Where Faith & Life Connect
Yankton Community Fellowship
Est. 1893

The History of Yankton church

Our story begins back in the very earliest days of this community when this area was simply known as the Milton Creek valley. Down towards the Columbia River, where the railroad crosses Milton Creek, a long empty boxcar once stood doubling both as a station and a freight depot. This stop on the railroad was called Milton. The year was 1891. Leading away from the railroad tracks through the mud, around the stumps, and between trees, a path led up Milton Creek about 3 miles to a little sawmill which seemed to be the focal point of activity. There a rugged and energetic pioneer from Maine, by the name of Herb Howard had set up shop back in 1879. He employed a small crew and supplied a boarding house for them, as they cut lumber for the few settlers scattered in the surrounding area to build their homes and barns.

It was to this one sawmill that one Frank Brown came in February of 1891. He also had come from Maine along with his wife Alice. Frank and Alice loved what they found in this new land. There was so much to offer here, and Alice sent glowing letters back to her family in Maine.

At this time most of the people arriving were from New England and the name “Yankeetown” was beginning to replace “Milton Creek” in conversation. Alice’s report to the Tarbell’s back in Maine was so favorable that a Tarbell migration began and more people from Maine came year by year. As they did a tug of war ensued for the name. Because of those from Maine, “Maineville” sounded much better than “Yankeetown”.

Right at the beginning of this migration came Alice’s parents, Charles and Nancy Tarbell. They boarded the train in Maine on the second Saturday in April of 1892, to begin their long trip to Oregon.

First Baptist – Maineville

In 1893 Grover Cleveland began his second term as the 24th President of the United States on shaky ground. The New York Stock Market crashed in June and the bottom fell out of the economy. The country entered one of its worst depressions ever.

This probably seemed very remote to Charles and his son Lawrence as they set about planting fruit trees in the Spring of 93’. However, the Tarbell’s were also interested in planting more than fruit trees. Charles had served as a deacon in the Baptist Church for some forty years, and he had helped organize two churches back in Maine. He knew that this community needed a church as well.

So, at his initiative, a public notice went out that a meeting was to take place on Saturday, August 12, 1893, to organize a church. The meeting would be held at the one room community schoolhouse where a Sunday school had been started several years earlier.

The Sunday before the meeting, as a prelude, a circuit riding preacher by the name of Rev. E.S. Faxon of Columbia City preached at the schoolhouse both morning and evening on why a Baptist Church was needed.

Then when the meeting took place, as scheduled that following Saturday, a new church was organized. It was called the First Baptist Church of Maineville – since all twelve of the charter members were from Maine.

They were:

Charles and Nancy Tarbell

Lawrence and Emma, and Iris Tarbell

Frank and Alice Brown

C.H. and M.E. Newell

Percis Ridley

J.R. Sherman

Wilfred Miller


A few months later, the Oregon State Baptist Convention officially recognized the new church with three out-of-town ministers officiating at a special service held in May of 1894.

The church merged with the Sunday school that had preceded it, now offering the usual Sunday school plus preaching services whenever a minister was available. The Reverend E.S. Faxon became a fairly regular circuit rider preacher for Maineville in those early days.

Meanwhile a new post office was in the works and the names “Yankeetown” and “Mainville” were both submitted with petitions. The US postal department apparently didn’t like either choice, for when the  new branch opened its doors on August 15, 1894, across from the schoolhouse the name over the door was “Yankton” a shortened version of “Yankeetown”. And so, the schoolhouse became the Yankton school, and the area became Yankton. The church remained the First Baptist Church of Mainville for another 9 years.

The meetings were reported to be a great success when they were able to have them. The church did not increase in its membership during its first decade, perhaps it was because that until 1897, the church was without a regular minister of its own. The first official minister came in April of 1897. His name was Reverend T.A. Fairchild, and he was called to serve on a half-time basis, devoting the remainder of his time doing missionary work in the county. The church voted to pay Reverend Fairchild $100 per year and the state board was asked to contribute the same amount. Reverend Fairchild held his position until September of 1898. With Fairchild’s resignation came several more years without a pastor. The pulpit was filled by Baptist ministers and missionaries that happened to be in the area.

Yankton Baptist Church

Yankton at the time it was being developed:

Telephone lines had been laid and a new hall, the Yankton Grange, had been built in 1902, but something was missing. Yankton needed to have a House of worship of it’s own. So, on July 29th, 1902, a meeting was called at the home of Charles and Nancy to discuss the matter of building a church. Three important decisions were made at this meeting.

  1. The church would be built on a lot donated by Lawrence Tarbell across from the cemetery. It was the perfect spot located on a hill and it would stand as a beacon visible from a distance in every direction.
  2. A committee consisting of Charles Tarbell, Frank Brown, and Lawrence Tarbell were appointed to head up the building project.
  3. The cost of the construction was not to exceed the funds raised so that the building could be debt-free.

Charles donated $100 to begin the building fund, and as others reached into their pockets, the building began. During the fall of 1902, the building frame was raised, and a roof was shingled over it. People donated time and materials as this labor of love continued. At one point when more materials were needed, Charles sold his only horse and only means of transportation for $50 to purchase more. The new organ, the bell, the songbooks, the chandelier, and the pulpit Bible were gifts from this devoted family.

The church was beautiful within and without, with its stained glass windows, oiled hardwood floors, comfortable pews and pulpit which were both made by 70 year old Charles. Everything connected with building was completed before the day set for the dedication.

No wonder tears of joy spring to the eyes of those twelve members when they first heard that clear-tone bell calling their friends and neighbors to the dedication service. On that day, the church not only had a new building and location, but a new name as well – Yankton Baptist church. The dedication service was at 11:00 AM on July 5th, 1903, with Reverend Leonard W. Riley preaching the dedication message. Lawrence Tarbell reported that the church had been built debt free, praise the Lord! In fact, there was still $3 hard cash left in the treasury of the $305.15 building fund.

The church had been built without a dollar going for labor. The biggest picture in the new church was the bell which had cost $52.

In August the same year Reverend E.A. Smith was called as pastor. He remained there until 1904, leaving the church greatly strengthened. Within the next few years under the pastorate of Reverend C.H. McKee, the church began to grow in members until a total of 35 was reached – a large number for the size of the community in the early 1900s.

From September 1906, until September 1908, only occasional services were recorded, with Reverend E.A. Smith serving as helping pastor. Reverend Smith, who also held a pastorate in Portland, would come to the Yankton Church as often as it was possible for him to do so.

From 1908 to 1909 Reverend Sherrill served as a full time pastor. From March 1909 to June 1923, the church held very few services, none of which were recorded. The Sunday school, however, met most of the time and was under supervision of the American Sunday School Union. From time to time, visiting ministers from the Saint Helens churches and Baptist ministers from the state would come and preach.

In June 1923, Reverend J.A. Surgeon was called as pastor, dividing his time with Delana. Reverend Surgeon found the church with its lowest numbers of members, only 10, and was able in the course of his two year term to add 12 new members.

From 1925 to 1927, the church was again without a pastor and again visiting ministers from Saint Helens and elsewhere filled the pulpit from time to time. The Sunday school continued despite the absence of regular church services and a Christian endeavor for the young people was organized.

In May of 1928 reverend E.L. Baker, who had been preaching in the church during the winter months, was called to be pastor. In 1928 marked the 35th anniversary of the church and a special commemorative service was held on August 12th, with Reverend Smith as guest speaker.

The period between 1928 and 1930, saw a great growth in membership and activity in the church, the Sunday school, and to the Christian endeavor. Funds were set aside to paint and repair the church which greatly improved the appearance of the building. In September of 1930 Reverend Baker, who had been such a boon to the church, resigned to accept another pastorate. For the two following years the church did not have a regular pastor.

In 1932 Reverend L.C. Elliott, who had been conducting highly successful revival meetings in Saint Helens, was called to minister to the Yankton church. Reverend Elliott was destined to serve the church for two different terms, both terms were to see great growth and activity in the church. During his first term with the church, the membership was greatly increased, and plans were made and executed to make an addition to the building in order to accommodate the growing attendance. This edition consisted of the platform in the main auditorium and two Sunday school rooms.

In 1934 Reverend Elliott resigned to take another post and Miss Lydia Gillespie was chosen to fill the vacant pastorate. She held this position until 1936. Upon her resignation Reverend Elliott was asked to return to Yankton church, which he did. During the next three years the church again grew in membership and activities. The records reveal 88 persons on the membership rolls. In 1939 Reverend Elliott left Yankton church to accept the ministry of the Grace Baptist Church in Saint Helens and Reverend Ernest Ralston was called to fill the Yankton vacancy.

Reverend Ralston was with the Yankton church until 1943. During his ministry, a building fund was started that was later applied to the purchasing of a Parsonage, and repairs and improvements were made on the church building.

Upon Reverend Ralston’s resignation in 1943, Reverend T. Roy David was called. Reverend David, who had the honor of occupying the pulpit for the longest period of time, was instrumental in helping the church launch its greatest period of prosperity, both in members and activities. From 1943 to 1953, the membership of Yankton Baptist Church increased from 53 to 143. Old fashioned revival meetings were a common occurrence as a big tent with a sawdust floor would go up on the property and the sound of emotion-charged music, fire and brimstone preaching would fill the air.

Other additions such as the Parsonage, the fireplace room, and the baptistry were added. Reverend David painted the mural on the baptistry wall as well.

Both reverend David and his wife Ruth had a heart for missions and Ruth organized a very active women’s missionary group. In addition, the church put on lots of elaborate plays and hosted many banquets.

In 1958, a major addition was made to the church building of a large room, which would serve both as a classroom and as an overflow seating area for the auditorium. This new room was dedicated in memory of Guy L. Tarbell, who was Lawrence Tarbell’s son.

After 17 years of faithful service in January 1960, Reverend T. Roy David ended their ministry at Yankton and took a pastorate in New Plymouth, Idaho.

March 1st, 1960, Reverend David Turner and his wife Mary began their service at Yankton. They remained until December 31st, 1961. During their time the church was redecorated, and a new organ was purchased.

Reverend Dennis and Shirley Perkins came to Yankton church on March 11, 1962. A new floor furnace was installed in the church as well as a new stained glass window.

Reverend Perkins resigned in January 1965, to start a new church in Clackamas OR.

Reverend and Mrs. Cox pastored the church from February 7th, 1965, to September 3rd, 1967. Reverend Cox was known for his faithful ministry to elderly shut-ins.

Doctor Roger Condon, vice president of Multnomah school of the Bible, was interim pastor from December 1967 to March 1968.

In September 1968, Reverend Jack and Louise Baldwin began their 23 year term at Yankton Church. The entire family ministered here. Louise took an active role in working with the children, and in leading the music for the worship services. Their oldest daughter Jill would play the piano for the church, while the younger sister, Jenny, helped with the children’s church.

During this time a new parsonage was built in 1972, and completely paid off within a couple of years. Then, as the church had outgrown its building, ground was broken and a brand new church building went up, being completed by the summer of 1987. That building was paid off on October 1st, 1991.

Pastor Jack also brought with him a more personal and contemporary worship style to the services at Yankton, which would eventually find themselves being broadcast on the local public access TV channel. He also started a network of share and care cell groups which replaced the traditional midweek service. During those years, a kindergarten was started that would operate here for about 10 years. For the older kids, a number of youth pastors would come to minister.

Pastor Jack brought a very warm, caring, compassionate, people oriented ministry style to Yankton. He was involved in all types of ministries, whether to shut-ins, to those who recently lost loved ones, to those struggling with alcohol, or simply whenever there were needs. He was also involved in the Kiwanis and took an active role in the local ministerial association.

In August of 1991, Pastor Jack and Louise ended their faithful service at Yankton and moved to California to be near their daughters.

Ralph Isensee stepped in for a brief time to serve as interim pastor.

December 1991 to the spring of 1995, Pastor Steve Donais and his wife Jonna served at Yankton.

From the spring of 1995 to the spring of 1996, Pastor Neil Winegarden and his wife Grace served as interim pastor.

Spring of 1996, Pastor Fred Butcher and his wife Martie began their fruitful service. Fred brought with him a passion for the word of God. He encouraged the congregation to bring their bibles to church and “check on him” to make sure that he was correct in his teaching. He also had a great passion for prayer and began early morning prayer times. Fred developed a passion for missions, and made a declaration that, “we are a missions church”. Thus, Yankton Church began sending short-term missions’ teams overseas. Under his watch the church began thriving ministries to addicts (Recovery Fellowship) to the homeless (Candle on the Way) and to those in jail. Pastor Fred also served as the chairman of the local ministerial association. In July 2011 Pastor Fred retired.

Pastor Rick and Paula Worlitz visited Yankton Church on Easter in 1987, for the first time, and found a home. Over the years Pastor Rick has served the church as a home group leader, worship leader, a member of the business administration team, and as a member of the board of elders.

In October of 2004, the Lord called him to become the Associate Pastor of Yankton Church, and in August of 2012, to become the Senior Pastor.

Pastor Rick believes that the combined ministries of Dr. Baldwin and Pastor Butcher represent the very heartbeat for which Yankton Church was established for by our Lord, reaching out to the broken and downtrodden, bringing hope to the hopeless, faith to those who have lost their way, and sharing the love of God.

As we move forward into the future, we shall continue to proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ to all who have ears to hear and hearts to receive.