On December 1, 1913, nine people met in a home on the banks of the Verde River, and our beloved St. Thomas Church was born. Services were held in a Clarkdale schoolhouse, in homes and in the Knights of Pythias hall located in the business block on Main Street. Clarkdale was being built during this time and St. Thomas ministered to the construction workers, miners and their families. In 1917, funds were made available through the diocese, gifts and memorials to build our church. Mary Clark Kling, who was the daughter of Senator W. A. Clark, (founder of Clarkdale) donated $4500 of the $8000 total cost to build our church. Her donation was made in memory of her son, Gerald Clark Kling. The church was completed in the same year. The Clark Family continued to be very supportive of St. Thomas during our times of need.
The first Parish Hall was built in 1948. It cost a total of $1500, all of which was covered by a grant. All of the labor needed to build the Parish Hall was done by parishioners and Clarkdale residents.
Phelps-Dodge Corporation, an unlikely guardian angel, supported St. Thomas morally and materially during the depression and at other times of need. In 1958, Phelps-Dodge gave St. Thomas parish the land our buildings currently stand on. The company also donated our church bell that was originally installed on a locomotive which traveled between Clarkdale and Jerome. That bell continues to ring at our services every Sunday.
Our church buildings have gone through many renovations and construction projects over these many years. In 1948, a grant allowed for a new roof and interior decoration and also the parishioners’ construction of the Parish Hall. In 1993, a new entry way and ramp were constructed, as well as a new Parish Hall. In 2000, a major makeover took place which included adding more seating, creating a special area for the choir, offices, a restroom and parking lot improvements. Most recently, in early 2018, because of the generousity of parishioners, St. Thomas got new tile floors in the kitchen and bathrooms in our Parish Hall.
St. Thomas congregation, too, has endured many changes and hardships over these 100 years. Quoting The Reverend Bobbie Webster (priest at St. Thomas, 1948-1957), “The Lord will provide; and it has always worked out that way.” On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of St. Thomas, Bishop Walter Mitchell wrote, “When a congregation celebrates 25 years of continuous activity, the people are to be congratulated. Nothing but faith in God and ourselves…would have enabled St. Thomas to carry on in the face of discouragements… the next 25 years are going to be much more glorious…Let each of us determine to leave nothing undone on our part to make them so.”
It has been more than 100 years since our start in 1913 and we’re still here and looking forward to our next 100 years! May St. Thomas live happily ever after in the loving hands of God in peace and with joy.