Kent’s Early Church History

Kent’s Early Church History

Early in March of this year after the City of Kent announced plans to develop the 125th Anniversary Celebration of our founding, the Kent Historical Society convened a six person Ad-hock Task Force to explore the role of the church in our early beginnings.  Task Force members included; Bruce Homfeldt, Tom O’Connell, Nancy Simpson, Lois Stewart, Linda Stockham, and Marvin Eckfeldt.
Heritage Sunday Logo All Saints Day LogoWe chose the theme: ”Our Kent pioneers brought their faith with them”. Soon after folk gathered in the valley this commitment began to take shape.
In this 1885 photo, note the size of the town and the United Methodist Church at the left, the first congregation established in town.

Kent in 1885, United Methodist Church on the left.
Kent in 1885, United Methodist Church on the left.

In this photo around 1900 note the Presbyterian Church on the left and the Lutheran Church center right.

Kent circa 1900
Kent circa 1900

Settlers in the White River valley began worshiping as Methodists in 1860 in the home of Thomas Alvord one year after the Post Office was established. Services were also held in the D.A. Neeley home. Ground was donated by Lewis McMillan and T.H. Titus for the building and parsonage on First Ave. In a few years the Northern Pacific Railway was built right behind the church. It was reported that “the trains would rush by roaring and screeching much to the chagrin of the preacher or a timid soloist!”

The United Methodist Church circa 1883.
The United Methodist Church circa 1883.  This was the home for the congregation until 1909.

The church moved to the northeast corner of Meeker and Central in 1901.

Church was home to the congregation on the corner of Meeker and Central from 1909 to 1970.
Church was home to the congregation on the corner of Meeker and Central from 1909 to 1970.

And in 1970 followed the lead of St. James Episcopal and relocated on East Hill.

Current home of the first of Kent's western religious communities.
Current home of the first of Kent’s western religious communities.

The Roman Catholic community traces its beginnings to the establishing of St. Bernard’s Parish at White River (which later became O’Brien) in 1867.

Father Sweens, served O'Brien's St. Bernard's Parish.
Father Sweens, served O’Brien’s St. Bernard’s Parish.

Father Sweens was Resident pastor, 1893-1899 and the first Mass was said in Kent in Redman’s Hall in 1899 (then celebrated monthly). In 1906 property was purchased on the corner of Second and Titus. The advent of the automobile brought changes and consolidation of services in Kent and St. Bernard’s closed in 1924.

Railroad ave, circa 1915 with the Redmen's Hall featured.
Railroad ave, circa 1915 with the Redmen’s Hall featured.

1924 saw the erection of the brick sanctuary which became the parish for Kent.

St. Anthony's Parish church is still in use today by the congregation for smaller services.
Served as the primary church building from 1925 through 1995 and St. Anthony’s Parish church is still in use today by the congregation for smaller services.

In 1995, the name was changed to Holy Spirit parish and the new sanctuary dedicated. The name was changed to alleviate the continuing confusion between the Kent parish and the Renton parish of same name. Holy Spirit is now unique for the archdiocese.

Holy Spirit is the current home for the old St. Bernard's/St. Anthony's congregation.
Holy Spirit is the current home for the old St. Bernard’s/St. Anthony’s congregation.

Because a trip by horse and buggy took so long to travel from Kent to White River (O’Brien) a Mother Betsy Keller and her son John began collecting money and a lot was purchased from Henry Yesler at Fourth and Willis for $2,500 and First Baptist Church in Kent was born! December of 1889 their building was completed.

The first Baptist Church
The first Baptist Church in use from 1889 through 1955.

A second building was built on that location.

Second First Baptist Church
Second First Baptist Church was in use from 1955-1971.

And because of the state building a potential freeway on Willis the congregation relocated to East Hill in 1971. The first service was actually Easter, April 17 1971.

Current home to the congregation that started in 1889.
Current home to the congregation that started in 1889.

The Presbyterian Church also had its beginnings in White River which was the religious, social educational enter of the thinly populated valley. In 1889 the group moved to Kent to a white building near Titus and Kennebeck. There were 12 charter members and it was a mission church.

First Presbyterian Church of Kent.
First Presbyterian Church of Kent, home for the congregation until 1926.

A second church, a brick building, was constructed at the corner of State and Gowe and dedicated December 1926.

The second church building still stands in Kent.
This was home for the congregation from 1926 through 1962.

The church purchased 5 acres on East Hill and dedicated their present building in December, 1962. They used a helicopter to place the cross at the top of the building!

Home for the current First Presbyterian congregation.
Home for the current First Presbyterian congregation.

Eight Scandinavian immigrant families organized Kent Lutheran Church August 1889. The next year they began construction of their building on the site that became Kent Elementary School. The original building was moved to Fifth and Gowe when the school was expanded.

First Church built for the Kent Lutheran Church
First Church built for the Kent Lutheran Church, served as the home for the congregation until 1939.

A white stucco building was built at Second and Saar and occupied September 1939 followed by an education building.

The Kent Lutheran Church
The Kent Lutheran Church, used as the primary service building from 1939 through 1970.

Services in the present brick building were first held August 1970.

Current home of the Kent Lutheran Church.
Current home of the Kent Lutheran Church.

St. James Episcopal Church planted roots in 1890 when Anglican services were held for 26 families. November 1981 they dedicated their building seating 200 on Meeker Street between Second and Third.

The first St. James Episcopal Church church, from 1890-1921.
The first St. James Episcopal Church church, from 1890 through 1921.

In 1921 they build a red brick English Gothic building which served as their home for 43 years. They supported a Japanese-American congregation in Taylor during 1920-1930.

The home for St. James congregation from 1921-1966.
The home for St. James congregation from 1921 through 1966.

In 1957 five acres were purchased on 94th Avenue and the present building constructed.

Current home of the St. James Episcopal Church congregation.
Current home of the St. James Episcopal Church congregation.

Since 1890, a multitude of religious communities have founded places of worship in Kent.  The city is home to temples, mosques, churches, and parishes, from faiths the world over.  We have congregations of the same faith worshiping in a multitude of languages, sometimes in different buildings, sometimes in the same building where the different traditions synthesize into something different but familiar to both!
More information on the Heritage Sunday, along with ways to celebrate pasted members of the many faith communities that now make up Kent’s culturally rich population is found in an open letter from the Ad-hock Task Force’s chairman.

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