October 12, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
Mountain Lakes Church Celebrates 50 Years
by Steve Thompson
On October 14 and 15, Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church of Seeley Lake will have a birthday party. The church, which started out as Pineview Presbyterian Church, will be 50 years old this month. A number of activities are planned, including a reception/social gathering, a dinner on Saturday and a special worship service on Sunday. For more information, call 677-3575 or 677-2496. The past 50 years have seen many changes in the church, but many things have remained constant.
It began with a visit and a dream in 1946. A Sunday school was started, vacation bible school was held, surveys were done, petitions were circulated and finally on Sunday, October 27, 1950, the Pineview Presbyterian Church of Seeley Lake was duly organized by the Rev. W. Harry Bessire. Once organized, the dream and the energy continued. A parcel of land was donated by John Garlish, Sr. 100 logs and the personnel and equipment needed to move them were also donated - the logs given by the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. and the equipment donated by Art Cook. The U.S. Forest Service donated a building at the Seeley Lake Ranger Station to be a "Parish House and Manse" for the minister. This building served as both a church and living area for the minister. A piano, pulpit and building supplies were also donated. Many folks from near and far gave time and talents to help with the construction.
The foundation and logs for the new log chapel were placed in the Fall of 1951. At a Spring meeting of the Presbytery of Kalispell in February 1952, approval was given to develop the "Blackfoot Larger Parish" including Seeley Lake, Ovando, Potomac and other points when developed. With the log chapel built, the dream and the work continued. In September 1956, the Rev. John C. Barnum became pastor of the Blackfoot Church. Since part of his salary was for mission work, he conducted bible studies and services in the Swan Valley and in the Salmon Creek area near Ovando.
A pastor needs a home and in 1961 the church purchased the manse from Bill and Bertha Morton. The house was purchased with cash, pledges of cash AND ten calves. These calves were later sold and the moneys placed in the manse fund.
Realizing the benefits of a united Christian family, the three communities of Seeley Lake, Potomac and Ovando continued to be the focus of the Blackfoot Church from its beginning in 1956 until 1997. At that point it was decided that each community had evolved with its own character and personality and the spiritual needs of all members would best be served by having a separate church in each location. At that time, the Seeley Lake unit of the Blackfoot Church became Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church.
From its birth 50 years ago, Pineview/Blackfoot/Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church has had ten different ministers - Rev. W. Harry Bessire, Rev. John C. Barnum, Rev. Harold A. Wylie, Rev. C. Robert Border, Rev. Barrying Morrison, Rev. Warren S. Craig, Rev. Jean Johnson, Rev. Christopher Williams, Rev. Lynn Hodges, Dr. Richard NcNeeley and the current pastor, Rev. J. Scott Anthony.
As Mountain Lakes Church enters its second 50 years the dream, the growth and the work continue. Surveys have been conducted, questionnaires circulated and initial sketches drawn for a new fellowship hall. This work toward the future is not without a measured look to the past. Everyone, from the one year members to the fifty year members, wants to make sure the special character of the little log chapel remains unchanged.