Oracle Union Church, often referred to as “The Little Rock Church”, is well known as a place where all people of Christian faith are welcomed. This beautiful church was recognized as a US National Historic Landmark in 1995.
This Gothic style Church was built in 1901 and has been an active non-denominational Christian Church for over 100 years. The church continues to serve the area in worship, baptisms, weddings, and memorials.
Oracle Union Church is a house of worship for people who represent various denominations; therefore, the church does not ask members to subscribe to a formal creed but accepts into its fellowship all those who desire to join in the corporate worship of God, to hear His words for us, to pray for ourselves and others, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, to be involved in other sacraments, to enjoy fellowship, and to grow spiritually in the Christian faith. We seek to obey the instructions of our Lord, Jesus Christ, by service and example and to be reconciled to God and one another.
The congregation believes that the worship and praise of God is primary to our spiritual health. We gather as joyful and repentant believers to seek sustenance from the Holy Spirit when we worship together. We believe our worship services should be responsive to God’s love for us.
Our congregation has a ministry to be concerned with the physical as well as the spiritual well-being of people in our community and especially members of the congregation. People who are sick, dying, or in crisis situations need our attention. While it is a primary function of the Deacons to respond to the needs of people, the congregation also will assist them and the minister to meet these needs.
This Gothic style Church, build on a site donated by Mr. and Mrs. E.S. Dodge, is constructed of local grey granite. This spiritual center grew to meet the needs of the diverse community of people from both coasts of the U.S. The town of Oracle was composed of many groups including cowboys, the miners, the ranchers, and people who were seeking a cure for tuberculosis. The women of the community washed and sewed for the miners and cowboys, and had baked sales to earn the funds to build the church.
Archie Ramsay hauled rock form a pile of boulders beside Highway 77, half a mile north of Oracle. Local hard rock miners cut the rock. Jesus Osoma from Tucson was the mason and records show he was paid $2.50 a day which was 10 hours long. The lumber for the church’s construction was purchased in Tucson at a great reduction in price from Wilson Lumber Yard and was hauled by J.L. Tibbs.
When the church was finished in 1901, donors furnished it. Mrs. Lavinia Steward furnished the windows, some of which have been replaced with beautiful stained glass. The rose window over the altar shows Christ at Gethsemane and was made by D’Ascenzo Studios Inc., of Philadelphia, PA. Elizabeth Lambert Wood donated the lovely nativity windows in memory of her husband, son, and daughter. Other memorial window donors were Elna and Wm. Huggett, Frances Self, and Louise Collett. The Estey reed organ, made in Brattleboro, Vt., was purchased from the Birkel Music Company of Los Angeles at the cost of $945 in 1929. It’s presently on loan to Orca. The first organist was Alfred Siebolth, grandfather of a current, Sue Mann. He also donated the cross attached to the church roof. He and his wife, Mary, are buried beneath the wooden cross located beside the driveway to Trowbridge hall, south of the church. The organ was played for many years by Nan Dayton, assisted by her husband Paul. Mr. and Mrs. John Estill presented the organ. The Estill children, Howard, Mary and Edward, supplied the first hymnals. Mr. and Mrs. Ben F. Ray gave the pews, the kneeling benches and the cushions. The donated church bell is said to be the smallest one ever cast.
In 1916 a contact between Pinal County Superior Judge, who was the Trustee of the Oracle Townsite, and three trustees of the church, J.W. Estill, N.E. Plumber and John Lawson, states that Pinal County made a binding contract with the church giving the land in purpetuity with stipulation that the church always remain non-denominational “in character”.
After this time, the records of the church are non-existent or incomplete until the 1940’s. The skimpy information does tell us that the church struggled for its existence during the great depression and World War II. In 1948 a great effort was begun to restore the church, which was in disrepair. The church membership managed to raise the money needed to repair the roof and rebuild the foundation of the building.
In 1961 the membership researched ways to align the congregation with a large church body which would allow the congregation to maintain its non-denominational character but give access to more assistance and a full time pastor. After an affirmative legal opinion was given by a Pinal County Judge, the membership voted to affiliate with the United Church of Christ. In 1986, as the result of inter church conflict, this affiliation was dissolved.
The first half of Trowbridge Hall was built in the 1950’s. Later the the hall was enlarged and was dedicated in February 1965. It was so named because Mr. and Mrs. Trowbridge had given the largest gift toward the first half of the hall and with their bequest in 1964 and the gifts of 35 other families, the completed in 1965, was made possible.
At least thirty ministers and a few lay people have served as part-time pastors to the congregation. One of the first who traveled to Oracle each Sunday for twenty five years to preach was Father Edward C. Clark, an Episcopal Bishop. The first full-time pastor was the Rev. Stuart Goude who came in 1961. After 1961, the congregation has been served by part-time pastors.
Due to the efforts of Frances and Charles Sherlock, Oracle Union Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Today Oracle Union Church, often referred to as “The Little Rock Church”, is well known as a place where all people of Christian faith are welcomed. May God continue to bless Oracle Union Church and the people it serves in Oracle and those through-out the world.
ORACLE UNION CHURCH
Anyone entering Oracle today cannot fail to admire the small stone Gothic Church at the junction of Highway 77 and the San Manuel Road.