Our History — Dry Creek Bible Church (2023)

Our history

Dry Creek Bible Church, the oldest continually active Protestant church, established November 1884.


Dry Creek Bible Church has a long and rich history. As far as we can tell, we are the longest-meeting Protestant congregation in the State of Montana (at least 1884 but probably earlier).

On Sunday evening, November 16, 1884, Rev. F. E. Boshwick preached at the Grange Hall in East Gallatin. He was a Baptist Sunday School missionary for Dakota, Montana, and Idaho Territories. After the service that evening, a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing a Baptist Church. It is evident that there were Sunday Schools and preaching services prior to this date at East Gallatin, but no record can be found of details. Nevertheless, this meeting marks the beginning of the church as an organization.

Rev. George Byron Morse, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Bozeman, was there. He took charge of the meeting and immediately Jesse B. Moore was elected as temporary clerk. After Dr. Morse had explained the purpose of the meeting, a motion was made that “we do now proceed to organize a Baptist Church.” Then Dr. Morse read a letter from the Baptist Church in Bozeman. They had held a special meeting the day before, November 15, 1884, and had made up the following letter:

“On request of the following members now in regular standing with us, namely Deacon Jesse B. Moore, Mrs. Jesse B. Moore, and Mrs. James M. Moore to be dismissed from us for the purpose of uniting in the formation of a new church at East Gallatin, it was voted that we cordially grant them letters of dismission for that purpose and when regularly constituted as a church shall cease to regard them as under our watch and care.”

Evidently Mr. and Mrs. Jesse B. Moore and their sister-in-law were the ones who initiated the idea of a Baptist Church at East Gallatin.

Following the reading of this letter, Dr. Morse then asked for all others who were willing to assist in the organization to stand.

They included Mr. Jacob F. Miller, Mrs. Mary Wells Yates, and Mr. Columbus C. Collins. A preamble was then drawn up and signed by those organizing. This is the preamble:

“We the undersigned, Baptist believers in Christ residing in the vicinity of Grange Hall, Gallatin County, believing it to be for the promotion of the Savior’s cause and for our own good to associate ourselves for the maintenance of the Gospel "the truths, the ordinances, and the discipline of the Gospel; agree to form ourselves into an organization to be know as East Gallatin Baptist Church praying that the blessings of the Great Head of the Church may rest upon us.”

By this time it was getting dark and as some were waiting to be baptized, further action on organization was postponed until Wednesday, November 19, 1884. The church then heard the Christian experiences of Mr. James M. Moore and Emma and Sophia Eklund. The church then voted to receive them as members following baptism. The whole group then went down to the river and Pastor Morse baptized the three candidates.

The next meeting was held the following Wednesday at Dry Creek in the town of Hillsdale. It will surprise some to realize that there once was a town in the vicinity of the Dry Creek Church. A careful perusal of the ground south of the highway toward the Paul Skinner ranch will reveal depressions dating from the time of Hillsdale. When the people met at Dry Creek, they met in the old log school of Hillsdale. It was also used as a church. It sat somewhere west and a little north of Norman Irvine’s ranch over toward the cemetery. At this meeting it was decided to adopt the Philadelphia Articles of Faith. A motion was made and carried that a committee be appointed to draft by-laws. Pastor Morse appointed Mr. J. M. Moore and Mr. Jacob F. Miller. Then Anna Miller, Frannie Miller, and Sallie Durham gave their Christian experiences and were voted to be received into the church following baptism.

“We the undersigned, Baptist believers in Christ residing in the vicinity of Grange Hall, Gallatin County, believing it to be for the promotion of the Savior’s cause and for our own good to associate ourselves for the maintenance of the Gospel “the truths, the ordinances, and the discipline of the Gospel; agree to form ourselves into an organization to be know as East Gallatin Baptist Church praying that the blessings of the Great Head of the Church may rest upon us.”

A third meeting was held the same week on Saturday, November 22, 1884 at Dry Creek. Pastor Morse was not there so Rev. F. E. Boshwick served as moderator. At this meeting several people related their Christian experiences and it was voted to receive them all as candidates for baptism. However, they must never have followed through because their names never appeared on the church roll. The names were Ezra P. Crabb, Mary E. Crabb, Addie L. Siddon, Mrs. Mary J. Afflack, Lizzie Afflack, and Eva C. Moore. Eva Moore’s name does appear on the church roll, but a line is drawn through it with the explanation, erased at her own request. The next day Mr. William Afflack gave his Christian experience, but again it appears he never united with the fellowship. At a meeting held in April 1886, it was voted to exclude some of the Afflacks for immoral conduct.

The next business meeting was held on Saturday, March 14, 1885. Sister R. C. Cowan gave her Christian experience. She was baptized the next day and was received into the church.

During this time (1884-1885), the church did not have a pastor except for an occasional visit by Mr. Boshwick and Dr. Morse. Beginning in November of 1885, Dr. Morse began to hold church once a month. He preached in Bozeman in the morning then traveled by buggy or on horseback to preach at East Gallatin in the afternoon. On June 26, 1887, a Brother Lumpkins was called to preach for six months.

During 1888, it appears that the church was again without a pastor, but in March of 1889, Rev. William Lewis was called for one year. He was called again and again but it was always the policy of the church to call him for one year at a time. He lived in the Horseshoe Hills and each weekend he took a couple of days to come down and hold services and return. He drove a team on one bunk of a bobsled in the winter time. Mr. Lewis also preached in other parts of the valley. His salary was $500.00 a year of which $300.00 was paid by the East Gallatin Church and $200.00 by the American Baptist Home Mission Society.

The church continued to meet during these years either at the Dry Creek School or at East Gallatin. After the Grange Hall at East Gallatin burned, the Baptists apparently were invited to meet at the East Gallatin Methodist Church. We have record that they met there at least once, on June 9, 1889. The people needed and wanted a church building of their own. This goal began to take shape in June of 1889 when G. B. Williams offered two acres of land for a new “church house.” On July 20, 1889, the gift of land was accepted and J. W. Wilkinson, J. F. Stack, J. B. Moore, J. S. Ballard, G. B. Williams, S. Harden, Belle Moore, Jane Whitaker, Ellen Stevens, and C. Cowan were appointed to raise money to build a church.

An interesting thing happened in August of 1889. a collection was taken up and sent to the Baptist congregation of Deadwood, South Dakota for their new church. Even though the East Gallatin folk were swamped in their own building program, they were still generous enough to help another church.
The new church was begun on October 14, 1889. J. B. Moore, J. F. Stack, J. S. Ballard, and J. B. Williams made up the building committee. Mr. Williams and Mr. Moore were the carpenters. They laid the walls out on the ground and put them together. They had the walls ready to raise in a week. The Advent Courier states that the new building was an “imposing structure” and could be seen from afar¾even as far as Belgrade. Jesse B. Moore was in charge of construction. He did a fantastic job for a man with a crippled arm. He had been severely wounded in the Civil War, but his work still stands today.

The East Gallatin Baptists held a series of meetings about the time the new church was begun. They lasted from October 10 to October 20 of 1889. The Advent Courier states that a number of men and women came into fellowship with the church during these meetings. They were C. C. Collins, J. W. Durham, William Smart, Logan Whittaker, Gus Linden, Albert Tarsewaul, Francis Tribble, Anna Durham, Nancy J. Cowan, Elizabeth Yates, Nancy Larie, and Ellen Williams.

On October 19, a business meeting was held and the building committee estimated that the church would cost about $150.00. The American Baptist Home Mission Society offered $200.00 toward the new church but this was later refused because of certain restrictions attached to the offer. On December 14, J. S. Ballard and J. M. Moore were elected trustees. They were responsible for the care of all the church property and they were to receive the deed for the land from Mr. Williams. J. M. Moore was also given the responsibility of acquiring funds and purchasing pews. These pews were used until 1993.

The first recorded meeting in the new church was on January 18, 1890. From this time the building was called the Williams Baptist Chapel. At this meeting Mr. Williams was appointed janitor and paid $1.00 a month.
At a meeting on March 8, 1890, J. M. Moore reported that $220.00 had been raised to pay for the pews. J. W. Durham had somehow fallen out with the church. Brother W. H. Murray was ordered to visit him and Mr. Durham was forgiven and all was settled. At this same meeting the trustees were to buy wire to fence the church house.
In May the following delegates were appointed to the Montana Baptist Association: W. H. Smart, J. W. Wilkinson, C. Cowan, Mary Ballard, and J. F. Miller. They were to invite the Association to East Gallatin the next year. All the lumber left over from the church building was given to Mr. Williams. During the rest of the summer the church was busy paying off the remainder of their debt. Mrs. J. F. Stack gave $6.00. They also had to buy a team, harness, and wagon for the preacher, Rev. William Lewis. Rev. Warren, a Methodist, was allowed to preach once that summer at the Williams Baptist Chapel.

During the winter of 1891 there arose a misunderstanding between the church and J. B. Moore regarding the duties of the deaconship. J. M. Moore, W. H. Murray, and J. F. Miller were appointed to visit him and the matter was subsequently straightened out.

When Preacher Lewis was recalled in February a different arrangement was made regarding his salary. He received $450.00 annually from the church and $150.00 from the Home Board. He was to preach once a month at Dry Creek and twice a month at East Gallatin. The other Sunday he preached elsewhere in the valley. However, the church later refused to accept the money from the Board and even ordered Pastor Lewis to send back $12.50 already received. The church then paid Pastor Lewis $600.00. When the pastor was not at East Gallatin on Sunday, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Stevens sometimes preached.

At a business meeting on March 10, 1894, it was proposed to sell the church house. Apparently by this time the people were living mostly around Dry Creek. They were meeting in the log school at Hillsdale but were members of the East Gallatin Church. The motion was carried over to the next meeting and was voted down. At a regular business meeting on July 13, 1895, it was voted to divide the church. A new Baptist church was to be formed at Dry Creek on July 20. However, the church property at East Gallatin was to be held jointly by the two bodies. The East Gallatin Church voted on the matter of allowing the Dry Creek Church to retain a one-half interest in the building and the motion failed to carry. In 1896, the people of Dry Creek relinquished all rights to the church building. However, in 1899 the Hillsdale Church reunited with the East Gallatin Church.

Years 1900 - 1958
By 1903, the East Gallatin congregation was largely dwindled away and there was talk of moving the church building to Dry Creek. In May, Brothers Watson, Ballard, and Cowan were appointed to look into the cost of such a venture. Some folks said it was impossible to move the church so the people deliberated for over a year. There was some talk of letting the Cottonwood church have the building. Their offer was $600.00. Some wanted to tear the building down and move it and some wanted to let the contract to have it moved for $500.00. That was a lot of money and it was risky business. The building could be damaged or it might be impossible. One contractor started to move it by capstan but got only about one-half mile and gave up. Henry Cramer and Bill Brownell then took the contract and succeeded in moving the church about January 1905. They built two big bobsleds, one for each side of the building, and hooked about six teams on each side. Later they had to get more teams. They had hired men and their teams around the community. When they got to Mr. Brownell’s house (the present location of the Jim Soares’ residence) he wanted to stop for dinner, but everyone said, “No, let’s go on.” A little farther on they got stuck. The day was warm and the snow had melted in places and it was getting muddy. This must have been out on the flat in the area of A. M. Moore’s home (a little south and east of the Wally Duncan home). As soon as they were stuck, Mr. Brownell had them all unhook and feed their horses and come in to dinner. After dinner they went back to work. They jacked the runners up and put rollers under them and started out again. They even hauled snow in and put it in front of the runners. After several tries they were on their way again. All went well until they started up the little bank to where the church now stands; the chimney began to crack. They stopped and took the top part of the chimney down, handing the bricks down one at a time. This was the only damage the church suffered on the whole trip.

Our History — Dry Creek Bible Church (1)

“One contractor started to move it by capstan but got only about one-half mile and gave up. Henry Cramer and Bill Brownell then took the contract and succeeded in moving the church about January 1905. They built two big bobsleds, one for each side of the building, and hooked about six teams on each side. Later they had to get more teams.”

C. C. Rickman was the first pastor after the church was moved. The church thrived and was host to the Montana Baptist Association the summer of 1906.

The people did some work on the church just before the convention and this may have been the time the walk and fence were built. Mr. & Mrs. Frank Collins planted the cedar tree by the front door and it is still doing well. Mrs. Tribble always said she hoped nothing would happen to the tree. Once a fire singed some of the branches but it soon recovered.

In 1909 the pastor was Edward A. Stevens. He was a young man and was ordained by the church. After examination of the candidate the council of older ministers present recommended a careful reading of Strong’s Systematic Theology. However, they were impressed with the sincerity and spiritual experience of the young man and proceeded with the ordination. There may have been other ministers during this time of whom we have no record. For example, there is some mention of a Rev. Hyat in 1907.

From about this time on the church did not keep very careful records. Many of the things which happened are hazy in the minds of those who remember and it is difficult to establish dates. Also, the membership began to decline because people were moving out of the country. Sometimes the church was served by a part-time minister and sometimes by a visiting minister. However, as near as it can be determined, we believe the church was never closed; at least they had Sunday School. The only possible exception may have been a short period around 1930. We have records of a Sunday School being organized on June 7, 1931, by Mr. Ralph Stucky. It could not have been long however because our records show Sunday School as late as 1925. ‘26 and ‘27. Rev. Reece, Rev. Kluterbuck, and Rev. Dalton ministered during those years. In 1935, James Banes was Pastor and the church received an inside renovation during his ministry.

Laurel Inabnit came in 1938 and stayed until 1942. Until his death in 1993, he was retired and living in Kallispell, Montana. When he first came, he also pastored the Central Park Christian Church. Later, this church was closed. The present handsome pulpit we use today at Dry Creek Church apparently came from the Central Park Church. During Mr. Inabnit’s ministry, the Dry Creek Church grew in number. Arie Droge recalls: “Laurel Inabnit filled the church until it bulged at the seams.” Also during these years, the church building was re-shingled and painted on the outside. Mr. Inabnit was a lumber man. He cut the planks and rebuilt the fence. The fence was later moved closer to the church when the highway was widened, but some of the old planks were retained. Mr. Inabnit conducted the funeral services for long-time members, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Tribble, the parents of Zena Duncan. Further information about Laurel Inabnit’s ministry at Dry Creek is available in his autobiography, From Plow to Pulpit.

Allen Hires was pastor from 1943-1947. He was living in Naches, Washington until his death, January 16, 1987. Mr. Hires’ father was pastor of the Manhattan Community Church and Mr. Hires was married and ordained there. There has always been an affection between the Manhattan brethren and Dry Creek. There have been transfers of members but no affiliation has ever existed. Mr. Hires had the most extensive circuit since the very early days. He traveled and preached in Milligan Canyon, Harrison, Ennis, Norris, and Silver Star. His wife, Freda, recently suffered a stroke and is living with her daughter in Yakima, Washington.

On January 15, 1944, Lt. Paul Skinner and Florence Cowan were married. It was rather an informal wedding. It was not known if Paul would be home on leave or not. The invitations were given in a hurry by phone, and to top it all off, Florence’s mother did not feel well. It was a nice wedding, though, and afterwards a reception was held at Cowans’ with Mrs. Cowan and Mrs. Skinner (Paul’s mother) greeting the people as they came. Elsie Doig (Mrs. Wilbur Townsend) sang for the ceremony.

The next pastor after Allen Hires was Joe Turner who lost his life in an auto accident. After him came Rev. Pershing Hess who served the church from 1950-1958. During his ministry, the church was painted and new windows were installed. The foundation was also rebuilt. Between the poor foundation and the leaky windows the building had become quite drafty. Also, the roof was re-shingled and a new ceiling was installed. The platform was carpeted and the pulpit and pews were re-varnished. The fence and outside were painted and the Scripture texts were added to the front. This was the most extensive renovation since the move from East Gallatin. The frosted glass window with the church name was added while Mr. Hess was here. Currently, Mr. Hess resides in Manhattan, Montana.

Years 1959 - 1962
Hayden Porter was pastor of the church from 1959-1960 while a student at Montana State University. The highlight of this period was the 75th anniversary celebration. Mr. Harry Wiley was the main speaker. He is presently living in Longview, Texas. Mr. Norman Cook taught a series on prophecy. He is living in Big Horn, Wyoming. Mr. Richard Nollmeyer spoke on family life. He presently lives in Billings. Mr. Harry Engstrom held a meeting for children. He was killed several years ago in an auto accident. The missionary program developed about this time. Missionaries receiving regular support at various times include Otto Aamodt of Ethiopia, Marjorie Skinner of Longview, Washington, Gordon McRostie of Morocco, Vincent Rosheger of Alaska, Dave Droge and Jonathan McRostie of Europe. Jonathan also pastored the church the summer of 1959.

Harvey Pounds was pastor in the early 1960’s. He was an announcer on KGVW during the time of his ministry. Harvey lived in Spokane, Washington until his death. During his ministry some money was saved for Sunday School rooms. The former pastor, Hayden Porter and his wife, Nancy, lost all their belongings in a fire. They were serving as missionaries in Lazy Mountain Children’s Home in Alaska. The Dry Creek Church promptly drew out all the savings and sent it to the Porters.

At times, Paul Bailey, a logger from West Yellowstone, drove down to help with pulpit supply in the early 1960’s.

Years 1963 - 1977
Alvin House was pastor or pulpit supply from 1963 until 1977. Currently, Mr. House is a hospice chaplain and resides in Darby, Montana. It is believed that Mr. House has the record for the longest tenure. During his ministry there was some talk of closing the church but Ralph Stucky, Sophia Moore, Zena Duncan, and Alvin and Beryl Cowan would not hear of it. Mr. House was instrumental in getting the Lundstrom Crusade to Bozeman. He asked for the team on Sunday morning before the crusade began. The whole team came except for Lowell and Connie. They put on a two hour musical program with Larry preaching. There were sixteen conversions that morning with more to follow in the crusade. This marks the beginning of the modern growth period of the Dry Creek Church. There was an extensive follow-up with Bible studies and eventually there was a large attendance. Sunday School rooms were added making the fourth new roof of which we have record. Mr. House was still part-time and it became apparent that a resident minister was needed.

During the summer of 1977 Monty Casebolt pastored the church but Mr. House returned for a time in the autumn. Monty and his bride, Jan, repainted the Scripture text signs on the front of the church.

Our History — Dry Creek Bible Church (2)

1978 - Present
Ben Cross came in December of 1977 and returned about once a month while a senior at Montana Institute of the Bible. In June of 1978, he became the first full-time pastor of the Dry Creek Church in 100 years. Previous pastors had either worked part-time or had other congregations as well as this one. The church grew considerably during Ben’s ministry, requiring that a new constitution and by-laws be created. This was accomplished in 1980. At the same time, the name of the church was changed to the “Dry Creek Bible Church.” A new sanctuary was built and dedicated during March of 1982.

In November of 1984, the church held a Centennial celebration to reflect on 100 years of ministry. Several former pastors returned, and Dr. Harold Longenecker was the main speaker. In the summer of 1986, Ben and his wife, Mary, and their children moved to Portland, Oregon so Ben could attend Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. Currently, Ben is Senior Pastor of the Bible Baptist Church in Auburn, Washington.
In 1987, Dry Creek Bible Church called Kelly Kruse to serve as pastor. Kelly and his wife, Pat, and their children moved here in October of 1987 from the Los Angeles, California area where Kelly had attended Talbot Theological Seminary and had served on the pastoral staff of Grace Community Church under Dr. John MacArthur, jr. In 1989, the church engaged in another building project, expanding the sanctuary and adding offices and a large classroom. 1989 also marked the start of a relationship with a sister-church in LaColline, Haiti. The two churches partnered together through Reciprocal Ministries, a Miami, Florida-based ministry. Dry Creek Bible Church sent teams to Haiti in 1989 and 1990. Kelly Kruse resigned from the pastorate here in September of 1991. Today, he and his family reside near Twin Bridges, Montana. Kelly continues to have an active pulpit and teaching ministry, including a recent missions trip to Russia.In June of 1992, Dry Creek Bible Church called Steve Mathewson to serve as pastor. Steve, his wife, Priscilla, and their children came from Helena, Montana where Steve served 5½ years as pastor of Mountain View Bible Church. Prior to that, he graduated from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Shortly after his arrival, Dry Creek established a sister relationship with a church in LaColline, Haiti. Dry Creek Bible Church continued to grow under Steve’s ministry and several youth pastors. Steve left Dry Creek in April 2006 to become the teaching pastor at Libertyville Evangelical Free Church in Chicago and to teach at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.

Don Johns was called and began his ministry as the Senior Pastor of Dry Creek in November 2006. Don has earned degrees in chemistry and business and worked in the corporate world for 11 years before going to seminary and beginning a pastorate ministry. He is ordained with the Evangelical Free Church and had served in several churches in Montana and Pennsylvania before coming to Dry Creek. His wife, Kathleen grew up in the Gallatin Valley.

In 2012, Arlen Tofslie arrived at Dry Creek to serve as the interim pastor, a role he filled faithfully while the church searched for a permanent senior pastor. In autumn 2013, Jim Carlson came to the church to assume the role of senior pastor, with Arlen agreeing to stay on as associate pastor. Both Jim and Arlen had attended Montana Institute of the Bible, located in Lewistown, Montana.

Prior to arriving at Dry Creek, Arlen served several churches in Montana and Idaho as a pastor. His wife, Vickie and he have been married ___ years and they have two grown children.
After graduating from Montana Institute of the Bible, Jim attended Western Conservative Theological Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Jim has served as Senior Pastor of the Fort Benton Community Church in Fort Benton, Montana and as the Senior Pastor of Lone Rock Bible Church in Stevensville, Montana. He has also served as the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Bible Mission and is the current President of Montana Bible College in Bozeman, Montana. His wife, Mary, and he have four grown sons.

Mr. Ralph Stucky, a godly leader and long-time member of the church, remarked several times that Dry Creek Church has always had good ministers. Some were builders, some were organizers, some were better preachers than others, but they all have stood for an inerrant Bible and the wonderful Savior revealed on its sacred pages.
Pastor Don Johns said: “If the founders and early members of the Dry Creek Church could see us today, they would notice that many things have changed, but the most important things have stayed the same. I think they would be thrilled to see that we’re still committed to the authority of God’s Word and to ‘making disciples of Jesus within an atmosphere of grace’.”

After 124 years of ministry, Dry Creek Bible Church still stands upon the solid fundamentals of her founders:

The authority of Scripture over our lives
Christ’s sufficient work for us
The hope we have of heaven

Most of this information came from the records of the East Gallatin and the Dry Creek Baptist Churches. These records were in the possession of Mrs. Zena Duncan who is now present with the Lord. She carefully stored the records until her death in 1982. They are now in the possession of the church. The remainder of the material was gleaned from interviews with people in the Dry Creek community and former pastors of the church. A.H.P.

Our History — Dry Creek Bible Church (3)

Pastors of The Dry Creek Church

Brother Lumpkins 1887
William Lewis 1889 - 1904
C.C. Rickman 1905 - 1906
Rev. Hyat 1907
Edward A. Stevens 1909 - ?
Rev. Reece 1925
Rev. Kluterbuck 1926
Rev. Dalton 1927
James Banes 1935 - 1937
Laurel Inabnit 1938 - 1942
Allen Hires 1943 - 1947
Joe Turner 1948 - 1949
Pershing Hess 1950 - 1958
Hayden Porter 1958 - 1960
Jonathan McRostie Summer of ‘59
Harvey Pounds 1960 - 1962
Alvin House 1963 - 1977
Monty Casebolt Summer of ‘77
Ben Cross 1978 - 1986
Kelly Kruse 1987 - 1991
Ray Pierson 1992 - 1992
Steve Mathewson 1992 - 2006
Don Johns 2006 - 2012
Arlen Tofslie 2012 - 2013 (interim)
Jim Carlson 2013 - present


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