Litchfield Park, Arizona
Mr. Paul W. Litchfield, the founder of Litchfield Park, Arizona came into the area representing the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company as President of the Southwest Cotton Company. The Southwest Cotton Company brought many farm laborers into the area to harvest cotton. Over 2,500 men were brought in from Mexico and the surrounding areas. This influx of new families created a need for many new services into the area.
Mr. Litchfield was a man of principles, vision, insight and inspired leadership. His actions were constantly guided by his profound spiritual values. It was under his guidance that the early churches of Litchfield Park were started. The first church in Litchfield Park was the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Mission Church. In 1919 Mr. Litchfield had the Mission Church built for the migrant farm workers. He had help from local area Catholics who supported him in building the church. Frank and Sara Serrano who were employed by the Southwest Cotton Company assisted in getting the church built and registered with the Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Frank was the Manager of the General Store and his wife Sara was the Post Mistress. They had Catholic Mass in their home before the church was built. Tom Doyle, a local area cattle rancher and his friend Frank Brophy financed the building of the Mission Church and had it built. Bishop Gercke of the Tucson Diocese named the church Thomas Aquinas in honor of Tom Doyle’s contributions. The Mission Church was attended by priests from other parishes in the Phoenix area.
In 1969, the Phoenix Diocese was formed and the St. Thomas Aquinas Mission Church became part of the Phoenix Diocese. In 1975, St. Thomas Aquinas became a separate Parish church instead of a Mission church tended by other area churches.
The second Church in Litchfield Park was built by Mr. Litchfield. When the early Goodyear employees arrived in 1917 and 1918, Mr. Litchfield was planning the town where he set aside a location for a Protestant Church. As early as 1917, John Padgett, a surveyor, and his wife Mabel, who became the first schoolteacher
started the Agua Fria Union Sunday School. For eighteen years they provided the only permanent center for Protestant worship.
It was on March 27th, 1938 under the chairmanship of Newell Kring that devoted members came together and formally organized a non-denominational church. They named it “The Church at Litchfield Park”. Members of this special committee were Arthur Zieske, John Padgett, James Peterson, W. E. Barber, Daniel Owen and George Stewart. They adopted a Constitution and at a special meeting they elected permanent offices with Arthur Zieske as Chairman of the Council.
The first Pastor was Rev. Robert Sell from the Methodists Episcopal Church Arizona Conference. The first services were held in the Litchfield Park Community Hall and the Easter Sunrise Service at Mr. Litchfield’s La Loma Ranch.
Mr. Zieske worked with Mr. Litchfield to get a church built.
Through Mr. Litchfield’s negotiations with Goodyear the ground was broken on September 10, 1939 and the church was constructed with the assistance of the Southwest Cotton Company’s engineers. Adobe bricks were made on site to build the church. Mr. Litchfield brought the bell for the tower from San Diego. On November 6th, 1939 the cornerstone was placed and it contains a Bible, the church roll of 70 Charter members and a copy of the church constitution. On December 10, 1939 the first services were held in The Church at Litchfield Park. In the early 1950’s Mr. Litchfield and the church created the Desert Devotional Programs, held in the spring on the grounds of Rancho La Loma. Mr. Litchfield felt it was important for inter-denominational services be held to promote closer fellowship among people of different churches and creeds.
Each program had a special guest minister or speaker from around the country and music was performed by many different choirs.
In 1971 Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company deeded the church and 1½ acres of property over to the congregation as an outright gift. It was the first year as a corporate entity with a constitution, bylaws, and the bicameral form of government by adding the Board of Directors to the already existing Church Council. The Church at Litchfield Park has remained an inter-denominational church.