History of
Columbia Valley, Whatcom, WA


On August 23, 1893, the first Mass was offered in Columbia Valley, Whatcom County, Washington, in a schoolhouse near the old MERSCH place (now owned by Thomas BURKE), to a group of thirteen people. On the very day three members of the congregation in conformity with the first missionary priest, Father J. B. BOULET (later Monsignor), laid the plans for the first church. A member by the name of SCHROLL donated the land for the edifice, that was near the Canadian border and adjacent to the present Catholic Cemetery of the valley. It was constructed by the pioneering settlers from cedar logs hewed from the nearby forest. This church was destroyed by a forest fire in 1914.

The next day, August 24, Father BOULET continued his missionary travels by foot to the point in the present Mission of St. Peter's, which was then known Keyes Post Office (a place now known as the place just north of the old George ST. JAMES farm), and there he offered the Mass and the Sacraments to another group of Catholics. The first recorded Baptism was administered to Laura Victoria LUKE, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Francis LUKE, by Father BOULET.

However, by 1910, there was a need for a larger and more conveniently situated place of worship, and so the second church was built on the Sumas-Kendall Road. This old church is now found nestled amidst the second growth timber that stretches between the ranges of the Cascades. Sometime during the late 1960's and early 1970's we had once again outgrown our present church. In 1972 the St. Joseph's Mission Church at Clipper, consolidated with St. Peter's Mission Church and on the 23rd of June 1974 ground was broken for the new and present St. Peter's Mission Church on the existing property of St. Peter's Hall on the Mt. Baker Highway. The new church was dedicated on April 27, 1975.

Around 1899 Catholic families of German descent blazed the mountainous area by homesteading. The ZENDERs, BUCKENMEYERs, WARNERs, THEISENs, KOEHLERs, NICALAYs, SCHWABs and SCHROLLs were the early settlers.

Much gratitude and praise must be given to the early missionary priests, especially Father BOULET, who kept the faith burning in the souls of the early pioneers. From 1893 to 1905 the Missioner BOULET came, intermittently, to shepherd the souls of the Columbia Vally. Father Alphonso WINTERS of Ferndale and later Sedro Woolley, Father Daniel DALY, L. W. FERLAND, A. M. BILLIAN and George VAN GOETHEM (also of Sedro Woolley) and others assisted in the ministry of St. Peter's Mission from 1905 to 1909.

Two Priests, Father D. A. HANLY and Father William J. NOONAN (both later became Monsignors) of the Sacred Heart Parish in Bellingham, Washington made occasional visits to serve the people.

From 1912 to 1913 the first resident pastor of Sumas, Washington, Father E. F. McCARTHY, cared for the Mission of St. Peter's. Following from headquarters in Sumas, were Fathers Peter J. RYAN from 1913-1917, James WAGNER, O.M.I., formerly of Canada from 1917-1918. Then from 1919-1928 the following Pastors from Ferndale were in charge; from 1919-1923 Father Joseph SCHMIDT; from 1923-1926 Father J. M. HOEN and from 1925-1926 Father Robert DILLION.

On September 18, 1926, when Lynden received her first resident pastor, Father Benedict SCHWIEZER, O.S.B., the Mission of Columbia Valley became attached to the Parish of Lynden, and has been attached since that day. After Father Benedict came the following pastors: 1936-1944 Maurice FOLEY; 1944-1949 Garrit GALVIN; 1949-1952 Andrew DONOHOE; 1952-1955 Maxmillian MURRY; 1955-1966 James VAN GOGH; 1966-1970 Kenneth OGRODOWSKI; 1970-1977 Gerald MAYOVSKY; 1977-1980 John "Jack" JENNINGA; 1980-1985 Patrick KEATY; 1985-1986 James O'GRADY; 1986-1990 Timothy McKENNA and from 1990 to present Rev. Gary SOUTHERTON.

     Submitted by Sharon Stone and Wilna Baisden

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