The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

By Melissa Linquist
Wah. Co. Eagle 

Pioneer Deep River church refurbished


When Mark Erickson began the restoration project of the exterior of the Deep River Lutheran Church, he had his work cut out for him.

“There was about an inch of moss covering the building,” recalled Erickson who has donated both his time and energy to preserving the National Historical Site. With private funds collected by personal donations and fundraisers, the church is coming back to life.

“We did a solid week of prepping the building,” said Erickson who, together with Richard Kandoll, went about wrapping windows and doors in plastic and scraping paint by hand. “It took a day and a half just to get through power washing.”

The Deep River Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church was built in 1898 near the Deep River Cemetery. The church was the first organized Evangelical Lutheran Church in the area.

“The Finnish settlers came to Deep River, Naselle, and Salmon Creek for free land that was covered with timber for them to claim,” said Eva Malerich who has been an integral part of the renovation project. People brought their faith with them and they needed a place to worship.

“Together, they constructed a ‘kirkko’, the community church,” she said.

Deep River, which once enjoyed two general stores, the Shamrock Hotel, a coffee shop, a community hall, a school, Pentti’s Westend Pool Hall, daily boat service to Astoria, and a steam train, centered community life around church activities.

“It was quite the place,” said Malerich, who was born and raised in the area. “They used to haul 51 loads of logs out of here each day.

"This church is important piece of the town’s history and we want to preserve that. The interior is almost the same as it once was. We’ve still got bibles and hymnals from the 1880’s and 90’s. It’s kind of like going back in time. My aunt, Martha Bakkila Hess, left money for the church when she died, so there is definitely a personal interest for me in this project.”

As it stands, the Deep River Church now shines in the summer sun. Moss-free, it boasts a fresh coat of paint, peach-colored trim and copper strips that weave in and out of shingles on each tier of the edifice.

“I don’t mind putting in the time out here,” said Erickson. “It can’t hurt to be on the good side of the guy upstairs.”


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