A church for everyone – Kenwood’s original church
Compiled with information from historians Dee Sand, Margaret Wiltshire and James Fidiam
The year was 1887 and residents of the newly forming community of Los Guilicos (now known as Kenwood) decided they needed a church. As the only town between Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen, Los Guilicos was an exclusive real estate development marketed as and up an coming “boom town” around the new depot and the railroad that would arrive in 1888.
The First Congregational Church of Los Guilicos had its first meeting on July 13, 1887, gathering at the newly minted Kirkwood Hotel on the corner of Rohrer Avenue (now Warm Springs Road) and Los Guilicos. By May 1888, a little church building had been constructed on the corner of Laurel Avenue and Los Guilicos. The cost totaled $2,500 and the charter membership totaled 11, with Reverend A. Drahms as the first minister.
Subsequently, the muddy lot was sold and in 1893 the church building was loaded up on logs and pulled by horses three blocks to its new (and current) location on Channing Row. Luckily, that lot proved to be a superior location and the church has never been flooded since.
Membership grew slowly, but soon the new church became an active force in the development of the town, a central point around which the social life of Los Guilicos took place.
In 1897 the Sonoma County Atlas wrote of the church: “At present, its pretty interior, well carpeted and curtained and having most comfortable chairs, is well filled with attentive listeners at all services. The beautiful toned bells ring out joyously over the valley and hills.”
In the early years, ministers served only a few years each, generally serving in Glen Ellen and sometimes Sonoma as well. Records reveal a typical salary was $400 yearly (guaranteed) and “more if could be raised.” Because the ministers’ salaries were so small, much was donated. Dee Sand’s Kenwood: Yesterday and Today records a tale about one memorable donation. An old bay horse was given to the second minister, Rev. Isaac Tobey. The family named the horse Sankey. One day, Mrs. Tobey decided to take Sankey, with a friend and their children, to shop in Santa Rosa. Sankey trotted right along until he reached the first roadside saloon, where he turned in, went up to the water trough and stopped. No amount of jerking or whipping would make him move on, to the horror or Mrs. Tobey. The idea of the minister’s wife and children sitting out in front of a saloon was nearly more than she could bear. After 15 minutes, Sankey decided to move on. The ladies were relieved until the next saloon, where Sankey decided to repeat the performance. He didn’t miss one saloon all the way to Santa Rosa. What was said afterward to the donor of Sankey was not recorded.
In 1906 the lot next door was donated for a parsonage and money was raised to build it. An additional lot extending to Warm Springs Road was also purchased in 1908, perhaps to make horse and buggy movement easier. The parsonage was completed in 1909/1910 and served as such until 1957 when Rev. Moffat Dennis became minister.
The church records tell of marriages of residents still remembered in Kenwood. Names inscribed in the books of the early 1890s and 1900s include Gaige, Stevens, the Martin Cochranes, the Obadiah Bakers, the Milo Bakers, the Rathbones, and others who played a pivotal role in church – and community – history.
The original name of the church changed to Los Guilicos Congregational Church and then to Kenwood Community Church, as it stands today. Reverend Jim Fish has served as its minister since November 2010.
The church today welcomes all denominations and has been used throughout the years by many diverse groups. St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church borrowed space while raising money for their church to be built on Sonoma Highway; it has been used by the CCD Catholic Sunday School, by 4 H-ers, and even as Kenwood School while the present school building was being built in 1960.
Today, Kenwood Community Church still serves as a focal point of the community and has about 70 active members. The church’s main fundraiser is the 4th of July Pancake Breakfast and Auction. The church serves as a base for community meetings such as Women of the World (WOW), Food Addicts Anonymous, and a local quilting group. It has also become a popular place for weddings because of its atmosphere and amenities.
For years the motto of the church has been “Wherever you are in your spiritual journey you are welcome here,” and that is still the case. Sunday services are at 10:30 a.m.