by Monique Slipher
In late 1906 the membership of First Congregational Church in Pullman managed to scrape together funds to call Reverend Sullivan S. Healey from Helena, Montana. He and his family arrived in November. Healey turned out to have a short but rather dramatic impact on his new hometown and church….
The Healeys arrived that fall to find the church building serving double duty as a schoolhouse during the week, for Pullman’s one grade school (where Gladish Community Center now stands) was sorely overcrowded. Perhaps some schoolchildren resented that, as an October issue of the Pullman Herald reported that “A number of lads cut the wire netting over one of the windows of the Congregational Church a few nights ago, and took away two dozen of the glasses used in the communion services. The glasses have all been recovered (except) one or two. How the boys will be dealt with has not yet been decided.” Meanwhile, the ladies of the church’s Golden Rule Society stayed busy perpetually fundraising, with their monthly Friday evening public chicken supper in the church parlors, and doing some “plain sewing, at reasonable rates, every Wednesday for any who desire their services.” Their efforts were occasionally recognized, as in October when they “were entertained at the country home of Deacon and Mrs. Campbell. About eighteen drove out from town and enjoyed the hospitality of this estimable couple—the profusion of flowers and fruit and the bountiful supper adding the finish to a most delightful afternoon.”
Rev. Healey, new pastor in town, was chosen to preach for the annual union Thanksgiving service, held that year in the Methodist church. He apparently soon found a connection with the Methodists’ Reverend Martin—a driving passion for temperance. The following summer of 1907, the two launched a campaign to rid the town of its numerous saloons, which was eagerly supported by the Women’s Christian Temperence Union. In October the town’s Ministerial Association resolved unanimously that “the liquor traffic and the legalized saloon is evil and only evil”, and a series of evening tent meetings were held over several weeks in hopes of converting the townfolk to the cause. The result was a contentious city election and a community divided for years. Not until the disastrous spring flood of 1910 did the population begin to reunite through the efforts to rebuild the town. (See the March 2010 issue of this column for more on that event.)
Decades ago, our long-time church historian Otho West described Healey’s legacy: “Rev. Healey resembled Teddy Roosevelt in looks…. Roosevelt’s motto, ‘Speak softly, but carry a big stick.” The Rev. Healey’s “Big stick speak softly” got the full treatment. The mid-summer of 1907 saw a campaign started to rid Pullmanof its four saloons lock, stock and bars. He and Rev. Marvin of the Methodist church were the male Carry Nations for sure. (Carrie Nation was a famous radical temperance activist of that time, known for carrying a hatchet with which she smashed bars.) A huge tent was set up on the lot now occupied by the Empire store (now the location of U.S. Bank). The devil and demon rum were put on trial. One time the Sunday School children marched down Main Street singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, led by Fern Healey (Rev. Healey’s grown daughter). The nightly tent meetings were something to attend. Septermber election witnessed a ‘dry’ victory. Pullman, the only booze Sahara inWhitmanCounty. The farm hands lost their social center and bright lights, if one may call a 30-watt carbon electric light brilliant. …Pullman, as well as the Congregational Church, was left spiritually and politically divided…. Bootleggers provided the ‘spirits’.”
More from Otho on the end of Healey’s short tenure in Pullman: “(His) efforts to get God to man and man to God, as well as promoting a boy’s club were not too successful. The final outcome—Sullivan was brought before the ecclesiastical firing squad…. His farewell sermon was preached March 2, 1908. On that Sunday the sanctuary was filled to capacity, mainly with non-members, because a wild rumor got started somewhere that Sullivan was going to tell the Trustees just what he thought about Trustees. The audience was disappointed. This time he spoke softly on brotherly love, and he left the big stick to be burned with the trash of yesterday. Rev. Healey accepted a call to the East Congregational Church of Tacoma. Supply ministers kept the organization from falling apart… 1908 witnessed the end of the Congregational Church pioneer era (in Pullman) and the start of a new one.”
Those supply ministers came and went for nearly a year, “at $10 per Sunday, with board and bed at the Alton Hotel, a flea bag affair, thrown in”. After much searching, the “pulpit committee” found a gem in Charles Harvey Harrison, who arrived in 1909.
Several of these columns from the 2010 newsletters describe Harrison’s long, productive leadership of the growing church in a growing community. His successor, Charles Norman Curtis, was covered in the Nov. 2010 column, so next month we’ll return to the post-war era of the1920’s and Clay Palmer as pastor…