Little Church on the Hill

A California Point of Historical Interest

The Little Church Story

  • Consecrated as Christ Church June 17, 1894
  • Preserved by moving to Oakhill Cemetery Dedicated July 14, 1957
  • Restored for public use Re-Dedicated June 10, 1995
Picayune School

In the early 1850’s people began to settle in the valley a short distance below the headwaters of the Fresno River, an area that was to become known as Fresno Flats. They came not for gold as did the 49ers, but to build their homes, raise their families earning their way as farmers, lumbermen and merchants.

As the town grew slowly, Christ Church Mission was established in 1886 by the Rev. D. O. Kelley, an Episcopal circuit rider missionary who was famed for starting many churches throughout the San Joaquin Valley, In 1892, the Little Church on the Hill, as Christ Church became known, was built as a community effort by volunteer labor, using donated materials and located on land set aside by one of Fresno Flats early pioneers, Robert Nichols, who settled here in 1856 and earlier had given land for the cemetery and the school.

Picayune School
Robert Nichols and Grace Schneider

Located in what then was the center of the community, at the junction of Roads 426 and 425B, the Little Church was built with a single thickness of 1x12” sugar pine boards and battens from local mills. Yet, it stood for a century before being reinforced. The Little Church was the area’s only house of worship for nearly a half century, and it remained in use until 1954.

As the empty church suffered from vandalism and was threatened with demolition, the community rallied to save it. The Oakhurst Grandmothers Club, under the leadership of Grace Schneider, raised the funds to have the church moved to Oakhill Cemetery in 1957.

Clampers Restoring Little Church on the Hill

The next four decades saw the church barely used. As weather took its toll, Mrs. Schneider’s descendants, in 1991, started a move to preserve the church with a new roof. The Grub Gulch Chapter 41-49 E Clampus Vitus donated the labor using materials donated by the community.

In 1994, the Clampers initiated a drive to complete restoration so that “the Little Church would stand another 100 years” and could be once again made available to public use. The Madera Cemetery District authorized formation of a Little Church Foundation as an educational, historical and service organization to help raise funds and materials for this effort and to guide the church’s future preservation and use.

Help us to preserve our mountain heritage by joining

The Little Church Foundation

Dedicated to making our Little Church on the Hill speak for the pioneers
who settled here and built our community.

To Join send: Name and address with a $20 tax deductible membership (includes the whole family).

Mail to:
Little Church Foundation, Box 477, Madera, CA 93639

Location & Hours

Oakhurst Cemetery
40188 Highway 41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
Click Here for Driving Directions

Mailing address:
Little Church Foundation
P.O. Box 477, Madera, CA 93639


Open to the public weekdays during office hours, normally 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

During inclement weather the doors will be closed, but unlocked and we have an OPEN sign near the gate in front of the church. (The church will be closed if all the workmen are called away to another cemetery)