History of Woodland Christian Church
by Wanda Freeman
historian of Woodland Christian Church
In the spring of 1854, bills (signs) were posted around the village of Woodland, then known as Yolo City. The bills announced the upcoming visit of a wandering preacher to the Shellhammer Ranch. The next Sunday a crowd gathered - some out of curiosity, some to worship. A man from the crowd jumped to a platform and delivered a fiery sermon. He then removed his disguise, revealing himself as a resident of the community, Joshua Lawson.
Woodland Christian Church was organized the following Fall. The original membership was 27 people. Elders Thomas Thompson and Joshua Lawson officiated at services. The congregation met first in a small board schoolhouse. A union meeting house was built in 1856 on property which is now occupied by Woodland Cemetery. This building was used for services by four denominations.
John Nixon Pendegast became the first minister. In addition to serving as pastor for the congregation for over 20 years, he was an important figure in the developement of Woodland.
Education of the children of the community became of foremost importance. Co-education was virtually unheard of anywhere. Still, this community's desire for the best possible education grew, resulting in the founding of Hesperian College. The school opened on March 4th, 1861, at the very hour that President Abraham Lincoln was inaugerated for his first term. By August, it rose to the first rank among schools on the Pacific slope. Records for the years of 1867 through 1869 show an average attendance of more than 200 students per annum. (At that time, the city of Woodland had a population of about 1600 with another 1000 in the immediate vicinity.) The rules of governing the college required that most of the trustees be members of Woodland Christian Church. Many of the instructors of the college were also pastors of the church. After building a new facility for Hesperian on College Street, the Hesperian charter was transferred to Berkley Bible Seminary and the physical property was deeded to Woodland High School. Several Christian colleges united in 1934 and relocated to Southern California where it remains under the name of Chapman University.
In 1865, Woodland Christian Church built its own small brick building on the Hesperian College campus. The congregation worshiped there for over 20 years.
A large brick church was erected on the corner of College and Lincoln Streets in 1889 at a cost of $20,000. The church had a membership of 600 people. The building had beautiful stained glass windows and a huge pipe organ. (Some furnishings from the 1889 building are on display in the church's museum, known as Heritage Oak Room.)
The Education Building was erected in 1927. This two-story building has 28 rooms and a large social hall. In the excavation for this new building, the wall of the sanctuary was cracked. The church building was declared unsafe and had to be razed in 1927. Worship services were held in the social hall from 1927 through 1949.
On October 16, 1949, the present mission style sanctuary was dedicated. This building, constructed by Goodenough Construction Company with Mr. Church as the foreman, cost $108,275.00
Research materials used for this article include materials found in Yolo County Archives and the archives of the Woodland Christian Church located in Marven Suggett History Room. These materials include, but are not limited to, writings of descendants of John Nixon Pendegast, Elmer Davis, Marven Suggett, Charles Payton as well as articles from "Christian Church News" from Healdsburg and Woodland Daily Democrat of many years.