At the time the Crow Reservation was opened to homesteading (October 15, 1892) our ancestors began to move into the Stillwater-Rosebud areas. The townsite of Absarokee was homesteaded by S.T. Simonsen in 1893. “Missionary Pastors” traveled to the area to serve. First on the scene was a “be-whiskered gentleman wearing overalls and a clean waistcoat that walked many miles or rode a horse” named Preacher Phillips. Among the first homestead families to begin a congregation in the 1890s were: the F. Hart, Sr., Ash, J.W. Wier, Anderson, Madison, Masterton, and Simonsen families. The first church had 22 charter members, and dates its birth to 1897. The first building was in place in 1900. A parsonage was completed on the lot adjacent to the church in 1905.
During the first quarter of a century many ministers came and went within a short time, including Rev. Alice Barnes, who served this church in 1903. Rev. Spencer and his wife came in 1929 and served until 1935. He wrote a book about his experiences serving this church and others in the area. He started a Boy Scout troop and, with community help, a cabin was built for them on the Rosebud River. This was a memorable experience for many young men.
Rev. A.J. Goodson was the minister at the time of the church’s 40th anniversary (September 22, 1937), and many dignitaries from the State Association were in attendance. Fourteen years later, Rev. J.F. Howlett was serving the church, and the J. W. Weir Memorial Education addition was dedicated on March 18, 1951. Because the Fishtail Pilgrim Church and the Community Congregational Church worked closely together and shared ministers, the decision was made to become one, and on May 4, 1958, a uniting service was held. This created a total of 230 members, the largest Protestant church in Stillwater County. In 1962 this church voted to become part of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Bradly Brehmer was the minister at this time.
With funds provided by Mr. & Mrs. Earl Orr in memory of their son and his wife and gifts from and in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Liz Kennedy, architect Wayne Gustafson drew plans for a remodeled sanctuary, an education wing, a double car garage, and the recreation (Kennedy) room. The renovations and new construction were accomplished, creating a lovely and versatile facility.
Two marvelous paintings grace our sanctuary: “Christ in Gethsemane” by Mrs. P.W. Dierberger (1940) and “Easter Lilies and Dove” by Isabelle Johnson (1977). Rev. Goodson stated, “It is a great influence in furnishing a religious atmosphere,” when the first painting was gifted and he would no doubt feel the same about the second.
Throughout the 100+ years of our history we have experienced times when ministers stayed up to seven years, then more short-term times, as well as several years when we shared ministers with the Columbus church. Rev. Bob Stickney served both churches and formed a community choir that was enjoyed in this area and beyond. A joyous celebration of our 100th anniversary was held during his tenure on September 20-21, 1997. You may recognize some of the people in the picture that hangs in the Kennedy room.
Stained glass windows were created to memorialize families who had been a part of this church from its early beginnings and are enjoyed by all who enter. Doors from the Cobblestone School were gifted to us and are used to hold our name tags. Carillon Bells were installed in the bell tower, overhead screen projectors were installed in the sanctuary to assist in worship and in the Kennedy Room to be used as needed. River rocks were used to dress up and cover the church foundation and a paved parking lot was completed with generous funds from the Lueras and generous time, talent, and equipment from the Oltrogges. Cathy Hoyem served as Parish Nurse for 13 years, and a Caring Center served the community with its gifts of Reiki, Emotional Freedom techniques, and prayer. Rev. Nan Sollo served from 2006-13. Rev. Meg Hatch joined us in the fall of 2014. We continue in the blessings God has provided to gather, worship, and work together in the spirit of those who began this church 119 years ago.