|HISTORY OF THE TUALATIN
PLAINS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The organization of the
Tualatin Plains Presbyterian Church is recorded on the first
page of the minutes of the Session, in the time-faded hand of
its first pastor, the Rev. George Ross. The words of this
venerable sage were set down in the following manner:
Washington County, Oregon, 16th November, 1873. After a sermon
this day by the Rev. A.L. Lindsley, D.D., Portland, Oregon,
he along with two of his elders, Messrs. Holman and Wadhams,
organized the Tualatin Plains Presbyterian Church, consisting
of twelve members. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper
was dispensed. The congregation then proceeded to elect two
elders, when Messrs. William Chalmers and James Smith were chosen
to fill that office. It was found that Mr. Chalmers was
an ordained elder, he having been chosen and set apart to that
office a long time previous to his departure from Scotland.
He was received and Mr. Smith ordained to the eldership of the
Tualatin Plains Church. Closed with prayer."
Thus the Tualatin Plains Presbyterian Church was organized
on that fall day of November and the first service was held
at the four-room Columbia Academy school house, four miles northwest
of the present site. This service and the ones immediately
following it were held at the Academy until a permanent site
for construction of a house of worship could be located by the
The charter members came mostly from the same area in Aberdeenshire,
west of Aberdeen, Scotland. They were previously members of
the "Free Church of Scotland." Upon coming to Oregon,
all settled in the same area on the Tualatin Plains. From
their Scottish origin, this church acquired the name it is more
often identified with today, "The Old Scotch Church."
These twelve Scottish pioneers were: Mr. and Mrs. William
Chalmers and their daughter Catherine, Mr. and Mrs. James Smith,
Rev. and Mrs. George Ross, Mr. and Mrs. George Alexander, their
daughter Eliza, Miss Alexander and John Milne. Most of
them remained in the area and in the church all their lives.
Eight of these twelve and many of their descendents are presently
at rest in the cemetery surrounding the church.
Though the records of the original twelve are scattered, the
death of William Chalmers in 1891 and that of his wife in 1899
are recorded in the minutes of the Session. Mrs. Chalmers
was eulogized soon after her death as a person of unselfishness,
devoutness, hospitality, benevolence and loyalty to Christ.
James Smith was remembered at his death in 1889 as a man of
sterling worth and an elder and trustee for 16 years.
It is evident from these remembrances that several of the church's
early members contributed many long, loyal years to this struggling
Upon organization, the congregation began examining the countryside
for a site on which to build a new church and establish a cemetery.
Regarding this quest, the following passage is found in the
a congregational meeting held at the home of William Chalmers,
Rev. George Ross, acting as chairman, it was unanimously agreed
to buy two acres of land from Jacob Hoover as a site for a church
and burying ground. Mr. Hoover, being present, very generously
said, 'I will donate one acre to you and sell you the other
for $25.00.' The offer was accepted and the thanks of
the meeting given to Mr. Hoover for his liberality."
The site they chose was
beautifully set among firs near the bank of McKay Creek, about
four miles north of Hillsboro.
that a site had been chosen and the land acquired, plans went
ahead for construction. At a congregational meeting on
March 11, 1878, the board of trustees was requested to acquire
plans and specifications for a church building and the probable
cost and report at the next meeting. At the following
congregational meeting, a simple gothic design proposed by Mr.
Balantyne with a probable cost of $2120 was accepted.
The trustees were then instructed to employ a responsible contractor
and have the church building finished with as little delay as
possible. The plan called for a tall eight-sided steeple,
buttresses on the outer walls, steep roof and stained glass
windows. This style was probably selected because of its
similarity to their home church in Scotland.
began immediately with much of the labor donated by church members
and men and women of the community. The lumber for the
building came from nearby forests, processed by mills in the
vicinity. With these donations of labor and materials,
the building was rapidly completed and dedicated in 1878.
The original sanctuary furnishings were donated by members and
friends of the congregation including: the pulpit, large pulpit
Bible, sterling communion service and the communion table.
All of these items are still in use today. The church
bell, which still heralds Sunday morning services, was not installed
in the steeple until September, 1926, when it was donated to
the Old Scotch Church by the Linton Methodist Church.
The pews came from the Methodist Church in old Glencoe (now
In 1986 a beautiful handcrafted Celtic cross was
hung in the chancel. It was made from a dogwood tree that had
grown for many years in the cemetery.
structure is one of the oldest and most beautiful continuously
used churches in the state. The historic majesty and beauty
of the building draws large numbers of artists who each summer
capture its charm on canvas and film. The church is listed
in many of the tour books of the area and has been featured
in other periodicals. On June 26, 1971, the church was
marked by a plaque in a ceremony conducted by the Tualatin Heritage
Group. This was the 13th historical site in Washington
County to be honored. (The plaque has since disappeared.)
Again, On November 5, 1974, the church was honored by being
listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Along with construction of the church building, work also progressed
on the cemetery plot. The land was cleared and readied
for burial purposes. The first person laid to rest in
this peaceful cemetery was Margaret Smith Chalmers, the daughter
of William and Catherine Chalmers, who died May 28, 1876, at
the age of 6 years, 9 months. Inscribed on the gravestone
were the child's last words, "The lamb has come for me,
Many old and famous pioneers of the Oregon Country lie in this
picturesque old cemetery. One of the most famous is the
grave of the mountain man, Joe Meek, who was also the first
U.S. Marshall of the Oregon Territory. He died June 20,
1875, and was buried at that time on his home place near the
historic marker in his memory on the Sunset Highway. When
this property was sold, his remains were moved to their present
resting place located east of the church.
There have been 26 ministers who faithfully served this pioneer
church with years of service ranging from several months to
The first pastor, the Rev. George Ross, led this tiny band
of Presbyterians for 21 years, the period from 1873 to 1894.
He was still in the service of the congregation when he passed
away in 1894.
During the pastorate of the Rev. Albert Robinson, 1899 to 1907,
the church had Sunday worship only three times a month"conducted
by the pastor on the first, third and fifth Sabbath of the
month." This factwas also reported in the
minutes of the Session in these words:
"Bro. Davis reported attending Presbytery at this church
18th of the last month and the action of Presbytery in dividing
the field, cutting of Forest Dale and Buxton and giving us the
much desired every Sunday service."
In 1909, Dr. Andrew Carrick began the longest pastorate in
this church's history, which lasted 28 years until his retirement
on April 4, 1937. He commuted from Portland by horseback
and later by bicycle. He was a pulpit supply pastor who
was requested to stay each year by vote of the congregation.
Dr. Carrick was much beloved by his congregation and his death
in December, 1948, was greatly lamented.
In the summer of 1947 the Rev. W.J. Smith, a retired missionary
who had served in the Philippines, came by the church and noticed
the grounds in need of a good mowing. He rolled up his
sleeves and went to work. Pleased with his attitude, the
congregation petitioned Presbytery to grant their request that
he serve as their pastor. Permission was granted and the
Rev. Smith became this church's 11th pastor for the next three
The Rev. Kent Lawrence (1956-1962) was the first pastor installed
by the Presbytery. His organizational ability brought
the church more fully into the Presbyterian form of government.
In 1970 when the Rev. Gene Upton began his ministry, church
membership was 174. In 1985, when he retired, it had grown
to 280. The church bestowed on him the honorary title
of Pastor Emeritus.
The Rev. Darrell Hall was installed as pastor in 1987.
The following January, Pat Berger was selected as the first
paid part-time Christian Education Administrator.
During the years, the church and cemetery grounds have been
expanded from the original two acres to the present 10 plus
Improvements and additional construction have been added to
the church through the years. In the spring of 1905, an
annex was added to the back of the church to provide more Sunday
School classrooms. This annex was enlarged and a half
basement and heating plant were added in 1940. A tract
of land across McKay Creek was donated to the church and a manse
was built there in 1949. A second addition was built on
the back of the church in 1955 which included an indoor toilet
for the first time. During 1959 and 1960 the church was
raised to add a full basement. Included were classrooms,
Fellowship Hall, kitchen, rest rooms and the Pastor's office.
While the church was being raised, the congregation met in the
Old North Plains school. In 1983 and 1984 four classrooms
were added to the basement and ground floor. This enlarged
the church to the maximum floor plan permissible on this site,
within the confines of the cemetery. Even with all the
construction and changes, great care has been taken to keep
the interior and exterior style of the building the same as
the original "pioneer appearance."
The Old Scotch Church has paused to look back at many years
of growth and struggle and to honor the members and pastors
who made this growth possible. Such times are commemorated
periodically by anniversaries, as on the sixtieth in 1933.
At this time nineteen direct descendants of original members
were present. These descendants honored the charter members
by laying wreaths upon the graves of these Oregon pioneers.
The most notable anniversary celebration was the 100th in 1973.
A year-long affair, it began in January with an Old Time Service
of Worship. Members and friends came dressed in costumes
of the 1800's. In February a ceremony was held dedicating
the woods behind the church as "Founders' Grove."
A Scotch Pine and twelve fir trees were planted in honor of
the twelve charter members. April was an art show in which both
office supply stores in Hillsboro displayed paintings and pictures
of the church and the people who founded it. May was Homecoming
when former members were invited back to share in a special
service honoring their past. An Old Fashioned Ice Cream
Social was held on the front lawn of the church in July, and
in September a barbecue in Founders' Grove served 380 members
and special guests. November was the Festival of Rededication
to a second century of Christian service. The last event,
closing out the Centennial Year, was the "Centennial Memories"
Tasting Tea. (A scrap book of all these activities and
participants may be seen in the church library.)
It was after the publicity of the 100th Anniversary Celebration
that couples from far and near began to choose this church in
which to exchange their wedding vows. It remains a popular
place for chapel-type weddings.
But the Old Scotch Church does not reflect often -- rather
it pushes ahead to increase its influence in the community and
remain a vital congregatiant heritage.