A Warm Congregation

Week 31: #52 Ancestors – Help

By Eilene Lyon

It has been a while since we had a story from my Grandpa Smith’s memoirs. He doesn’t mention the year this took place, but based on his Life Summary, I believe it was 1941. Below, I’ll share a bit about my research into the church and the people mentioned.

The Church

By Laurence M. Smith (with minor edits by Eilene)

Our family’s considerable participation in church work was just one of those things. It all started one sunny fall afternoon in Portland, the first time we lived there. I was looking after the “girls” while “Mama” was downtown shopping. This was the usual Saturday afternoon routine.

The next door neighbor, Jennie Glass, whom I knew only slightly, stopped by and asked if our two daughters would like to go with her tomorrow to the nearby church for Sunday School. I told her that it sounded like a good idea, why not stop by tomorrow and we would all go.

The church, Blanchard United Brethren Church, was quite small, about 70 or so in Sunday attendance. The preacher, Rev. Fenton G. Roscoe, was energetic and full of ideas. Especially for anyone new in the congregation.

Within a few weeks, I found myself getting up at 5 a.m. every Sunday morning to start the fires in the church heating equipment. They had a large wood-burning furnace and two wood-burning stoves in separate Sunday school rooms.

I managed to start the fires, very well indeed, because my daddy taught me at an early age how it was done. He taught me that if I needed to start a fire in a hurry always have some pine pitch handy. From that day on I always had a stock of pine pitch handy. It wasn’t long before we began to hear from the members of the congregation that for the first time in years the church was comfortable during the church services.

Later, the minister involved us in the music of the church. This came about because Clare played the piano and also because we had a piano in our home. We helped to organize a men’s chorus. At the first meeting about twelve men showed up for practice at our house. One of the twelve could sing.

Roland E. Ott, probably high school graduation about 1935. (Shared by David Sharp on Ancestry.com)

Roland Ott was a nondescript type about 18 years old and nobody, up until this time, had discovered that he could sing. He was gifted with a clear tenor voice. With this outstanding tenor, and with the rest of us following along, we did quite well. I don’t think there was any one of us that could read a note of music. I recall that we performed several times and that we were reasonably well received. The one good thing that came of all this was that the church had found a first-rate tenor soloist.

During the following summer, we were not only involved with the church choir, but Clare was playing the organ for the Sunday service.

All this church involvement in Portland came to a halt the next December when I was transferred to Spokane. This is where we started hanging out with the Presbyterians. That, of course, is another story!

The Research

The Blanchard United Brethren Church was located at 3121 SE 67th Ave. at Kelly St. There is a church on that corner to this day (as seen in the above Google Earth Streetview image). The Galilee Baptist Church purchased the building in 1966. It is now called REMIX Adventist. An interesting news item appeared in April 1946: a fire in the basement Sunday school room of the church did $3,500 in damages. The room had not been in use for several days, prompting an investigation. Perhaps Grandpa left a little too much pine pitch lying around. 😉

Rev. Fenton Guy Roscoe was born in Swanton, Nebraska, in 1894. He married Mae Belle Scott in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, in 1918. They had seven children together from 1918 to 1937, born in a variety of places: White Sulphur Springs; Danville, Illinois; Lewiston, Montana; Beach, North Dakota; and Portland, Oregon, where the family lived by 1935. They stayed put, living within blocks of the church, until Mae Belle died in 1979 and Fenton in 1984.

Mae Belle Scott (back right) with her family, about 1910 (Family Search)

Roland Elwood Ott, interestingly enough, eventually married one of Rev. Roscoe’s daughters, Bethine, after WWII. Bethine had a previous marriage and a daughter by her first husband. Roland was born in April 1917, making him 24 (not “about 18”) when Grandpa sang with him in the men’s chorus. He served during the war. After marrying Bethine, they lived for many years near her parents in southeast Portland.

The neighbor, Jennie Glass, was married to Carleton S. Glass, though they somehow did not get counted in the 1940 census (nor the 1930, but Carleton appears in 1910, 1920, and 1950 living in Portland). Jennie was born Jennie Eloise Howell in 1902. Her father immigrated from England. Her mother died before Jennie turned 20. She and Carleton had one son, who would have been about 15 when Grandpa met the Glass family.

Though Grandpa lived only a short time near this church community, his recall of names and events was excellent. He wrote this piece in 1988, when he was about 80 years old. Thanks to this story, I now know about where my mother’s family lived in 1941.

Feature image: The “girls” (my mom and aunt) at Christmas 1942, after the Smith family returned to Spokane from their brief time in Portland.

38 thoughts on “A Warm Congregation

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      1. That sounds like expertise in the hand-me-down realm! My aunt says she didn’t mind the look-alike clothes and sometimes looked forward to getting my mom’s handed down.


  1. What an interesting history. What is United Brethren, by the way? You would think I would know since I studied the reformation in grad school. I was going to make it my career at one point, something I now find unbelievable. I know it’s Protestant, but is it related to the Amish or Quakers or a group like that? I’m thinking that name Brethren . . . .

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  2. He seemed like a funny guy. I like the portrait of Mae Belle and her family. I am struck by the fact that the oversized bows that adorned the girls’ hair in this portrait seem to have a resurgence with babies the last few years. It seems every baby picture I see the little girl has a headband with a huge bow.

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      1. I hope those ladies undergarments are gone forever as well Eilene. I can remember my grandmother coming home from church or an outing and racing into her bedroom to take her corset off. I was born too late for the hoop skirts in the Antebellum era, but I have pictures of myself wearing a knee-length dressy outfit where a gizmo that looked like an embroidery hoop was threaded through the hem. It was the style and swayed when I walked. How I sat in a VW Beetle that I was pictured standing next to is a big mystery to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds like a photo (and story to go with it) that you have to share! I don’t recall any ancestor wearing a corset, but my mother wore girdles for the longest time. Ick. The one fashion I don’t miss from my earlier years: pantyhose!!

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      3. I remember my mom struggling to get into a pink latex girdle on occasions when my parents went somewhere where she wore a dress. I would be watching her get dressed and she would say “Linda, don’t get rolls when you get older.” 🙂 I did a post and included two dresses – if you scroll down to the end of this post, the 2nd and 3rd to last pictures … a crinoline was bad enough, but the embroidery hoop dress looked ridiculous. I don’t miss pantyhose or pumps either and since I’ve been working from home the last 11 years I’ve not worn either.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. What a delightful post about you and your mom. I can understand your close relationship. Wonderful photos all through! That one with you in the red dress with the hat makes me think of the Queen. That hoop in the skirt – for some reason I thought it would be down around your ankles!

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      5. Thanks Eilene. When I began that post, it was only going to be the first and last photos of us and since I’ve digitized all my photo albums, I decided to enhance the post and it kept on growing. Glad you liked it. We were very close. Back in those days, going to Sunday school or on Easter Sunday, it was a real dress-up affair, always the hat and gloves, which looking back I think made me look a lot older than I was. The crinoline fad I can see, but the hoop dress just amazes me. I should have clarified it was a short dress.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. These detailed memories from your grandfather are a treasure!

    I also like the way that church is positioned on the corner. It looks welcoming from both sides – great symbolism for how a church should be welcoming to all!

    Liked by 1 person

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