3501 South Greenville Street
On the Southeast corner of MacArthur (formerly Talbert Ave.) and Greenville Street stands the oldest protestant church in Orange County, the Greenville Country Church. The bronze plaque reads “built in 1876”. Originally it was a church for the ranch families that lived in the neighborhood and also was closely associated in its’ area with the one-teacher Greenville School. At Christmas time particularly the families gathered together for celebrating Christmas with the church furnishing candy and the school organizing the program and gifts exchange.
The Greenville Church is in the city limits of Santa Ana, but just four blocks north of the Costa Mesa city limits. Mrs. Best tells me of the new adjacent church building, but relates that the old church is still in excellent condition, that it is carpeted and used by the younger members of the church for meetings and socials. She also tells of the changing membership of the church. When automobiles first came in, the group of then younger members became ;interested in affiliating with the larger churches in Santa Ana. The actual membership has remained fairly steady in size, with cars bringing members from Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and other more distant homes. Not many of the neighbors are church members now however, she says. Pastor Dady, who followed Rev. E.A. Moody as pastor, besides doing much ranching, is now chaplain in the Orange County Jail. Mrs. Best also said the office is not one of a county official, but is privately supported by an organization called “The Gleaners, Inc.” Greenville Church is one of the generous supporters of The Gleaners, and she spoke of Pastor Dady as being a man of keen understanding of the jail inmates and their problems. The county furnishes an office and telephone.
Among the many names also associated with the church are ministers Rev. R.R. Raymond, J.A. Andrews, John J. Woodson, and L.B. Jones. In talking to Dr. Perry Davis, dentist, he told me his grandfather, Rev. Chappelle S. Perry, was minister at Greenville in the 1890’s, and later moved to Valley Center. In more recent years, other ministers recalled by an early resident, Miss Vernie Graser, were Rev. P.T. Turner, Rev. O.E. Laird, and Rev. J.B. Firth. Among the members that were active in the church were Archibald T. Armstrong, Lawrence Wakeham, Howard Bear and family, Alfred Tedstrom and family. Women mentioned are Sue Perry, Ruby Best, Vernie Graser, Elizabeth Wakeham, Ruth Armstrong, Ida McClintock, and Martha (Mrs. Alfred) Cole. Among the pioneer women was Mary Selvidge, who left Missouri in 1875, came by covered wagon to the area and settled there in 1878. Later Ida, Anne, and Christine Segerstrom were members. The Segerstrom brothers were generous contributors to the church. Vernie Graser also mentioned her brother, Wesley Graser, was the driver of their first family car, a Studebaker, when he was 14. The year was 1917. She also mentioned a sister, Lydia Graser Berner, born in 1907 and delivered on a cold rainy night by Dr. Willela Waffle, who traveled in a carriage, but was somewhat delayed by the muddy roads on the way. She arrived at midnight in time to deliver the baby.
J.B.Firth had been pastor for several years, and former pastor Harry Dady and Mrs.Dady attended, with a total of about 60 members. We were also privileged to see the original church building, well maintained, painted white inside and out. There is a bell tower and rope for ringing the bell. Mr. & Mrs. J,.W. Shiffer were both in attendance, despite his 95 years of age. He has been a member since 1910, and told how in the early years he had helped place a foundation under the original church.
Shiffer was not able to recall exactly when the name Greenville was adopted as I had hoped. The new church building was constructed in 1960, and is equipped with both a grand piano and an electronic organ. Rev. Firth told me that he hadn’t placed his name on the sign outside because of his first name being “Jean”, and people might think he was a woman pastor.
The mixed choir had some 15 members and rendered an anthem, a duet and a solo, of better than average quality. Pastor Dady gave me the years he had been minister; 1955 -68, but still attending and affiliated as a member, with Mrs. Dady, who is the organist. Their home is on the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Talbert (now MacArthur). The Greenville Church is a mile south of Warner Ave. on Greenville Street, although the name for many years remained “Old Newport Street”. There are still many acres of lima beans growing at this time of year, and acres of grain beside a new group of subdivision homes being built north of the church on the west side of Greenville Street. Young, old, and middle aged members attend. One member, probably in her 80’s, just in front of us told us she came here in 1923 and had been married to her husband David Jansma in the same year by Judge John Cox at the courthouse. He was living, but not well enough to attend. She was one of the members who lived close to the church.
The friendly atmosphere, good quality music, and well-maintained building makes an attractive impression on the visitor, and indicates that it will remain the Greenville Country Church for many years to come.