In 1841, in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania, not far from Punxsutawney Phil’s home, a young
man by the name of James Croasman was soundly saved by the Good News message
of Jesus Christ. Evidently George Washington had passed through the area. In an
local park was the proverbial cherry tree, hence the name of the village. Often the
Evangelical Association folk held a camp meeting there. And there James met the Lord
Jesus Christ. This Good News affected his entire life, as well as a growing body of
pioneers living across the continent in the Oregon Territory.
In 1863, the quadrennial conference of the Evangelical Association met in Buffalo NY.
They had a growing concern for the evangelization of the West. It was agreed to send
two missionaries to California, and one, James Croasman, now a pastor, to Oregon.
The missionaries landed in San Francisco on June 8, 1864. The Croasman’s continued
on by ship to Portland, OR arriving on Sunday, June 12th1. Arriving early enough to
find a Methodist Church to attend and, after introducing himself, James was invited to
preach. He gave the first Evangelical Association sermon preached in Oregon. By
mid-week they had arrived at their intended destination, Salem, Oregon’s capitol.
James preached in the Marion County Court House for a while before finding a nearby
building to rent. Within several years the congregation had their own church house.
The years flew by! By April of 1968, the former Evangelicals were now part of The
United Methodist Church. But in Oregon, Washington, Montana, North Dakota and
even in Pennsylvania there were isolated pockets of godly folk yet given strongly to the
highly revivalistic and evangelistic DNA of the original Evangelical Association.
So, on June 4, 1968 the Evangelical Church was re-formed in Portland. A few weeks
later, the first annual conference was held. In June of 1969, the second annual
conference was held in Salem, home of the original Oregon church. Most interesting
was the presence of Rev. Harold Burdick, an EUB pastor from Bradford, PA, who
represented a group of pastors from Western PA, including a congregation from
Cherry Tree, PA, most interested in becoming part of the movement. It had been 128
years since James Croasman’s conversion, but the level of commitment to the Good
News he responded to was stronger than ever. It continues to this day!!
1 See Brian Hotrum’s book, The Pacific Conference Story: The History of The Evangelical Church in
Oregon and Washington, chapter four.