History

The first service of the North Cascade mission was held in January 1952, in the town of Concrete. Services were first conducted by the Rev. Chester Falby of St. James in Sedro Woolley and later by the Rev. Glion Benson. At that time, the mission, called “St. James in the Valley,” met at the library or in the Grassmere Grange Hall.
The congregation was served by “Church by Mail” from Kathryn S. Miller. The day she came to visit was anticipated by all. She brought her “Bookmobile” and parishioners picked out the books of their choice.  In between, they received lessons and more books through the mail. More than just a mailing service, Church by Mail brought the diocese into direct contact with parishioners in these remote areas.
The Rev. Wesley Frensdorff, St. Martin’s first resident vicar, arrived in 1959. The following year, an old building formerly used as a railroad depot was purchased from Seattle City Light. It was moved to its present site, between the towns of Marblemount and Rockport, and set on land donated by Ray and Laura Johnson, Sr.   The name was then changed to St. Martin’s Episcopal Mission Church. Much of the interior of the church building contains original items from the railroad depot. The cedar walls and hand-hammered brass hanging lights on the main floor are original. The glass-and-wood ticket window divides the kitchen area in the basement from the main social room. Members put a cross up on the roof,  obtained an old reed organ and pews and built an altar and altar rail. The church building was dedicated on June 23, 1963 by Bishop William Fisher Lewis.
It was also under Fr. Frensdorff that the church in the Newhalem and Diablo area was established and named “St. Francis.” Though St. Francis had intended to build their own church, when the North  Cascades National Park was formed in 1968, the National Park Service did not approve their plans.
Thus, in 1976, at a joint meeting of St. Martin’s and St. Francis, it was decided to combine the funds and the congregations in the Rockport church. When St. Francis joined St. Martin’s,  a bell tower and bell were added to the building and the large altar window installed.
Through the years, membership rose and fell, dependent partially on the number of construction projects underway in the area at the time. In some years, services were held only once a month. The church now holds services on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month.
Each year the congregation of St. Martin & St. Francis gives one or two scholarships to outstanding students graduating from Concrete High School. The church also participates in a number of special events and services such as the Bald Eagle Festival when tours of the church are provided, the Easter sunrise services, the summer music festival and picnic, and Christmas lessons and carols. Many of these events are ecumenical in nature or held in conjunction with area Episcopal churches. With an incredible view of the North Cascades out their window, the congregation hosts a variety of organizations, particularly environmental groups, who can meet in the midst of the natural beauty of the Upper Skagit Valley. A highlight of the year in 2007 was the dedication by Bishop Bavi Edna (Nedi) Rivera of the new memorial garden under the east window.
St. Martin & St. Francis’ church building has been designated an Upper Skagit Valley Treasure and the members work hard to maintain it. Many people visit the church, and the doors are always open. The smallest church, and the furthest east, in the diocese, the faith of the people at St. Martin & St. Francis remains strong and on a firm foundation.