Minnehaha's History
by Charles Dailey

This unofficial history of the congregation is being written as fragments of the past surface to remind us of events. It is a work in progress.

The area was known earlier as the Black Forest because of its heavy timber. In 1891, an editorial in the Columbian spoke of the area as "Minnehaha, laughing water." The name stuck.

Our most recent information comes from Kenneth Smithline, an eyewitness of the events that he writes about.

Smithline writes:

In 1947, Elbert "Abe" and Vivian M. Smithline and two children, Kenneth and Merle, moved from Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA. The family was active in the Montavilla Church of Christ under the direction of Archie Word. We started attending the Community Church located in Minnehaha that met in the old school house (Editor: On what is now called 49th Street).

The Community Church needed a preacher. Harold and Evelyn Boyd and son Gary became good friends of the Smithline family and had the same beliefs about the direction the church should go. Lee Turner was recommended by Archie Word and thus began the connection between the Smithline, Boyd families and Lee and Gerry Turner.

It was in the time frame of late 1948, early 1949 that the Community Church decided that they as a whole did not want to follow the teachings of the Bible and asked Lee Turner to move on. It was at this time the Smithline and Boyd families along with the Turner's, moved the church services into the house where the Turner's resided (on NE 68th Street).

I don't remember which families beside the Smithline's and Boyd's moved from the Community Church into developing the current Minnehaha Church of Christ. But I do remember that the sunday school for us kids was held in the bedroom on the Turner's bed. The adults met in the living room and then we had the church services in the living room/kitchen area of the house.

Sometime in late 1949 - early 1950 the small congregation moved into the Minnehaha Grange Hall and held several Revival Meetings and more people were added.

I remember my father Elbert, Harold and Lee along with a couple of other men discuss buying and building a new meeting place. The Montavilla Church of Christ loaned the money to the Minnehaha Church of Christ to purchase and build the first building on the current property.

I recall some of the early members being The Boyd family, Bill and Laura Womelsdorf, Perry and Edna Smith, The Smithline family, Nellie Copley and the Turner family.

After the revivals at the Grange Hall, I remember Sally Stoner, daughters Joyce, Nora and son John. Also Dorothy Snelson and daughter Helen. I remember other revivals at the new (present) building and the addition of the Sisseck family (Boyd, Ruth, Joyce, Dennis, Debbie), Hiram and Margaret Perry, John Redmond, Zelma May, daughters Juanita, Sharon, Alex Bowman. The congregation grew very fast.

Original Minnehaha Church of Christ building

The Building as it appeared in 1955.

The original Minnehaha building referred to by Ken Smithline still stands. It has been incorporated into the present structure. A photo of the original building was located in a private photo collection in Reno, Nevada. It was built around 1949, largely by Lee Turner and Harold Boyd. It was never used as a home, but selling it as a home was plan B if plan A failed. The building pictured was built on 54th. Lee was minister until 1955.

Rodney Reyman meeting 1949

Rodney Reyman conducted an every-night gospel meeting in 1949. The late Leo Yoder also held a meeting about 1950. Ed Devries conducted one in March of 1963.

Among the early members were Boyd and Ruth Sisseck, Perry and Edna Smith, Mrs. Jay (Ida May) Emery, Bill and Laura Womelsdorf, Sally Stoner and Harold and Evelyn Boyd.

Charles and Lois Dailey moved from California in 1955 and settled in with the church, bringing their printing equipment with them. Later, a special room was set up to handle the printing needs of both the congregation and a printing ministry outreach. A number of men in the church helped operate the press with Duane Lessley and Dennis Sisseck putting in an unusual amount of time.

Lee Turner in 1968
Lee Turner 1968
Ed Devries in 1963
Ed DeVries 1963
Charles Dailey in 1963
Charles Dailey 1963

The late Warren Bell, then of Gresham, Oregon, held nightly meetings in 1962.

At the instigation of the late Larry Jonas, the church published The Pattern from 1958 to 1975. On a few special issues, the number distributed rose to 5,000. Normally, it was much less. Sim and Nellie Lessley took the lead in addressing and mailing the paper.

During the time Larry was working with the church, the men constructed a mobile kitchen that Larry and others used at a summer encampment south of Brownsville, Oregon.

Robin Dodd and others led in the opening of a downtown Coffee House to reach the large number of young people that were wandering the highways. The project continued for three years.

The congregation doubled its floor space in 1967 and easily expanded into it. Shortly after this Archie Word held a one-week meeting for the church. In 1975 the third and final portion of the building was completed by Bristow Church Construction of Portland.

By then, the entire building was sided in redwood. The earlier part had (as still has under the paint) straight-grained vertical redwood siding. The newer portion has plywood paneling with redwood facing. Sometime in the early '90, a decision was made to paint the redwood siding.

Vaughn Elliott conducted a gospel meeting for the church in 1976 in conjunction with his attendance at the Church Growth Clinic in Portland.

The church moved to a larger building on 76th Street in 1984, but was unable to sell the smaller building, so returned to the 54th Street building in 1988.

Sign at the corner during 1990s.

When Charles Dailey left in 1990, one of the elders, Ron Edson, took over the weekly preaching and Dave Vigna handled the administrative work and calling.

In 2000, Charles Dailey was invited to rejoin the staff as Minister of Missions. The church has a long involvement in world missions. Lee and Gerry Turner eventually moved to Pakistan after leaving the Minnehaha Church and are still very much involved in outreach to that part of Asia.

Many leaders among the churches today were with us at Minnehaha for a time. Jaffet and Norma Perez were with us several years and since then, Jaffet has spent his time in spreading the gospel in Puerto Rico and Central America. Larry and Joyce Jonas were with us some years and Larry launched the Pattern publication.

Paul and Karen Reyman have been sent by the congregation to work in Africa and they have been involved with that for more than a decade. They are presently in Crescent City, California making plans for short term trips back to Africa.

Song leader and singer Don Minton was won to Christ here. Alec Bowman stayed at the Dailey home for some months as a teenager. Missionaries Ken and Eileen Shoop were once a part of the congregation. Bruce and Carol Rodda were married here. Ron and Nora Bergquist were members many years ago. Steve and Deanna Holsinger were among the leadership at one time. Chuck Haaukas was on the staff, teaching in homes was his job description.

Don Spencer was here while attending NCB. Robin and Marianna Dodd began their Christian walk here. Matt and Cindy Shively are back after being in New York state for a while. Virgil and Helen Stonecypher began married life and a part of the church. John Stoner was converted here. Harry and Yvonne Brock were members of the church for a time before moving on.

Dave and Lorrie Vigna were converted here.

Ron Edson resigned early in 2001 and the men of the church, primarily the elders, handled the teaching responsibilities. The elders at this time were Stacy Marriott, James Weldon and Larry Smith. Each holds at least a four-year Bible College degree. Larry Smith resigned in 2004, citing health concerns.

Sign at the corner in 2002.
In November of 2001, Mike Kennedy of Portland accepted the call to become the preacher, tying the many functions of the church together. During 2002, he is spent half of his time with the Minnehaha Church and half with Portland's Central Christian Church.

In February of 2002, Paul Douglass and elder James Weldon made a 10 day trip to Nairobi, Kenya in Africa.

In January of 2006, Stacy Marriott resigned from the eldership because of declining health. Roy Barker and Charles Dailey became elders.