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History Collection: Introduction

The Church at Litchfield Park Historical Collection and Museum

Overview of the Collection

Title:
The Church at Litchfield Park Historical Collection and Museum
Creator:
Meredeth Stucky, Church Historian
Dates:
1917-2019
Media:
Paper, news clippings, printed materials, photographs, computer disks, videotapes, and bound books
Quantity:
1220 cubic feet
Location:
The Church at Litchfield Park
300 N Old Litchfield Rd
Litchfield Park, AZ 85340

Historical Sketch of the Collection

Mr. Paul Weeks Litchfield, representing Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, came to the Phoenix West Valley in 1916 looking for land to grow long staple cotton for his new, patented tires. He purchased 16,000 acres and in 1917 began the process of clearing the land, planting cotton, digging water canals, building roads, stringing phone and electrical lines, and laying out the town that was later called Litchfield Park.

The Protestant residents were divided between many different denominations and as Mr. Litchfield was laying out the town, he only planned for one non-denominational church and one Catholic Church, which was built in 1923. There was the Methodist run Litchfield Unified Sunday School that John and Mable Padgetts had organized in 1917 and also according to Susan Smith’s thesis, there had been attempts to organize the Protestants, but they had failed. It wasn’t until Mr. Arthur Zieske arrived in 1933 that there was an organized effort to start a church. He successfully encouraged the Protestants to unite together in a community church.

On March 27, 1938, Kenneth B. McMicken called a special meeting at 8pm in the Litchfield High School study hall. They formed a committee and Newell Kring was the temporary chairman. The committee included John Padgett, Arthur H. Zieske, James Peterson, W.E. Garber, Daniel R. Owen, and George T. Stewart. The constitution was read with amendments and was adopted. The name of the church was to be The Church at Litchfield Park and it was designated a non-denominational church. A council was organized at the meeting. Kenneth B. McMicken, J.W. Padgett, A.H. Zieske were elected trustees and Daniel R. Owen, George T. Stewart, W. Newell Kring, and Mrs. Corinne C. Hall were elected members. It was also decided at this meeting that the Charter Church roll would be established at the first annual meeting in October 1938. At this point the Litchfield Unified Sunday School, run by the Padgetts since 1917, became The Church at Litchfield Park.

On March 31, 1938, a special meeting was held and Arthur Zieske was elected the first chairman of the council. John W. Padgett was elected treasurer and Daniel R. Owen as clerk. Sylvia Adams was elected to the publicity committee and Dora Kring to the membership committee.

In April they hired Reverend Sell as the first pastor and the initial church services were held in the Litchfield Park Community Hall. The hall was built in the early 1920’s on the SE corner of now Wigwam Blvd. and Old Litchfield Rd.

On October 23, 1938, the church was officially organized and the charter membership established. Seventy members were enrolled and Mr. and Mrs. Paul W. Litchfield were given honorary membership and recognition.

On May 4, 1939, Arthur H. Zieske reported to the council that Mr. Litchfield was very enthusiastic about a church, but not so for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company Board of Directors back in Akron, Ohio.

Coming out of the depression was a hard time for the Company, to the point that the Goodyear operation was in jeopardy. So, needless to say, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Board of Directors weren’t thrilled about building a church. The Wigwam Guest Ranch was also struggling. They were trying to expand as a public resort but it was Mr. Litchfield’s policy that there be no cocktail lounge. So, it was having trouble attracting guests and make a profit. The Board of Directors saw an opportunity for some horse-trading. If Mr. Litchfield would change the liquor policy, he could have his church. And so it happened. In Mr. Litchfield’s words, “I thought it over. Whatever personal views I held on the subject, it was not up to me to impose them on others.” The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company agreed to build the church.

On September 12, 1939 at 10am there was a ground breaking ceremony for the first phase of the church building program.

On November 6, 1939, there was a ceremony laying the cornerstone containing a Bible, the church roll, along with the constitution and by-laws, and a clipping from the paper about the service. On December 10, 1939, 21 months after the church was organized, the congregation met in the new church to dedicate it to “The Glory of God and for the Good of All Mankind.” The Church at Litchfield Park was to be for all denominations of the Christian faith.

In the early 1970’s Litchfield Park was a company town and the church a company church. On November 21, 1971 the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company gifted the church to the congregation. It was then that the church created the bi-cameral form of government with a Board of Directors and a Church Council. The congregation became the governing body of the church and the pastor the moderator of the church council.

The church structure remains the same today. Over the years the pastors have come from different denominations including Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Swedish Baptist, and Presbyterian.

Purpose, Scope, and Contents of the Collection

The purpose of this historical collection and museum is to identify, collect, preserve, and make available historical records of The Church at Litchfield Park.

The scope of the collection begins in 1917 with the early settlement of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in the West Valley. Some of the early history came from the John and Mable Padgett’s letters, Susan Smith’s 1948 thesis paper, and Clyde E. Schetter’s “Story of a Town” written in 1976. Very little church documentation is available before 1967 when the first annual report was printed by Rev. Ord. The collection includes the history of the church from 1917 to 2016.

The contents of the history comes from minutes, church newsletters, women’s groups documentation, and histories from members that the history was written. Only congregational annual meeting minutes are available for the 1970’s until Board and Council meeting minutes were saved starting in 1981. Board minutes are missing for 1984, 1985, and 1986. Church newsletters are available starting with the Mission Bell in June 1960 through October 1961. There are several issues of The Villager from Rev. Plumlee between 1976 and December 1980. The first issue of the Bell Tower was June 26, 1981 for which there is no copy. There are many copies during the 1980’s and 1990’s, many missing copies from 2000-2007. Starting in 2008 the newsletter was done digitally. The early women’s groups kept a handwritten journal with the minutes of their meetings. Beginning in 1965 with the formation of the Women’s Christian Fellowship, there are typed minutes and attachments for every executive board and general membership meeting.

It was from these documents that the topics for the written history were realized. The contents of this collection are folders that house a single topic, like Missions, Helping Hands, each pastor, the colonnade, etc., with the written history and supporting documentation, CDs, and photos. The written histories are as accurate and as complete as the support documentation found.

The collection also includes a small number of artifacts including books, plaques, paintings, a cup and saucer, a typewriter, a pastor’s chair, offering plate, quilts, etc.

Organization of the Collection

Church to 1971

Congregation, Pastors, Staff

Operations
  • Worship
  • Fellowship
  • Service
  • Youth

Buildings, Property

History documents, Newspapers, Photos, Posters, Publicity, Stationary

Artifacts

Administrative Information

Access: This collection is open under the governance of The Church at Litchfield Park’s Board of Directors.

Preferred Citation: Researchers are requested to cite The Church at Litchfield Park Historical Collection in all footnotes and bibliographic references.

Provenance: The history was the possession of The Church at Litchfield Park

Processed by: Beginning in 2007 the church historian, Meredeth Stucky, researched the church documents and wrote the individual histories. It was numbered and archived in 2016.

Property Rights: The Church of Litchfield Park owns the rights to this collection.

Copyrights: The Church at Litchfield Park and the author of the history has the exclusive legal right to print or publish and to authorize others to do the same.

Table of Contents

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