ memory.
The dedication of members over these many years, some memorialized by gifts such as the window I just mentioned; the two stained glass windows at the back given in memory of W.B. Laughbon (an elder and clerk of the session and Superintendent of the DuPont School District); the cross and candelabra given by the Ogren family who were leaders in the early days of the church; the other candelabra, a gift in memory of Gunnar Johnson who operated the store; and the piano was a gift in memory of R.M. Foreman, an elder and clerk of the session. Marcia Laughbon and Nina Ogren continue to be members of our church, and Fredrick Foreman, Merrill Foreman’s grandson, is here today, and I believe members of Gunnar Johnson’s family are with us as well. These are but a few of the family ties that continue.
Over the years there have been many ministers who have served the church, some for a very short time. That is not true of Pastor Iris Martin who has served us and the entire community for eight years and has contributed a great deal to the warmth and love that is felt among the members. We are grateful to her for her service.
And so, to quote from May Munyan’s book on DuPont, “Many worthwhile things grow from humble beginnings.” As I have researched this history, I realized anew what a heritage we have in our church. As families came to an isolated area, known to many in the east as Indian country, they felt the need to have a place to worship God and made many sacrifices to leave this church for us to enjoy. The years have not always been easy, but the church has survived for 90 years. There is revitalization work to be done today and there is a job for each of us, but the love and strength between members of the congregation has never been stronger. We must work with commitment and God’s direction and help to pass on this precious heritage and look forward to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of our church.
As a longtime DuPont resident, Lorraine Overmyer was a leader in preserving DuPont’s history. Lorraine served on DuPont City Council for 16 years and was tasked by the City of DuPont in 1977 to establish the DuPont Historical Museum and Cultural Center. Lorraine was one of the founding members of the DuPont Steering committee, which later became the DuPont Historical Society, and she remained active on the Board of Directors until 2009. She helped preserve and protect many of the historic village and DuPont Company artifacts, including DuPont’s Dynamite Train currently located behind the Museum. In 1999 the Washington State Historical Preservation Office presented Lorraine with its Preservation Award for her contributions in saving Washington State’s historic sites and buildings. Lorraine was a member of the DuPont Presbyterian Church 1974 to 2010.
The book by May Munyan that is referenced in the last paragraph of Overmyer's essay is Du Pont — The Story of a Company Town (© 1972), and is available in our Gift Shop.