WEWELA COMMUNITY CHURCH


The Wewela Community Church had its beginning in 1910 when Mrs. H. E. Newman, a Wewela resident became acquainted with a Rev. E. W. Jenney, a missionary from Yankton and formerly a missionary in Turkey. While on a trip to Millboro, Rev. Jenney asked his stage driver to stop at the home of Mrs. Newman. They arranged an area meeting on July 30, 1911 at the Wewela School. Twenty people were present who were interested in starting a local church.

On Sept 17, 1911, the first services were conducted and the first church organized in Wewela. The members of the first church were Mr. and Mrs. Clark Briggs; Rev. Bennett; Mrs. W. A. Keneston; Miss Walker, and Mrs. H. E. Newman. Church records show that Charles Dickman Richey, son of Charles and Emma Richey was the first baptism on October 18, 1920. Dick Richey's brother, William Clifford Richey, was also baptized that same day. Dick Richey grew up in the area and continued his membership in the church and served as a Trustee in 1957 as well as other positions throughout the years. The last baptism was recorded in 1968, that being of Randy Roy Richey, son of Frank and Lucille Richey, which made a total of 68 baptisms in the church.

The church continued to grow and change and it was reorganized on Sept. 5, 1920. It now had 21 charter members. During this era, an empty saloon building became available and the members purchased it and converted the building to a church. The membership grew and numbered 44 by early 1940's.

The ladies of the church organized a ladies aid society named "The Do-A-Deed Aid" and they joined the senior Ladies Aid Society providing for the church and Sunday school expenses. The large fund raiser was a yearly bazaar and turkey supper at the Wewela Hall. To help defray costs, the ladies also sold beautiful hand work and quilts which they worked on as a group project at the church. The two ladies group would also work together in providing school kits for needy children across SD, make bandages for the overseas soldiers during the war years as well as other works of charity. Their main goal was to provide a better church building for worship.

In 1956 the old church building was sold, proceeds put in a building fund, and services were held in the school. On Sept 23, 1956, during a ceremony the cornerstone for a new church was laid by Oscar "Fuss Smith" and Oscar Turnquist while Dick Richey, Trustee and the other church members looked on.

It is interesting to note that in January 1954 the average attendance at children's Sunday school was 17 members with an average collection of $1.25; there were also three programs given that year, a picnic, and birthday money given to the Children's Home at Sioux Falls, SD. The budget for the entire year of 1955 included: Heat and light, $20; Apportionment, $168 (which was Sunday donation per family at $11 per year); Insurance on building, $18. Minister's salary, $580; Repairs, $25; Supplies, $20; Assessment, $7; Donation to Yankton College, $20 for a total projected budget of $858.

Memorial contributions from families over the years have been a tribute to the little church in Wewela. Some of these memorials have been tables by Mrs. Kyler; altar drapes and religious pictures from Mrs. Elmer Smith; white Bible as memorial to John Jamison; song books from Tom and Lilly Bowles; in memory of Lila Barcus, a microphone was donated; Elmer Smith family gave altar and pulpit scarves; Oscar Turnquist memorial of a pulpit chair; Edna Goslin family gave folding chairs; Mrs. Francis Turnquist memorial contribution by her family was a pulpit chair and a church sign donated by Mrs. Turnquist's great grandchildren.

Some of the ministers that served the church were Rev. Rice, Rev. Arnold Brown, Rev. Neu, Rev. Patton, Rev. Moreland, Rev. Haekeem, Rev. Eberhart, and Rev. Stucke.

Due to lack of members in the area, official services ceased in the mid-1980's with the last church meeting held Jan 20, 1989 in the home of Donald and Imogene Turnquist with Trustees and remaining members present including Rev. Winter, former Chamberlain minister.

Today, 2008, Donald and Imogene Turnquist are the only two members left on the membership role. The Turnquist family tries to keep the church in good condition by over-seeing the repair work and grounds keeping. In 1996 the church received a fresh coat of paint and in 2006, a green steel roof was added, 2007 glass windows were repaired. The Wewela Community Church stands reverently as a reminder to the area's dedication to service to God, family, friends, and neighbors.

Picture and information courtesy of the
Tripp County Historical Society Archives


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