History of Wiley Heights Covenant Church

During the years of the Wiley Heights Covenant Church the question has often arisen how so many people from different Covenant churches happened to settle in Wiley Heights. The name of course was derived from Wiley City, a small community in the vicinity. The story behind this provides an interesting account.

Fridolf Nelson and Fingal Gothberg

Two young men, Fridolf Nelson and Fingal Gothberg, both being members of the Tabernacle Covenant Church in Chicago, were attracted to the "Gold Rush" in Nome, Alaska. Here they prospected for some time and then left for Seattle. There they heard of the land boom in Yakima, and of the Tieton Reclamation Project just being completed. Together with a third Alaska friend, Mr. Stevenson, they formed the Jupiter Investment Company and bought land in Wiley Heights, suitable for orchards, now that irrigation water was becoming available.

By advertising this land in the "Mission Friend," a well-known paper in Covenant churches, the availability of this land became known in Covenant churches in Omaha, St. Paul, Chicago and other places. Members of these churches moved West, and as a natural result a Covenant church was formed.

The August Dahlin family from St. Paul were among the first to locate here, and with several children of their own, started a Sunday School in their home in 1911, with an enrollment of ten members. The grandchildren of some of these Sunday School members now belong to the Junior League in our church of today. Church services were also held in the different homes in the community.

Ladies Aid Society

In February, 1914, a Ladies Aid Society was organized in the Nathaniel Gothberg home, with a membership of twelve. This group is now known as the Covenant Women's Auxiliary.

On the fifteenth day of September, 1915, the church was organized in the Dahlin home with the Rev. David Swanson, pastor of the Selah church, as chairman. The charter members were: Mr. and Mrs. August Dahlin, Mr. and Mrs. Israel Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Fingal Gothberg, Mr. and Mrs. Nels Nystrom, Mr. and Mrs. L. M. Nystrom, and Miss Ruth Elizabeth Nystrom.

As more families moved in, the need for a church building was felt, and in October, 1916, it was decided to build. Mr. Nels Nystrom, then Treasurer, and an experienced builder, was appointed architect and supervisor for the project. Mr. Henry P. Carlson donated a centrally located lot out of his orchard, and the Jupiter Investment Company donated the stained glass windows.

Nathaniel Gothberg

Friends in the Omaha Covenant church donated $300.00. This money was collected in Omaha by Hulda Tissell Hall. Gifts of money were also received from friends in the St. Paul Covenant church. Then, with a loan of $250.00 from the North Pacific Conference, in which the church held membership, the work proceeded rapidly. Most of the men were carpenters, and all the labor was donated.

This beautiful little church, nestling in the apple orchards, was completed and finally dedicated, free from debt, on Sunday, July 15, 1920. Rev. August Skogsbergh, from Minneapolis, gave the dedication message. The choir sang a cantata entitled, "The Grace of God." A bounteous dinner, prepared by the Ladies Aid Society, was served on the Larson lawn, now the home of the Ed Worman family.

Two years later a Young People's Society was organized, thus completing the organizations of the church at that time.

A former missionary to China, and a member of the church, Mr. Nathaniel Gothberg, served the church as pastor for twelve years, many years without remuneration. The last few years he received $25.00 monthly.

Milton Opsahl

Our first pastor, called by the church, was Rev. Milton Opsahl. For some years after Rev. Opsahl's resignation, we were without a pastor, but through agreement with the Selah Covenant Church, Rev. C. F. Pihlstrom favored us with a regular service on Sunday afternoons. Rev. Pihlstrom also conducted tent meetings at Carlson Road and Occidental Avenue.

That a resident pastor was necessary for the future of the church was agreed, and in spite of the prevailing depression, it was decided in 1936 to build a parsonage. Since the Augustana Lutheran Church had discontinued its services in the community, the Covenant church acquired title to its one acre property, and the parsonage was built on this land.

In 1937 Rev. Arvid Johnson accepted the call from the church, and was the first pastor to occupy the parsonage. Other pastors who followed have been Rev. Irving Erickson, Rev. Carl Janson, Rev. Raymond Johnson, Rev. Alfred Johnson and Rev. Vernon Anderson.

We have seen many come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the preaching and teaching ministry here by all of these men of God.

In 1951 the church applied for and was accepted into full membership of the Evangelical Covenant Church of America.

For a number of years, Sunday School was held in the Cottonwood district. Morning service on Sundays was held in the church and cottage prayer meetings during the week. Sunday School was also held in Tampico. But when many of the families moved away, it was decided to bring the remaining Sunday School members by bus to the Wiley Heights Church.

Remodeled Church

Through the years, as attendance increased, the church was remodeled a number of times. The church was raised and the basement finished providing a fellowship hall, which was also used for Sunday School class rooms, and a kitchen. Later the fire-place room on the east side was added. This provided more room for the Sunday School pupils, a pastor's study, and a gathering place for the Young People's groups, the Junior and High Leaguers.

In 1950 a Baldwin electronic organ was installed. In 1955 the sanctuary was renovated. A Baldwin grand piano was purchased, and pews, a communion table, pulpit, hymnals and chimes were given as memorials.

But all down through the years, we had been looking forward to the building of a new church, one that will not only be large enough for our own immediate vicinity, but one where we can better serve the spiritual needs of the entire community.

Our vision became a reality and as this church is dedicated today, may we lift up our eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest. "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." John 4:35-36

Taken from the bulletin for the Dedication Service for the new building at Gilbert and Nelson Roads on Sunday, May 26, 1963.