The Alaska Highway Ministry
The Rev. Bert Bingle began the Alaska Highway Ministry in 1942 serving the men in the highway construction camps. Bingle also began the Railbelt Parish. The Railbelt Church was officially established in 1949 with twelve members. The Railbelt work was dissolved March 8, 1967, and all that remains of the Highway work is located at Delta. But for a while, the two intertwined ministries were major going concerns.
The Alaska Highway missionary work began at the time of the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. Bingle traveled from Fairbanks to Whitehorse serving as the chaplain and pastor to the people in the construction camps and army posts along the way. The Alaska Highway Parish included three Presbyterian chapels, located at Delta Junction, Tok Junction and Northway.
We learn from some Cordova materials that the Rev. David H. Crawford left the Cordova Presbyterian Church in June of 1943 "to follow B.J. Bingle on the highway construction camp ministry."
On July 29, 1948, Bert and Mable Bingle filed an application to lease a piece of property in Tok for a homesite and chapel. With the aid of Dr. R. Rolland Armstrong and family, ministers of the presbytery and the faithful persons of Tok who worked and provided materials, money, and food, Tok Chapel was built in 1950 -- but not used until 1951 because of the extreme cold. The Board of National Missions provided $1,000 and the local people raised $1,200.
The building was dedicated on April 1, 1952 with Dr. J. Earl Jackman, secretary for the Department of Work in Alaska, present.
Bingle continued his highway work until 1953.
The Rev. and Mrs. Edward W. Diehl, living at Tok, served the Alaska Highway Mobile Ministry from August 29, 1953 through August 1957. Diehl's business card read: Alaska Highway chaplain -- Tok Junction, Big Delta to Border, 40 Mile, Slana, Nenana, Dot Lake -- with services at Tok and Northway. Diehl came in time to complete the building of the manse begun by Bingle.
Diehl held services periodically for the Native people at Dot Lake as well as services and programs at the various lodges along the highway. It was during his tenure that the vestibule and steeple were added to the Tok Chapel, in the spring of 1955. The Social Hall at Tok Junction was started in the summer of 1956 with six rounds of logs and floor laid by Westminster Fellowship of the Anchorage Area with the assistance of ministers from that area. A log building formerly used as a chapel and school at Northway, was obtained, moved to a new location, and remodeled for use in the spring of 1957.
The Rev. Cecil Moore served from 1957 to May 1958, and the Rev. John Bartholomew served from July 1958 through 1961.
The Rev. Myron White was serving the highway parish in 1965, stationed out of Delta.
More About The Alaska Highway Ministry
"... that Presbytery accept the agreement with the Episcopal Church that the Presbyterian Church continue to cover the Tok field until they can secure a pastor for the Episcopal church at Tanacross (with the Episcopal Church transferring to our account the amount of $600 to cover our transportation expenses from the Delta Junction field) and that we shall continue our negotiations for a new pastor at Tanacross to cover the Tok field."
What remains of the highway work today is located at Delta Junction.