Covenant is at the root of who we are. Covenant draws us together as a congregation. At the root of the covenant is God. Covenant is a sacred experience. WE need to remember this sacred history. We need to renew our covenant so it doesn't get lost. We need to ask ourselves this question: What does God want of Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ today?
This story of Tolt Congregational Church’s beginning was written by Mrs. Sarah N. McNaughton in 1894:
"Rev. Samuel Green, when pastor of the Houghton Church, took the first steps toward organizing a Congregational Church for Tolt, preaching once a month and receiving the following persons as members: Bessie Prenatt, Sarah McNaughton, Millie Templeton and Nellie Shaw.
"After Brother Green removed, the organization seemed to lapse, Tolt being supplied occasionally with preaching by ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but no society nor church building resulting.
"Rev. George Kindred, pastor of Sultan Congregational Church, first visited Tolt August 5, 1894, preaching at 11 a.m. Text: Jeremiah 31:14. Having resigned and closed the year at Sultan on the 26th of August, 1894, he began regular services the first Sunday in September, being September 2, 1894. Nine preaching services were held up to and including September 30, when, after Sunday School and services, Mr. S. Morris having been voted to the chair, a motion was made and carried 'that we proceed at once to the organization of a Congregational Church.' Notice was then given by the preacher that on the second Sunday such organization would be effected and the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper administered. A committee on creed and on membership having been appointed, the meeting adjourned."
NEW CHURCH IS NAMED
On October 14, 1894, 17 charter members officially organized the church, and on January 1, 1895, the church was officially named Tolt Congregational Church. Gurina Hjertoos, a member of Tolt Church from 1913 - gave this account of how the church came to be named:
"The name Tolt was that which the early community was known by. An 1857 map of the state had 'Tolthue River' indicated. Early pioneers were not linguists and they did not think highly of the pronunciation of Tolthue, which was like the sound of an aspirated H tacked on to Tolt. So it was that the word Tolthue, which meant rushing waters, came to be Tolt."
On July 10, 1895, the Tolt Congregational Church was placed upon the official records of the State conference of Congregational Churches.
THE FIRST CHURCH BUILDING
In the spring of 1895, a building site was secured near the town's schoolhouse. Sunday, August 28, 1898 was a proud day when the white frame church was erected. Although the building was not completed and the rafters could be plainly seen, the dedication ceremonies proceeded with the Rev. Bailey preaching the sermon. Thus, the church became fully dedicated, pointing the eyes and the thoughts of the little community towards god with a lofty spire surmounted by a cross.
Many of the timbers had been recently standing overlooking the valley. (All the rough lumber for the church came from a sawmill on the John Larson place, one mile east of town on the Tolt River. The finished lumber was hauled by team from the Tokul Creek mill because there was no planer at the local mill.) There was a special kind of warmth at the meeting, as though partly from the reflection of all the summer suns that had brought the trees to maturity, but more from the sincere coordiality of these Christian people gathered on this happy occasion.
The Rev. Kindred and his family were instrumental in interesting people of the community to work for the new Church, which was the first in the Valley. They gave whatever they had in labor and materials to complete the building. Rev. Kindred also made the long trip up Stossel Creek to take the message to the group of homesteaders living there.
During Rev. Kindred's pastorate, the lower floor of the church was made into housekeeping rooms, which were used as the home of many of the pastors and their families. In 1924, a parsonage was built.
Regular Worship services were held in there for 38 years. Gurina Hjertoos remembered this time this way:
"During 1921 through 1925, the minister served both the Duvall and the Tolt Churches. Imagine, 300 people - we were the talk of the state! People didn't have cars, or maybe an occasional one. When they came to church, they came with their teams or they came on foot. This was the community church."
In 1914, the church basement was used for high school classrooms, until a new high school was built.
FIRE DESTROYS CHURCH
In 1936, the frame church was destroyed by fire. Plans to rebuild were made immediately. Land was acquired at the present site on Tolt Avenue between West Morrison and Rutherford Streets. Mrs. Elbridge H. Stuart had taken an active interest in the project, and following her untimely death in 1936, her husband offered to build a chapel there in her memory. The story of rebuilding the church is recorded in the Pulpit Bible Record this way:
Tuesday, July 27, 1937, was wet and stormy at Carnation. The minister and his wife debated about the wisdom of calling in such weather. However, they decided to go, and since they had never met the Stuarts, who spend their summers at Carnation Farm, the called there.
Mrs. Stuart was at "Nan's Play House" and welcomed her callers there in a gracious manner. Mrs. Pendleton told Mrs. Stuart of the fire on December 30, 1936, which had partially destroyed the old Carnation Church building, and of the effort the local people were making to rebuild. At the conclusion of the call Mrs. Stuart gave the minister and his wife a delicious fruit cake she had made herself.
On Saturday, August 14, Mrs. Stuart called at the parsonage and gave Mrs. Pendleton seventeen dollars toward the new church. She visited a while and told of her plans to secure the help of Seattle friends and plan for a big garden party at the Farm next year to raise funds to help the church.
The following evening Mrs. Stuart and two friends attended the Sunday evening church service, then being held in the Adventist Church building. She placed Six Dollars and Fifty Cents on the offering plate, remained after the service and met everybody. She said she had had a "lovely time." That evening she returned home and interested her guests in the work of the little church.
Friday night, August 20, Mrs. Stuart went to bed and quietly passed to the life beyond. Tuesday afternoon at the Stuart farm home a beautiful service was held in her memory.
Saturday morning, September 4, Mr. E. H. Stuart called at the parsonage, expressing his desire to make a memorial gift to the church in which Mrs. Stuart had become interested.
Monday morning, September 6, Mr. Stuart said he was considering the erection of a memorial chapel in memory of his late wife. On Wednesday he authorized the minister to present to the church the conditions under which he desired to proceed. At a called meeting of the Tolt Congregational Church the members voted unanimously to accept Mr. Stuart's offer.
Ground was broken at a special service on January 30, 1938, and on August 28, 1938 the Nan Fullerton Stuart Memorial Chapel was dedicated.
The church voted to use the Seventeen Dollars given to the church by Mrs. Nan Fullerton Stuart to purchase this pulpit Bible to be used on the lectern.
The church proceeded with plans to build a parish house to harmonize with the new chapel. It was named Pilgrim House and dedicated in 1939. Vernet Eliason, born Nov. 4, 1902 remembered this time:
"Mrs. Pendleton drew the plans for Pilgrim House. She was the wife of the minister. She made a trip back east and copied something she saw there. She was particularly interested in drama and plays and that was why the stage was part of the building. Before the days of TV, we probably gave two plays a year."
The basement kitchen in Pilgrim House was refurbished, including new appliances, by the Ladies' Aid in 1977. The Library Resource Center, located in Pilgrim House was dedicated in 1978. The Carnation Cooperative Preschool has held its program there in 1969. Pilgrim House continues to serve as the center for Tolt's Sunday School and youth programs, as well as potlucks and fellowship events.
In the 1930's, a Hammond organ for the chapel was a gift from the employees of Carnation Farms and a Carillon was given by Mr. Stuart in memory of his parents. The currently used three-manual Rodgers organ, also a gift from Mr. Stuart, was dedicated in 1967. A new piano for the chapel was bought in 1979, and a new Carillon, in 1987. These fine instruments continue to enhance the worship services at Tolt, and provide music for weddings and other community events. The Carillon music is heard daily, ringing out into the valley.
TOLT CHURCH JOINS UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
In 1961, Tolt Congregational Church joined in the formation of the United Church of Christ, by merger of the United Evangelical and Congregational - Christian Churches. The church is now known to many as "Tolt Congregational United Church of Christ." A member of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, Tolt has a strong and growing connection to other churches of the denomination and members participate in conference committees, including the conference camping program.
Built in 1979, constructed to physically connect the Nan Fullerton Stuart Memorial Chapel and Pilgrim House, Plymouth Hall was dedicated on the church's 85th birthday. The mortgage for this building was burned in 1982. Plymouth Hall houses the church offices, meeting space, a kitchen and fellowship hall. It was used for the Sno-Valley Seniors' daily program from 1991 until 1993, when they were able to move into their own newly remodeled building. Plymouth Hall is well used for meetings, social activities and programs of the church and the community.