Grace Presbyterian Church

Nenana

 With the developments of the coalfields in the Nenana and Broad Pass area and the building of the railroad, the place where the road strikes the river was expected to be a strategic center. That place was Nenana.

The Rev. Dr. R.J. Diven headed for Nenana, found 21 people who were desirous of confessing their faith in Jesus Christ and nine people who were already members of evangelical churches -- all willing to become members of a Presbyterian church if one were organized in Nenana. On November 24, 1918, the congregation assembled accordingly. The church entered upon its organized career having the distinction of being the only self-supporting church in Alaska.

Yukon Presbytery met in the Grace Presbyterian Church, Nenana, June 27-29, 1919. Presbytery was again held at Nenana in 1925, Feb. 17-19, included on the agenda were a dog sled ride over a scenic trail and a stereopticon lecture.

As time went on, however, the population declined in the mining areas, even the town of Nenana which had originally looked so promising. For a time, the missionary at Fairbanks served the Grace chapel.

The Rev. R.R. Marquis made an attempt to revive the church, arriving in June of 1924. Marquis requested the assistance of Presbytery in reorganizing the congregation before a permanent minister could be sought. He worked diligently but by 1927, he is working in Anchorage. The scene was quiet for a few years, being served occasionally by the Episcopalians.

We pick up the story with a letter from John B. Bentley dated December 30, 1946:

My dear Mr. Alfsen:

The enclosed notice and report forms have been handed to me. As you may know, Grace Presbyterian Church in Nenana is no longer an active congregation. So far as I know, there are only two members of the old congregation left here. They are Mr. and Mrs. Tom Jones. We did use Grace Church for our community services for some years after your clergyman left, but the building was so hard to heat that we had to abandon its use, and now our little group of mixed-Christians meets in an old Army hut.

However, I canít have Grace Church fail to meet its apportionment, so I am enclosing our check to take care of this obligation.

I trust that you good people may have a fine meeting of the Presbytery of Yukon in January. May I take this means of extending to you, and to the members of your Presbytery, my warmest good wishes and the assurances of my prayers. May God bless you all.

PS Our treasurer tells me that the check we sent you last year has never come back to us from the bank. I think it is all right, so you need not hesitate to cash it. JBB.

 


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