Colorado History and Genealogy Project





Methodist Churches ~ Colorado ~  1870

As usual, the earliest history of Colorado found the pioneering Methodist preacher, who's seed-sowing has produced the harvest of a large and flourishing church. We give a few historic and statistical items. The Kansas conference organized a district here early in the settlement of the Territory, and fully supplied the general demands of the work with preachers. In proper succession, and with commendable increase, the work went on in that form until in July, 1863, Rev. Bishop Ames organized the Rocky Mountain conference (the name was changed in 1864: to the Colorado conference). The preaching force appointed that year was composed of two presiding elders, and six preachers in charge of circuits and stations. In the changes since then, all the names of that list have disappeared from the present list of appointments but one, John L. Dyer, familiarly known as Father Dyer. This old storm-hardened veteran labors as heroically and successfully as ever for his Divine Master.

Societies were organized at Denver, Golden, Boulder, Central, Black Hawk, South Park, Blue River, California Gulch, Colorado City and Pueblo, with a membership of 273. Ten Sunday schools were also reported, with an average attendance of 520. One church worth §300, and one parsonage worth $400, were reported. The little chapel in which this conference was held, was situated on the west bank of Cherry creek, facing Larimer Street. It was carried away in the flood of 1864.

Seven annual sessions of the Colorado conference have been held, with a steady increase of preachers and members from year to year. At its organization, only Colorado Territory made its limits, but now Wyoming and New Mexico are embraced within its boundaries. It is our intention, however, only to make a statement of Colorado Methodism in this article. There are few settlements of any importance that are not included in the circuit system of this church, and few country school-houses in which the Methodist itinerant does not occasionally or regularly preach. Societies and Sunday schools are now organized in every considerable settlement. The membership reported at the last session of the conference, held in Pueblo, June, 1870, was as follows: In full communion, 540; on probation, 173; total, 713; twenty-five Sunday schools, with an attendance of 1,647; fourteen churches, worth 076,000; five parsonages, worth $6,100.

We give now, for the general information of our readers, and for the special convenience of strangers and new comers, an outline of each society's history where church buildings have been erected:


The chapel, to which allusion has been made, was rented in 1863, and fitted up very neatly and comfortably for church use, and was occupied by the society until the flood of 1864. Services were then held in the Denver Theatre, until the fine edifice, now occupied, was dedicated. This building, which for beauty inside and out is not excelled in church architecture west of the Mississippi, was begun under the pastorate of Rev. Oliver A. Williard, during the summer of conference organization. It was dedicated in the spring of 1865, under the pastorate of Rev. Geo. Richardson, Mr. Williard being presiding elder. The cost of this church was about $21,000. Its pastors have been Gr. Richardson, W. M. Smith, B. T. Vincent, and J. L. Peck, the present pastor. The records now exhibit a membership of 150, and an average of Sunday school attendance of 225. A fine brick parsonage was erected in the early part of 1870.


The services of this society were held in Lawrence hall and the court room, until the autumn of 1868, when, through the labors of Rev. G. H. Adams, the large stone church which now adorns this mountain city was so far completed as to admit the congregation into its lecture room. This building, though of plainer architecture than the church of Denver, is yet not second to it in appropriate appearance, and is a commanding and beautiful structure. Its cost, when completed, will exceed $20,000. The pastors at Central, since the organization of the conference, have been B. T. Vincent, W. A. Amsbary, G. H. Adams and W. D. Chase, who was recently transferred from New York State, and is now in charge. The membership of the church is now about 100; Sunday school, about 150.

Black Hawk

The regular services of this society were held, in 186.3-4, in a hall over a billiard saloon. A good brick building was then secured for several years. In 1868, under the labors of Rev. G. W. Swift, a good, substantial building of brick and stone was begun. It was so constructed that the present room may be the basement of a large and fine church, when the society may be able, in the future, to build it. It was finished and dedicated under the pastorate of Rev. G. Wallace. Cost, about $8,000. The pastors have been B. T. Vincent, O. P. McMains, W. W. Baldwin, G. H. Adams, G. W. Swift, and G. Wallace, the present pastor. The membership is about thirty, and the Sunday school averages an attendance of sixty. Nevada is under the care of this pastor.


Very early in the history of Georgetown an occasional sermon was preached, in some private dwelling, by preachers in adjoining circuits. Regular services were established there in 1866-7, and halls were hired until, in 1868, a beautiful frame church was built and dedicated under the pastorate of Rev. G. Murray, at a cost of about $8,000. The pastors have been Geo. Richardson, Geo. Murray, and Isaac H. Beardsley, the present pastor. The membership is sixty-three; the Sunday school about 100.

Golden City

A neat brick chapel was built here in 1868, under the pastorate of Bev. B. T. Vincent, costing a little upwards of 83,000. Its plan, as that of Black Hawk, is to be built upon at some future day, the present structure being so arranged as to be the lecture room of the final structure. A very fine building is in contemplation, and, with the present promise of rapid growth of Golden, it is hoped the entire building will be, ere long, completed. The pastors here have been B. C. Dennis, O. A. Willard, D. W. Scott, W. M. Smith, B. T. Vincent, P. Peterson, E. C. Brooks, and F. C. Millington, the present pastor, lately transferred from the State of New York. The membership is about fifty; Sunday school, 100.

Colorado City

A church worth $2,000 was built here in 1867, and a flourishing society exists. Within the same circuit, at a point on Monument creek, another neat church has just been dedicated, costing about 81,200. The pastors on this circuit have been J. L. Dyer, George Murray, O. P. McMains, and W. F. Warren, who is now in charge. The membership is about sixty; Sunday schools, in both churches named, average an attendance of about 100.


A good adobe church was erected here in 1869, under the pastorate of Rev. O. P. McMains. Its value is upwards of $4,000, and it is of very creditable appearance. The pastors of circuits, including Pueblo, since 1863, have been W. H. Fisher, C. H. Kirkbride, and O. P. McMains, the present pastor. Membership about fifteen; Sunday school averages an attendance of fifty.

Canon City

A church and parsonage block is owned here by the Methodist society, and valued at $2,500. The pastors have been W. H. Fisher, P. J. Smith, Geo. Murray, W. M. Smith, and R. A. Hoffman, a late transfer from Ohio, and the present pastor. The membership is about thirty; Sunday school, about fifty.

Fair Play

Now called South Park City. This and an adjoining town have Methodist chapels, valued at $1,500. J. L. Dyer was the itinerant of this region for many years, and W. F. Warren has worked faithfully there for the past three years. Rev. Jesse Smith is the present pastor. The membership so varies here in summer and winter, changes owing to the climate and mining seasons, that we have no accurate report.


This is a farming region, about six miles north of Golden City. A neat little frame church was built here under the pastorate of Rev. Jesse Smith, costing about $1,800. This is the first strictly rural church ever built in Colorado. The pastors of this circuit have been W. M. Smith, D. W. Scott, Jesse Smith, and G. W. Swift, the present pastor.


Here a plain, brick chapel was built some years ago, under the pastorate of Rev. C. King. The membership is about twenty-five. A good Sunday school is in existence. The pastors of the circuit have been C. King, O. P. McMains, W. W. Baldwin, R. Van Valkenburg, and R. W. Bosworth, who was transferred here since the last conference, to take pastoral charge of this place and Boulder.

Mill City

Has a small, unfinished chapel, built, under the direction of Rev. G. Richardson, in 1866-7. This place has been included in the Empire and Idaho circuit.

Projects are in hand for building at Boulder, Idaho, Nevada, Littleton, and Trinidad; and in other places the question of church building is being raised.

The presiding elders of the Methodist Church in Colorado have been as follows: O. A. Willard, W. B. Slaughter, W. M. Smith, J. L. Dyer, Geo. Murray, and B. T. Vincent. The last two are at present in charge of the districts. The work is undergoing constant enlargement. A District Ministerial Association and Sunday School Institute are in active existence in the Denver district.

Rocky Mountain Directory & Colorado Gazetteer

Source: Rocky Mountain Directory and Colorado Gazetteer, 1871, S. S. Wallihan & Company, Compilers and Publishers, Denver, 1870.


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