Woodside Village Church History
The small town of Woodside, California is said to be the oldest English-speaking settlement in the Southern part of the San Francisco Peninsula. The first English-speaking settlers arrived here in the 18th century to log the rich stands of Redwoods. The Mexican and Spanish settlers of roughly the same period gave Spanish place names, like Sierra Morena (Brown Mountain) and El Corte de Madera (the place where timber is cut). In 1849, during the California Gold Rush, 20-year-old Mathias Alfred Parkhurst purchased 127 acres of timberland and called it "Woodside." That is the name that stuck. Around 1838 Charles Brown built the first saw mill here and by 1850 there were a dozen mills producing building materials for a burgeoning San Francisco, where housing was more precious than gold. Timber would be floated to the city on the waters of the Bay from a venue east of Woodside, now called Redwood City. Woodside continued as a center of the timber business until that business began to decline towards the end of the century.
Then Woodside became the center of wine production for California. By 1889, 800 acres of vineyards were producing and in 1916 wines produced in this region won recognition as the best in the state. Indeed, the California wine industry started here when the Hungarian "Count" Harasthy founded the Buena Vista winery just north of the present village. That winery has long since moved to Sonoma where it continues producing its celebrated wines. Woodside has lately been restored to its position as a premier wine area, especially by the products of Woodside Vineyards, property of one of our church members.
In 1889 the Congregational Church of Redwood City opened a Sunday School in Woodside, at the time when the first of the great mansions, which are now so prominent a part of Woodside's identity, were being built. The Pastor of that church, L.D. Rathbone, organized a Sunday school to meet in Scout Hall in the village. In April of 1891, the people of Woodside decided that they wanted a church of their own and three men from the community joined the Redwood City congregation with the express purpose of promoting a church in Woodside. In 1893, a committee of five, three from Woodside and two from Redwood City, were authorized by the church to solicit subscriptions for the new church. W.C Bowman and George C. Ross donated a lot measuring 50x100 feet; construction started on March 17 and was completed and the church dedicated on May 21st, 1893. The cost of construction was $1,200 and the church opened free of debt, with $19 remaining in the construction account. This building, beautifully refurbished for the centennial in 1993, is still in use as a chapel.
In 1961, we dedicated a new and larger sanctuary. With the coming of J. Hood Snavely as minister in 1954 the congregation entered a phase of significant growth and expansion of the physical plant. Since the period of his ministry, 1954-1963, when the number of members doubled several times, we have expanded and contracted.