Olgonik Presbyterian Church



Wainwright Elders, circa 1939

The Olgonik (Ulgunik) Presbyterian Church at Wainwright, population approximately 210, was organized June 24, 1923, by the Rev. Henry W. Griest, MD of Barrow, with the assistance of ruling elder Roy Ahmaogak. Ahmaogak was associated with the church in one way or another from that time until his death in 1968.

The Presbytery files contain several letters from Ahmaogak with references to his ministry as well as to the ministry of others:

Writing from Bloomfield, New Jersey, January 3, 1947, Ahmaogak indicated that he had attended a summer Institute of Linguistics at Norman, Oklahoma (103-degree heat), and had just finished his first draft of the translation of the Gospel of Mark into Inupiat.

Roy was assigned as missionary pastor at Wainwright in March of 1948, and wrote to be excused from attending Presbytery meetings in 1948, 1951, 1957, 1958, and 1959 due to distance and travel costs.

Ahmaogak, in a March 8, 1957 letter to Mabel Bingle, College, Alaska, outlined the staffing history for the Olgonik church:

“It is difficult to date exactly, each of those missionaries and lay workers who served as moderators of this church.

“From 1923 to 1925, Dr. Griest served as moderator of this church and made trips three times each year while serving the church at Barrow, by dogteam travel.

“Then during Dr. Griests’ four-year leave of absence, Dr. A.W. Newhall served from the Barrow church, the same way that Dr. Griest did, from 1925-1929 and died at the post March 17, 1929.

“In the summer of 1929 Dr. Griest returned to Barrow and was there ‘til summer of 1936 during which he was the moderator of Wainwright church visiting it as he had in previous years, about three times a year.

“From summer of 1936 to 1939, the Rev. F.G. Klerekoper served the Barrow church and made trips to Wainwright quarterly and served its business.

“During the summer of 1935, Percy Ipalook was stationed in charge of this church for the first time under the Board of National Missions as Lay Missionary and chairman of the session. Up until then, the church was functioning under the leadership of the ruling elders during the absence of ordained ministers from Barrow church.

“In 1940, Percy Ipalook went out for further study at Dubuque. From summer of 1940 to 1941 lay worker and elder of Barrow church Roy Ahmaogak was in charge of the church during Percy’s year in the States.

“From summer of 1941 to April 1943 Percy Ipalook in charge. From April 1943 to June 10, 1945, Lay worker Roy Ahmaogak in charge. Vacant from June 1945 to 1947, when in June of 1947 Roy Ahmaogak was ordained under Yukon Presbytery and installed at Wainwright as missionary-pastor up to this year of 1957,” Ahmaogak reported.

Ahmaogak applied for and received a one-year furlough beginning January 1, 1966 to further work on his translation of the Scriptures. Before actually taking the furlough, he officially retired December 31, 1965 -- sort of.

Ahmaogak writes from Fairbanks April 13, 1967 that he had been invited to take over the 3:00 p.m. Eskimo service at First Presbyterian Church, Fairbanks. (The Rev. Frank L. Grafton was installed at Wainwright October 22, 1967. Grafton and his family came from Juneau. He is honorably retired October 31, 1971.)

On January 17, 1968, Ahmaogak writing from Wainwright informed Eileen Davis that he was going to Anaktuvuk Pass to help Mary Tener with the work there. The Rev. and Mrs. Grafton seemed to like their work at Wainwright, he reported.

After 45 years of service to the church, the Rev. Roy Ahmaogak died at Barrow February 1, 1968. A memorial service was held March 13, 1968 during Presbytery.

The Rev. Roy Ahmaogak

Olgonik Joins Ahmaogak Memorial Parish

Files contain a letter written in January 1974 to the Rev. Samuel Simmonds from Thomas P. Brower of the Ahmaogak Parish Council inviting the Wainwright congregation to join the Ahmaogak Memorial Parish. The Parish later met March 16, 1974 following action by the Yukon Presbytery setting the boundaries of the Parish to conform with those of the North Slope Borough, including Wainwright, Point Lay, Anaktuvuk Pass, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, and Barrow.


The following persons have served the Olgonik church since the death of Roy Ahmaogak:

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