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Historic church gets top billing at annual Maxwelton parade

Margaret and Gene Seals, who were married in the Little Brown Church in 1947, will be part of the group honored as grand marshals this year. - George Mills photo
Margaret and Gene Seals, who were married in the Little Brown Church in 1947, will be part of the group honored as grand marshals this year.
— image credit: George Mills photo

An entire church and all the people associated with it will be grand marshals for the

95th annual Maxwelton Community Independence Day parade on Sunday.

Former members of the original South Whidbey Free Methodist Church — along with descendants of members or of people who helped build it, and couples who were married in it — have been invited to share the honors, said Bob Brookes, parade director.

The church, known to most South Enders as the Little Brown Church, was purchased nearly two years ago and refurbished by George and Lila Mills, who will enter a replica float in the parade. They plan to rent the church for community and church events.

“We think it’s wonderful,” said George Mills of the parade and their chance to be among the grand marshals.

George Mills’ grandparents, George and Sarah Grubb, were among the five members of the congregation’s first official board.

In 1910, more than 80 people contributed a total of $884, and the original church and parsonage were built at what is now the intersection of French and Maxwelton roads.

The Maxwelton Community Club, parade sponsors, will also honor Margaret and Gene Seals, longtime Maxwelton residents who were married in the church in 1947, and recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Margaret, 93, and Gene, 88, won’t attend the parade because of health reasons, said their daughter, Patty Blouin of Coupeville. Blouin and her husband, Scott, also were married in the Little Brown Church, in 1979.

Margaret Seals is the daughter of Maxwelton Valley pioneer Warren Wildes, a logger who eventually co-owned 600 acres. Margaret was in the first graduating class of Langley High School in 1936.

Gene Seals was born and raised in Texas. In 1945, he bought 20 acres at Maxwelton for $500.

After marrying, the couple built a house on the property, and moved there permanently in 1964.

The Sealses have two daughters and two grandchildren, and have no plans to leave the Maxwelton Valley.

“It’s fine with me,” said Gene Seals of his current home area. “We’ve never had any problems down here.”

Other people who were married in the church and are expected to take part in the parade are descendants of several Maxwelton-area families with names such as Brixner, Burley, Gaylord, Green, Kinskie, Mackie, Nourse and Reed.

Descendants of the church’s founder, John Wesley Grubb, and his wife Sarah.

Ellen Hollenback, will also be featured in the parade, said Nancy Waddell, community club president.

It was the Millses’ idea to include couples who were married in the church, but they don’t know how many will show up for the parade.

“We haven’t even been thinking about keeping track,” George Mills said.

“Whoever shows up can climb aboard the float, or walk behind.”

Meanwhile, the community club also announced the winner of the annual parade button-design contest. She’s Hanna Herrin, 17, a junior at Seattle Christian School whose family owns a house at Maxwelton.

Herrin said she enjoys golf and tennis, and works at the South Whidbey Commons Coffeehouse Bookstore in Langley. She plans to pursue a degree in business or management.

“I love Whidbey Island,” she said.

The commemorative buttons featuring Herrin’s design will be unveiled at the parade and will be sold for $1 each, Waddell said.

The parade will begin at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 4. Everything but food and drink is free, but visitors are urged to buy a button to help defray costs, Brookes said.

Hot dogs will be sold for $2, soda pop or water is $1, and a bag of chips or cookies is 50 cents, Waddell said. Cookies or chips are free if you by a hot dog and drink.

Free registration for parade participants begins at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of Maxwelton and Swede Hill roads, where the quarter-mile parade begins. The parade ends at the Dave Mackie Park boat ramp.

Vehicles, with some restrictions, are back this year after not being permitted last year, and creative musical and walking entries, and children on bikes and tricycles are welcome as always, Brookes said.

“People missed seeing the old cars last year,” Waddell said.

Vehicles 50 years and older, solar-powered vehicles, go-karts, pedal-driven devices, amphibious vehicles are encouraged, organizers said. Non-vintage vehicles are limited to 5,000 pounds (about the size of a large SUV), and all vehicles must be able to negotiate the parade route and parking area.

There will be games for all ages, food and other refreshments at the park following the parade.

Free parking will be in the fields behind Maxwelton Farm, with overflow parking and shuttle service at the Little Brown Church.

A portion of Maxwelton Road will be closed during the parade for about an hour.

For information about the event, call Brooks at 579-2030 or e-mail maxweltonclub@whidbey.com.

Roy Jacobson can be reached at 221-5300 or rjacobson@whidbeynewsgroup.com.

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