Summary of Adventism in Placerville
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has had a presence in the Placerville area since 1874 and became a recognized church here in 1893. Since then, we’ve enjoyed well over a century of growth and change. We are grateful that you are part of our ever growing story!
Early church congregants met in personal homes until 1896 when the church purchased land on Spring Street (formerly Jackson Street) and began building the first formal structure. Forty years later in 1936, the congregation purchased and built a larger, more modern structure on Bee Street hoping to attract new attendees. With ever growing numbers, the church moved to our present location on Mother Lode Drive in 1969 and built a chapel, fellowship hall, and four classrooms. Two years later, a much larger sanctuary was built, which we currently use for our worship services today, as well as additional office and classroom spaces.
Now in 2014, we are excited as we are completing the final phases of construction to complete our new Experience Center. We anticipate serving the community in a variety of ways through this beautiful new facility. At each turn, the members of Placerville Adventist Church have looked forward to the challenges and opportunities that future generations would face and have attempted to meet those needs through long-term facility development as well services provided. We are excited to see what God will do through us as we attempt to reach our community with the good news of the gospel.
A More Detailed Look Back
It was the year 1874. A steam train chugged into the station in the bustling mining town of Placerville with Mr. George Vickery, his sister Mrs. Ilott Baker, and her two-year-old daughter Lizzie on board. They were recently from England, having migrated to Illinois, where they had become Seventh-day Adventists. In coming to Placerville they had followed the suggestion of their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Abram Cook who were living there. Mr. Vickery was a shoemaker and was soon well occupied taking care of the miners’ boots.
Mrs. Baker found her own miner, and became Mrs. Hosking. This was the start of the Seventh-day Adventist presence in Placerville, a part of California Conference District No. 5.
The Cooks became Adventists before too long, and the little company met in their home for Sabbath School and Bible study. Their beliefs were strong enough to hold no matter where they were.
Several years later Elder Stevens pitched a tent and conducted meetings, and believers increased in number. On April 11, 1883 this small company started their first Sabbath School, meeting at the home of Abram Cook. More relatives were drawn to Placerville to enlarge the little group. In 1887 the following members were listed in the Sabbath School Minutes Book: Bertie Hart, Mrs. Maria Mayer, Lizzi Mayer, F. T. Lamb, Mr. and Mrs. R. Hosking, Lillie Boyer, Mr. and Mrs. Alan Boles, Emery Boles, Lavella Boles, Joe Hosking, Richard Hosking, Lizzi Lark–fifteen in all. Mrs. Maria Mayer had been widowed, but soon found her miner and became Mrs. Mather.
The little company was gradually increasing, and it was recognized by the Conference that there should be a church building in this mining town and county seat of Placerville. On June 24, 1893, the church organization was made official. Elder G. K. Owens, president of the Conference, presided. The following names are listed as charter members: Lizzie Baker (church clerk-treasurer), Carrie Boles, E. A. Boles, Emory Boles, Mrs. M. A. Fisher, Ilott Hosking (deaconess), Richard Hosking (elder), Eliza Knighton, Estella Knighton, Maria Mayer, Josephine Reynolds, Linnie Shepard, and Elizabeth Williams, thirteen in all. The Boles home on Spring Street was used for Sabbath services. The first quarterly services were held the following Sabbath July 1, 1893.
Private homes and Grange halls, and later Confidence Hall on Main Street were no longer suitable for their meetings. On February 6, 1895 Brethren Shepard and Boles were named as a committee to investigate the purchase of the Jewish Synagogue, which had been offered to them for $400. They found it was not adequate, so on March 6 they solicited a bid from Mr. Beach to build a church for $675.
On April 10 a committee was named to look into either construction or purchase of a meeting house, and by August 7 the church decided to purchase a 4Ox5O lot on Jackson Street (now Spring Street) from Mrs. Mary Mell for $50. On January 8, 1896 the record states that they would “dedicate their meeting house as soon as the debt was raised.” This building was dedicated on February 22 and 23, 1896. Elder N. C. McClure preached the dedicatory sermon on the “Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists.” Elder William Ing was district pastor at that time.
The members of this newly established church were evidently hale and hearty, for no one else would have been able to scale the long flight of steep stairs to attend the meetings held in this church high on a hillside.
For a time, Elder McClure lived in the home of Stephen and Linnie Shepard. Some living today will remember the Shepard’s daughters as Genevieve Gross, Hazel Volz, and Shirley Pendry. Other pastors who assisted during this period were Elder Briggs, who was blind, and Elder Healy.
Membership for the little church varied over the years. Another Seventh-day Adventist church was built in Camino, seven miles away. People moved away. Evangelistic efforts were not always too successful, for this area had the reputation of being very hard to penetrate. If you did not belong to a family whose early members had come across the plains, or had come with the influx of the gold rush, you were considered an outsider and were not well accepted. Mining dwindled as an occupation, and the Jackson Street church dwindled with it
By 1930 only nine members met in the little church, now definitely showing its age. The Camino Church was prospering more. The Larsen family, a large family of farmers with a good assortment of children, was the nucleus there, but Placerville was not a farming community. It was the Thiele family that held the few remaining Adventists here together. There was no resident pastor to encourage the little flock. It was very infrequent that anyone, even district pastors, came to encourage the few who remained faithful. Sabbath after Sabbath went by with only the courageous few to lead out in Bible study, particularly James B. Gillett and Herman Thiele. No one was able to preach a sermon, but faith was strong.
The little company recognized that a modem, attractive church would bring in more members. The eleven members put their heads together, as well as the contents of their pocketbooks, and on November 21, 193 1, after the first church had been demolished, they began building a new, white, Spanish-style church seating fifty people. During construction they met in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Mathers. This church was presented to the Conference free of debt and was built without any Conference help. The stucco church and lot were appraised at $2,700. Elder W. M. Adams, Conference president, presided at the dedication. That building is now used as a residence.
There was still no pastor, just two or three of the local members to lead out. There was only one room for all ages of children. Their singing was led by playing the old pump organ passed down from the first church. Every member had to do something in the church work if it was to be done at all, and do it they did.
Finally, in 1936 the first resident ordained minister, Elder T. Thumler arrived. How happy the growing company of Adventists was to actually have a trained pastor. He was an older man, about ready for retirement, but he pastored well, doing a great deal, especially to get the new union church school built and operating. Later Elder Olmstead was the resident pastor for a similar term.
Membership in the little white stucco church continued to grow. An evangelistic series of meetings with Elder Wilton Lockwood in charge was held in a portable auditorium erected on Coloma Street behind where Memory Chapel now is. These meetings were very successful, and it became obvious that something would have to be done about a new church building, for there was standing room only on Sabbath mornings. Elder A. Elmer Nelson was sent by the Conference to care for the rapidly growing flock.
He guided it through the purchase of a lot on the comer of Coloma and Bee Streets, and the beginning of a brick structure there. With expert brick layers in the tried-and-true Thiele family, who with foresight had stockpiled materials ahead of time as they could obtain them, building progressed quite well during those war years when materials were hard to find.
Services were moved to the portable auditorium and members continued to meet there during construction in spite of its very leaky roof and chilly reception in the winter (this building eventually became the academy gym). It was necessary to keep galoshes on during services. Baptisms were held in the American River at Chili Bar.
The members were happy to be able to move into their new church on April 28, 1945, and it was dedicated May 31, 1947. The cost of constructing this church was $17,500. How the new church was enjoyed, but there was one consistent problem that occurred nearly every winter–the nearby creek caused the basement and its classrooms to flood, a little matter that had been overlooked during building plans.
The labors of several pastors and evangelists were rewarded through the following years. Pastor Nelson was followed by Elder Hubert K. Martin, Elder Robert Thompson, Elder Clarence N. Kohler, and then Elder Otto Schnepper. Those who were there then remember the delicious hand-dipped chocolates created every Christmas by Mrs. Schnepper.
The brick church seated 255, but by 1964 it was filled to capacity and overflowing, and there were insufficient rooms to separate the children’s divisions. The Youth had to meet in the Baptist Church across the street. There was a definite need for a larger facility.
Seventy-five families now comprised the church, and under the shepherding of Elder Irvin E. Kurtz, the congregation moved forward on building a new church. After looking at several sites, an attractive site clearly visible from Highway 50 and Missouri Flat Road was purchased. A youth chapel, fellowship hall, and four Sabbath Schoolrooms were completed in 1969 under the able superintendence of Harold Pendry. The youth chapel and fellowship hall were separated by a moveable partition, so 270 could crowd in for church services. But almost before this first phase of the construction was completed, it was inadequate and the need for the second phase, a larger sanctuary, offices, and conference room, was keenly felt.
With building costs skyrocketing, it took a lot of faith to launch into this project, but with encouragement from Dr. Caleb Davidian and under the able leadership of Elder William (Bill) Hilliard, the work was begun. Many hours of donated time helped the project along, and even some of the women were not afraid to nail shingles on the steep roof One worker lost his footing and slid all the way to the bottom, but landed right-side-up on the ground unharmed. The sanctuary was ready for occupancy by Christmas of 1971. By the time all loans were paid off and the church dedicated December 21, 1974, Elder John Sharp was pastor. This church cost $500,000, and the old brick church sold for $75,000.
After Elder Sharp left, Elder Robert Larsen became pastor, assisted by Elder Glenn Fillman who had retired nearby. After seven years, Elder Larsen transferred to El Sobrante and there was a period of several months when the church was without a pastor. The void was filled by Elder E. J. “Bud” Brackett from Crescent City. He had a rich background of varied experience, much of it in the South. He preached his first sermon here on September 21, 1985. Membership stood at about 400, and during his term it grew to about 465.
Elder John Cress began his ministry in Placerville in late 1992 and membership now stands at over 650. History has a way of repeating itself. Now, 24 years after our last move, the church is again packed nearly every Sabbath, and it is only a question of time before it will again be necessary to expand our facility where it is, or build a new one elsewhere.
The first Adventist presence in Placerville began in 1874. The church was officially organized June 24, 1893. There was no resident pastor until Elder T. Thumler arrived in 1936. Prior to his arrival, there were a number of ministers who assisted the church on a part-time basis:
Elder N. C. McClure, who lived for a time with the Shepard family during the time the first church, was built.
Elder William Ing.
Elder Briggs, who was blind.
Brother J. C. Rasmussen* (a layman)
Full-time ministers were:
Elder T. Thurnler* 1936 –
Elder H. C. Olmstead*
Elder A. Elmer Nelson* – 1948
Elder Hubert K. Martin* 1948 -1950
Elder Robert Thompson* 1950-1955
Frank Michaelson, Intern
Marvin Seibel, Intern
John Osborne, Intern
Pastor Clyde A. Sage* 1955-1956
(One year at both Camino & Placerville, then went to Camino)
Pastor Clarence N. Kohler 1956-1959
Pastor Otto Schnepper 1959-1964
Pastor Irvin Kurtz 1964-1968
Pastor William Hilliard 1969-1974
Pastor John Sharp 1974-1978
Jim Church, summer intern
Pastor Robert Larsen 1978-1985
Pastor E. J. “Bud” Brackett 1985-1992
Pastor John Cress 1992-2001
Pastor James Pimentel 2002- 2008
Pastor Ron Mellor 2008 – 2014
*Camino and Placerville shared these pastors.
Thanks to Terry Blevins for compiling this information.