The Mission of Escalon Presbyterian
Seek – to bring others to faith in Jesus Christ
Serve – in mission locally and globally
Support – personal growth through God’s word
Sustain – a Christ-centered fellowship
On November 9, 1913 a group of fourteen Escalonians met with Reverend George B. Greig, Pastor-Evangelist of Presbytery, as Moderator, to organize the Escalon Presbyterian Church. Our first pastor was the Reverend R. B. Davidson serving from 1913 to 1915, and then the Reverend Ira E. Surface filled our pulpit from December, 1915 to December, 1916. Mr. E. A. Clough was ordained the first Elder in 1913 and in his minutes he noted that twenty new members were received. We were a mission supported church until 1938 when the loan mortgage was burned.
For the first three years, worship services were held in Fisk Hall on Main Street. When the building was destroyed by fire in 1915, Escalon Presbyterian Church purchased the former Escalon Elementary School (1909 – 1914) for use as a sanctuary. It was located on the corner of Hwy 120 and First Street with the sanctuary fronting First Street. The old grammar school served as our house of worship until 1958 when our current sanctuary was dedicated.
The Reverend W.L. Bone was installed as our pastor serving from 1917 to 1922. He was a good organizer and Christian leader especially with the young people. The “Bonni Foi” Club was organized in 1918, consisting of thirty young people, some from the church and some from the community. Our manse was built in 1919. The Ladies Guild assumed payment of the fifteen hundred dollar loan. In 1922, the Bonni Foi Club sponsored a minstrel show to raise funds for building the choir loft.
The Reverend Lee Vernon was our next pastor from 1923 to 1927 with a church membership of eighty-eight. The young people’s conference was his specialty.
Dr. Harry Fifer acted as pulpit supply from 1928 to 1930. He was an exceptional speaker and worker in the community.
The Reverend Duane Orton from College of Pacific, and Reverend M. Coen were stated supplies for the church during the years of 1932, 1933, and part of 1934. On April 4th, 1933 the church was damaged by fire and services were held in the high school auditorium until September, 1934 when the sanctuary again was fit to use.
In September, 1934 the Reverend Noah Houk became Pastor of our church until August, 1937. Reverend Houk would print on his weekly Sunday Bulletin “The Church with a Friendly Welcome.” During his pastorate the church was transferred from the San Joaquin Presbytery to the San Francisco Presbytery.
The Reverend Victor Mackay was called as pastor in February, 1938 and resigned July 3, 1938.
The Reverend W.L. Staub was stated supply from November, 1938 to March, 1939 when he was installed as regular pastor until 1941 when he resigned because of ill health.
Dr. D.T. Robertson came as stated supply in April, 1941 becoming regular pastor in September of 1941. He ended his pastorate here in October, 1942.
The Session voted for Robert Burns to fill the pulpit as student supply for six months in 1943. After his graduation in June, 1943 from San Francisco Theological Seminary of San Anselmo, he and his family moved here. He was ordained and installed as our pastor and remained with us until January, 1945. The church membership at this time was one hundred fourteen.
Robert Buzza was our next student supply from the seminary. He graduated in June, 1945 and was married that same month. He was installed as our pastor that summer. In 1948 he and his family moved to Hastings, Nebraska to accept a position as teacher in a Presbyterian College there.
Richard Hetz came as a student supply in 1948. He and Mary Wiggins were married in June, 1948 after his graduation from seminary. He was ordained and installed our pastor in February of 1949. The Hetz’s moved to Baldwin Park in 1952.
Donald Price was sent to fill our pulpit one Sunday in February of 1953. The congregation wanted this student to preach for us. On May 17, 1953, he was ordained and installed as our pastor. He resigned in 1954 because of his health, and he and Evelyn moved to Texas.
The leadership of these four seminary graduates and their wives was outstanding in the spiritual growth of the church.
During the 1930’s and 1940’s the churches in Escalon held annual fundraising dinners which the entire community attended. Each church hosted the same kind of dinner every year. The Presbyterian Church was known for its homemade chicken pot pie dinners!
The Reverend Frank Mouer was installed as pastor on June 21, 1954. Christian Education and Youth Camps and Conferences were important phases of his work. Our new sanctuary was built and dedicated under his leadership. The new sanctuary fronted Hwy 120. It was built on property west of the old sanctuary by Escalon contractors, Don and Frank Brayton at a cost of $50,000. The members continued to use the upstairs social hall and Sunday school classroom space in the old sanctuary building. Reverend Mouer resigned on March 1, 1960 to accept the position of Director of Camps and Conferences and Westminster Projects for the north coastal area.
After Mr. Mouer left, a number of men supplied our pulpit. The one who the congregation most admired was Marlowe Tyler and his family.
Our next pastor, the Reverend Russell Chandler, came to us from Concord and was installed in April of 1961.
In November of 1963 we were able to look back at fifty years of our heritage and experience here. In celebrating our past we wanted to be ready for our future.
In 1964, to prepare for that future, plans were begun to build a new building to give us room for our growing congregation. In August of 1965 final plans were approved and the multipurpose addition “Faith Center” was constructed in 1966 at a cost of $68,000. It was built north of the old sanctuary where the original manse once stood. Faith Center provided space for a social hall, nursery, kitchen, offices, classroom space and a parlor with library.
The year 1966 saw the departure of Reverend Chandler and the occupancy of the new building. We were blessed to have the building dedicated under the leadership of the Reverend Robert L. Schwenk who pastured the church until March of 1969. During these years Escalon Presbyterian was instrumental in seeking a realignment of churches that would take us out of San Francisco Presbytery and into the Stockton Presbytery, which was more familiar with the opportunities and problems of this great valley.
In September of 1969 the Reverend August Harris was installed as pastor. He served ably and loyally until June of 1977. He helped to calm the turmoil and heal wounds caused by some denominational involvement in agricultural issues. It was with his leadership the carillon was added as well as a public address system in the sanctuary. He also was able to preside over the “mortgage” burning as we retired the debt on the 1966 addition. After retiring in 1977, Pastor Gus continued to live in Escalon and faithfully served as Pastor Emeritus until his death.
In 1976 we began to talk seriously about doing something about the organ. It was old, parts were hard to get and we were having troubles. It would be up to our next pastor, the Reverend Richard A. Miles, who came to us in September of 1977, to set plans in motion to purchase and install the Reuter pipe organ that is currently in use in our sanctuary. Pastor Miles came to us fresh from seminary having served our congregation for two years as a “summer intern.”
With the departure of Reverend Miles for Lomita, California in March of 1982, we were served by the Reverend Philip Bliss until November of that same year. Reverend Bliss did an outstanding job in the role of interim pastor.
In response to the call of God and the congregation, the Reverend Arthur G. Hampson arrived to begin his ministry in 1982.
In 1983 our church honored those who had been members for 25 years or more.
In 1984 the manse adjoining the church property was sold. It had served us since 1956 but its proximity to the Hogan plant and the need for a more modern facility prompted the sale. The proceeds of the sale have been used to assist pastors in purchasing their own residence.
In 1987 our church received a sizeable amount of money from the estate of deceased member, Julie Downer. The terms of the will stated that all interest earned from the grant was to be used for Christian Education with an emphasis on youth. This enabled us to secure a Youth Leader. Under the leadership of Steve Watts the youth group grew in number, commitment and accomplishment.
In 1988 ground was broken for a much needed addition as the congregation had grown to 190 members. The new addition was built adjoining the children’s nursery and contains the Pastor’s study, church office, two Sunday school classrooms, a conference room, choir rehearsal room (which also serves as a bridal party dressing room) and handicap restroom facilities. The total cost of the project was $120,000.
Art Hampson left Escalon for Chattanooga, TN in 1990. Replacing him as interim pastor was Augustus (Gus) Noland from Fair Oaks, CA. He and his wife Peggy moved into an apartment on the property of Pastor Emeritus Gus and Mary Harris. They had many good times with Gus and Mary, and got to know the church quickly under the tutelage of the Harris’. Gus Noland and Peggy were a good team. They became active as Sunday school teachers, led the youth, helped with projects, and transitioned the church for its new minister.
The Nolands departed on July 31, 1991 when the church called Robert C. Flagg to pastor in Escalon. He came to us from Azusa, CA with his wife, Yvonne and three year old son, Kenny. Bob and Yvonne became immersed in the life of the church. They taught Sunday school, helped with the youth program, and Yvonne joined the choir and Presbyterian Women. When the choir director/organist resigned, Yvonne became the choir director. She also took on the job of youth director, and together Bob and Yvonne ministered to the youth of our church. Along with maintaining a junior/senior high program on Sunday nights, a youth choir was organized, and a Thursday afternoon youth club was begun for elementary aged youth. Bob was very interested in history which he sometimes incorporated into sermons. He also enjoyed sports. He made a point of attending school sporting events in which the youth of the church participated. When Bob Flagg departed for Riverside, CA in August, 2000 the church was without a pastor for two years.
From 2000 to 2002 we had no official interim pastor; however, Al Opdyke regularly filled the pulpit on Sunday mornings. He became more than “pulpit supply”. He was a dear friend to the congregation and helped us through the long, sometimes frustrating process of calling a new pastor.
On August 11, 2002 the congregation called Troy J. Onsager of Ronan, Montana to be our pastor (Princeton Theological Seminary). He was ordained on August 18 in our sanctuary. Escalon is his first pastorate. We are blessed that God led him to Escalon to serve our church. Under Pastor Troy’s first five and half years of ministry at EPC, the congregation has begun to reorganize and grow. Pastor Troy married his wife Leslie in October 2005 and they have since had two sons.
After 100 years we are looking forward to community involvement, growth as a congregation, and faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ.