This information was given by long-time Clark Fork resident, Mary Jane Gabriel to Jude Stuart.
Mary Jane and her husband Paul moved to Clark Fork from South Dakota in 1941. Paul already was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist faith when he met his bride-to-be. Mary Jane feel in love with both Paul and the Lord, and she, too joined the church in 1940 in Hot Springs, South Dakota. She and Paul ventured out to North Idaho and purchased property along Cascade Creek, which Mary Jane still calls home to the time of this writing. The following are the interesting tidbits of history from conversation with Mary Jane.
The first person known to be a Sabbath-keeping Adventist was Eldon Jeffers’ grandma, Matilda. She came to North Idaho from Kansas around 1902. Eldon’s aunt was Alta Jeffers, whose maiden name was Eddy. In 1901, Alta and Mr. Eddy had a daughter named Ethel. Ethel never married and left the area in 1940, to teach school in Wenatchee, Washington.
In 1935, Clark Fork had a working example of hydrotherapy. Dave Harris, father of Chuck Harris, broke his leg while blasting stumps at the lookout. This happened in the fall, when his wife was pregnant, and the family needed some help. A lady from out of the area, Mrs. Soeteber, came to stay with the family for about 9 months. Dave’s leg was not healing properly, so in February, Mrs. Soeteber started using hot and cold water baths, oil, and massage therapy. Thanks to those treatments, Dave was back on his feet by spring.
When Mary Jane and Paul Gabriel moved to Clark Fork in 1941, the only Adventist members they found were Mr. and Mrs. Sacht and Mrs. Ryan. Grandma Sacht (maiden name was Hoos, and she was the grandmother of Mel Spellmon), was 85 years old when they met her. She originally had come from Germany. Mrs. Ryan was 79 or 80 years old when they first met her.
Mrs. Ryan had some health and religious literature from an Adventist sanitarium in Yakima, Washington. The believers met regularly at Mrs. Ryan’s home in Clark Fork for Sabbath services. Mary Jane recalled that other early believers included Katie Pierce (maiden name was Teague. Katie’s mother died of consumption when she was about 5 years old, so Katie was raised by an aunt and grandmother. Her stepmother was Bess Teague. Katie eloped with Stacey Pierce, and they had Glade Pierce. Katie’s funeral was held in our Clark Fork SDA Church.
Sometime in the 1930s, a tent meeting was held in the area. There was so much opposition that the meetings were never completed, but 22 people accepted the truths and were baptized. Groups would meet in homes for study of the Word.
The 1940s were hard economic times, so many people left the area to work for the war effort. Many of the new believers also moved from the area at this time.
Mary Jane recalled that no one knew her by her first name, but they all referred to her as Mrs. Gabriel. The small group of Sabbath keepers began studying the Bible, at first doing studies and then seeking out interested people. Until 1974, the Clark Fork area always had a branch of Sabbath School going in at least one home, usually Mary Jane’s. Mary Jane recalled cooking a big pot of potatoes and another of beans for Sabbath luncheon. They never knew how many people would show up, but all were always welcome at the Gabriel’s. Mary Jane remembered fondly the Sabbath that they had their highest attendance of 29 people.
In 1974, Dr. Lloyd Rosenvold and his wife Leola, from Hope, Idaho, held a business meeting of interested local Seventh-day Adventists. Believers were having to commute all the way to Sandpoint to attend services, and they desired to start a local church. Property was purchased on the corner of Seventh and Pine Streets in Clark Fork. The money for materials for the church building were donated locally. The main church building construction started in April 1974, and by December of that year, the building was dedicated, debt free.
Today, a composite of photographs taken during construction of this original structure can be viewed in the church foyer. The original 38 members are listed on a plaque in the same location. Some of the original members that still were living in the area in the late 1990s included Mary Jane Gabriel and her daughter and son-in-law, Anna and Chuck Harris [both still alive in 2019], Art and Lois Ginter and brother Harold, and Anne Ginter of Hope, and Dr. Lloyd and Leola Rosenvold of Hope. Nona Jones was not only a charter member, but also was the first person to be baptized in the Clark Fork church.
The adjacent community service building was built in 1977, again debt free, and was constructed with donated labor. Mary Jane remembered the long, hard hours that Paul Gabriel put into both the sanctuary and the community services building.
The community services building is the site of Dorcas, where clothing, food, and miscellaneous personal care items are kept for needy families in the area. Many people remember fondly how Dorcas has been there when help was needed most. Dorcas still is very active in the 1990s, when Virginia Miller was the Dorcas leader.
In 1989, a 36-foot by 32-foot addition was built onto the community services building. This added four new classrooms, to be used for Vacation Bible Schools held each summer and always was well attended by children in the Clark Fork/Hope and Heron/Noxon, Montana areas. This addition was dedicated to a much loved member, Ralph “DJ” Hicks, who died in a tragic logging accident in March 1989.