The town of Dryad once boasted a population of more than 1,200 people. A logging town, the logging company even built houses for workers to live with their families. However, when the logging went away, the community started fading away with it. With the town of Dryad gone, the former community has since blended in with the town of Doty. However, one thing has remained for over 119 years—the Dryad Community Baptist Church.
The church was dedicated in 1903, but the building was actually constructed in 1900. In those days, with the flourishing logging industry, the little white church likely swelled in equal measure. Today the church sees attendance somewhere between the mid-20s to the mid-30s each week, but there were definitely leaner years, much leaner. You could say the church has been making a comeback.
Of course, the picturesque church with its graceful white steeple stands where it was originally built, but the location’s identity is a little unclear. Lewis County considers the area to be Pe Ell, the church’s post office box is in Doty and the church-produced business cards state the street address to be 112 Olive Street in Dryad. Punch in “112 Olive Street, Doty” into your cellphone’s map application and it will get you there. You will find it a picture of serenity.
“It’s a really nice little area,” Pastor Buck Garner said. “I came here at the beginning of April of 2012.” He has loved the area since he first saw it. And he’s loved the congregation. With such a long-running church, comes some “long-running” church members. Pastor Garner said he greatly enjoys visiting with the elder generation. He told of Eldan Driver, who will be 98 in July, having moved to the area with her family when she was 20-years-old. “She is very knowledgeable about this area. I love to talk with her,” he said.
Doris Forth, who will also turn 98 in April, and Elsie Whitson, who will be 91 in September, also both have lots of stories about this area of years gone by. Pastor Garner is one who appreciates their local knowledge, appreciates their unwavering faith and appreciates them for the women they are.
Pastor Garner said the members of the congregation dress in what they are comfortable in. He chooses to dress in a suit and tie because that’s what he’s comfortable preaching in; however, he encourages everyone to dress how they are most comfortable.
“We have what people might call traditional music,” Pastor Garner said. “It’s all from the hymnal.” One of the younger ladies in the church, Tonya Keller, plays the piano – as well as creates the weekly bulletin – and her dad, Marvin Keller, leads the music.
Pastor Garner describes the congregation as a “family.” He said, “I can’t tell you how important that is. You know it’s not supposed to be people coming together to put their differences aside, we’re supposed to come together to be a family.”
The congregation has a potluck lunch once a month, which isn’t easy because the lone room behind the sanctuary can’t hold everyone. Also the congregation has a dinner out every four months. Pastor Garner said the church has a fund that people donate to so if someone doesn’t have the means to eat out when it comes time for the dining-out meal, they can still go.
Pastor Garner said the church used to have classrooms in the back of the church and a parsonage off to the side. However, when a community member’s house burned down in 1945, the church decided move the back rooms to the husband and wife’s property to build them a home.
“We are working on financing to build on for classrooms and a small kitchen,” Pastor Garner said. “The challenge with a small church is the finances.”
Pastor Garner has been a minister since 1995. He retired from the U.S. Army to go to seminary, after which he served as an associate pastor as well as filling in when needed as an interim pastor. He served as the full-time pastor in Ritzville, Washington for 12 here before coming to the Dryad Community Baptist Church.
“God’s amazing,” he said. “When I look back, it’s kind of amazing how He led me and brought me here.”
The church holds vacation Bible school in the evening each July, this year falling on July 10-14. He said the final night is family night with a cookout which lets the parents see what the kids have been doing all week.
For more information on the Dryad Community Baptist Church’s services, call 360-245-3383. Donations for the church’s building fund, or for general uses, can be sent to Dryad Community Baptist Church at P.O. Box 251, Doty, WA 98539.