HISTORIC BIBLE BACK HOME IN WALLOWA
By Gary Fletcher
Observer Staff Writer
WALLOWA A Bible used by the man who started the United Methodist Church in Wallowa in 1876 has returned to the church.
"The Bible was used as both a church Bible and a family Bible by my grandfather, Francis Clayton (F.C.) Bramlet," Dr. Roland Bramlet of Ithaca, N.Y., wrote in a letter explaining the donation of the Bible to the church.
Bramlet sent the Bible to Geneva Edwards, the longest standing member of the church on Wallowa's Main Street. In a service of dedication and consecration earlier this month, Edwards presented the Bible on behalf of Bramlet in memory of his grandfather.
Receiving the Bible were Pastor Kaye Garver and Lay Leader Norma Cramer.
The large, 4-inch-thick Bible, printed in 1889 and purchased for $3.75, is a parallel Bible with side-by-side scriptures from both the King James and Revised Standard versions.
As F.C. Bramlet had done a century before, Pastor Garver read scripture in both versions from the Bible. Garver noted how "beautiful and poetic" was the old King James style, but that the newer style "helps us better understand what's being said."
Garver also read some of the Bramlet family record set down in the Bible, including Roland Bramlet's birth.
F.C. Bramlet was born in Georgia in 1827. The family moved on to Tennessee and Missouri.
In 1852 they joined a wagon train headed for the Oregon country.
Bramlet's parents died of cholera along the Snake River, leaving him to care for three sisters and two brothers.
After spending time in Yamhill and Union counties, Bramlet arrived in the Wallowas in 1872 to settle a homestead near the mouth of the Wallowa Canyon.
In addition to a cabin for his family, Bramlet built a church.
"There was lumber available. And hardware was no great problem, as it could be made by local blacksmiths," Roland Bramlet wrote.
"Window glass on the other hand was expensive due to freight costs. ... Freight was hauled by team and wagon from Elgin, ... climbed and passed over Cricket Flat then descended a steep incline to cross the Wallowa River just below Minam.
"From this point there was a steep incline. ... Smith Mountain was crossed and descent over a steep incline was made into the Wallowa Valley near the mouth of the Wallowa Canyon. This was a treacherous summer route not traveled in winter. Getting items such as window glass, particularly in large sizes was not an easy matter," Roland Bramlet wrote.
"When the church (building) was finished (in 1892 for $460) windows were covered with discarded flour sacks which let in a usable amount of light and largely kept out the weather and animals."
Even after windows were installed in the Bramlet Chapel, it continued to be to be known as the "Flour Sack Chapel."
"This church was located on the west side of Promise Road about half way between the old district #1 school house and Bramlet Lane. It is now gone (taken down in 1954) but I remember it," Bramlet wrote.
In 1873, F.C. Bramlet's daughter Sarah Jane Bramlet was the first white child born in Wallowa Valley.
Her 2- or 3-year-old cousin, Elisa Ellen, was the "first white person to be buried in the Valley. ... And since there was no cemetery, she was buried above the road near the mouth of the Wallowa Canyon ...," Bramlet said, naming whose property holds the unmarked grave.
"This event was a prime factor in causing my grandfather to give part of his homestead for use as a cemetery. It is now the Bramlet Memorial Cemetery in Lower Valley," Bramlet wrote. The cemetery remains in use.
F.C. Bramlet was an assigned local pastor, which Garver is studying to be. Local pastors are not ordained and not transferred to other churches.
"It kind of feels like a connection, and was one of the reasons I wanted to use the Bible in the service, and bring more than 100 years back to life," Pastor Garver said.