On May 3, 2021 we will reach a milestone. First Presbyterian Church of Casa Grande will be 125 years old! Leading up to that event, we will offer biographical sketches of the pastors who have served FPC over that period.

 

 

Rev Henry Adelbert Thompson (1894-1896)

 

Rev Henry A. Thompson

 

Henry A Thompson was born October 26, 1870 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He came to Arizona in 1892 as a circuit rider for the Presbyterian denomination. In January of 1894, the handsome young minister began evangelizing in the Casa Grande Valley. He had not yet completed his seminary education but was licensed to preach in 1892 by the Presbytery of St. Paul. For two years he preached in the area and built up a congregation in Casa Grande. They met at the one room adobe school. Henry was from Minneapolis, Minnesota and was staying with the HC Mann family who were founders of the Peoria church. Peoria AZ. was a community organized and settled by people from Peoria, IL. Henry Thompson had many experiences while evangelizing in the Casa Grande Valley. He traveled with his team of horses and camped in the desert on his preaching circuit. He once discovered a section house at the Sweetwater station between Casa Grande and Maricopa had been robbed and a woman had been left behind bound and gagged. In July of 1894 he became seriously ill with typhoid fever while at Sacaton. At one point Rev Thompson utilized a railroad hand car to make his rounds between Toltec, Arizola, Casa Grande, and Maricopa. He went as far west as Gila Bend and Yuma and north to Wickenburg and Congress Junction to preach. The following account by Col. McClintock which appeared in the Phoenix Gazette, March 12, 1895, gives an accurate picture of how he conducted work:

“Religion in the saddle is a reality in Arizona. The Rev HA Thompson, delegated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions to carry the Gospel into the hamlets of Central and Southern Arizona, is a young man, full of health, vigor, and enthusiasm in the cause, yet quick to adapt himself to his environment. Clad in the usual frontiersman apparel, with spur on heel and revolver at belt, mounted on a powerful nag that steps well out and jogs his forty miles a day, he looks in few respects different from the average “cowman” encountered on the trails that lead into the wilds.”

Mr. Thompson had finished only a part of his college work when he came to Peoria, but he was ordained by the Presbytery of Arizona, meeting in Phoenix, having passed his examination with honor. On May 3, 1896 Endeavor Church was officially established to serve Arizola and Casa Grande. Rev Henry A. Thompson was at the ceremony as well as Rev Isaac T. Whittemore who would assume the leadership of the church. His home in Peoria was burned to the ground when a man had an accident filling a gasoline stove and it burst into flame. That happened in July of 1897 and the original session records of the Peoria church were lost in the fire. In January of 1898 Rev Thompson would leave his pastorate in Peoria and Congress Junction to return to Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio to finish his education.

Rev Thompson was unmarried when he began his work in Arizona and like many young ministers found his bride in his first parish. She was Miss Mary Alice Mann, daughter of the family by whom the church at Peoria was begun. The two became engaged while Mr. Thompson was serving as pastor, but were not married until the Fall of 1900, at Peoria, Illinois, in the home of DeLoss S. Brown. Mr. Thompson held pastorates in the Midwest before returning with Mrs. Thompson to Peoria, Arizona in 1911. Five children were born to Rev and Mrs. Thompson, one of whom, Wilbur A., was an elder in the Peoria Presbyterian Church many years later. During the years that followed, Rev Thompson, while not becoming pastor of the church, frequently supplied the pulpit and kept the flock together, at times when there was no regular pastor. He devoted his time to ranching and cotton farming. He was a principle member of the Arizona Pima Cotton Growers’ Association. A faithful and colorful life given in service for his Lord ended from pneumonia May 17, 1933 at his ranch home near Peoria on Grand Avenue. He was 62 years old.

 

 

Rev Isaac Thomas Whittemore 1897-1899

 

Inspection of the Casa Grande Ruins by Pastor Whittemore

Rev Isaac Whittemore

In September of 1888 Rev Isaac Thomas Whittemore was visiting Florence, Arizona, the county seat of Pinal County. He gave a sermon to eager residents at the first county courthouse (now McFarland State Park). The sermon was so well received that he was greatly encouraged by the residents to remain and establish a Presbyterian Church in Florence. After much prayerful deliberation he agreed and sent for his wife and daughter to join him. He then began in earnest the task of establishing a congregation. In 1896 he became the first in a long line of stated supply pastors to serve First Presbyterian Church of Casa Grande while also serving the Florence church. The Florence Tribune prints this account of Rev I.T. Whittemore’s Travels in the Saturday, June 5, 1897 edition: “Eagle Lake. IN, May 27, 1897. Editor Tribune- My plans on leaving home on the 8th have been carried out to the letter. I preached at Arizola and Casa Grande on the 9th, spent the 10th at the capitol and the 11th at Prescott. There I met Hon. AJ Doran, Judge Sloan, and EB Moden. The excitement of Sunday, the 9th, over the jail escape of Parker, Miller, and Cornelia and murder of Norris had hardly subsided and several parties had gone in pursuit of the fugitives.

 

The 12th I spent with an old friend, William Johnson, at the wonderful Jerome mine. I had never seen anything like it – can’t stop now to describe it – may later. The 13th I spent at Jerome Junction and at evening came to Ash Fork. On the morning of the 14th I met Sheriffs Galpin and Cameron, with five bloodhounds, and they came on the train to Williams and there started for Parker’s trail. At evening I was at Flagstaff, Miller was brought in and jailed there, followed by a large crowd. Not a word have I heard yet from the others.

I remained at Flagstaff and by appointment of the Presbytery installed Rev HP Carson as pastor of the Presbyterian church and left for Kansas City Monday. I had twenty minutes with Ella at the Union depot at Kansas City, and pushed on to Chicago and reached there Wednesday at 10 am and put up at the Palmer House. Thursday at 7:30 am boarded the Assembly train and reached this beautiful spot at 10:30 am in time for the opening of the 100th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States. I will give a further account of my stewardship in my next. Truly yours, Little Parson.”

Rev Whittemore also had an interest in the native population of Arizona after becoming acquainted with Rev Charles Cook who had served as missionary to the Pima tribe since 1881. His frequent trips between Florence and Casa Grande afforded him the opportunity to look in on the Casa Grande ruins. He became the unofficial custodian of the site of the ancient Hohokams. He was appointed by Interior Secretary, John Noble, to be the first caretaker of the Casa Grande Ruins. He lobbied for the historic site to come under the protection of the National Parks service. His pleas fell mostly on deaf ears. However, he was able to secure some funds to help preserve the site. He also lobbied congress for the construction of the San Carlos reservoir to aid the native people. In 1899 his service to the Casa Grande and Florence churches, as well as being caretaker for the ruins came to an end. He later retired in California to live with his daughter in Pasadena. On February 20, 1904, he rode his wheel (bicycle) to North Pasadena to take some fruit to a sick friend. On the way home, he was struck by a streetcar and instantly killed. He was buried in California, but his name appears on the back of his wife’s headstone in Butte cemetery in Florence.

 

Rev Herman Bozeman Mayo 1899-1901

 

Casa Grande Ruins c. 1902

On October 2, 1899, Rev. Herman B. Mayo replaced Isaac Whittemore as caretaker of the Casa Grande Ruins and became the pastor in Florence and Casa Grande that same year. Mayo was born December 23, 1869 in MacArthur, Ohio and ordained June 12, 1896, a graduate of Auburn Seminary. In April of 1900, Rev. Mayo was called upon to hold funeral services for a prominent Casa Grande citizen, Christian Loss, who died unexpectedly at the age of 45 years. Rev. Mayo would preach morning and evening services in Florence the second and fourth Sunday of the month and every alternate Sunday at Casa Grande and Arizola. He also did evangelistic work as far away as the mining communities Kelvin and Riverside. It was during his tenure that the church building in Casa Grande was constructed from material from an icehouse that was dismantled in Florence. In March of 1900, Rev Mayo oversaw the purchase of furnishings for the new church building. In 1901, Rev. H B Mayo leaves the service of the Casa Grande church. Reverend and Mrs. Mayo moved from Florence to Peoria, AZ, to serve First Presbyterian Church there. He served there until June of 1902. He would later move on to Alva, Oklahoma (1904-1910), Santa Cruz, CA (1913-1915) and Beloit, and Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. He died from complications from burns he received in a fire in Columbus, Kansas March 24, 1952 at the age of 82. He is buried in Park Cemetery, Columbus, Kansas.

 

 

Rev Benjamin Cory Meeker 1901-1904

 

Casa Grande Ruins first roof

Rev. Benjamin Cory Meeker arrives in April 1902 from Clifton, AZ., to pastor the Florence and Casa Grande churches. He was born in Cranford, New Jersey, October 4, 1842 to Jonathan Meeker and Phebe Campbell Mulford, and was ordained September 29, 1868. He was a graduate of Princeton University and studied for Presbyterian ministry at Princeton Seminary. He was married to Laura Livingston Scudder, October 7, 1868 in Laurenceville, N.J., the same year he took his first charge at Tamaqua, PA. He served that church from 1868 to 1884. In 1884 he served as stated supply pastor for churches in Council Grove, Leroy, and Big Creek, Kansas. From 1884-1886 Rev Meeker was stated supply for White City, Parkersville, Wilsie and Morris, Kansas. He was pastor of the Eureka, Kansas church from 1886 to 1889. He served as stated supply in Las Cruces and Silver City, NM 1892-93, El Paso, TX in 1893 and San Leandro, CA from 1893 to 1894. Again, serving in Las Cruces 1894-98. In 1900 he helped bring a new church building from Tombstone to Clifton where he also served Morenci and Metcalf from 1898 to 1901. An article from the Tombstone Weekly Epitaph (Sunday, March 18, 1900) states, “The Presbyterian church in Clifton was dedicated last Sunday. The building, a substantial and commodious one, was removed from Tombstone where it was erected in the palmy days of that town. The Clifton church is now supplied with a nice carpet $125 organ, pulpit and pulpit chair, and 107 chairs. Rev B.C. Meeker, the pastor of the church, deserves credit for his energy in pushing this church, and the good people of Clifton deserve praise for their liberality in providing the necessary means for its completion.” Rev. Meeker was continually active in the greater church by serving on committees at the presbytery and synod level. In 1903 Rev BC Meeker was elected to serve as a commissioner to the General Assembly. In February 1904, Meeker left Casa Grande for Dexter, Hagerman, and Lake Arthur, New Mexico. In 1912 he helped plant a church in Rincon, NM. He wound up in Emporia, Kansas where he died September 28, 1924 and was laid to rest in Maplewood Memorial Lawn Cemetery. Rev and Mrs. Meeker had six children Benjamin, John, William, Mary, Olinda, and Susan. John and William also became pastors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev James Lee Rames 1904-1905

Rev. James L. Rames came to serve until 1905. He was born February 10, 1877 in Iberia, MO. He first married Clara C. Noll on October 8, 1902 in Tiffen, OH. At a presbytery meeting on April 24, 1906 in Bisbee, AZ JL Rames was ordained in an impressive service to ordain a total of three new ministers. Rev Rames later left the ministry to become a medical doctor. He died in Woodson, Arkansas October 10, 1923.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev Josias Friedli 1907-1908

 

Rev. Josias Friedli

Apparently, the Casa Grande church had to fend for itself until 1907 when Rev. Josias Friedli came from Norwood, Ohio as pastor of Florence and Casa Grande. He was a native of Switzerland, born January 17, 1877, and immigrated to America in 1886. In 1900 Rev. Friedli was graduated from Mission House Seminary. He took further studies at Lane and McCormick Theological Seminaries, and was ordained in 1900, after which he served a church in Bucyrus, Ohio. In 1905 he began a three-year term as a Presbyterian missionary in Arizona.

 

Rev. Josias and Frances Friedli moved from Florence to serve a German Reformed Church in St. Paul, MN. He died January 19, 1969 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The following is an excerpt from his obituary. Described as "a giant of the faith" by Dr. Ralph Ley, president of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ, Dr. Friedli served the denomination as a pastor, on various church boards and as a faculty member at Mission House (now Lakeland) College and Theological Seminary, near Sheboygan. Twice he was acting president of the two institutions.

Dr. Friedli had pastorates in Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. He also did missionary work with Indians in Arizona in 1908 before the territory achieved statehood. "His death is more than the passing of an individual. It means the end of an institution, an era, a guiding light in church leadership," commented Dr. Ley, a former student of Dr. Friedli. "Dr. Friedli was never too busy to help me in the classroom or his own home. I will always remember his wit and his quiet, unassuming but dynamic way of teaching," said the Rev. Howard E. Beil, Belleville. "He had dedication to his Lord and concern for people. Though the history lessons may be forgotten, the man who taught them will not be. Dr. Friedli's life was and will continue to be an inspiration to all who knew and loved him," related Mrs. Donna Pautz Kehle, Tomah. "Dr. Friedli combined the vintage qualities of wisdom, compassion, and Christian spirit that could use humor at its highest level. There never was a generation gap in his relations with other people, the Rev. Hilton E. Grams of Brookfield, offered. Dr. Friedli was a graduate of Mission House Academy and Seminary. He did graduate study at Lane Presbyterian Seminary, Cincinnati, 0hio; McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois; and the University of Chicago.

He was born in Davos, Switzerland and came to this country in 1886. His wife died last August after 67 years of married life.

 

Rev Allen L. Kennedy