The white building with the bell tower (also white) was the Union Church ~ founded between 1854 and 1855 in Yreka. If one is familiar with the scene in the photo, (actually the corner of Lane and Fourth Streets) the Episcopal Church with its pointed bell tower can be seen at the right, and the edge of the Catholic Church can be seen just at the left of the photo. This photo is dated circa 1880. The spot where the Union Church once stood is now home to Girdner's Funeral Home.
The Union Church has a unique little history and detailed information can be found in the publication, Methodism in Yreka 1852 - 1980 Compiled, Edited and Authored by Verna Bray Tyrer and Harland McDonald, 1980.
It was 1852 and Yreka was a fledgling town home to miners and a few businessmen who served their needs. One of the first churches in Yreka was located on the corner of Miner and Oregon Streets where the fire station now stands, it began as a simple log cabin and was the first Methodist Episcopal Church in Yreka. Within two years the small log cabin meeting place for the congregation became too small. At this time there were mostly men in town, but the few women who were here were determined to achieve their goals! According to the authors of Methodism in Yreka, three women stood out to initiate a proper place of worship. It is recorded that this new church that was to be built was not sectarian, but a true cooperative effort. There is noted a Mrs. Callahan who was a Catholic, a Mrs. Lowry, a Methodist; and a Mrs. Arnold a Presbyterian who spearheaded the task to go out and find funds for a new church!
The property was purchased on the northeast corner of Oregon and Lane Streets and soon building commenced. At this time there were no saw mills in the area so the building was made from timber located nearby. The siding and finishing lumber was planed by hand. It is reported that the church measured about 80 by 30 feet. Even a large proper bell was purchased on the east coast and transported to Yreka and installed in the steeple. The construction began in 1854 and the new Union Church was officially dedicated on March 10, 1855. The total cost was reported to have been $10,000.
It is not clear to this writer when the Union Church became the Methodist-Episcopal Church officially, but it appears that the building served with the name "Union" until 1898. In 1898 it was disassembled carefully and a new M.E. Church was built on the site.
Copyright: Claudia A. East, 2008.