Jump to main content

COVID-19: News and campus updates | University policies and resources

Religion

What do these photos tell you about what miners' churches were like?

Welsh Church In Central City

The small church in this photo was located in Central City. It was called the Welsh Church because it was built by miners who immigrated from Wales in Great Britain.

Welsh Church In Central City

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

More About This Topic

The first churches built in mining towns were small, log buildings like the one in this photo. This church served the Welsh miners who came to Central City to work in the mines.

Their Own Words

"I preach'd last sab[bath] in the a.m. in a log house in Leavenworth Gulch to a very good cong [gregation] comparatively--nearly everybody turned out--Day--wet, cool. Preach'd with my overcoat on. In the P.M. at 5, I preached in a new building near the Express office, which was open at both ends, and 8 or 10 hands [workers] busily at work right close by joining the same building who made such a noise erecting a theatre that it was very difficult to speak or hear. Yet we had a good attentive cong [gregation] . . . . It is a very good field for Christian effort. Harvest great--laborers few. "

Source: Diary of Amos S. Billingsley, July 2, 1861.

Drawing Of Church Interior

This picture is a drawing of a Methodist church service at Central City. It appeared in an 1859 newspaper. The mining town was less than a year old.

Drawing Of Church Interior

Photo: Colorado Historical Society

More About This Topic

Miners brought their religion with them to the mining camps of Colorado. At first they held services in any building they could find. The church service in this drawing was held in a frame building. The benches were made of plain boards.

Their Own Words

"After breakfast all of us but Charley (who we left to keep house) went up the Ravine about half mile and listened to the first sermon ever preached in the Rocky Mountains (so far as we know). How strangely I felt as I sat there on a large Pine Stump listening to the discourse taken from the Ten Commandments."                                                                                               "Surrounded by over a Thousand hardy rough looking miners, and while sitting there how many little incidents concerning my dear wife and little ones rushed through my mind. And as the discourse progressed in looking around me I saw the Tears rolling down many a rustic cheek. . . . Although it was a very plain old fashioned Methodist sermon, it made a greater impression than the most eloquent discourse I ever heard." 

Source: David F. Spain to his wife (April 30, 1859) in John D. Morrison, "The Letters of David F. Spain," Colorado Magazine 35 (April 1958): 108.

Church In Lake City

This is the first Presbyterian church in Lake City, a mining town southwest of Gunnison.

Church In Lake City

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

More About This Topic

In time, the miners built churches. The first usually were made of logs, like the one in the first photo. In time, they built frame church buildings like the one in Lake City.

Their Own Words

"I remember sitting in church one Sunday and above the voice of the preacher I could hear the voice of three different men announcing the results of the games in as many different gambling houses."

Source: Recollections of John Henry Martin, Denver Post, November 15, 1905. Dawson Scrapbooks, Vol. 4, p. 107, Colorado Historical Society.

St. Mary's Catholic Church In Aspen

This photo was taken inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Aspen. In the center are the priest, Father Downey, and the altar boys who helped him at Mass. The photo was taken in 1885.

St. Mary's Catholic Church In Aspen

Photo: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection

More About This Topic

By the 1880s, the larger mining towns had several churches. There were Catholic churches, like the one in this photo, as well as Protestants churches.