CHURCHES in Elk Grove
(NOTE: Most of this information was gathered from our local historian Elizabeth Pinkerton’s HHH history books, the Elk Grove Historical Society research library files, and information shared by several parishioners from the various churches. It is by no means complete and various memories may be different than actual facts, but it is the best we can do and believe it to be true. We are always willing to except more information. Please contact us if you have anything to share. Thank you)
There has always been a religious presence in our community. Religion and cultures flourished in the area and as a result many churches were built. Many communities formed around the church and the church became an anchor and central point of socialization. Much has changed since those early years and as the population increases it brings even more changes.
We can start at the beginning with the early indigenous Native American Miwoks who had strong spiritual beliefs and who were given the responsibility of caretakers over animals and earth. The Mexican occupation of California added their Christian religious doctrine and later the Gold miners brought their religious needs and customs. Immigration added much to the religious growth like the Japanese settling in Florin, the Mormons who traveled from the east, to Utah, and then Sloughhouse as well as the German-Russian immigration to the Point Pleasant/Franklin/Elk Grove area. No matter how they got here religion played an important part of the local community and was constantly in flux. Some churches began in the homes of parishioners until funds could be raised. Some religions just used abandoned or unused buildings and later built a bigger church at another location.
Checking our museum files as well as consulting with local historian Elizabeth Pinkerton we have some history of many of our earlier local churches. We will start with her descriptions from her History Happened Here Book-2, Chapter-18 published in 2002. (See the end of the article) Here are some of their stories.
1856 – Elk Grove Presbyterian Church
According to Thompson and West, this church was organized on February 12 1876. The first services were held as early as 1856 in the old Elk Grove schoolhouse on what was referred to as the Sacramento Road. This building still stands on the old Foulks Ranch. By 1880 though, services were held in the Elk Grove schoolhouse, the school that stands on Frontage Road, north of Wal-Mart.
Rev. J. S. McDonald presided in 1875 and 1876. The church building was erected in 1876 at a cost of $2700, west of the railroad tracks and on the south side of Main Street. George Harvey Kerr was elected Ruling Elder at the time the church was organized, and he still held that office in 1880. The first pastor was Rev. William Talmadge, there from 1874 to 1879. In 1880 there was no pastor and there were only ten members. However, the Sunday school had 40 enrolled, and the Reverend W. H. Talmadge was listed as the Superintendent. first services were held as early as 1856 in the old Elk Grove Schoolhouse on what was referred to as the Sacramento Road. This building still stands on the old Foulks Ranch. By the 1880’s though, services were held in another Elk Grove schoolhouse, the school still stands as a resident on the frontage Road just north of Walmart
The church building was built in 1976 at a cost of $2700, west of the railroad tracks, on the south side of Main Street (Elk Grove Boulevard). George Harvey Kerr was the Ruling Elder at the time, and it is likely that he donated the land. This is where today’s Elk Grove United Methodist Church is (corner of Gage Street) – Note: next entry connection.
1858 – Elk Grove United Methodist Church
A preacher on horseback (called a circuit rider) came to the Elk Grove Methodist-Episcopal Church in the mid 1850’s. There were 52 members of the church in 1880. The first Methodist Church in Elk Grove was on the south side of East Main Street (Elk Grove Boulevard). Todays’ Methodist Church building was built in 1922, following a merger of the members with the families from Bruceville Methodist Episcopal Church.
1862 – Ebenezer Baptist Church
The Ebenezer Baptist Church, also known as thew Brown Church, was organized on October 5, 1862. It was located on the Upper Stockton Road (Highway 99). The only thing that remains today is the cemetery that was formed around the the original church. If you look at the San Joaquin Cemetery (NW corner of Sheldon Road and Highway 99) you will notice in the center of the cemetery there is an area that has no burial sites This is where the original church was located.
There are no published accounts of this church, but several years ago I was privileged to obtain the official records of this church, and I found that it was established on October 5, 1862, which makes it one of our earliest churches.
The records came to light in a curious way as is so often the case with local historical information. Ebenezer Baptist Church came to my attention when I was vice-principal at Elk Grove High School in 1982. A gentleman from Los Angeles came to Sacramento to settle an estate, and in a file cabinet that belonged to the late gentleman, who I believe was a lawyer, he had found an ancient record book. He called a person he knew who happened to be someone that knew how to reach me, and suddenly, there I was with this old, old, book in my hand. It was written in a fine Spencerian hand, and all the information was new to me – and fascinating! Best of all, the record book provided us with the answer to a question that nobody had been able to answer – why was there a cemetery all by itself along what is now the northwest intersection of Highway 99 and Sheldon Road?
The answer is that the cemetery is there because it was created by the families who belonged to the Ebenezer Baptist Church of the 1860s. This church was located in San Joaquin Township that covered both Elk Grove and Florin. It was only natural that the name given to the cemetery was the San Joaquin Cemetery, and that is what it is still called today. For those who wondered for years why we had that tiny old cemetery tucked into that tiny bit of space, now you know.
Ebenezer Baptist Church did not seem to have a building as a meeting place. The congregation seemed to meet in private homes. Later, the families met in a school building – in the old Jackson School on what later became Calvine Road. In the record book, the school is referred to as Kennedy’s schoolhouse.
There is another reference to Willson’s schoolhouse, and this one is confusing for there was indeed a Wilson School, but it was east of Slough House, and not anywhere near the families who were in the Ebenezer Baptist congregation. Willson may have been a parishioner, as we know Kennedy was, and they simply referred to the school in that way.
The Reverend O. Crittenden and J. E. Barnes were the founders of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Seven original members are listed in the record book. They are John Kennedy, Mary Kennedy, Susan Kennedy, Jeremiah Sisson, Polly Sisson, H. J. Jackson, Catherine Jackson.
If those names sound familiar, there is good reason for that. Chapter 16 in History Happened Here, Book 1, River, Oaks, Gold, tells the story of Mal Jackson who came west with his family and a whole host of relatives of the Jackson and Kennedy families. This is where they settled on what we call Calvine Road today, the site of Elk Grove’s new Monterey Trail High School, scheduled to open in 2004, and Raymond Case Elementary a bit to the south.
- The church shall choose a moderator, a clerk that shall continue in office during the pleasure of the church.
- All conference meetings shall be opened by prayer.
- It shall be the duty of the Moderator to invite visiting brethren of our faith and order to a seat with us in council but not to vote.
- Also to inquire if the church is ready for business and to open the doors of the church for the reception of members.
This was written on December 10, 1866 by the clerk, H. J. Jackson:
Church met pursuant to adjournment of Nov. 12. Opened by Prayer by Br. Huff. The Lord made himself manifest in our midst and each member talked about the Goodness of God and expressed a desire that each member would watch over them in brotherly love for fear that the adversary might creep in and destroy the blessing that now abounds in our little church which now is in such a flourishing condition. As this is the last covenant meeting this year I feel to rejoice. Such have been the dealings of God with us that we can gratefully explain his spirit has fallen upon this Church and neighborhood in great bounty, and maybe open the New Year with such showers of blessings the we all will exclaim that the Lord is helping us.
This optimistic account may have been more hopeful than realistic, for the records tell a story quite unlike the clerk’s expectations.
December 16, 1867 –Rained and no meeting. This appeared to be an insignificant comment, but it foretold the trouble to come. The little church began to have problems in the next month.
February 15, 1868,two members were erased from the church book for gambling and swearing. In April another member was excluded for misbehavior that was not defined.
June 25, 1868– Charges were preferred against Br. and Sister Kennedy for unchristian conduct. Br. Henry Kennedy’s confession was handed in & read by Br. Buckner. SisterKennedy read her statement in regard to his conduct towards her. Motion made by Sister Kerr & seconded by Sis Thompson to exclude Br. Henry Kennedy from the church.
The problems continued, and on July 24th, charges were filed against the two Thompson sisters for dancingand against Brother William Kennedy for rough and profane language. In August another member was excluded for non-attendance at church, and the Kennedy and Thompson cases were laid over to the next meeting. August 29th found all in good spirits, but new problems were arising. Wm Kennedy’s case put off till next meeting. Mr. & Mrs. Sisson & Sister Kennedy’s case not settled on the charge of kidnapping Sister Kennedy’s child.
December 9, 1868– The two Thompson sisters were indeed excluded, presumably for their previous dancing. However, Sister Sisson was exonerated from all blame for kidnapping of the child.
November 1873– That was the last record in the book. At that time, the membership had declined to just a few and meetings had become irregular. It is possible that the membership decreased in direct relation to the rise of membership in other area churches.
There has been no one around for a long time that could set the record straight for us on Ebenezer Baptist Church. My casual interpretation of the minutes of church business meetings is risky because we only glimpse bits and pieces of the whole story. That’s all we have though, and even though it tells us a little about the hardy folk who came this way before us, we find ourselves wishing we knew more about the people of Ebenezer Baptist Church. You will find yourself thinking about them every time you pass the cemetery at Sheldon Road.
1876 – Methodist Episcopal Church
Built in 1976 and was located on Elk Grove Boulevard opposite Derr Street
1878 – Florin United Methodist Church
The first services held in Florin were those conducted by E. A. Wible, mining camp preacher, in a saloon and dance hall in 1878. The actual beginning of the Florin United Methodist Church, however, was in 1884.[i] L. L. Goddard was inspired by the preacher to donate property he owned on both sides of the Central Pacific Railroad tracks. On the east side of the tracks the Florin schoolhouse was built, and this is where the Union Sunday School classes were held. On the west side of the tracks is where the Methodist Church was built. It was a quarter of a mile from the tracks on the north side of Florin Road. The building still stands there today. Reverend Albert E. Warren organized the building of the church, L. L. Goddard was the first trustee, and Fred French was the first Sunday School Superintendent.
In 1898 the Casey family donated land next to the church for a parsonage. This helped the families because they could be assured of a resident preacher who kept the boxes of circuit record in Florin. It also helped to develop stability within the community, a major need at a time when many churches were closing. An elegant new building was constructed on Palmer House Drive and Florin Road in 1963. In 1978 Florin Methodist celebrated its 100 year anniversary of the first services held there. In 1984, they celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of their church. (Its now the Church of Christ)
An elegant new building was constructed on Palmar House Drive and Florin Road in 1963.
1896 – Florin Buddhist Church
There were ten immigrant residents of Florin who had come from Japan, and in 1896, they banded together to form the beginning of the Florin Buddhist Church. These Issei (first generation Japanese) farmed in the Florin area, sent for their wives and children, and other friends and relatives, and by 1912 there were 1,000 residents. In 1919 the church members purchased 2.5 acres under the title of Florin Investment Company and registered the Florin Buddhist Church with Sacramento County. They held a groundbreaking ceremony on November 3, 1919 to officially begin the construction of the church. This church still stands proudly on Florin Road, one of the oldest buildings in Florin.
Twenty years later, in 1939, a social hall was constructed; the building, called the Young Buddhists’ Hall (YBA) was also used as a gymnasium. Shortly after, in 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry were evacuated from the area and subsequently sent to internment camps. When World War II ended, and some s returned to Florin, the Buddhist social and religious activities were resumed. Membership increased and there was a need to expand the capabilities of the church. Property behind the church and adjacent to the YBA Hall was donated by Dr. and Mrs. Masayoshi Ito, and there a new temple was built in 1975. A monument was dedicated in 1982 to the memory of the first Japanese arrivals in Sacramento in 1890. The monument was placed on the grounds of the Florin Buddhist Church because it was the only surviving public building used by the Japanese before World War II. The new temple is now on Pritchard Road in Florin
1885 – Evangelical United Brethren Church
A group of families, in the Point Pleasant area, organized the church and met in what was most likely the Point Pleasant school (below) until 1920.
A building was donated and moved to the center of the community. In 1941, the congregation built a new church and renamed it he Zion Evangelical Church of Point Pleasant. Three years alter, a merger of the Evangelical and United brethren denominations occurred, and in 1968, the church merged with Elk Grove’s Methodist Church.
1899 – Point Pleasant United Methodist Church
By Franklin Historian Dennis Buscher
(Note: Dennis is in the process of finishing this article and has a couple of current numbers to still fill in.)
In 1885, a Lutheran minister by the name of Rev. G. H. Hoernicke came from San Luis Obispo County to Pt. Pleasant seeking openings for new mission fields. He encountered a settlement of German people from Ostfriesland, Germany through a family by the name of Walthers, who told him the people desired to start a mission.
The following year in 1886, the Rev. H. Heinhaus, pastor of the First Evangelical Church in Sacramento, who was contacted through the Walthers, learned of this settlement and was interested in organizing a mission in Pt. Pleasant. The first meetings were held in the Pt. Pleasant School house. In 1890, the Rev. F.A. Frase was assigned to the First Evangelical Church in Sacramento, who then replaced Rev. H. Heinhaus in Pt. Pleasant. The Rev Carl Meckel was assigned to the First Evangelical Church in Sacramento in 1891. He continued to hold services in Pt. Pleasant once a month.
In 1892, the Rev. J. Kraber of North Dakota was assigned to the First Evangelical Church in Sacramento. He had a great concern for the people of Pt. Pleasant and was not satisfied with the once a month services. He then appointed Johannes Schmidt to conduct services ever Sunday in his absence who continued in this capacity until 1918.
John Sprock, Sr. opened his home and for two anda half years services were held there. Later he donated a small house to be used as a place of worship. This was moved to the center of the community near the location where the Church building was later constructed.
Under the leadership of Rev. Fred Cordes, Pt. Pleasant was organized as a mission in 1896 with 25 charter members. The family names of the charter members were Sprock, Schmidt, Buscher, Muller and Schultz.
In Feb 1898, the Mission desired to build a church for worship, but due to the drought and a poor outlook of the crops, the Board of Trustees decided to postpone building for one year. On April 4, 1899 it was decided to build a new church. A building fifty feet by forty feet was erected on an acre of ground donated by John Sprock, Sr. The new church was dedicated on August 27, 1899. The cost of the building amounted to $973.75.
In 1902, Mr. John Sprock sold one acre of land south of the church for a cemetery plot for $60, reserving a lot for himself and his family.
In 1909, Pt. Pleasant and Lodi charges were detached from the Sacramento field and were called the Franklin and Victor Missions.
An invitation was extended to the California Conference in 1913 to hold their Annual Conference at Franklin Mission in the year 1914. This necessitated additional room and resulted in the building of an addition to the south side of the church. With the help of the men of the congregation they constructed the addition at a total cost of $857.86.
In 1918, the Franklin and the Victor Missions were divided and the Franklin Mission was re-named Pt. Pleasant mission. This necessitated the building of a parsonage. A lot 75 x 160 feet was donated by Henry H. Buscher. During this year, it was completed with labor donated by the members. Before the division of the missions, the minister from Sacramento commuted either by bicycle, Western Pacific freight train or stage coach to Franklin. Later from Lodi they traveled by automobile.
On August 2, 1941, the ground breaking ceremony took place for the erection of a new church. Demolition of the old building followed the next day. The new church was dedicated on January 11, 1942. The total construction cost was $16,000. This was the only rural church in the conference at the time. The sanctuary was 48’ wide and 36’ long. The Sunday School Auditorium was 44’ long and 26’ wide. There were 7 class rooms, a mother’s room and a kitchen. By opening folding doors the capacity of the sanctuary could be increased to 270 people.
In 1944, the Church became self-supporting and no longer was considered a mission station. At this time the Church as renamed Zion Evangelical Church of Point Pleasant. At a meeting of the General Conference held in Johnstown, Penn in 1946, the Evangelical Church and the united Brethren Church merged. From this time, the church was named Zion Evangelical United Brethren Church of Point Pleasant.
The lot on the north side of the church, that held the Pt. Pleasant General Store, was acquired from W. C. Schmidt and the building was moved to the Art Schmidt ranch. On this lot, in 1971, the Memorial Hall was built and dedicated.
In 1998, the Church purchased 10.7 acres to the north of Memorial Hall for expansion. This was about half of what had been the Christopher & Magdalena Buscher ranch since about 1900. In 2004 a seven member building committee was organized to study the feasibility of building on the property to meet the needs of the growing congregation and serve the needs of the local community. It was determined that was a need for a Ministry Center to be built.
After 3 years of planning, local advisory councils, & traffic studies, the Sacramento County Project Planning Commission approved the use permit in 2007, even though there was concern about building a “mega church” out in the country. Construction started and in 2009 the Ministry Center was completed. Additionally, 3 portable classrooms were moved onto the property to meet the needs of additional classroom space.
The 1941 church building is used for traditional services, weddings, funerals and smaller services while the ministry center is used for contemporary services and larger functions.
1913 – Florin Japanese Methodist Church
Dr. H. B. Johnson, Superintendent of the Methodist Missions, met with leaders of the Florin Japanese community in 1913 to assist with anti-Japanese discrimination. This was shortly after the passage of the Alien Land Law, a very harmful piece of legislation that prohibited the non-citizens from owning property. Dr. Johnson discussed the establishment of a Japanese Christian church where Sunday School and Japanese language could be taught. Yasaburo Tsuda came to Florin as a teacher that same year. He conducted the first Japanese classes in a stable where the Buddhist Church is now located. Children paid tuition of 25 cents a month. The first baptisms were those of Shuichi Fujii and the family of Rokumatsu Kawamoto. Kuzo Tsukamoto’s (father of Al Tsukamoto) and Kennosuke Yamada picked up children with a horse and wagon at Christmas and brought them to the church for their first Christmas services. For most this was the first Christmas pageant they had ever seen.
The members of the Florin community raised $1,400 to build the first Japanese church in 1915. (Now belongs to the Free Wesleyan Methodist Church of Tonga) families were evacuated in 1942, the church was boarded up and the belongings of members were stored in the community hall.
When families began to return from internment camps after 1946, the church was used as a hostel until they could get settled. In 1966 the families that returned to the area built a new church on Franklin Boulevard, north of Florin Road.
The church was again used until they merged with the Sacramento Methodist Church in 1963 (or ’64?) when the Sacramento redevelopment project condemned the Sacramento Methodist Church. The two groups joined forming the Sacramento Japanese Methodist Church. In 1966, a new church was built on Franklin Boulevard, north of Florin Road. It was the old M. Pegerwin Memorial Methodist Church, which was closed due to lack of members. – Marielle Tsukamoto
1917 – St Joseph’s Catholic Church.
The first Catholic services in Elk Grove were held in the home of the Daresay Family from 1903 to 1917. This congregation began its Elk Grove existence as a mission church. It was served by other Catholic churches in the county including the Cathedral in Sacramento, and parishes in Folsom, Jackson, and Galt.
The old church, (Now called the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Holy Trinity Church) with the distinctive early California mission style architecture, at the corner of Grove and Gage Streets was built in 1917. In 1962, St Joseph’s became its own parish with the little church as its center. In 1972, the present building was constructed across from the Elk Grove Park.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN ELK GROVE
by Christine Gallaugher
On December 26, 2017 almost 10 decades will have passed since the day that property on Grove street for the new Catholic Church was transferred from Maria A. Bettersworth and her husband, A. P. Bettersworth. into the hands of Bishop Thomas Grace of the Roman Catholic Diocese for the sum of $10.00 in gold coin. The conveyance of the property in Elk Grove was recorded in Sacramento on January 1, 1918 by Wm. Douglas. St. Joseph’s Church of Elk Grove was built soon after. this date and written notes from Parishioners indicate that it was spoken of as “a handsome country church”.
When the church building was completed, Elk Grove was still a mission under St. Patrick’s in Jackson. as was St.. Christopher’s in Galt. The Galt Church was completed at least a year later. Father John Ellis, pastor of St. Patrick’s in Jackson was active in helping the people of Elk Grove organize and build their church.
Recorded history of the mission area of Elk Grove is traced as far back as 1864. Priests from Sacramento served Folsom from St. Rose of Lima. the first Catholic Church in Sacramento. They made their way into the mission fields along the gold trails as often as time and weather permitted. The priests followed the “American River digs” and also went into the “Cosumnes River digs” that included Michigan Bar Sloughhouse. Live Oak, Elk Grove and Galt.
Because the demand on the time of the priests who came out of Sacramento was so great. the Elk Grove area was served only occasionally, as noted in the history recorded in “Hallowed Were The Gold Dust Trails” by Henry L. Walsh. S.J. Even so, many were the priests who came to Sacramento and became exhausted from the mission work in the gold fields. Some returned to San Francisco or Ireland, both sick and overtired, Father (Cornelius) Neal Gallagher. who was enthused about the mission work. staved until exhausted, going to San Francisco for a rest only when ordered then returning to the work he loved, finally to die at an early age. As a rule. the Priests doing the mission work lived in the rectory of St. Rose of Lima. then the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. even after they. were appointed pastors of Folsom or Jackson. Father Neal listed the missions be tended in the Cosumnes area as Michigan Bar, Sloughhouse, Live Oak, Pleasant Grove, Elk Grove and Galt. Father Gallagher noted in 1864 then” were many baptisms recorded in the register of St. .John the Baptist of Folsom for those living in Elk Grove, Michigan Bar, Sloughhouse. Courtland and Walnut Grove,
In 1908 the DaRosa-Neves winery was built. From 1912 through 1917. mass was held in the home of Mrs. DaRosa. Elk Grove Catholics were invited to join in the celebration of mass once a month with her family. At last. the Catholics of Elk Grove had a place to attend mass regularly, Father John Ellis. resident priest. of Sacramento. became pastor of Jackson’s St. Patrick’s Church. The mission of Elk Grove was moved from Folsom to Jackson.
All were so grateful to the DaRosa family and. with the parishioners in support of the project. a lot was purchased and construction of a church was begun. Listed among the first workers were the Joseph DaRosa family. Mrs. Margaret Keating. Mrs. Lillian Valensin, Mr. and Mrs. Dell Cann, Ralph Hooper. Miss Mollie Armstrong. Mr. Joe Perry, Joe Baggenstos, Mr. and Mrs. John (Mary) Ring and family, Misses Mary and Kate Handley. Mr. and Mrs. Tom Maroney, Miss Mayme Maroney, Blanche Hooper Riley, Mrs. Laura Coons. William Jenkins and family and Flora Neves Gomes. Ladies credited with organizing the group were Mrs. Annie Jenkins, Mrs. Thomas Maroney, Miss Mayme Maroney, Mrs. M. Flaherty. Mrs. Vernon Coons. Mrs. E. G. Valensin, Mrs. John Ring anti Mrs. Annie Ring. These names were listed by Annie Jenkins in a letter to Helen Larkin. She added she might have added a few names that were not there in the beginning or left some out. but this was “what ‘she remembered.
The church in Elk Grove was completed in 1918 and dedicated to St. Joseph. A banquet was held in the DaRosa home to celebrate the completion of the building of the church. Bishop Thomas Grace and other visiting priests were present.
According to Annie Jenkins. special donations to the church were the Stations of the Cross by Thomas Farrell of Sacramento; Statue of the Blessed Virgin by Mrs. Laura Coons; Statue of St. Anthony by Bertha Mooney; Statue of the Sacred’ Heart. Mrs. Helen McKinstry of Alameda, mother of Laura Coons: Statue of St. Joseph. Mrs. Ida DaRosa Farrell; and carpet for the floor of the altar and runways by Mrs. Annie Jenkins, herself.
The altar, original organ and other accessories were donated by priests of other Parishes. The window of St. Joseph was donated by a priest. It was stained glass. circular in shape. designed and made in Germany. It was restored in 1985 and now hangs in the church.
Generous contributions by families were a wonderful help to the new church, Mrs. Springstead was chairman of many of the card parties. dances, raffles. dinners and bazaars given to help dear the debt.
The first marriage in the new church was that of Miss Ida DaRosa of Elk Grove and Thomas Farrell of Sacramento. In 1929 Helen Maroney married Martin Larkin and in 1931 Alma Campi and Joe Lopes were married, Alma and Joe Lopes are still members of SL Joseph’s congregation.
In 1920 St. Christopher’s of Galt was made a parish and St. Joseph’s of Elk Grove was placed under it as a mission.
The ‘oldest active society” of the church is the Altar Society. It up-dated its name in the early 70’s to Women’s League, From the beginning. this organization was responsible for the fund-raising activities. In the 1940’s. under Father Dermody, it met once a year to plan the Annual fund- raiser. Monthly dues were collected at the back of the church and written into the treasurer’s hook by Doris Dymoc.
On January 29, 1953. the mission church added to its main church building program by purchasing the old Cosmetology Building from the Sacramento Junior College. The men of the church remodeled it into a parish hall.
The Parish Hall became the hub of church activities. The Altar Society met the second Wednesday afternoon monthly in the hall and the CYO on Wednesday evening. The Religious School of instruction was held in both hall and church one day a week. It was due to Father Horgan’s efforts that the CYO was organized in 1955.
The tools used by Father Horgan to accomplish this building program was the formation of a Men’s Club in 1951. It was called “St. Joseph’s Business Men’s Club” and lasted while Father Horgan was pastor. The first president was George Brereton. Others active in the leadership of the organization were Joseph Gomes. John Mahoney. Harold Traxler and the last president. Ed Seivert. The church congregation was growing and efforts were made to enlarge the church structurally. However, the men were only able to move the confessional walls under the stairway and turn the anteroom. in which the Altar Society had met once a year, into a crying room for mothers and their small children. A plate glass window was placed in the wall so the Mass could be seen and the children not heard.
When Father Gilligan came to SL Joseph’s in 1956, he said. “Let the children be heard.” When a child tried or talked in the middle of one of his sermons, his reaction was to laugh and say, “These arc the prayers of little babies.” How Father Gilligan loved the children. Through his efforts. St. Joseph’s. after 42 years a mission to Galt. became a Parish and he the first founding pastor in 1962.
Father Gilligan had great plans for the parish. He and Father Tobias Yereker, his assistant, moved into a rented house in Elk Grove until they could purchase a rectory. They finally purchased the house of George and Cecelia Moore on the corner of Elk Grove-Florin Road and 2nd Avenue.
His love for children manifested itself in many ways. but none clearer than in his efforts to build a Catholic school. He purchased forty acres of land on Bradshaw Road for a proposed convent and school.
Fr. Jeremiah Boland succeeded Fr. Gilligan in 1966 and served with distinction until 1970.
In December of 1972, more than fifty years after the first church was built, Father John McDonnell, the third pastor of the new and growing parish. announced the sale of the old church and plans to build a new church on Elk Grove-Florin Road across from Elk Grove Park. The Bradshaw Road property was traded to the Bishop as collateral for building funds. The church was planned to accommodate 250 to 300 people comfortably at mass, The Portuguese of the church community were interested in a larger church. also, for they had formed a Society for an annual “Celebration of the Holy Spirit” and found the old church much too small for the crowd of over 400 that appeared for the crowning of the Queen of the Holy Ghost Festival. They were fulfilling the promises of Queen Isabella of Portugal to feed the poor in answer to her prayers that a war between her husband, the King of Portugal. and her son be prevented. She prayed that wherever Portuguese people would live, the Holy Spirit would be honored by Mass and the giving of meat to the poor. The tradition was new to the Elk Grove area but had been in constant practice in California since the coming of the first Portuguese families.
In 1975. Father Leo McAllister came to Elk Grove. During his ten years here. he completed the building of classrooms and enlarged the kitchen to better facilitate the preparation and serving of meals in this very active Parish. An adjoining piece of property was purchased in 1986. It is on this land that. the new Social Hall will be built.
Sister Mercedes’ influence in the parish took place over a longer period than any of the other Sisters who carne. for she was here twice. Her first tour here. she taught the first CCD Lay teacher classes in old St. Joseph’s. ‘With Father Gilligall teaching the theology while she took over the theory and practice of teaching. The first class graduated three teachers. Completion of thirty hours of class was it primary requisite for graduat.ion. All of the new teachers were actively teaching classes at the same time. The graduating class consisted of Dorothy Hrepich, Laura Trott and Christine Gallaugher. This was Sister Mercedes’ first experience in teaching a class of CCD teachers. but she continued the practice even teaching in other areas of the Diocese.
In the fall of 1985 a new Order of sisters came into the parish, the Sisters of Mercy. While the Order was new to St. Joseph’s of Elk Grove. the Sisters of Mercy were the first teaching Order to come to Sacramento. Sister Ann Chester served as Director of Religions Education for 4 years, She Was succeeded by a lay person,.Marlene Fadness who is now the Director.
A change has taken place in the Elk Grove area, It has gone from wide open spaces with a few houses and large farms to mile- after-mile of houses with a few farms tucked in among the developments. The traffic is a constant stream of cars and trucks going down Elk Grove Boulevard every day, instead of a lot of wagons. trucks and cars only once a week on Main Street on Saturdays:
In 1986 Father Albert O’Connor became pastor. In 1988 Fr. James Bissett was appointed associate pastor serving until his untimely death in 1990. Fr.Martin Brusato. the Associate Pastor at present was appointed in 1991. Other priests who have served SL Joseph’s while living in residence. are Msgr. Renwald. (1981-89) and Fr. Hobert Walton who arrived in 1990 and is still with us.
On July 1, 1993 SL Joseph’s parish was divided when Good Shepherd Parish was established. with Fr. Thomas Bland as pastor. Elk Grove continues to grow, and despite the new Parish we are once again crowded. The time has come to enlarge the church and build a new Social Center to accommodate the growth.
The Michigan Bar area is covered with a new village, Rancho Murieta. The people of Sloughhouse and Live Oak no longer have a church at Live Oak to attend, as the Granlees did in the early days. The wood structure at Live Oak burned and was never replaced. Our present drive to raise funds hopes to answer this need,
For a time CCD classes were taught in the Sloughhouse area at the old Rooney’ Ranch and in the Rhoads School. Sisters of the Holy Family went out into the farm area to teach the children, then lay teachers took over and taught in the old Sloughhouse Hall. A mission church (St. Vincent de Paul) is now established in Rancho Murieta and the children are once again being taught religion in the area.
All of the St. Joseph parish plant is centered in Elk Grove and yet voices in the Wilton area are pleading’ for a chance to have it church in their area. The mission in what was called the “jack rabbit. parish” in the Gold Rush days may yet have a church there some day.
1917 – First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church of Lodi established a mission in Franklin in 1917. Reverend G. Schunke performed the first baptism in the Cosumnes River that same year. The actual church was started by the Lodi church for families that were primarily of German descent around 1919. Kammerer and Rau families and others had come from the Dakotas by way of Kansas. The Franklin families organized the Zion Baptist Church in 1924 with 52 members listed. Included were the Schuh family from Idaho, and Schmidts, Veningas and Van Santens who came from Germany and Canada.
This was taken from a church bulletin: …these stalwart folks were severely tested during the Depression years. Some experienced heavy losses and all felt the burden of money scarcity. Jobs were few, wages were low, and farm produce prices were even lower.
A new migration in the late 1930s and 1940s brought more families into the community and the church. These were families with the names of Rauser, Fandrich, Meyer, Littke, Hinsz, Rueb, Dolliver, Heitzmann, Grenz, and Mantz. In 1948, a new church building was dedicated on Locust Street in Elk Grove. The parsonage was moved to the same location, and the name of the church was changed to the First Baptist Church of Elk Grove.
In 1948, a new church building was dedicated on Locust Street in Elk Grove. The parsonage was moved there, and the name of the church was changed to the First Baptist Church of Elk Grove. (Its now called the Sacramento Hmong Alliance Church).
A new church was built on East Stockton Road (Frontage Road), Highway 99, in 1994
Franklin-German Baptist Church History
by Dennis Buscher
The Russian Germans began migrating from the Dakota to California around 1917 because they could homestead land here. Many settled in Lodi, but a few settled in the Elk Grove-Franklin area, mostly along Bruceville Road which was considered part of Franklin. They were Baptist and would have to travel to Lodi on Sunday for church in the German language.,
So they started having church services in the homes of local Baptist families. Once a month, a minister from the Lodi Baptist church would come to the Franklin are and hold church in one of the homes for the community.
In the 1920s, they acquired land from Fred Frey on the corner of Franklin Blvd. and Hood-Franklin Road. Fred Frey’s wife, Rose Lippert, was born in Odessa, Russia and was from one of the Russian German families. They built a church and parsonage on the land the Franklin German Baptist Church was dedicated in 1924. Membership in the church grew and the church building soon was not large enough for the congregation. Fred Frey would not sell them any more land to expand the church, so they acquired land in Elk Grove on Locast Street to build a new church. When they moved in 1948, the land returned to the Frey family and sometime in the 1950s the old church was torn down.
The congregation of the new church on Locast Street continued to grow so they continued to acquire adjoining land and builds additional buildings. This too finally was too small and with no more room to expand, they acquired land on the East Frontage Road of Highway 99 and built they present church facilities there. The congregation continues to grow.
In 2019 the church will celebrate their 100th Anniversary from when they first organized in 1919 by meeting in the homes of the members and when the minister of Lodi would come once a month.
1920 – St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church was begun by German settlers who came to the Bruceville area in the 1920s. They were primarily from the Dakotas and Kansas, and in their new land, they were concerned that there was no Lutheran church within 25 miles of their homes. They began to meet in the homes of the various members. These were the first families: Hamann, Steinwandt, Moritz, Wolff, Feickert, Stoecker, DeWald, Selzle, Adam, Gaub, Schlichter, and Geigle. Some families were large, and before long, the congregation could no longer meet in people’s homes. They arranged to use an empty building that had previously housed the Methodist Church. The first baptism was that of Alfred Kranzler who was born on January 20, 1921.
The next building used by the church members was the vacant Elk Grove Grammar School building on Stockton Road, the same one that had been used by the Presbyterians in earlier years. In 1923 the church members built their own church at the intersection of Elk Grove-Florin Road and Elk Grove Boulevard on land donated by member Henry Nusz. In 1956 the congregation voted to sell the church property to the Shell Oil Company and build a larger church. They built a new church about a block farther south on Elk Grove-Florin Road where the parsonage was located. St. Peter’s congregation moved to their new spacious quarters, still on Elk Grove-Florin Road, but this time farther north near Sheldon Road where the church is now.
1923 – First Congregationalist Church
The church was originally called Hoffnugsfeld, which meant “Field of Hope.” Services were conducted in German and were held in the home of Jacob and Fredrick Feickert. By 1923, the church members were meeting in a building on Kent Street. The present church on Melrose was built in 1950.
Our First Fifty Years
by Shirley Parenteau
Several concerned people of Elk Grove greeted the New Year of 1923 resolved to establish a Congregational Church in our town. Elk Grove was nearly three-quarters of a century old and well settled into farming and cattle raising after beginning in 1850 as a stage station near the present day intersection of Highway 99 and Elk Grove Boulevard.
While the town was well established with citizens, businesses and churches, there was no Congregational Church. And so, early in in the year of 1923, a delegation traveled to Ebenezer Church in Lodi to obtain help in establishing a new church. The delegation found the Ebenezer Congregation sympathetic to the idea. The date of May 6, 1923, was set for a first sermon to be held in the old Methodist Church building in Elk Grove.
Forty-five people attended the service, a promising beginning which convinced the Lodi Church to allow their minister to serve Elk Grove every three weeks.
This lead to the organization of the Hoffnugsfeld (Field of Hope) Congregation on the afternoon of September 9, 1923. The old records, hand written in the German Language, began on this date.
September 9, 1923: Twenty-four men and women organized into a formal congregation, elected officers, and voted on by-laws. Srevices would be held in Jacob and Fredericka Feickert’s summer kitchen until a church could be built. Sunday school was set for 10:00 am; worship at 11:00 am, with prayer to be given by one of the members. Prayer meetings were to be held on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. All services conducted in the German language.
Business meetings were to be held in the first week of each year, Communion to be held four times a tear. Only men could vote on church matters or hold office. New members would be voted in by the congregation and could be voted out of church membership.
February 2, 1926: Two years after forming a congregation, the members were ready to build a church of their own. A special meeting was held on this date to elect a building committee. Funds were to be collected from both Lodi and elk Grove friends and business places.
Building of the Hoffnugsfeld Church was begun on May 10, 1926. The church was dedicated two months later on July 25, 1926. Minister was Rev. K.K. Maier. Pastor Schurze from Portland, Oregon, was guest speaker. Total coast of the building was $1,826.37, was paid in full one month after dedication. The first church building still stands at Kent and Grove Streets. (Now meeting hall for the Native Sons of the Golden West)
Each family member took care of the church for one month. Any family who could not do so was expected to hire someone in its place.
On January 21, 1940, a Ladies Aid was found by ten ladies of the church. Lydia Scheuffele was elected President. The group became very active, making quilts, holding annual bazaars in the basement of the Odd Fellows Hall, preparing church dinners, sending plants to ill church members, and supporting the church in many other ways.
The name Pilgram Aid was a adopted by the ladies in 1942. Members painted pews, varnished the church floors, and supported the Red Cross during World War II with sewing and with funds. The ladies also bought matching Christian and U.S flags for the church.
In 1944, a building fund was begun for a new church. Special collections were taken once a month, though it would be another six years before the new church could be built.
Rev. Ferdinand Zahl became minister and the first salaried church janitor i n 1945. The church provided a home for the minister for the first time. After serving the church for the year of 1945, the last year of World War II, Rev Zahl reported making 107 calls, traveling a total of 7791 miles, holding 51 Sunday services, 78 services altogether, and writing 28 letters to the boys in the service.
At the annual meeting on New Years day in 1946, English language services were considered for the first time. It was voted that services be held in English on every second Sunday in the month.
Eighteen members voted a year later to increase the number of English services. a split vote (13 yes, 5 no) increased the English services to every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.
The vote was even closer a year later when the members voted to hold the majority of their services in English. With only a 2-vote majority (10 yes, 8 no) members decided to hold the first Sunday service in the month in German, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Sunday service in English. If there was a 5th Sunday in the month, services would be held in German.
At this same meeting, on December 30, 1947, members voted for the first time to let women of the church vote on church matters.
It was also decided at that time to unite with other churches, such as the Evangelical and Reformed.
Rev. Fred Gross became minister in June 0f 1949. At the annual meeting that year, members voted to hold all Sunday services in the English language. One service a week was to be held in German.
Members also voted to give Pastor Gross full authority over the young people.
On December 30, 1949, members decided to sell the old church and selected a building committee for a new church.
April 5, 1950: Members voted to change the name of the church from Congregational Hoffnugsfeld Church to First Congregational Church of Elk Grove. Members also voted to withdraw from the German Conference and join the English Conference. Rev Gross suggested that contact should not be entirely broken with the German Conference, so John Flemmer and Grandma Feickert were selected to attend.
The ladies of the Pilgrim Aid also voted on a name change that year, becoming the Plymouth Circle with a formal constitution prepared by Rev. Gross. The ladies agreed to furnish the kitchen of the new church.
September 1, 1950: The laying of the Cornerstone. Pastor Gross quoted Bible passages and Dr. A.R. Boone of the Lodi First Congregational Church presented the sermon.
1925 – St Lukes American Lutheran Church
The church originated in 1925 at 2900 29th Avenue, which is now property of the Japanese Baptist Congregation. Later, St. Lukes occupied the site at 2550 Alhambra Boulevard, which was sold in 1963 to the Salvation Army.
Until the $350,000 project on Center Parkway was completed, the St. Lukes congregation held its services in a Seventh Day Adventist church on 33rd Street.
Nine ministers, including the Rev. Arnold C. Schultz, pastor of St. Lukes took part in the dedication and consecration.
The construction project features a sanctuary which can seat more than 500 persons, a fellowship hall named Schultz hall in honor of the pastor, a youth activity center, and education unit and other facilities such as a kitchen, administration unit, and parking areas. The buildings are on four acres.
One of the decorative features of the sanctuary is a tall stained glass window in the figure box Christ. This is in the wall of the entrance of the sanctuary. In addition, there are three other stained glass windows.
Presently, The church on Center Parkway is called Hope Church.
1957 – Church of Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints
History of the Mormon Religion In and Around Elk Grove
by Bob Hoyt (EGHS ’61)
We started attending the Elk Grove Branch of the LDS Church in Elk Grove in 1957 (A branch is usually 200-300 hundred people.)
Several months after we arrived, the Branch President was promoted with the IRS and moved to Ogden, Utah.
Shortly after that they formed the Elk Grove Ward, which is a larger unit of our church and my dad was called at the first Bishop, (which is an unpaid position in our church and functions like a pastor of another church.) The ward is like a Parish and a group of wards is called a Stake, like a Diocese in the Catholic Church. Elk Grove was in the Sacramento Stake back then.
We were meeting in Odd Fellows Hall in Elk Grove and as more people moved in, (thanks to my Dad spending several hours at his insurance agency and at night calling families and telling they needed to move to Elk Grove) the building was too small. So, dad rented two houses on Elk Grove Boulevard, just east of the railroad tracks on the North side of the street.
LDS (is what we prefer to be called, rather than Mormons, which is a nickname after the Book of Mormon.) LDS stands for Latter-day Saints which comes from our long name, which is, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Anyway, in those days, each LDS Congregation had to raise a percent of the money for a new building and I think the amount was $40,000, which was a lot of money in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. Dad got connected with someone from the State of California, and started putting on dinners when various departments from the state had banquets or annual meetings, etc. Some of the dinners were between 1,000-1,500 people.
I remember after our new building was finished, several people asked me why we decided to build so far from town. I simply told them that people from our church headquarters comes and finds the property for new buildings and I could only guess also must have thought that the town would grow out to that area…..wow, did that ever turn out to be true. (The procedure to have members help pay for and today, all buildings and related expenses, including utilities, books and teaching materials are all paid for by our church headquarters in Salt Lake.)
I do remember that when we were meeting at the Odd Fellows Hall, the Everett Fox said a Sunday School Class could meet in his bakery. I think it was younger kids and we tried to get them to tell us what goodies were passed around during their class. They would never tell us anything about that, period.
My folks moved from Ogden, Utah, to Sacramento, in 1937, after they graduated from Utah State University, in Logen, Utah, and dad got a job with the Western Pacific Railroad, now part of Union Pacific Railroad.
When mom and dad arrived in Sacramento, there was a Sacramento Stake, formed in 1934, and had three wards in town and a branch in Roseville.
I remember when they announced a temple in Los Angeles, and my folks and their friends were very excited.
When I left for my mission in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1963, the Oakland Temple was being built, and was the 13th temple for our church. (The church has announced 185 temples, a small group of which have not begun construction. There are seven temples in operation in California.)
In 1971, the LDS Church purchased the 47 acre site of the Aerojet General Rec Center in Rancho Cordova. Church members knew that at some point in the future, an LDS Temple would be built on that property.
The Sacramento LDS Temple was dedicated on September 3, 2006, after 168,000 people toured the temple during the open house.
The temple and a Stake Center are the only buildings on the 47 acres. The rest is used for recreation and our church headquarters said there are no plans to develop any of the balance of the property.
The LDS Temple in Sacramento serves 85,000 LDS members in 21 Stakes, most of them in the contrast to the 1,000 members of our church my folks met with when they moved to Sac in 1937.
The Interfaith Council of Sacramento, which unlike the Council of Churches, includes the LDS Church, the Jewish Faith, The Muslim faith and many traditional Christian religions.
Richard Montgomery, who was the Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church in Sacramento was elected to a one year term to head up the Council. He was elected year after year and after his third term, he was asked to serve again, and a prominent Muslim said; “we want you to serve again, because we love you.”
When it came time to get approval for the LDS Temple, there were about 100 LDS members at the meeting, and members from many other religions, who many thought, would disapprove the building of a the temple. Rather, every person at the meeting gave their support to the LDS Church, and the Sacramento Planning Commission religious building project.
However, there are six wards in the Laguna Creek area of Elk Grove. I wondered why they didn’t just create a Laguna Creek Stake and then answered my own question by looking at the list of Stakes in California and found there is a Laguna Niguel Stake in Southern California.
My dad would be so amazed if he had lived to see what happened to the old Sacramento Stake. I’m sure he would have been supportive with all the changes, and thrilled to see the number of LDS members in the Elk Grove-Florin areas.
The original Elk Grove Ward covered the huge area that was the Elk Grove High School boundary, when some kids road the bus for up to 60 minutes to get to school. Karla (Johnson) rode the bus for almost an hour and was the first on and the last off the bus at the East end of Lambert Road. There were many stops along the way to finally get to Elk Grove in those days.
1967 – Church of the Nazarene
The local congregation was founded in May of 1967 and had been meeting for the past four years at the Grange Hall on Elk Grove Boulevard. The construction of the domed church on the new church property at 8800 Valley Oak Lane, just west of Elk Grove Senior High School began in the spring of 1970 and dedicated in October 1971.
The dedication was lead by Pastor William L. Poteet, featuring former pastor Reverend Virgil Hoover and dedicated to Dr. Kenneth Vogt, Superintendent of the Sacramento District, Church of the Nazarene.
The structure consisted of two geodesic domes 39 feet in diameter connected by a administrative unit 28 x 60 feet. The 4,000 square foot building was fully carpeted and air-conditioned and topped by an illuminated 16 foot aluminum cross. The layout, represented an investment of $70,000 and included a sanctuary, seating approximately 100, an education multi-purpose unit designed for 5-class areas, and an administrative unit including a large junior church area, pastor’s study, church office, kitchen, rest rooms, nursery, and a heating and air conditioning room.
The church is now long gone and the land is now part of the high school parking lot.
1969 – Sacramento Community Drive-In Church
The Drive-In Church was exactly that, a drive-in with car speakers and heaters and a separate facility that had a nursery, social hall and classrooms. It was located on the east side of highway 99 between Sheldon and Calvine Roads with services on Sundays at 9:30 and 11:00.
It was devised and created by Rev Daniel Evers. The Evers family included wife Dorothy, a teacher at Anna Kirchgater Elementary, and two sons, Daniel Jr. (16) a student at Elk Grove High School and Devin (14) a student at James Rutter Jr. High.
It was a new approach that served special people with special needs. It was handy for the traveler, those on vacation, the handicapped didn’t have to leave their car, and for those who wanted to worship in private. Evers said he could minister to the individual rather than to the whole. He said simply, “You find a need – and minster to it.”
Assembly of God Church
The former Assembly of God Church located at 9101 Elk Grove Boulevard was turned in to the New Life Christian Center and dedicated September 30, 1979 by pastor Jim Risner.
Later is was bought by Herburger’s Funeral Home and Mortuary.
We would like to thank Elk Grove’s unofficial official historian, Elizabeth Pinkerton, for her graciousness to allow us to use the above information from her book “History Happened Here (HHH) book-2” Elizabeth Pinkerton gathered all this information over many years and compiled everything into three books. Thank you.
BOOKS BY ELIZABETH PINKERTON
History Happened Here, Book 1 – River, Oaks, Gold
History Happened Here, Book 2 – Fields, Farms, Schools
We the People, a Story of Internment in America
All of her books are available in on on-line store.