It was nearly one hundred years ago that a small band of families broke away from the Mormon Church in Plain City, Utah, to once again embrace the Episcopal faith. That summer of 1876, representatives of these 13 families met with The Rev. James Gillogly to ask his help in forming a new congregation.
Rev. Gillogly encouraged the brethren by traveling to Plain City from Ogden, where the tiny congregation would hold church services in the public school house. The ten mile trip was made regularly, regardless of weather conditions.
Finally, an appeal was made through the “Spirit of Missions” asking church members in the east for money to build a church. A corner lot of one acre was purchased for $150, and another $100 was all it took for the people of Plain City to build their long-awaited church.
The resulting dusty red, adobe brick building is a monument to the perseverance of those early settlers. Erected in 1877, the building still stands today and is in better shape than ever because of the recent Bicentennial efforts of the Plain City Lions Club.
The Lions actually took ant active interest in the old church in 1952. Members needed a place to meet, but with no other space available, decided that the church was the most likely spot. .
They intended to buy the building, but were hampered by the lack of funds in the club’s coffers. Turning down the offer of a loan from two businessmen in town, the club raised their own funds through a Memorial Day celebration and the sale of two lots from the church’s one acre of ground.
The building was finally theirs. Members fixed it up, and even added a modern new kitchen, restrooms and a furnace room. By 1974, however, the old structure had nearly succumbed to weather, time and vandalism.
The Bicentennial restoration of the original church was voted to be a most appropriate way to celebrate America’s heritage. A new roof was put on. Double doors decorated the front entrance. Aluminum windows and screens were attached to keep the harsh weather out. Cement window sills were built to replace the rotting wood. Inside, a new hardwood floor and draperies finished the church’s now modern decor.
Wheatley Taylor, club president, took a personal interest in the church’s “memorial bell,” carted to the little western town in 1878 to sit atop the building’s belfry. “We believe it is the first church bell to ring in Plain City,” he said, adding, “When we took the bell down, the wood just came apart in our hands.”
Taylor scoured the state in search of a craftsman who could repair the cracks in the metal bell. While cleaning the bell, he found an inscription which explains the bell’s name. Engraved on the huge SOO pound bell is the inscription, “In Memorial Rev. James Lee Gillogly Obit XIV Feb. MDCCCXXXI.”
The bell now sits atop the church, nestled in a new belfry. Once again, the Lions Club coffers were exhausted. The club made application to the Bicentennial Committee for funds and also asked that the building be named a historical site. Cooperation was received on both counts, Lions report.
The building has turned into a true civic center for the 2,000 residents of Plain City. The Lions Club entertains townspeople by scheduling special programs in the completely renovated building.
Other civic groups also use the center for their special purposes. When town meetings draw an overflow crowd, they are naturally moved next door to the larger quarters of the Lions Civic Center.
Clean, light and airy, with sparkling new metal chairs, the interior belies the building’s historic facade.
Although most of the work was done recently as part of the club’s Bicentennial efforts, members’ original restoration work back in the 1950’s has not been forgotten. In 1962, the Plain City Lions Club was presented with the state’s D. A. Skeen Award, in honor of the Past International President who spent his childhood years in Plain City.
Through much hard work and effort by the Lions, not only is the building now restored, but so are the integrity and strength that forged it in the beginning a hundred years ago.
DAVID ALFRED SKEEN
Submitted by Roxy Heslop
David Alfred Skeen was the sponsor of the Plain City Lions Club. He was born 13 May 1885 in Plain City, the son of Lyman Stoddard Skeen and Electa Phelomila Dixon Skeen. His father came to Plain City with the first group that arrived 17 March 1959.
The family seemed to be very interested in education when few people thought of attending college. D. A. Skeen was an attorney in Salt Lake. His brothers, Jedidiah D. and W. Riley were also atturnies. His oldest brother Lyman, 14 years older, was a medical doctor who was very brilliant but passed away at the age of 35.
There were eleven children born in Plain City and were very progressive people. At the death of their mother, their father married Annie Skelton and they had eight children all born in Plain City. Ivy Marsden, Leona Freestone, Jennie Cook and Elwood Skeen are living (1977) and are happy to claim Plain City is a choice place.
D. A. Skeen, founder of Lionism in Utah, charter member and first president in 1921 of the Salt Lake City Lion’s Club is a native Utah son. He was born at Plain City. Lion D. A. Skeen served as District Governor of District 28 in 1922.. At that time District 28 included all of Utah and part of Idaho. He continued to be very active in Lionism
and was elevated to the position of national President in 1944.
During the United Nations Conference held in San Francisco in 1945 he served with
Melvin Jones, founder of Lionism, as a Consultant to the American Delegation. He was
Consultant and Special Delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1946. He was an ardent
supporter of the United Nations and was a member of the Board of Directors of the
American Association for the United Nations.
Past President Skeen has served with distinction and has witnessed the growth and development of Lionism throughout the World.