The white church on its knoll among giant oak trees is located on the Oakville road, two miles east of the Peoria road from Corvallis to Harrisburg. It was established as the First Willamette Church in 1850. It continues to this day and is now called the Oakville Willamette United Presbyterian Church. The name Oakville comes from the native Oregon white oak growing in the area.
In 1852 the Willamette Church, an Associate Presbyterian Church, and the Union Point Church, just south of Brownsville, an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, shepherded by the Rev. Wilson Blain, decided to merge. Thus was born the United Presbyterian Church.
The founder of the church was the Thomas S. Kendall, D. D. He is buried in the lovely wooded and well kept cemetery a couple of hundred yards north of the church. On the marker over his grave is inscribed the log cabin, the first meeting place of the congregation. Nearby is the grave of Dr. W. B. Mealey who came to Oregon in 1845 and who assisted in organizing the United Presbyterian Church. He donated the land for the cemetery and a school. A prominent pioneer, he was a member of the first Oregon legislature and helped draft the state's constitution.
The Oakville church makes the claim of being the first psalm-singing congregation to have continuous existence in the Western United States. Its membership numbered 52 in 1860; by 1880 it had increased to 129.
While the original church built in 1860 at a cost of $1,000 still stands, it was extensively remodeled and a basement added in1932. Upon completion, a dedication service was held on November 13. Present was Mrs. Mary Williams McWilliams who spoke of her grandfather, the Rev. Thomas S. Kendall, founder of the church. Miss Elizabeth Irvine recalled her father, the Rev. Samuel G. Irvine who was installed as pastor in 1855. Mrs. R. A. Cale recounted the history of the church. She called the membership role as of 1880 and four responded. Another 50 answered as descendants.
The church and cemetery remain today as cherished heritages of pioneer concern for things spiritual."
From "A Guide to Early Oregon Churches", Olga Samuelson Freeman (9). Photo from the collection of Lisa L. Jones.
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