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BANDON - St. John Episcopal Church announces its Quasquicentennial Anniversary and will host a celebration on Saturday, Sept. 22, in honor of its rich history.

On September 23, 1893, 125 years ago, the cornerstone of Bandon’s Episcopal Church was laid. But the story began a few years earlier.

Coos and Curry counties had been set apart as a missionary district within the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon. The bishop and circuit riding clergy made periodic visits to the area.

In 1889, the Reverend William Horsfall moved to Marshfield and embarked upon a 30-year drive to build and strengthen the Episcopal parishes of Southwestern Oregon. He helped to establish churches in Marshfield, Coquille, North Bend, Empire, Gardiner and Bandon.

Five years before, the Reverend John W. Sellwood of East Portland had visited the southwest Oregon coast and upon his return home shared favorable impressions of Bandon with his wife, Belle.

In 1893, at a gathering of Oregon’s church leaders, Reverend Horsfall expressed hope that construction could begin on a church in Bandon. Rev. Sellwood’s widow, Belle, was moved by his plea and donated $500 in memory of her husband.

The first St. John’s building was constructed by William, Howard and Octavius Wrenshall on land that they had deeded to the Bishop of Oregon and was funded by Belle’s seed money. It stood roughly where today’s Pastries and Pizza Restaurant and the Lighthouse Cove Inn stand and was called St. John’s By-the-Sea Memorial Church.

Construction of the interior was completed thanks to a second $150 gift from Belle and the first service was held in May of 1894. Belle’s total $650 donation would equal $13,181 in today’s dollars.

Reverend Horsfall died in 1921 and soon after his family donated the city lots at Eighth and Franklin to St. John’s. The church building was moved to that site the same year.

St. John’s tenaciously weathered winter storms, a smallpox epidemic and economic hard times in its early years and in 1936 burned during the Bandon fire. In 1939 a new chapel was built to replace the fire-destroyed church.

Fast forward 125 years and St. John’s is still worshipping at the corner of Eighth and Franklin. Improvements and additions have been made over the years but the main sanctuary is the same.

To celebrate the Quasquicentennial and the church's deep Bandon roots, a special event is planned.

The community is invited to join in the celebration from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the church. The program will include a visit by the church's benefactress, Mrs. Belle Sellwood, a performance of 19th century songs by the Chapel Choir of St. John, and an historical presentation by Mary Schamehorn and Jim Proehl of the Bandon Historical Society. Schamehorn and Proehl will share personal and historical images and stories of yesteryear Bandon. Refreshments will cap off the event.

St. John’s is located at 795 Franklin Avenue SW, across from Bandon High School, and may be contacted at 541-347-2152 for more information.

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