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Page Two St. Thomas' Espiscopal Church
St. Thomas was built when Canyon City was a lusty mining town,
where more thought was given to saloons and gold then to salvation.
On May 31, 1874, Dr. Nevius held the first service of the Protestant
Episcopal Church in the Good Templer's Hall, (on Main Street, Canyon
City's busy thoroughfare at that time), a service at which there seems
to have been 15 present. In August of that same year, the first
confirmation class was presented by Dr. Nevius to the Rt. Rev.
Benjamin Wister Morris, the Missionary Bishop of Oregon.
By this time, the congregation had purchased a parcel of land for
the princely sum of $130.00 and a vicarage for $300.00. The
cornerstone was laid on September 3, 1876 by Bishop Morris, assisted
by Dr. Nevius, the pioneering missionary and designer of the little
Church. The first service was held in the new Church on July 15,
1877, but it wasn't until June 20, 1879 that Bishop Morris was able
to return to Canyon City to consecrate the new Church, and set it
aside as a House of God.
*The style of architecture is old. Nevius combined Anglican and
Gothic architecture. It has a steeply pitched roof, pointed
window.frames, under-girded by heavy timbers whipsawed from trees in
nearby forests. The building rests on sandstone blocks, cut from local
quarries. Nevius also designed other Episcopalian church buildings. All
bear this particular style of design.
The interior is finished in handsawed knotty pine now showing
the mellow stain of age. The pews are of this same hand worked pine.
The stained glass windows are constructed of diamond shaped panes,
which were either shipped around the Horn and wagon from The Dalles;
or came overland from the East, along the Oregon Trail. Many loving
hands have completed the interior furnishing. Quartered oak, richly
yet simply carved, combined with ornaments of highly polished brass,
make this one of the most beautiful churches in Oregon.
Beneath the overhang of the roof, in the rear of the building, one
find a spring of crystal clear, coal water. This source of water has
many people of the town for 100 years during hot summer weather, and in
of frozen water pipes. The Church has it's own source of water for baptisms.
Until recently, one could still climb stairs, made by hand
in another era
(these stairs were removed in 1975 for remodeling) and enter the
room used by a succession of Bishops and visiting clergy who
rode into town
on horseback to hold services on Sunday morning.
*But what of the people of St. Thomas? What of the miners with
their dreams of riches, the logger, the rancher with his band of sheep
or his herd of cattle? What of the saloon keeper, the freighter, the
store keeper! What of the teacher with her brood of lively children,
the dentist who advertised a painless extraction? All have lived here,
some have worshipped here. In this old building not a few of these
people were married. Here their children were baptized and confirmed.
Many times the Church bell has tolled to mark the passing of yet
another pioneer on to larger life.
But whether they moved on in search of new riches or new adventure
whether their days were ended here in Canyon City, one thing is certain -
all left their mark here. Each had a part to play, large or small
moulding of the rich heritage which is ours today.
Yet, we should not assume that congregations have always been
membership lists have been long. In fact, for many years, St. Thomas
but dormant, barely kept alive by the love and devotion of a handful of
to whom St. Thomas was ever a reminder of the richness of yesterday as
a bright hope for tomorrow. The building was always kept up, the brass
always shined, and this handful of people continued to find God
mellowing beauty of it's walls.
Since 1950 the congregation experienced a new awakening. Since
time, there has bepn a resident clergyman in Grant County most of the
but most important the people themselves worked and prayed together,
increasing the depth and strength of the Church fellowship. Such men as
George Cutcher, Rev. Albert Allen, Rev. Richard Payne and Rev Robert
Parlour helped to build and to mould a strong congregation that
embraced those who have lived here for well over fifty years as well-as
those who lately came and who would soon be moving on. But young or old,
all who worship in St. Thomas are soon caught up in the richness of the
past, and the promise for the future.
Much has been done with a view to the future. The old
completely renovated in 1950. Since then, the old rectory on the hill
sold, and a beautiful three bedroom ranch style home was erected in
Humboldt Drive. In 1956, on land donated by Dr. William Prophet and
Earl Brent, a $60,000 Christian Education building was erected, and
dedicated on May 14 of that year in honor of Charles and Ann Barth,
whose interest and kindness the building became a reality.
The ministry of St. Thomas stretches to the corners of Grant
County, an area of some 4,520 square miles. But figures mean little
until one realizes that this is about the same size as the State of
Connecticut or the State of Maryland. At one time, St. Thomas had
three preaching stations - one 25 miles away, the other two 50 miles
distant. In Seneca, a logging community services were held twice a
month in the Community Chapel, while in the Long Creek and Monument
area a congregation made up mostly of ranch folk worshipped twice
each month at the King Ranch. In Izee, the ranching community
worshipped mostly at the Officer Ranch. The ministry is one that must
deal continually with the problem of distance and communication and
isolation. It is a ministry that must speak the language of rancher
and logger. It is a ministry that is old in terms of history, yet
young in terms of the spirit of the pioneer, which still rests so
strongly upon us. In God's wisdom, it is a ministry that will always
uphold the best from the past while speaking to the present moment,
and ever working for the future.
Many founders of our country such as George Washington, Alexander
Hamilton, James Madison and James Monroe were members Of the Episcopal
Church. There is a marked similarity between the two systems of
government of the Episcopal Church and our Government. It is
interesting to note that the same years mark their births.
©1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved
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