The roots of the Seventh-day Adventist heritage in this area dates back to the early 1900's. Among the early pioneers, Adventist logging operators Jack Bester and the Owens family began operations in the Mapleton area somewhere around 1915. The parents and/or grandparents of long-time church members Squinty and Gale Miller, and Rosella Finlayson worked in the large Adventist logging camp up Hadsall Creek - just across the river from Mapleton.
The first Seventh-day Adventist church and school in the greater Florence area was located within the Owens logging camp on the site where Mick Jenkins used to live and right next door to where Squinty [now deceased] and Gale still reside on Hadsall Creek near Mapleton. This church and school was used until the camp broke up around 1930.
For the next several years, believers met in various homes. For a time, a church in Cushman was rented. Then on December 23, 1939, the scattered congregation purchased the former Evangelical Church in Glenada. With a fresh coat of paint and a bell in the tower, the 34 charter members really felt at home. Boards were laid across the backs of the pews for potluck lunch tables. It had a pump organ, wood floors, a wood stove and a bucket of water and ladle for drinking and washing hands. A windy and muddy little trail led to the outhouse.
Realizing the value of Christian Education, the congregation opened the doors of the church for a school in September 1949. Alza Boling and Augusta Marsh were the first teachers. In 1952 Jorgen Wright donated his little Saw Shop building in Florence to the church which was moved to the Glenada site. This new school building consisted of only one room, an outside privy and an oil stove. Melvin Wright remembers fishing in a nearby stream during recess and fish-fries on the stove at lunch time. The last remaining church member who attended this school, Joey Hatch, passed away in 2016.
This church and school site served the congregation for 16 1/2 years, but was not at all comfortable and it was in a poor location. The church and school were both small, had no indoor plumbing, had a terrible road that turned to mud in winter, had wood/oil heat, and had a long list of needed repairs. In the spring of 1956, this facility was sold to the Nazarene congregation, and the Christian Church at 333 Kingwood Street in Florence was purchased.
This building served the Mapleton, Reedsport, and Florence congregations for 28 1/2 years. This whole facility was a real blessing. Being roomy and modern, the various Sabbath school divisions and the elementary school had their own classrooms. Hot water was one luxury this facility didn't have.
In the early 1980's, the congregation was getting cramped and restless for a new church complex. On August 5, 1983, the property at 4445 Highway 101 (our current location) was purchased. In March of the next year, the church on Kingwood was sold to the Methodist congregation who still use it today.
As building plans were drawn, it was immediately apparent that the entire dream of the congregation could not be constructed with the money on hand. It was decided that two construction phases would be needed and that the first phase would focus on the needs of the children as well as a temporary place of worship. This phase would include a church school, Sabbath school classrooms, restrooms, and a large multi-purpose room that could serve as a gymnasium for the children during the week and a place for the congregation to worship on Sabbath.
Under the leadership of Ken Casper, Maranatha began construction in October, 1984. Maranatha craftsmen, several local companies and many individuals help with excavation and construction materials.
The first Sabbath in the new church was in April 1985. The church school thrived with our own and community children and had around 20 students. Over the next several years, however, the church ran out of school aged children and the school was forced to close at the end of the 1995-1996 school year. Louise Chilson was the last teacher.
In addition to the school and worship area, this first phase was the site of community outreach including Vacation Bible Schools, evangelistic meetings, cooking classes, weight control and stop smoking classes, and more. While this facility met most of our needs, the church family longed for a real sanctuary.
On July 10, 2001, the remainder of the lot was graded and soon after, Maranatha, again under the leadership of Ken Casper, began construction. It was on July 29, 2001, that the two large laminated beams were hoisted into place. The first Sabbath in the new sanctuary was celebrated on July 12, 2003. On October 21, 2006, this sanctuary and church complex was dedicated to God.
For several years prior to the construction of the sanctuary, the congregation discussed the idea of reopening the elementary school. While finances were short, the number of prospective students needed was marginal, it was decided to begin with Sonshine Kids Preschool and Childcare as a way to generate funds and also to act as a feeder to the planned elementary school. After a remodel of the original elementary classroom and State of Oregon preschool certification, Sonshine Kids Preschool and Childcare opened for business in September 2011. Since there were other preschool and childcare opportunities in Florence, the number of students needed to be financially stable was always marginal. In August of 2015, the preschool was closed.
Soon after the preschool was opened, plans were being made for Sonshine Christian School which opened in September of 2012 with about 13 students. As a showing of church support, two Sabbath School classrooms and a sitting/reading room were given up and the separating walls removed. Much of the remodeling materials, including all of the cabinetry, were donated by the community. Leisa Buller was the teacher for the first two years. The current teacher, Karen Nelson, was hired in September 2014.
The year 2016 brought many changes. The property directly to the east was purchased, which allowed for the playground to expand to twice the original size. Much needed playground equipment was generously donated by a local homeowners association. In the summer of that year, the school re-branded and changed its name to Shoreline Christian School of Florence. While the classroom that was carved out of Sabbath School rooms serves the school's needs, the original classroom vacated by the preschool was much better suited. This classroom was upgraded, along with the adjacent restrooms, and in September 2016 the school moved back into its original space.
In 2017 a new school/church highway sign, including an electronic reader board, was erected on the recently purchased property, providing better visibility along Highway 101.
The building on the easterly property was in poor condition, and in 2018 it was removed. A used 1,900 square foot modular building was purchased as a replacement, and is currently being installed and upgraded at the time of this writing. The current plan is to use this building as a preschool, and expand the use to include a kindergarten at a later time.
The story continues.............