Written by Jeannie Bartel, wife of Duane Bartel, Winsome Grace owners 1995-2021
I have spent many hours reading through documents, perusing through literature at the Ryan House Museum, as well as going through reels of microfiche at the library trying to put together the history of this beautiful old church building, now called The Winsome Grace. The following is a brief compilation of the information I collected. One thing I’ve found is this is a community with a deep and rich heritage.
This “village” was founded in 1853, when members of a wagon train crossing over the Cascade Mountains through Naches Pass settled an agricultural community in this fertile river valley. The town was first called Stuck Junction, until later, in 1891, the name Sumner went on the railroad depotafter the town incorporated. These are the words written onthe back of a commemorative plate left on our doorstep a few years from now: “In the year 1854 a few “Christians” were meeting in Sumner to worship God, but during the Indian Wars of 1855-56 hostile Indians drove these “Chirstians” from their homes to the Steilacoom plains. In 1858, these “Christians” organized into the first Christian Church in the state of Washington. These members moved back to Sumner in 1863 and met in the old school house. In 1879 an evangelistic meeting resulted in the addition of many new members, and they built the first building in the year 1883. This original building with many improvements is still being used by a congregation of 300 “Christians” in Sumner, Washington, 1952.
It is interesting to note the Indian uprising started in Bonney Lake, when a Union army soldier was killed by native Indians. The people fled to Fort Steilacoom, the location of the present joint miltary bases near Olympia. This all occured in the years just preceding the civil war.
Construction of the buiding, which is located at the corner of Washington St. and Wood Ave., cost $2500.00 and $400.00 was paid for the lot.
The Methodist Church paid off the mortgage in 1899 and the church held a mortgage burning which the communitywas invited to attend as stated in the September 8, 1899 issue of the Sumner Herald. “…one could fill columns with storied of the socials held to help earn the money to pay for the new church”. (From an article titled “In the Little Crossroads Church”.
In 1894, the house the John Porter family lived in at the Sawmill Camp was purchased for $40.00 and moved a mile and a half from Ryan’s mill north of Sumner to a lot west of the new church. The house was placed on sids and moved with a team of horses. The house was used as the Parsonage.
In 1922 the church was sold to a group of Japanese American farmers who held services in it. Sometime in the 1930’s to early 40’s the parsonage and church were joined and made one building. When the second world war broke out, the Japanes immingrants were taken to Puyallup and eastern Washington and placed in internment camps until the war had ended. After the internment of the Japanese, it became a Free Methodist church until sold to Baptists in 1965 and remained in the until 1995.
“An early settler said that Sumner was founded on this church and truly it was the center of all life from its beginning until modern amusements and other organizations rivaled its influence.” (“In the Little Crossroads Church”.)
Duane Bartel purchased the old church in 1995. It had been falling into horrible disrepair for quite some time, but Duane sensed something special about this old, very sad grey painted building. He looked beyond its dilapidated condition, to see that it represented over 100 years of history in the community. If you take the time, you can easily imagine the many young couples standing at the altar, pledging their lives to one another over the years.
It was a meeting place for a group of young settlers to worship God, gather for socials, and dream of growth. Image the sounds of hundreds of young children who have run up and down the stairs laughing, or piano music and choirs filling the auditorium with a joyful noise. In a sense, this building represents the hopes, dreams, and visions of an entire community that was, at one time, built around this beautiful old church. With that in mind, it was easy to make the decision to purchase the church and begin what would ultimately be a 20 year restoration. Along the way, many unique and interesting “treasures” were discovered in the walls and under the floor boards of this fascintating building. Some would be fitting for a museum. But this recounting will be a subject of a future article.
There have been many days when Duane has looked back on the decision to undertake this challenge and thought, “What WAS I thinking?” But now, the light shines brightly at the end of a very long and challenging tunnel.
Duane and Jeannie Bartel were married in this old church on May 28, 2011. Our hopes and dreams were to see this old building become, once again, the heart of the community…a place where young couples can once again begin a new life together. We want it to be a place where the live of a loved one now gone can be celebrated, a place where families can gather and worship God. We dream of it becoming a place that inspires dreams of growth and will continue to inspire for another 100 years!!
The Winsome Grace! Where memories are made and dreams blossom.
On January 8, 2007, Duane received a letter from the Mayor of Sumner, Dave Enslow. In that letter, the Mayor wrote, “I just wanted to thank you for the beautiful job you have done with your house. Alot of Sumner residents have been admiring your work for a long time, and I thought it was time I officially thanked you for doing so much to give new life to an old Sumner treasure, Thank you, your efforts went over and above the noraml call of duty to keep Sumner looking beautiful. I think you truly took the best of our past and gave it new life for a wonderful future.”
On February 22, 2021 Dave & Jimmi Serfling took on the exciting privilege of continuing the community landmark and memory maker known as Winsome Grace.