By Nancy Covert
The next time you’re in Steilacoom (like shopping at the final Farmers Market for the 2013 season on Aug. 28) take a closer look at the bronze and blue marker that’s been placed at the base of Steilacoom’s Bell Tower monument on Wilkes Street.
The round marker proclaims that it’s “No. 467” of the United Methodist Church. The church bell at the top of this tall, gray stone monument, erected in 1908, has traditionally been rung at the beginning and end of the community’s Wednesday Farmers Market. On Aug. 22 it was rung to “commemorate this site and all the people and events associated with it, and to identify it for future generations.”
Methodists from Steilacoom, Lakewood and Puyallup gathered for the special dedication event, to commemorate the 1853 location of the Steilacoom Methodist Episcopal Church site, and the work of Rev. John F. DeVore, the first minister for the Protestant congregation in this area. The ME church was located near the present-day Bair Store, and it was the first Protestant Church north of the Columbia River.
A second historic Methodist site in this area: the location of the Methodist Mission at Ft. Nisqually at DuPont/Northwest Landing, is yet to be dedicated, pending completion of construction in that area.
The Rev. Dr. James D. Lewis, chairperson of the PNW Conference Commission of the UMC Archives, recapped the church’s history in this area. He spoke about Rev. DeVore’s home (a small cabin that was located in present-day Pioneer Orchard Park) that became the site of Steilacoom’s first school. Rev. DeVore offered his home to the Sherwood Bonney family during the Indian Wars. In 1854 Mrs. Lydia Wright Bonney started the first school there.
Robert Williams, General Secretary of the UMC General Commission on Archives and History, told about the site’s importance.
The idea for this dedication, explained Lewis, was an outgrowth of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church to mark the 160th anniversary of this church.
The evening ceremony, conducted at the bell tower, was bathed in a rosy glow of light, cast by the setting sun—a benediction on the commemoration.
Note: Steilacoom’s 2013 commemorative Fireworks T-shirt featured the Bell Tower, and some remaining shirts were sold to visitors in the market for such a special souvenir.