In 1973, a campground was opened at Crooked River Ranch by Lyn and Jeannie Hershey. On Memorial Day weekend in 1973, they decided to close their cafe for an hour and have a worship service. There were about 30 people at the first meeting, and about four families began meeting monthly for fellowship and praise.
Bill MacPherson the developer of Crooked River Ranch offered to donate land if someone would build a church. The group was very excited about this idea and contacted the Mennonite Mission Board of Pacific Coast Conference for help.
Ranch Chapel was chosen for the name of the church. Lyn Hershey was asked to take on the role as pastor on a half time basis. There were only about 13 families living on the ranch full time, but there was a strong sense that God was leading to build a church. Many people were already coming to the ranch for the weekends or to vacation.
The first official church service was on October 19, 1975. There were about 50 people there that day, many of them visitors from the Valley showing their support. Incorporation papers were signed on January 4, 1976 and the first Charter Member Sunday was on January 9, 1976.
A Ladies Home Bible study was started and they prayed about getting big enough to meet every Sunday as a church. By April 1977 the Bible Study moved into a double wide mobile home in the campground. They kept growing and realized they needed a church building. An architect was hired to draw up the blueprints.
On Easter Sunday March 26, 1978 seventy-five people gathered at the building site for a sunrise service. After the service, they gathered for a ground breaking service and the first shovel of dirt was turned over. Ranch Chapel was now a viable member of the community.
On Easter Sunday 1979 another sunrise service was held, this time inside the building among piles of sheetrock. But, the vision for the new church building was being fulfilled. The first official worship service was on Labor Day September 3, 1979. The carpet wasn't installed yet and there were many unfinished projects yet to be completed. There were 42 Church Members and nine Associate Members.
The Ranch Chapel building was officially dedicated on October 21, 1979.
God's blessing increased over the years and extra space was needed for more ministries, the Family Center was added and dedicated in 2002.
Ranch Chapel has been shepherded over the years by Lyn and Jeannie Hershey, Dennis Stutzman, Jeff Harlow, Ed Nelson and David Stone.
Crooked River Ranch was originally intended to be solely used as a weekend and vacation recreational development. The 11,000 acre area was formerly used to raise cattle, seed, mint, alfalfa and other crops.
In 1960, the Oregon State Game Commission investigated buying the property for a fish farm. Their studies estimated that the spring in the South bank of the canyon had an outflow of an incredible 456 million gallons of water in 24 hours!
Until 1972, the two levels of the ranch had been a somewhat remote property. The property was operated by successful owners whose arduous, expensive endeavors to raise alfalfa and cattle did not always Justify their investments.
Crooked River Ranch is an unincorporated community which includes southern Jefferson and a small portion in northern Deschutes County.
By 2020 the population of Crooked River Ranch had grown to a community of over 1,500 home sites and about 4,000 people.