Machias Community Church

The 105-year-old Machias community church structure, featuring a graceful, needle-like steeple, is surrounded on two sides by cyclone fencing these days – as if caught in a trap of uncertainty.

From Snohomish, it takes only 20 minutes to reach Machias by bike on the Centennial Trail. And, since the trail is a conversion of the historic Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway bed, I couldn’t help imagine, as I peddled, how long the trip would have taken on the first trains north in 1890. According to an essay in the ever useful “River Reflections, 1859-1910” published by the Snohomish Historical Society, the one way fare was ten cents, and one round trip was scheduled per day.

Though I’m not sure why anyone would want to visit the rough and tumble town at the turn of the last century, unless you were looking for work as a shingle bolt cutter, there were five mills in operation; or a drinker, since there were seven saloons.

In any event, this sets the scene for a special meeting that was held in August 1902 for the purpose of forming a church, and 11 residents signed the original charter establishing a community church in Machias. Since the town carried the namesake of one in Maine, the new church was modeled after one there. And the original communion set was sent as a gift from Machias, Maine, when the church was dedicated in 1905, according to an online account by Dorothy Jean (Gemmer) Schroeder of her Grandma Daisy.

I met up with Jerry Jones, president of the Machias Historical Society, life long resident of the town and once a member of the Machias Community Church, which still owns the historic structure. A second, larger church was built behind it, but facing Virginia Street, in the unmistakable style of the 1970s.

By the early 80s, concern for the future of the historic church resulted in the establishment of the Machias Historical Society, which set about to raise funds for the repairs required to keep the structure standing – a new foundation and interior tie-rods to pull the walls back to plumb.

In the 1990s, society members provided the labor to replace the roof with donated product that now seems to be coming loose and falling to the ground, so the fencing was added for safety.

Jerry describes a meeting he and Don Hampton attended with board members of the church, maybe five years ago, when they proposed that the Society assume total care of the historic structure in exchange for the Society’s ownership of the building.

“When Don and I went to the board,” Jerry related, “the sad part is, we could give them our concerns and whatever, but there was no dialogue.” Some weeks later they received a “thanks, but no thanks” letter. A subsequent proposal by the Machias Cemetery Association to own and move the church to an available lot was also ignored.

My repeated calls to the Machias Community Church office to learn their plans for the historic structure have not been returned.

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune on September 22, 2010

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ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS:
Machias Community Church, 1905, built with community labor and enthusiasm, the modest structure was modeled after a church in Machias, Maine, former home to many of new Machias's early settlers. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Jean Schroeder)
Machias Community Church, 2010, spared destruction in the fire that destroyed most of downtown Machias in 1906 -- a year after it was dedicated -- the future of the historic structure is uncertain. The Machais Historical Society was established in the 1980s to save the community treasure, but their mission has reached an impasse with the church's board of directors.

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SAVE THE DATE:

Readers are invited to join me Saturday, October 23rd at 10a, for a guided tour of the GAR Cemetery. We will meet at the caretaker’s shed at the end of the drive at
8601 Riverview Road, Snohomish.
Allow an hour and half, prepare to walk on uneven ground and tour is conducted in rain or shine (last year it was gorgeous).
A suggested donation of $10 will help support this website.

3 Replies to “Machias Community Church”

  1. great article. hopefully this will stir some interest in the structure and the historical society can still be involved too restore. Louise Lindgrin of snohomish historical preservation- was active when we met with her in at the county offices and she got involved for only a short time and I believe she retired and it ended there. marilyn

  2. THe Machias Community Church has been part of my husband’s history for as long as we can remember. His parents attended the young peoples group and ended up getting married while attending Machias Community Church. It would be a shame to have it torn down. OUr hope is that it will be donated to the historical group and moved. The cemetery above the church is important to us as well as we have several aunts, uncles, cousins and great grandparents buried there. Thank you for writing the article which appears in the Tribune this week, September 22nd.

  3. When my grandmother Daisy Thomas came to Machias in 1898 with three toddlers, my grandfather Bert Thomas had come ahead of her and he was the depot agent. Like Warner said, there were seven saloons. She went to work and formed a temperance society, and the Ladies Aid to raise funds for building a church. The church was dedicated in 1905 and fifty years later, she was the only charter member still living. However, the town didn’t burn until about 1918-19 when my mother Lorus (Thomas) Gemmer was at Normal school. The second school burned in 1906 and it was replaced by 1909 by the one that was torn down in 1969. I have a photo of the 7th and 8th graders in the 1909-1910 term that was taken on the steps of the new school. My mom and Luther Jones are both in the picture.

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