July 6, 1995
Contributions continue to come in for the "Church on a Perch" fund which was established earlier this year as a means of financing restoration of the historic old Episcopal church building. The response from the general public has surprised even members of the Perry Development Coalition's special sub-committee, the ones who organized the effort.
Evidently many individuals and organizations are interested in helping with this project. If not for them, Perry's oldest church building might have been lost forever. Now it stands proudly on a picturesque promontory overlooking the lake at Perry CCC Park, and one day before long it will be fully restored to its original condition. Work is continuing on the foundation, including the use of sandstone above the footings, just as the first builders did it around 100 years ago.
Typical of the contributions still coming in from time to time is one just received from Ella Merry Hayman, the daughter of a pioneer Perry family, who now lives in Ponca City. Mrs. Hayman has a special interest in the old building, and I'll let you read about it in her own words as contained in a letter I just received. She writes
"Years pass (when you are nearly 90), and hometown memories begin to fade away unless something causes a reawakening. With the arrival at Westminster Village, two doors down the hall, of Jo and Roy Garten, and their generosity in passing The Perry Journal to me every day, so much comes back to mind.
"My reminiscing started with memory of the Ladies' Tuesday Afternoon Club's planning a centennial celebration and the consequence of digging into my files to add to information about my mother's membership, dating from 1902 and stretching to 1961 -- a few months prior to her death.
"Then ... along came your stories about the moving of the old Saint Mark's Episcopal Church. Our home place was on the corner of Seventh and Holly and the church was set close to the rear of the Seventh and Grove corner lot, putting it only a few feet from our lot line. In my earliest memories, the church was abandoned and falling into disrepair, making it a likely spot for a group of boys to use as a place to plan mischief and games. It was the right size for a game of 'Ante-Over,' and close enough to the sidewalk for the boys to throw missiles (rotten eggs, etc.) at enemies passing by. Rumor had it that one such victim was the superintendent of schools!
"Little girls didn't take part in such sport, but there were times I peered through broken windows to bemoan the way mice and birds had used it for their sanctuary. Weeds were rampant and bees found the trumpet vines climbing the walls, but had their own way of scaring me away from much investigation. It is hard for me to realize the building is in good enough shape to be moved. Best wishes and good luck with the project."
To help orient you, the Merry family home at the corner of Seventh and Holly later was the home of the late Mr. and Mrs. B. M. Coombs. It is now unoccupied. Another house was moved in on the south side of the old Merry home several years ago, but that part of the property was just a portion of the lawn during the time Mrs. Hayman wrote about. Mrs. Hayman asked that her contribution be used to aid in interior decoration of the old church, and the committee will see to it that her wishes are carried out.
After the Episcopal church disbanded here many years ago, the wooden building was purchased by the Church of Christ. One of the faithful members of that congregation was Harry Donaldson, of Donaldson & Yahn Lumber Co., and he was one of those who were instrumental in repairing and maintaining the aged structure until the new, buff brick Church of Christ edifice was put up at Seventh and Jackson in the 1950s. Then the Episcopal congregation reorganized and built the present Saint Mark's at Seventh and Grove. They used the original building as a fellowship hall until deciding to replace it with a new brick structure last year. That's when the old, building became surplus and the Historic Preservation Committee stepped in to find a new home and move the frail wooden building to the CCC Park.
The committee envisions use of the building for weddings, receptions, family reunions and other assemblages, and perhaps the immediate area around it can be further enhanced with structures like a gazebo. In other communities, such facilities are greatly in demand and they expect this one will be, too.
Another unexpected contribution to the restoration fund is being provided by members of Christ Lutheran Church, who received a free will offering for that purpose at a Sunday morning worship service. The people of Saint Mark's also have helped financially.
Back to Mrs. Hayman and her family. Her father, W. E. Merry, was postmaster here for eight years, from 1914 until 1922, and he was elected a vice president of the National Post Master's Organization in a ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. He also was the second president of the Perry Chamber of Commerce, serving in 1921-22. Mrs. Hayman's sister, Jane Merry, married Lt. Kenneth C. Anderson of Enid, one of the Army officers who served here with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the construction of our CCC Park. Her brother, Lee Merry, went from the Perry Mill to General Mills, Inc. in the 1930s, and was head of their Durham wheat division at the time of his death.
Mrs. Hayman would welcome letters or visitors. She resides at Westminster Village, 1601 Academy Rd. #201, Ponca City, OK 74604. She asks that you give her a little advance notice if you plan to stop by. Our Historic Preservation Committee appreciates generosity such as hers and is happy to acknowledge this contribution to the "Church on a Perch" fund from a member of a pioneer Perry family.
To join in this effort, tax-free donations may be sent to: Cherokee Strip Centennial Corporation, Church-on-a-Perch Fund, Perry Development Coalition, P.O. Box 188, Perry, OK 73077.