The first Baptist Church in Colorado was established at Denver, September 25, 1860, with a membership of twenty-seven. These pioneers called this first organization the Rocky Mountain Baptist Church. Elder James Ripley was called to the pastorate, and J. Saxton and M. A. Clarke were the first deacons. Robert S. Roe was the first chief clerk. The congregation obtained the use of the courthouse from the owner, Judge Buchanan, free of charge. The members, however, soon scattered into various camps, and in 1861 the organization failed. In its best days, however, it not alone sustained the church but a Sunday school with nearly a hundred members.
The records of the First Baptist Church in Golden show that it was established about August 1, 1863, and this justly claims to be the oldest existing Baptist church in Colorado.
On December 27, 1863, the first meeting of those interested in the organization of a permanent Baptist Church in Denver was held, and a committee appointed at this time secured the United States court room on Ferry Street for its services. Rev. Walter M. Potter, who had been sent to the territory at this time by the American Baptist Home Mission Society, officiated.
On May 2, 1864, the First Baptist Church of Denver was organized, with the following members: Rev. Walter M. Potter, Miss Lucy K. Potter, Francis Gallup, Henry C. Leach, Mrs. A. Voorhies, Mrs. L. Burdsall, Mrs. L. Hall, Mrs. A. C. Hall and Miss E. Throughman. Mr. Gallup was the first deacon, and Henry C. Leach was first clerk and treasurer. In May, 1866, Rev. Ira D. Clark was pastor, remaining a year, and in May, 1868, Rev. A. M. Arneill became pastor, followed by Rev. Lewis M. Raymond. Rev. Ira D. Clark built the basement on the church lots at the corner of Curtis and G streets, and Rev. W. Scott, who succeeded Mr. Raymond, erected a lecture room on lots donated by Rev. Walter M. Potter, the first pastor of the church. He had preempted 320 acres near the city, and with his uncle. W. Gaston, of Boston, bought fifty acres covering the present depot grounds. All of this, worth in 1873 nearly a hundred thousand dollars, was left to the Mission bodies of the church.
The Rocky Mountain Baptist Association was organized September 21, 1866, in the United States Court room in Denver, its first moderator being Rev. Ira D. Clark. The Colorado Baptist churches represented and unrepresented at this first session were as follows: Canon City, membership fifty-four; First Denver, eighteen members; Golden City, twenty-eight members; Denver Zion (colored), eight members; Central City, thirty-six members; Colorado City, fifteen members.
At its session in 1867, with Cheyenne added, its total membership in the state was 180. Mt. Vernon and Georgetown were organized in the following year.
In 1873 the Baptist Church had a firm hold in this field. At Central City a $4,500 church building was under erection, and its membership had grown to fifty-four. The First Baptist Church of Denver was building a $12,000 structure, and had a membership of ninety-four. The Baptist Church in Golden was not alone a commodious brick building, but had a tower with bell. Its member-ship was twenty-two. In Greeley the largest church in the place, built at a cost of $6,500, was occupied by a Baptist membership of forty.
Laramie, which was part of the Colorado district, had just organized.
Denver Zion had a good church building and seventeen members.
At Georgetown, the membership of thirty-five worshiped in a leased building.
At this time there were services held in the Hard Scrabble district, and on the Greenhorn, by preachers who had taken up farming in these sections.
Colorado City, Cheyenne and Mt. Vernon church organizations had become extinct, “owing principally to the unsettled character of the population in those places when the churches were organized.” At this time new churches were organizing at Boulder, Longmont, Evans, Platte Valley, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Fountain and at Idaho Springs. Rev. James French, who was then territorial missionary, announced that he had sold for the owner one of “the celebrated Idaho springs” and had earned a commission of $1,000, which, as he said, “I propose to give to the Home Mission Society, to be designated towards building a church edifice at Idaho Springs.”
Late in 1872 a new association of seven churches was organized in southern Colorado, and new meetinghouses were building “on the Cuchares, the Apache, the Greenhorn, the Hard Scrabble, and at Colorado Springs.”
The first meeting of what was to be known as the Southern Colorado Baptist Association met in Cañon City, November 22, 1872, elected Andrew Brown moderator, and was represented as follows: Cañon City, thirty- four members; Colorado Springs, nineteen members; Fountain, five; Huerfano, thirty; New Hope (on the Hard Scrabble), twenty-two; Pueblo and Spanish Peaks, just organizing.
When this organization met in 1873 at New Hope, Spanish Peaks reported a membership of forty-three; Pueblo, seventeen; Dodson, seven; Monument, five. The total membership was 199, and nine churches comprised the conference. In 1874 the membership was 219.
In 1874 the Rocky Mountain Association, with nine churches, at Denver (2), Golden, Greeley, Central City, Laramie, Boulder, Platte Valley and Bear Canon, had a total membership of 458. This figure was 427 in 1873.
At the session of the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association in 1874 a communication from Gov. John Evans requested cooperation in the founding of the University of Denver. At that time the plan was to establish a seat of learning, with the support of “The Protestant Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian and Baptist churches.” The project was endorsed, but later the University became exclusively a Methodist Episcopal institution.
In 1877 the ten churches in the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association had a membership of 631; in the Southern Association there were fourteen churches, with a membership of 395.
The record of the Baptist churches in the southern field follows: Canon City, established 1865; Fountain, 1870; New Hope, 1871; Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Spanish Peaks, 1872; Monument, 1875; Saguache, 1876; Las Vegas, N. M., 1880; Durango, Gardner, Gunnison City, 1881; Grand Junction, Salida, Raton, N. M., Lake City, 1883; Table Rock, 1884. In 1883 its church property was valued at $29,100; its membership was 613.
In 1885 the value of church property in the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association territory was $162,700, and the membership was 1,319. There were now two churches, the First and Calvary, in Denver, the First and Second in Cheyenne, one each at Boulder, Fort Collins, Golden, Greeley, Laramie, Leadville, Loveland, Lone Tree and Sunnyside. The moderators of the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association for its first two decades had been: 1866, Rev. Ira D. Clark; 1867, Rev. Jos. Casto; 1868, Rev. T. T. Potter; 1869, 1870, 1871, Rev. B. M. Adams; 1872, 1874, Rev. S. D. Bowker; 1873, Rev. D. F. Safford; 1875, Rev. T. W. Greene; 1876, Rev. W. C. Lothrop; 1877, Rev. D. J. Pierce; 1878, Rev. I. C. Whipple; 1879, 1880, 1881, R. S. Roe; 1882, Rev. J. G. Brown; 1883, Rev. C. M. Jones; 1884, Rev. C. L. Ingersoll; 1885, Rev. E. N. Elton.
In 1884 the Rocky Mountain Baptist Union was formed, with delegates from both the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association and the Southern Colorado Baptist Association, as well as from the territories of Wyoming. New Mexico and Utah.
On July 23, 1886, the Gunnison Valley Baptist Association held its first meeting in Grand Junction, Saguache, Delta, Colorow and Grand Junction being represented. Its first moderator was Rev. Moses A. Clarke. The total membership in the new district was 104. In 1888, Aspen, Lake City, Monte Vista, New Liberty and Platte Valley were the new members.
On October 21, 1889, the first annual meeting of the Colorado Baptist State Convention was held, its jurisdiction now covering only the State of Colorado. New churches were organized in that year at Coryell, Del Norte, Alamosa, Santa Clara, Walsenburg, Fairview, La Junta and Denver. New churches were built and dedicated at Sterling, Delta, Coryell and Aspen.
In i8go the membership in the Baptist churches of Colorado had grown to 3,273, of which 1,989 were in the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association, 1,004 i” that of Southern Colorado, 205 in the Gunnison Valley, and seventy-five in un-associated churches. The Sunday school membership was 4,246.
On March 25, 1890, the corner-stone of the Colorado Woman’s College, a Baptist educational institution, was laid. Mrs. J. A. Cooper, wife of Governor Cooper, presiding at the exercises. Among those who spoke at this time were ex-Governor John Evans and Doctor Slocum, of Colorado College. Rev. W. T. Jordan was its first president. The detailed history of the institution is covered in Chapter XXXI, on “Education.”
On September 1, 1896, the Colorado Midland Baptist Association was organized, with the following church representation: Anaconda, Colorado City, Colorado Springs, First and St. Johns, Cripple Creek, Eastonville, Fountain, Husted, Olive Branch and Table Rock.
In 1895 the Baptist churches at Durango, Hooper, Lockett, Monte Vista, Mosca, Saguache and Salida formed the San Luis Valley Baptist Association. This was later again divided and in 1900 the San Luis Association had churches at Centerview, Hooper, Mosca, Monte Vista, Salida and Saguache. The new South- Western Association had members at Durango, Pagosa Springs, Mancos and Dolores.
In 1900 the Colorado State Baptist Convention comprised six associations. The Midland Rocky Mountain Association, with churches at Ault, Beaver Valley, Boulder, Denver (thirteen churches), Eastern, Eaton, Fort Collins, Golden. Greeley, Holyoke, Longmont, Loveland, Louisville, Sterling, had a total membership of 3,947. In 1912 the churches in the district were as follows:
Church Date of Organization
Beaver Valley 1901
Beth Eden (Denver) 1893
Bijou Valley 1908
Capitol Hill 1894
Deer Trail 1913
Eleventh Avenue 1910
First Swedish 1885
Fort Morgan 1906
Greeley (Swedish) 1906
Mount Hermon 1909
Mount Olivet 1891
North Side 1895
West Park 1912
The value of church property in this association in 1900 was $223,275.
In 1912 the total membership was 6,767; Sunday school enrollment, 5,891; value of church property, $303,500.
The San Luis Association in 1900 comprised churches at Center, Hooper, Monte Vista, Mosca, Saguache, Salida, Monte Vista (German). Its total membership was 331. By 1912 there were churches at Del Norte, Ortiz (Mex.), Alamosa, San Alamosa. Its total membership was 484.
The Gunnison Valley Association in 1900 had churches at Delta, founded 1899; Grand Junction, founded 1899; Gunnison, founded 1900; Hotchkiss, founded 1901; Lake City, founded 1898; Montrose, founded 1898; Olathe, Eckert, Palisade, Plateau Valley, all founded 1900. Its total church membership was 522, with 724 enrolled in its Sunday schools. The church property was valued at $20,400. In 1912 there were new churches at Pear Park, Cedaredge, Molina, Fruita, Paonia, Austin, New Castle, Bethel and Coal Creek. Its total membership was 1,532.
The Colorado Midland Association in 1900 had churches at Aspen, Anaconda.. Colorado City, Colorado Springs (three), Cripple Creek, Colorado Springs (Swedish), Fountain, Husted, Goldfield, Good Hope, Leadville and Victor. Its membership was 1,550. Its church property was valued at $72,600. In 1912 there were new churches at Allbright, Bethel, Bijou, one more at Colorado Springs, Flagler, Kanza, Prairie Home, Ramah, Shiloh, Vona. Total membership, about sixteen hundred.
The Southern Baptist Association in 1900 had churches at Cañon City, Florence, Fowler, Gardner, N. M., La Junta, La Veta, Las Animas, Lamar, Peublo five, Rocky Ford and Trinidad. The membership in 1900 was 1,602; Sunday school enrollment, 1,469. Church property was valued at $49,780. By 1912 there were new churches at Hartman, Holly, Kiowa, Ordway, Springfield and Walsenburg. In 1912 the membership was 3,168; Sunday school enrollment, 2,522. Value of church property, $133,870.
The Southwestern Association in 1900 had churches at Chromo, Dolores, Durango, Florida, Aztec, N. M., Pagosa Springs, Telluride and Mancos. Its membership was 318; Sunday school attendance, 279. Church property was valued at $6,770. In 19 12 it had new churches at McElmo Cañon and Lebanon. Total membership 263.
Unassociated churches numbered seven, with a membership of 159.
In 1917 there were no Baptist churches in Colorado. These were divided by districts as follows: Baca County, twelve; Gunnison Valley, fourteen; Midland, twelve; Rocky Mountain, thirty-six; San Luis Valley, ten; Southern, twenty-one; Southwestern, ten. The total membership was as follows: Baca, 256; Gunnison Valley, 1,635; Midland, 1,650; Rocky Mountain, 8,370; San Luis, 584; Southern, 3,810; Southwestern, 300. Total 16,605. Church property valuation was $987,700. The Sunday school enrollment was 12,015.
Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918