San Miguel Reflections — July 2017

The Little White Church

The little white church that sits on the corner of 13th and L Streets is now home to an enthusiastic new church family. Fuente de Agua Viva (Fountain of Living Water) is a bible-based church. It is principally a Spanish-speaking congregation and all are welcome. Pastors Jorge and Maria Alvarez are happy for the opportunity to minister in San Miguel after 5 1/2 years serving in Paso Robles.

Church spokesperson Julie Ramos said they have started a youth program led by Issac Ramos and Monica Elenes, and are planning to reach out to the community with future activities. They hold church services at 10 a.m. on Sundays and at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and hold a prayer meeting on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.  The Youth Ministry, open to all young people, meets every other Friday evening.  The web site is www.fdav.org.

The church building has a long history. San Miguel burgeoned in 1886 with  the arrival of the railroad.  Churches were built in the town and outlying communities.  The Methodist Episcopal (abbreviated to ME in newspapers) and Presbyterian denominations would hold services alternately in some churches. It is believed the white church was moved to its present location from the mesa (as the hill on the west side of town was called) before 1900. By mid-1920, a side wing and belfry had been added. Since then it has essentially been unchanged.  In 1935, the church in Estrella was razed and the lumber used to add a classroom building next door which is still used for classes.

Retired Paso Robles school teacher Harold Franklin shared the story of his grandparents as pastors there. On November 3, 1926, the Rev. Joseph and Ethel Franklin arrived, with their four children, to serve the Methodist Episcopal churches in San Miguel, Estrella and Shandon (called a “circuit”). They lived in the parsonage, which still stands on the northwest corner of L Street, across from Lillian Larsen School. On Saturday evenings, the family would drive out to Shandon and spend the night. The next morning, Sunday School at 9 a.m. was followed by the church service. They then drove to Estrella where Sunday School was at 1:30 p.m. followed by the service. San Miguel Sunday School and church service were held upon their return.

On January 27, 1927, as a reception was being held at the Jake Tuley home on Von Dollen Road to welcome Pastor Franklin, he became ill. He managed to drive home but died of a heart attack the following day, aged 54. Rev. Ethel Franklin felt commissioned by God to continue to serve the churches for the remaining two years of his contract and she answered the call. She performed all pastoral services except weddings.

In August of 1928, she moved to Big Pine in the Owens Valley and was pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church there for a year. Two sons of Joseph and Ethel, Harold and Wesley Franklin, married the daughters of local pioneers and settled in San Miguel to raise their own families, eventually moving to Paso Robles.

In the 1940s, the little white church became the Assembly of God. The Methodist congregation had moved to a little brown church on the Mesa. When new Highway 101 was built in 1950, it was moved to the corner of L Street behind the Mission and is now a private residence.