Havre History: Saint Mark's Episcopal Church, part 2
March 28, 2014
During the first part of February 1921, Rev. Leonard J. Christler was sent a telegram from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Auburn, New York, his former field. It was a call for him to come back to his field and be the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church. Rev. Christler declined the offer.
In March of that year, they notified him again to come back to his former field. This time, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club and other civic organizations of Auburn also wrote. They stated: “Auburn loves you, she needs you, and it is the universal wish of her people that you come back.”
Rev. Christler wired them back and stated: “This tribute of continued love and confidence after so many years absence deeply appreciated.”
The telegraph went on to say: “I devoutly wish to come to Auburn for a Sunday’s service with you all, before making final decision.”
On Easter Sunday, March 27, 1921, services were held in the St. Mark’s basement chapel for the last time. Extra songs were sung for Easter service, and the chapel was decorated with Easter lilies.
In April of 1921, the “I’ll-give-a-days-work” campaign was started for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. On April 28, 1921, the vestrymen started the lathing, Lou Lucke and Company was the first business to pledge the store employees, and the next evening, Lou Lucke and the employees finished the lathing. As stated in The Havre Daily Promoter on April 29, 1921: “When the chancel is completed the floor will be laid and the windows put in.”
In May of that year, “I’ll-give-a-buck” was the slogan. By this time, the laying of the floor was almost complete, so were the installation of windows, plaster, and most of the carpentry work. On the last drive, the slogan was “Finish-her-up” week.
As stated in the June 28, 1921, Havre Daily Promoter: “It is finished. After a dozen years of many drives for funds, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church is now a completed work of art.”
It went on to say: “Generations yet to come will look upon it as a monument to the toil and civic pride of those who put their energy and gifts into the walls.”
The “Stick-It-Out-Month” drive, was to do the finishing touches of the interior of St. Mark’s Church ending on April 14, 1922. Palm Sunday services were held in the chapel, and Easter Sunday was held in the now finished upper level of the church. The first service in the main part of the church was held on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1922. The first service was attended by several groups of the I.O.O.F. lodges. They assembled at the temple first, and then marched to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
St. Mark’s was built in the shape of a cross. The red doors on the south side represent the tongues of fire, and a symbol of the Holy Spirit. The original stained glass windows were plain. Over the years, different stained glass windows were put in as memorials.
The Rev. Leonard Jacob Christler died in 1922, a year and four months after the completion of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. He was in the process of building a house on his homestead he filed on in July of 1914. It was located about three miles south of Havre on the Beaver Creek road. The inside of the house wasn’t completed yet, and it was to have natural gas heat, since they found it on the property. It was to be one of the first homes in the area to have gas heat. After he died, his widow Anna never finished the house and stayed in Havre to live. Soon, their house south of town became a hangout for young kids.
No one knows how it burned down, by a lit cigarette, or someone lit one too many matches. Today, on the east side of Beaver Creek road the chimney still stands, and a hole where the house was, a reminder of time past.
Anna Christler lived in Havre, before she moved back to New York to be closer to her family. Clerk and Recorders Office records show that on October 7, 1939, Anna Christler, then from Auburn, New York, deeded the two lots north of the church, to St. Mark’s. Parish. The lots were to make a memorial park in the memory of her late husband, Rev. Leonard J. Christler.
An education wing was built on the back, far east side of the lots, and attached to the church. It encased Sunday school rooms, Rectors room and a heating room. It was going to be a two story education wing, but at the time, only one level was built.
As stated in The Havre Daily Promoter: “It will not be forgotten in the unique history of St. Mark’s that it was the little gifts and tokens of love furnished gladly by the common people which built the stone that now stands a monument to their credit.”