Methodist Episcopal Church in Colorado

Methodism in what is now Colorado was filed upon when Bishop Scott, on April 18, 1859, read out “Pike’s Peak and Cherry Creek” as one of the appointments to be supplied by the Kansas and Nebraska Conference, which was held at Omaha in that year. This was in the midst of the gold excitement of the period when it was known that many thousands were crossing the plains in their search for the precious metal. Rev. W. H. Goode was the man chosen, for he had organized and was supervising the work west of the Missouri River. Rev. Jacob Adriance, who had just been appointed to the Rock Bluffs mission near Omaha, was selected as his associate.

These Methodist pioneers reached Denver June 28, 1859, having journeyed four weeks from Glenwood, Iowa, and at once put up notices announcing their meeting on the following Sunday. Isaac Haight Beardsley, in his “Echoes from Peak and Plain,” writes as follows of this beginning:

“Experience soon taught them that the best way to get a crowd was to sing it up. Their first service was held July 3, 1859, in Pollock’s Hotel. This was a frame building, one of the three or four only in the two towns of Auraria, now West Denver, and Denver City. This house stood on the east side of Eleventh Street, between Wazee and Market streets. Brother Goode preached at 11 A. M. and Brother Adriance at 3 P. M. The congregations were small, the people not caring for these things.

“July 4th they started for the ‘Gregory Diggings,’ discovered by Green Russell and the Georgians in June, 1858, now better known as Blackhawk, Central City, and Nevada. They halted long enough in Golden City to hold religious services in a ’round tent,’ the gamblers stopping their games for one hour to let Goode preach, but claiming the next hour.

“They attempted to drive into the mountains through the ‘Golden Gate,’ which is a little north of Golden City. The trail was so rough that they were compelled to ‘about face,’ and camp in a little park outside of the mountains, where the wagon, driver, and three mules were left.

“Then they proceeded on pony and mule back, ‘packed to the full measure of comfort,’ to the ‘Gregory Diggings,’ where they arrived on Friday, July 8th. Im-mediately they announced preaching on the next Sabbath, at 10 A. M.

“The streets of Mountain City were dusty. The congregation was large and attentive; all men. Goode preached on the street to that mass of humanity with great power. That afternoon at 2 o’clock he held an experience meeting in a retired place on the rocky seats of a mountain spur. Oft has the writer heard that ‘love feast’ described by those who were present. Here were men gathered from nearly all lands and climes. This was the first meeting of the kind ever held in the Rocky Mountain region. They sang the old hymns, wept over their shortcomings, and shouted for joy as they related their experiences of a personal salvation. So great was their ‘refreshing’ that those who were present have never forgotten it. Sad the thought, the great majority has ‘crossed the range’ to that land ‘whence no traveler returns.’

“At its close Brother Goode received thirty-five members into the church. The next day, Monday, at 10 o’clock, he organized a Quarterly-meeting Conference at the same place, formed a charge, embracing the mining camps in that region, and engaged G. W. Fisher, a local elder, to supply the work. This man Fisher had preached the first gospel sermon in Denver, and had also preached on this identical spot on a preceding Sabbath.

“The first service, the first experience meeting, and the first Quarterly Conference at Central City were each held on the site where the Methodist Episcopal Church now stands.

“Rev. W. H. Goode then wrote to Doctor Durbin, corresponding secretary of the Missionary Society: ‘We have divided the work into two districts, as fol-lows: I. Denver City and Auraria Mission, embracing the two places named in the above, with the country along the Platte on both sides, the country up Cherry Creek, the towns at the base of the mountains, and “Boulder Diggings” in the mountains (probably the region of Gold Hill). We have organized in this field a Quarterly-meeting Conference, consisting of the preacher in charge, three stewards, and one leader. The membership so far ascertained and enrolled is twenty-two. The mission is under the charge of Rev. Jacob Adriance, appointed by Bishop Scott. His post office address is Denver, Kansas Territory. The Rocky Mountain Mission embraces all the mining regions in the mountains, except “Boulder Diggings.” Here we have organized a Quarterly Conference, consisting of two local preachers, an exhorter, three stewards, and have a society of fifty-one members, including probationers just received. I have employed Rev. G. W. Fisher to take charge of this mission. The principal seat of our permanent labors will be in Denver and Auraria.’ ”

Here are the names of the “Supplies” as taken from the Kansas Conference minutes by the Rocky Mountain News of that period:

1860 Rocky Mountain District John M. Chivington, P. E.
Denver and Auraria Supplied by A. P. Allen
Golden City and Boulder Jacob Adriance
Mountain City Supplied by Joseph T. Canon
Clear Creek, Blue River, and Colorado City All to be supplied
1861 Rocky Mountain District John M. Chivington, P. E.
Denver City W. A. Kenney
Golden City and Boulder J. W. Caughlin
Central City J. Adriance
Colorado City W. S. Lloyd
Tarryall William Howbert
Gold Dirt, Mountain City, Nevada and Eureka, Missouri City, South Clear Creek, Platte River and Plumb Creek, Cañon City, Blue River, and San Juan City To be supplied
1862., Rocky Mountain District B. C. Dennis, P. E.
Denver W. A. Kenney
Golden City and Boulder Charles King
Cañon and Colorado Cities William Howbert
South Park W. S. Lloyd
Central City, California Gulch, South Clear Creek, and Blue River. To be supplied
1863., Rocky Mountain District B. C. Dennis, P. E.
Denver City O. A. Willard
Golden City D. M. Petfish
Central City W. H. Fisher
South Park John L. Dyer
Blackhawk Charles King
Pueblo William Howbert
Boulder, South Clear Creek, Blue River, California Gulch, and Colorado City To be supplied

In 1862 they reported 131 members, thirty-two probationers, and fourteen local preachers, and one church building worth $200. The six Sunday schools had forty-two officers and teachers, and 233 scholars of all ages.

In his sketches of the religious life of this early period, published in the Rocky Mountain Christian Advocate, Rev. John M. Chivington writes as follows:

“On May 8, i860, I arrived at Denver, published an appointment, and preached the following Sunday in the Masonic Hall, and also on the next Sunday, morning and evening. During the next week I succeeded in securing the services of Rev. A. P. Allen, a supernumerary of the Wisconsin Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, as a supply for Denver. Mr. Allen was an able preacher, and filled the pulpit with great acceptability; but as he was engaged in secular pursuits, he did but little church work, except to preach, and consequently his success was not what it otherwise might have been. Adriance and Canon were at their posts in due time, and heartily engaged in the work. At California Gulch I found H. H. Johnson, a local preacher from Kansas, who had been preaching there, and seemed to be greatly in favor with the people. I employed him as a supply, organized a society, held Quarterly Conference, and set matters to work in good shape.

“In June and July, 1860. Rev. William Bradford, of the Kansas Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, preached and set up the banner of his church; but he soon became discouraged, and quit the field.

“The first quarterly meeting held at Mountain City was one of the most extraordinary ever held in this or any other country. There were present thou-sands upon thousands of people from every State and Territory in the Union, and from almost every country of Europe, declaring the wonderful works of God. The brethren erected a good hewed-log church on the ridge between Nevada and Eureka gulches, and it was opened with appropriate services December 25, 1860. Rev. John Cree, John W. Stanton, John Reed, J. C. Anderson, D. S. Green, and others, were prominent in the construction and furnishing of this place of worship. In July and August I visited and held services in Hamilton, Fairplay, and Buckskin Joe in South Park, and on French and Georgia gulches, over the Range, on the headwaters of the Blue River; also in California and McNulty’s gulches, on the Arkansas River.

“It is true Doctor Goode came on the ground at the same time Adriance did; but the Doctor returned to Iowa in six weeks, and never saw this work again. Indeed, it was not intended, or expected, that he should. He simply came on a reconnoitering expedition, and that accomplished, his work here ended; while Mr. Adriance remained, formed a mission circuit, organized societies, appointed class leaders, held quarterly conferences, and started the first Sunday school ever organized in Colorado. He is, indeed, the father of Methodism in Colorado.”

Rev. William Howbert, of the Iowa Conference, accompanied by his young son, Irving Howbert, now prominent in the political history of the state, came to Denver in June, i860, and went at once to his district, the South Park Mission, locating near the present town of Como. He first preached at Tarryall on July 1st, in the morning, and at Hamilton in the evening. During July he started building the first Methodist church in Colorado at Hamilton, a crude, incomplete log hut, ‘and organized the first Methodist classes on the Pacific Slope in Colorado at Blue River and at Breckenridge. He then went with Rev. H. H. Johnson, a local deacon, and Reverend Mann to the California Gulch Diggings. During the summer the first complete Methodist church building in Colorado was erected about half a mile south of Harrison Avenue, Leadville. This has long since disappeared. In 1862 his circuit included Cañon City, Colorado City, and all points in the Arkansas Valley. It was then that Rev. William Howbert located at Colorado City, going from there to preach wherever it was possible to get a congregation.

In 1863 the population of Canon City had decamped into the mountains, and Presiding Elder Slaughter is said to have preached there at that time to a congregation of four. By March, 1868, the Methodist congregation was large enough to purchase, alter and furnish a stone building, which was formally dedicated by its pastor. Rev. George Murray, on March 8, 1868, the first dedication of a Methodist church in the state outside of Denver.

Of the introduction of Methodism in the San Luis Valley, Doctor Crary writes that in May, 1873, he and Dr. John E. Rickards traveled with mule packs to Del Norte, where they preached in the new courthouse, the first Protestant service ever held there. Rickards was left at Del Norte and organized a church there and at Saguache.

In the spring of 1863 Rev. Charles King, whose charge was at Boulder, organized the first society in the South Platte Valley in the home of Judge Hammitt, about two miles south of what is now Platteville. A few weeks prior Rev. L. B. Stateler, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, had preached to a large gathering just opposite Fort Lupton. He was preacher and freighter.

Out of these meetings came the fine churches at Fort Lupton and Platteville.

The conference of 1863 created a Denver circuit, later called the Platte River Circuit, including the entire Platte Valley, and Rev. William Antes, who had come as an exhorter from Pennsylvania in 1861, was engaged to cover the entire region. The late Peter Winne writes that in April, 1864, Rev. William Antes preached the first sermon ever heard in the Poudre Valley, near Island Grove. He made his circuit regularly despite the Indian outbreak of 1864, and only the fleetness of his horse saved his life on several occasions.

The first religious services in the vicinity of Arvada were by Rev D. W. Scott, pastor at Golden, in 1866.

On July 25, 1864, Rev. B. T. Vincent preached the first sermon in Georgetown in the log house occupied by J. E. Plummer. In 1868 Rev. George Murray, the fourth pastor in the place, erected an eight-thousand-dollar church, which Bishop Kingsbury dedicated June 20, 1869. It was to this charge that one of Colorado’s greatest preachers. Rev. Isaac Haight Beardsley, came in that year.

Rev. Jacob Adriance formed the first class in Golden, February 6, i860, appointing John W. Stanton class leader. With Reverend Goode he also supplied Boulder and a town on the “Mesa” then known as Arapahoe.

Bishop E. R. Ames presided over the first annual conference of the ministers of Colorado Territory, held in Denver July 10, 1863. There were in attendance: Oliver A. Willard, John L. Dyer, William H. Fisher, Charles King, B. C. Dennis, W. B. Slaughter, G. S. Allen, A. P. Allen, William Antes, J. M. Chivington, William Howbert and T. R. Kendall.

The reports from the few organized districts were in the main discouraging, but there was in no single case a note of despair. The second conference was held in October, 1864, at Central City, and the growth, at least in enthusiasm, was apparent.

Bishop Calvin Kingsley presided over the third session of the Colorado Conference, in the Lawrence Street Church, Denver, June 22, 1865, and a real advance in number of churches and membership was recorded. Particularly in evidence were the new congregations at Empire City and what is now Longmont. The conference of 1866, Bishop Baker presiding, was held in the building at Empire City which John Collom had bought and changed from a saloon into a church, and of which Rev. Charles King was the first pastor. The conference of 1867 was held at Colorado City, and at this conference Pueblo was first represented. Bishop E. R. Ames presided over the session.

The following were the appointments made at the first session of the Colorado Conference held in Pueblo, in June, 1870:

Denver District, B. T. Vincent, P. E.
Laramie, Cheyenne, and Greeley G. H. Adams and E. C. Brooks
Denver J. L. Peck
Central W. D. Chase
Blackhawk and Arvada George Wallace
Georgetown L H. Beardsley
Idaho and Empire To be supplied
Golden City F. C. Millington
Divide Circuit John L. Dyer
Ralston and Clear Creek G. W. Swift
Boulder and Valmont Supplied by G. S. Allen for a short time; then by R. W. Bosworth.
Burlington Circuit Supplied by R. J. Van Valkenberg
Big Thompson and La Poudre J. R. Moore
Platte Circuit Supplied by G. S. Allen
Arkansas District, George Murray, P. E., and Pastor at Cañon City.
Colorado City W. F. Warren
Pueblo O. P. McMains
Fairplay and Granite Jesse Smith
La Junta and Elizabethtown, N. M Thomas Harwood
Trinidad Supplied by E. J. Rice

The church property was valued at $80,000, of which $25,000 was in Denver and $20,000 in Central City.

In 1S72 the membership had grown to 1,070, and the churches numbered twenty-three, as compared with twenty-one in 1871.

In 1872 the first German mission was started in the state, and classes were organized at Monument, Huerfano, Ocate, Peralto, Littleton, Plum Creek, Greeley, Evans and Green City, Cheyenne and Laramie, Longmont, Carbon, Ward and James Creek. In 1873 there were twenty-five church buildings in the state, valued at $120,100. The membership in that year was 1,336.

In 1874 the Southern district had a membership of 916, and the Northern of 819, a total of 1,735.

On August 10, 1878, the Colorado Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated, as was also the Colorado Conference Preachers Aid Society.

In 1880 the membership of the church in Colorado was 2,966. In the Sunday school there were 4,416 enrolled. The number of church edifices had increased to thirty-seven.

In 1884 the membership had grown to 3,829; the churches to fifty-one. In 1889, including the new Gunnison district, there were 6,448 members in the church in Colorado, with sixty churches.

In i8g8 the membership was: Denver district, 4,092; Greeley, 2,919; Pueblo, 3,383; Rio Grande, 2,641; a total of 13,035.

This phenomenal growth continued through the succeeding years. In 1910 the membership in the Denver district was 5,737, with Sunday school enrollment of 6,216; twenty-five churches, and church property valued at $636,300. Epworth League membership in this district in 1910 was 1,397.

In the Denver-Northwestern district in 1910 the total membership was 3,949, with Sunday school enrollment of 6,622; thirty-eight churches, and church property valued at $282,200; Epworth League, 1,389 members.

In the Greeley district in 1910 the church membership was 7,341; Sunday school enrollment, 9,099; churches, f ort3’-nine; value of church property, $293,-100; Epworth League membership, 2,403.

In the Pueblo district in 1910 the membership was 6,563; Sunday school enrollment, 7,784; churches, thirty-seven; value of church property, $334,000; Epworth League membership, 1,900.

In the Rio Grande district in 1910 the membership was 5,188; Sunday school enrollment, 7,142; churches, thirty-nine; value of church property, $198,600; Epworth League, 1,826.

This makes a total church membership in 1910 of 28,798, an increase of 715 over 1909. The total number of churches, 188; value of church property, $1,744,200.

In 1916 the church membership was 34,549, divided as follows: Colorado Springs district, 6,480; Denver, 7,678; Grand Junction, 4,483; Greeley, 9,097; Pueblo, 6,811. The Sunday school enrollment was 46,074; the number of churches, 208.

Trinity Church, Denver

G. W. Fisher, a carpenter, preached the first sermon in Denver near what is now Twelfth and Wewatta streets, in February, 1859. In April he preached again under cover of an unfinished structure where the Railroad building now stands.

But the beginning of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Colorado dates from the arrival of Revs. W. H. Goode and Jacob Adriance. On August 2, 1859, a Quarterly Conference was held for the ”Auraria and Denver City Mission” of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The first stewards were Alexander Carter, Henry Reitze and H. J. Graham.

The regular weekly services began on October 30, 1859, when the Rev. G. W. Fisher administered the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper at the services held in the first brick building in the town, the Masonic Hall, which stood at 240 and 242 Eleventh Street, Denver. The first Union Sunday school was organized by Revs. Adriance and Fisher on November 6, 1859, in the Adriance cabin on Twelfth Street.

The first actual church edifice of the denomination was a carpenter shop pur-chased from Henry C. Brown and fitted for church purposes. In this in 1863 the first “Rocky Mountain” conference was organized. This building, which occupied a site close to Cherry Creek, was swept away in the flood of 1864.

On July 22, 1863, the “First Methodist Episcopal Church of Denver” was incorporated. Here is the announcement: “Know all men by these presents, that Mr. John Evans, Hiram Burton, Andrew J. Gill, and John Cree, citizens of Denver City, in the Territory of Colorado, have this day organized a religious society in said Denver City under the name of ‘The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Denver,’ and that John Evans, Hiram Burton, John C. Anderson, John Cree, and John M. Chivington are the trustees duly appointed for said society. (Signed) John Evans, A. J. Gill, John Cree, and Hiram Burton.”

Bishop Ames gave $1,000 and Governor John Evans gave an even larger sum as the first subscriptions to a new church edifice which was erected at the corner of Fourteenth and Lawrence streets, and dedicated February 11, 1865, by Rev George Richardson. The church cost $21,000, and the denomination had in addition to this spent $14,000 in starting the new Colorado Seminary, now Denver University, the history of which appears in the chapters on education.

The pastors of the Lawrence Street Church, later Trinity, have been from its inception to date as follows:

Jacob Adriance, Loudon Taylor, A. P. Allen, S. W. Lloyd, W. A. Kenney, O. A. Willard, George Richardson, Geo. C. Betts, Wm. M. Smith, B. T. Vincent, J. L. Peck, T. R. Sheer, J. R. Eads, Earl Cranston, David H. Moore, R. W. Manly, Gilbert De La Matyr, Henry A. Buchtel, W. F. McDowell, Robert McIntyre, Camden M. Cobern, Frost Craft, James S. Montgomery, Louis Albert Banks, Charles B. Wilcox and Charles L. Mead. This list does not include preachers sent as supplies.

The new church at Broadway and Eighteenth Avenue was built during the pastorate of Rev. Dr. Henry A. Buchtel, and the name “Trinity” was then taken. The edifice was opened April i, 1888, Bishop H. W. Warren preaching the opening sermon. The church and land is now valued at over $250,000.

The General Conference of 1884 made Denver the Episcopal residence, and Bishop H. W. Warren, who had been elected to the episcopacy in 1880, made this his home. He was a noted factor in the upbuilding of the church in the west.

Methodist Episcopal Church, South Free Methodists

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, followed right in the wake of its northern sister conference. For as early as i860 Rev. I. L Bradford organized a society in Denver, on the site of the present Brock-Haffner building, formerly the Haist School, an adjunct of the University of Denver. The Civil War broke into Doctor Bradford’s building project, and the Episcopal Church then bought the property.

In 1871 a second effort was made, and a small house of worship was erected on Arapahoe between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets. Its first pastor was Rev. A. A. Morrison. The congregation moved to Twentieth and Curtis, and in 1888 erected St. Paul’s, corner Twenty-first and Welton. In 1880 the Morrison Memorial Chapel was erected at the corner of Thirty-second Avenue and Lafayette Street.

In 1910 there were in Colorado twenty-six church organizations belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, with 1,299 communicants. In 1918 the records show a substantial increase.

The Free Methodists, whose first church in Colorado was at the corner of Tenth and Champa streets, Denver, were organized through the efforts of Rev. Hiram A. Crouch, the first pastor. The society later moved to its present location. In 1910 the Free Methodists of Colorado had eighteen church edifices, and a total membership of 203.

History of Colorado

Source: History of Colorado, Wilbur Fisk Stone, Editor, Volume I, Chicago, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918

1 thought on “Methodist Episcopal Church in Colorado”

  1. Do you know who might have 19th century baptism records for Denver’s Methodist Episcopal churches? Thank you.

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