RELIGION IN WYOMING
|Beginnings of Missionary Work in Wyoming—The Catholoc Church—The Episcopal Church—The Congregational Church—Methodist Episcopal Church—The Baptist Church—The Presbyterian ... 476|
| Religion was first brought within the present boundaries of Wyoming by missionaries. Among the first of these were Jason Lee and his nephew. Daniel, who passed through the state en route to Oregon. Rev. Samuel Parker and Dr. Marcus Whitman were others who came through this country in the very early days. Doctor Whitman wrote in his journal on August 10, 1835, while passing through the South Pass: "Though there are some elevations and depressions in this valley, yet, comparatively speaking, it is level. There would be no difficulty in the way of constructing a railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean." While in the Green River country these two men met Jim Bridger, who, on October 14, 1832, in a battle with Blackfeet Indians, was shot in the back with two arrows. On August 12. 1835, Doctor Whitman extracted one of these arrows from Bridger's back.|
Whitman and Parker found that the Indians were eager to learn the white man's religion and this induced them to separate and endeavor to teach the word of God to the savages. Parker, the older of the two, accompanied Bridger to Pierre's Hole, leaving there with a Nez Perce guide for the wilderness. Whitman went back East for new recruits and returned with a bride over the Oregon Trail the next summer. With him came Rev. H. H. Spalding. Then came Father DeSmet, a Catholic priest, in 1840. From this time until the building of the Union Pacific Railroad the growth of religion in Wyoming was necessarily slow, but with the laying of the steel rails across the plains, churches began to appear in numbers and all the principal denominations were represented in this frontier country. Wyoming now has many churches and denominations. In the following paragraphs the history of the principal denominations is given, while in another chapter of this work the names of the churches in each town are given.
|THE CATHOLIC CHURCH|
|The Diocese of Cheyenne embraces the State of Wyoming, including 100,906 square miles. Ecclesiastically, the territory within the present limits of Wyoming has been subject to sees as remote from each other as the political authority to which its component parts owed allegiance. For within its boundaries is part of the Louisiana Purchase which was made from France in 1803; part of the Oregon country, which was acquired by the Florida treaty with Spain in 1819; part of the Texas annexation of 1845 ; and finally, part of the Mexican cession of 1848. However, any jurisdiction that the French, Spanish or Mexican bishops may have had over these districts was rather de jure than de facto, since prior to the building of Fort Laramie as a trading post in 1834 and 1835 there were no white settlers in the territory, nor had any missionary work been done among the Indians.|
With the creation of the Diocese of St. Louis in 1827, Wyoming came under the authority of that see until 1851, when it was included in the Vicariate of the Indian Territory, to which the Rt. Rev. John B. Miege, D. D., was called to preside over as vicar apostolic. His see embraced all of the region from the southern boundary of Kansas to the British possessions, and all west of the Missouri River to the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The Vicariate of Nebraska, which included Wyoming, was carved out of this vast region January 6, 1857, and received as its ruler Rt. Rev. James O'Gorman, D. D. (elected January 18, 1859, consecrated May 8, 1859), who took up his residence in Omaha. Upon the naming of this city as an Episcopal see in 1885, its Ordinary, Rt. Rev. James O'Connor, D. D,, continued to guide the destinies of Wyoming up to the erection of the Diocese of Cheyenne, August 9, 1887.
Many Catholic names will be noticed among the traders and trappers of the early years. Thus, Jacques La Ramie, after whom the Town and River of Laramie are named, who died in that section in 1821. And during the decade following 1823 we have Thomas Fitzpatrick, a Canadian Irishman; Etienne Provost, a Frenchman, who discovered South Pass; Lucien Fontenelle, and Captain Bonneville of the United States army.
Turning to the pioneers in the spiritual order, the place of honor is assigned to Rev. Peter J. DeSmet, S. J., whose name will ever be one of the brightest ornaments in the field of American missionary endeavor. To him belongs the distinction of having celebrated the first mass within the limits of Wyoming. Duly commissioned, he set out at the end of April, 1840, with the annual caravan of the American Fur Company. On Sunday, July 5, 1840, they reached the Green River rendezvous, where Father DeSmet celebrated mass and preached in English and French to the traders, trappers and hunters, and through interpreters to the Snake and Flathead Indians.
With the building of the first railroad, white settlers began to enter the territory, so that it became necessary to provide religious ministrations for the newcomers. Cheyenne had sprung up as a frontier village about this time, and thither was sent from Omaha the Rev. William Kelly as the first resident priest. His missionary field extended from Sidney, Neb., westward to Wahsatch Canyon in Utah, running north as far as Fort Laramie. With the exception of an occasional Sunday's mass at Laramie City and Fort Saunders, mass was celebrated regularly every Sunday at Cheyenne after the erection of the church, the other days of the week being devoted to missionary work along, the railroad. In the summer of 1869 Bishop O'Gorman, accompanied by Father Ryan and another priest, visited Cheyenne and Laramie City and administered the sacrament of confirmation at both places.
The first resident priest at Laramie was Father Cusson, who was sent there in 1873 (died at Nebraska City, November 2. 1898). He remained in charge until 1879, when he was succeeded by the present incumbent, Rt. Rev. Hugh Cummiskey. Re\-. M. F. Cassidy, now irremovable rector of O'Neil. Neb., was in charge of Rawlins from 1879 to 1886.
As early as September, 1875. the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth had opened a hospital and school at Laramie; but the former was abandoned in 1896, and the latter in IQOO. The Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus (of Sharon Hill) established themselves in Cheyenne in 1884, opening a school temporarily in the old frame church which had been built by Father Kelly. Their present beautiful academy, occupying a sightly block immediately east of the state capitol, was opened in 1886. At St. Stephen's Mission, likewise, the Franciscan Sisters from Glen Riddle, Pa., early came to the assistance of the Jesuits by taking charge of a school for Indian girls.
When, on August 9. 1887, the Territory of Wyoming was erected into a separate diocese, the choice of a bishop fell upon Rev. Maurice F. Burke, a priest of the archdiocese of Chicago, ordained May 22, 1875. The conditions which the young prelate found on reaching Wyoming may be gleaned from the following statistics ( 1887) : Secular priests, 5; religious, 1 : churches, 8; hospitals, 1: academy, 1, with 130 pupils; parochial schools, 2. with 175 pupils; baptisms, 181; marriages, 20; families, 448; Catholic population about 4,500: Indian mission, about 300. There was a neat brick church in Cheyenne with a seating capacity of 300, which bore the title of St. John the Baptist and which now became the bishop's cathedral, under the name of St. Mary.
After looking over his vast territory, the bishop concluded that the establishment of the see had been premature and set out for Rome to have it suppressed. Owing to the opposition of the bishops of the province, then St. Louis, this proposal was rejected, but several years later Pope Leo XIII, by a bull dated June 19, 1893, transferred Bishop Burke to St. Joseph, Mo.
Owing to the representations that had been made by Bishop Burke, the diocese was allowed to remain vacant for several years, during which its affairs were managed by the administrator, Very Rev. Hugh Cummiskey. However, at length the Very Rev. Thomas M. Lenihan, M. R., of Fort Dodge. la., was appointed as the second bishop. Father Lenihan was ordained a priest November 23, 1867, at Dubuque.
At the time of his appointment. Bishop Lenihan was afflicted with very poor health. He struggled on for two or three years, but as there was no improvement, he was compelled to seek a lower altitude and returned to Iowa, from which place, though in shattered health, he did his best to direct' the affairs of his diocese. His death took place at Dubuque, December 15, 1901.
Several months elapsed after the death of Bishop Lenihan before Cheyenne received a new chief pastor in the person of the Rt. Rev. James J. Keane. D. D., ordained December 23, 1882. He was named Bishop of Cheyenne June 10, 1902. but his consecration did not occur until autumn. One of his first acts was having the diocese as a whole, as well as the individual parishes, incorporated according to the provisions of the state law. Bishop Keane did many things to promote the cause of the church in Wyoming, not the least of which was his work in the missionary field, providing churches for the communities which were small.
Another object of Bishop Keane's pastoral solicitude was to provide a suitable cathedral and bishop's residence. The buildings in use for this purpose had been constructed in pioneer days, when there was little thought of Cheyenne ever becoming an Episcopal see, and the congregation had long outgrown the modest brick church that had been erected late in the '70s. A beautiful site was secured on Capitol Avenue, not far from the state capitol and adjoining the public library, the old site having been sold. Bishop Keane had decided that the cathedral parish should build the new church, while he himself would secure funds for the Episcopal residence from the diocese at large. Suitable plans were secured from an Omaha architect, so that both of these improvements, involving an expenditure of more than $100,000, were begun at the same time. On July 7, 1907, in the presence of a large and distinguished gathering of people, the cornerstone was laid by Bishop Scannell of Omaha, assisted by Bishop Scanlan of Salt Lake, the sermon being preached by Bishop Keane. An appropriate address was also made by Governor Brooks. The dedication ceremony took place January 31, 1909, amidst a gathering of ecclesiastics such as had never before been brought together in Wyoming.
The cathedral is a fine example of the English Gothic style throughout, the one tower being on the southwest corner. It is built of Wyoming white sandstone, is 135 feet long by 70 feet wide at the transept, and seats 750 persons. The interior finish is of oak, with pews of the same material. The total cost of the cathedral was $80,000 and of the bishop's residence $23,000.
The fourth bishop of Cheyenne was Rt. Rev. Patrick A. McGovern, ordained August 18, 1895. He was named bishop January 19, 1912, and his consecration occurred April 11th of the same year. His first care was to provide for the orderly government of the clergy and people by convoking a synod in which the diocesan officials were named and salutary decrees, conducive to the upbuilding of religion, promulgated. Feeling that the vast stretches of vacant land under his jurisdiction would sooner or later attract many settlers, he secured a sufficient number of ecclesiastical students to minister to them. Through his encouragement, and with the aid of the Catholic Church Extension Society, several churches and chapels have been built in remote places.
| Bishop, 1; secular priests, 18; priests of religious orders, 5; total priests, 23; eccleciastical students, 10; resident pastors, 19; assistants, 4; total churches, 45; academy, i ; parochial schools, 2; Indian schools, 2; pupils in schools, 416; marriages, 146; baptisms, infants, 620, adults, 85, total, 705; deaths, 213; Catholic population, 19,000.|
The history of the church in Cheyenne in its early years is practically a history of the diocese. The Rev. William Kelly was first sent by Bishop O'Gorman to organize the Catholics and build up a church. Father Kelly set to work industriously and in 1868 was able to dedicate a frame church at Twenty-first and O'Neil streets, on the northeast corner, on four lots donated by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. Most of the congregation came from Camp Carlin, a government supply station half way between the City of Cheyenne and Fort Russell. Father Kelly remained in charge until October 9, 1869, and was succeeded by Rev. Philip Erlach. who served until April 16, 1871. Then Rev. William Byrne took charge and remained until September, 1873. Rev. John McGoldrick was then appointed and served the parish until October 18. 1877.
Considering the old church property inadequate to the needs of the growing congregation, he secured two lots at the northeast corner of Nineteenth and Carey Avenue as a site for a new church. Rev. John Jennette next guided the destinies of the parish from December, 1877, to August 4, 1878. He laid the foundations of a brick church on the property purchased by Father McGoldrick. The Rev. John Hayes succeeded Father Jennette as the pastor and governed the parish until November 18, 1882. During his pastorate the church was completed and dedicated. Rev. Francis J. Nugent was in charge from November 25, 1882, to June 20, 1886; then came Rev. John T. Smith, from July 9, 1886, to November 23, 1887. Rev. M. J. Carmody was in charge from May, 1891, to March, 1892, and was followed by Rev. Edward Fitzgerald who stayed until November, 1893. Rev .Thomas Conway then assumed control of the parish and maintained it unt'l November, 1897. Rev. P. U. Sasse was in charge then until December, 1900, succeeded by Rev. George J. Bryant. In May, 1903, Rev. Michael A. Kennedy was the pastor, but held the pulpit until December only. Rev. James A. Duffy was in charge November, 1904, to April, 1913. Bishop McGovern took personal charge until May i, 1915, when he appointed Rev. James A. Hartman.
|THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH|
| When Bishop Kemper was made the first missionary bishop of the American Church, Wyoming was within his jurisdiction; but he never reached a point farther west than Centra! Kansas. In 1859, Bishojj Joseph Cruikshank Talbot was chosen bishop of the Northwest, and Wyoming, then a part of Nebraska and Washington territories, fell to his care. In 1860. Bishop Talbot planned a 7,000 mile trip to Utah via Fort Laramie, which would have taken him through Wyoming; but the route being unsafe in 1863 by reason of the hostility of the Indians, he took the lower route through Colorado and New Mexico. It has not yet been determined whether he ever entered what is now known as Wyoming.|
In 1865, on the translation of Bishop Talbot to Indiana, the House of Bishops, basing its action on a bill pending in Congress created the missionary district of "Colorado and parts adjacent," which included Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, and the missionary district of "Nebraska and parts adjacent," with jurisdiction in Nebraska and Dakota. The Rev. George Maxwell Randall of Boston and the Rev. Robert Harper Clarkson of Chicago were chosen bishops of these districts respectively. This was called "the bloody year on the plains"; and was further marked by the commencement of the building of the Union Pacific Railroad.
In 1866, Montana and Idaho were detached from Colorado, and New Mexico was added, so that Bishop Randall's district was Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico. This was the year of the so-called "Fetterman Massacre." At this time there were no towns in Wyoming, the only settlements being the army posts, and a few mining camps and isolated ranches along the Sweetwater, Popo Agie, and the North Platte and their tributaries. As may therefore be supposed, there were no resident clergy; church services had, however been held. The Hon. Henry J. Coke who crossed Wyoming in 1852, was accompanied by his chaplain.
From 1849 to 1862 the Rev. William Vaux was army chaplain at Fort Laramie, and was the first regularly stationed clergyman in Wyoming. Concerning him Doctor White writes in his Life of Bishop Jackson Kemper: "When Kemper resigned the oversight of Indiana, one of his attached clergy there, wishing to remain under his jurisdiction, and having received an appointment to the chaplaincy of Fort Laramie, was transferred thither at his own request. The post was nearly 1,000 miles west of the Mississippi, and this circumstance led the bishop to urge the definition of the western boundary of his jurisdiction which some thought extended to the shores of the Pacific." Chaplain Vaux stood nobly by his post during the massacres at Fort Laramie.
Another church chaplain, who served in Wyoming in the early days, was the Rev. Edmond B. Tuttle. who was chaplain at Fort D. A. Russell from January, 1868, to June, 1869.
Church life really began in Wyoming when the Union Pacific Railroad reached Cheyenne on November 13, 1867. In fact, anticipating the railroad, the Rev. Charles A. Gilbert of Illinois, spent his summer vacation in Cheyenne, and thus became the first minister to serve there. So successful were his ministrations that Messrs. S. B. Reed, Charles D. Sherman and J. D. Wooley, corresponded with Bishop Clarkson, and so impressed him with the importance of Cheyenne that on November 26th the Rev. Joseph W. Cook, rector of St. Paul's Church, West Whitelaw, Chester County, Penn., was sent to Cheyenne. Leaving Philadelphia on New Year's night he reached Cheyenne on January 14, 1868.
Cheyenne, Dakota, being within the region originally intended by the House of Bishops to be included in Bishop Randall's jurisdiction, under the name of Wyoming Territory (though for some time the bill providing for this did not pass Congress), Bishop Randall claimed it as part of his jurisdiction. Bishop Clarkson had proceeded upon the supposition that so long as the territory was part and parcel of Dakota, it belonged to his jurisdiction. Upon requisition being made by Bishop Randall, Bishop Clarkson withdrew, leaving Cheyenne and its first missionary under the jurisdicton of Bishop Randall.
The first confirmation within the district was administered on July 14, 1868, in St. Mark's Parish, Cheyenne. On August 23rd, Bishop Randall consecrated the new church, thus marking the first consecration of a church building in Wyoming.
This church was erected upon the plot of ground where the postoffice now stands. It was subsequently removed upon a flat car to the coal mining camp of Carbon where it was in constant use until the camp was abandoned. The church unfortunately was torn down along with the other better buildings of the town, but the cross over the west end of the building, the first reared over any structure within the state, now hangs upon the walls of the vestry room of the new St. Mark's, Cheyenne, which was named for St. Mark's Church, Philadelphia.
In April, 1868, Bishop Randall called the Rev. John Cornell to Laramie. When Mr. Cornell arrived in Laramie he found, so he writes, six horse thieves hanging to the timbers of a frame house in course of construction. During the year Mr. Cook and Mr. Comell planted missions in all the towns along the railroad. Mr. Cornell writes that he also went across country as far as South Pass, accompanied by a Rev. Mr. Stewart, whose death resulted from the exposure. Thus it may be seen the church was not slow in fulfilling her primary obligation to Wyoming.
On the death of Bishop Randall in 1873, he was succeeded by the Rt. Rev. John Franklin Spalding, who found but four stations and two missionaries in the district. The following year, New Mexico was separated from the jurisdiction which was now known as the jurisdiction of Colorado and Wyoming.
In 1883, the House of Bishops erected the Territory of Wyoming into a separate jurisdiction. Bishop Spalding was placed in temporary charge. This oversight extended to 1886. At this time there were five clergymen and ten stations in the district. In 1886 there were 18 confirmations, 89 baptisms, 272 communicants, 32 marriages, 26 burials. 406 Sunday school scholars and the sum of $8,900.72 was raised within the district.
The most notable achievement of Bishop Spalding's jurisdiction over Wyoming was the sending of the Rev. George Rafter to Cheyenne in 1882 and the Rev, John Roberts to the Wind River Reservation in 1883, the latter undertaking the evangelization of the Shoshone Indians, who had been placed under our care by General Grant. Both Mr. Rafter and Mr. Roberts are still priests of the district, and are the nestors of their respective localities.
In 1886, the General Convention created the missionary jurisdiction of Wyoming and Idaho, and in the following spring the Rev. Ethelbert Talbot of Macon, Mo., was consecrated bishop. In i8g6 Wyoming and Idaho were separated into distinct jurisdictions and Bishop Talbot was given charge of both districts. In 1896 he was transferred to Central Pennsylvania.
Bishop Ethelbert Talbot's episcopate was one of conspicuous success. When he arrived he found four clergymen and ten stations; when he resigned his jurisdiction, eleven years later, he left sixteen clergymen and twenty stations with 729 communicants. He had built fourteen churches, among which was the beautiful cathedral in Laramie, one of the handsomest church buildings in the West. It was completed in 1917 by the erection of the two towers and the great central spire which, together with the clock and chimes, are the gift of Edward Ivinson, of Laramie, in memory of his wife. He had erected St. Matthew's Hall, Laramie, a school for boys, and had established a school for Shoshone Indian girls on the Wind River Reservation. Unfortunately, St. Matthew's Hall was afterwards lost to the church.
In 1898, the General Convention divided Wyoming into three parts. The eastern part was combined with Western Nebraska under the title "The Missionary District of Laramie;" the northwestern part was combined with Idaho under the title of "The District of Boise." and the southwestern portion was united with Utah under the title of "The Missionary District of Salt Lake." This arrangement continued for ten years under the oversight of Bishop Funsten, Bishop Graves, Bishop Leonard and Bishop Spalding.
The House of Bishops at the General Convention, Richmond, Va., October, 1907, in consideration of the recommendation of the Conference of the Seventh Missionary Department, held in Boise on May 3, 1907, made the boundaries of the several missionary districts co-terminus with the boundaries of the states. Lender this arrangement the missionary district of Wyoming was constituted. On October 10, 1907, the Rev. Frederick Focke Reese, D. D., rector of the Church of Christ, Nashville. Tenn., was elected to be Bishop thereof, but declined the election. Wyoming was then placed under the provisional charge of the Rt. Rev. James Bowen Funsten, D. D., bishop of Idaho, until in 1909, at a meeting of the House of Bishops held in New York, the Rev. Nathaniel Seymour Thomas, rector of the Church of the Holy Apostles, Philadelphia, was elected, and on May 6, 1909, was consecrated bishop of Wyoming. For the first time in its checkered history, Wyoming had a bishop altogether its own.
Bishop Thomas found on his arrival 10 clergy, no lay workers, 29 church buildings, 13 rectories, 2 halls or parish houses, altogether valued at $240,680, 1,338 communicants, 28 parishes and missions, and 14 preaching stations, with practically no debt and no endowment.
Through the working out of a plan whereby a goodly number of men of the highest class from the eastern seminaries have been creating the vogue of the western frontier in lieu of an eastern curacy as the proper work of a ministerial interne, Wyoming has during the past nine years been privileged in securing the services of 42 clergymen of high character and unusual ability who have come and gone, in addition to the 27 clergymen now canonically resident within the district. To this total of 69 men in order should be added 42 technically trained lay workers, 18 laymen and 24 lay women, who have contributed their share to the grand total of results accomplished, which places the church in Wyoming in the forefront among the churches of the state.
The Tenth Annual Convocational Journal reports 7 parishes, 43 organized missions, and 37 unorganized missions, a total of 87, with 2,846 communicants, an average of 31 communicants to a station. There are 45 church buildings, 24 rectories, 13 parish houses or halls for secular gatherings, 2 Indian schools, 2 hospitals, I orphanage and i bishop's house. The total value of the church property is $726,404. The endowment is $32,000 (entailed) for St. Michael's Mission, $18,000 for the Bishop Randall Hospital, and $1,803 for the Episcopate Fund, making a grand total of church property and endowment amounting to $778,209.
In the summer of 1910 Bishop Thomas, accompanied by the Rev. Robert M. Beckett, took a trip of 1,100 miles by wagon and on horseback through the Yellowstone Park and down into Jackson's Hole. In that interesting and beautiful valley, conditions were such that out of seven maternity cases during the summer, three women had died. As the bishop stood at the death bed of one of these women he registered the determination that these conditions should be bettered.
The following year a beautiful stone hospital, the Bishop Randall Hospital, was erected in Lander at a cost of about forty thousand dollars. On November 15, 1912, it was officially opened. It has been handsomely appointed in every particular and now is the best equipped hospital in the state, ministering to both whites and Indians.
Another five-bed hospital has been erected in Jackson's Hole, and from the beginning has been self supporting.
As there was no provision in the state for the care of destitute and dependent children, the bishop converted his house in Laramie into a home for children, turning the same over to Archdeacon Dray who was the father of the movement. The archdeacon so popularized the plan in the state that from its inception it has been able to pay its debts. Its board of managers, consisting of some of the ablest women of Laramie, represent most of the religious denominations of the city. From twenty-eight to thirty-one children have been continuously cared for, but the building is utterly inadequate to hold the number of applicants. Larger quarters are imperative if the children in need of such an institution are to be accepted.
Last year Bishop Thomas, the president of the Cathedral Home, purchased from the ecclesiastical authority of the Roman Catholic Church, four acres of ground well adorned with trees, two squares from the State University on the main thoroughfare of the city. On this plot of ground was situated the old St. Joseph's Hospital. It is in excellent repair, so far as the constructive portions of the building are concerned, but many additions are necessary by reason of its added function. The cost of accomplishing this, the largest public charitable venture undertaken out of private contributions from within the state, will be $31,602.20 according to the architect's plans. The property when completed will be valued at $50,000.
Of purely parochial institutions no mention will be made, save of the Parish House in Cheyenne which was erected in the fall and winter of 1911-12 at a cost of some forty thousand dollars. During this year of the war the Parish House has been practically a diocesan institution in the service it has rendered the soldiers at Fort Russell. For the past year the building has been in constant use and filled with soldiers.
On November 17, 1910, was held the first annual conference of the clergy in Wyoming, summoned for no other purpose than to give the clergy a week of goodly fellowship. These conferences have been made possible through the generosity of Mrs. Clinton Ogilvie of New York in memory of her pastor, the Rev. Arthur Brooks, D. D. No one institution has done more to build up the esprit of the clergy than this institution which is familiarly known as the Ogilvie Conference.
|CHURCH WORK AMONG THE SHOSHONES|
| In 1873 the invasion of the hostile Sioux and Cheyennes and perhaps the Arapahoes. were particularly severe. It was in this year that Bishop Randall visited the Shoshone Agency. The agent despatched an ambulance and three men to old Fort Stambaugh to escort the bishop in. The party left early Sunday morning for the agency. Hostile signal fires from the tops of the Big Horn and Owl Creek ranges and from other points nearer the trail aroused fears lest the b'shop's party be attacked, but they reached the agency at 7 o'clock in safety. After a hasty lunch, the entire community repaired to the little old log chapel, now used as a mortuary chapel at the Shoshone burial place, and the bishop conducted service and preached. After the service it was discovered that the hostiles had been all about the church and could have massacred the whole congregation had they not supposed, as a Sioux afterward confessed, that the people had gathered in this log house using it for a fort. As it was, the hostiles cut loose the horses and stock and disappeared quietly. The following day word came in that the entire line over which the bishop had traveled had been raided. The Bishop Randall missionary window in St. Matthew's Cathedral, Laramie, memorializes the littJe log building at the agency.|
James I. Patten, Indian teacher and lay reader from 1871 to 1874 accompanied Bishop Randall on his return trip two days later. He writes of it as follows: "After a day or two sojourn at the agency, the bishop made known his wish to return home, so the agent prepared an open rig, the only kind of conveyance he had to offer, drawn by two good horses, together with an escort of three men, selected from among the employees, each one armed with repeating rifles, and a supply of ammunition and when the party was about ready to start, Mrs. Irwin, the agent's wife, discovered that the bishop was without fire arms, therefore she soon rustled him a gun, saying, 'You might need it.' 'Well,' replied the bishop, 'I suppose it is best to have one to show, but I never fired a gun in my life.'"
"We left the agency late in the morning and arrived in Twin Creek about 2 P. M., where the horses were rested awhile. The day was extremely hot. The Bishop was dressed in tight fitting broadcloth suit, with a high silk hat and the sun beat down upon him like heat from an oven. I saw that he was suffering greatly from this exposure–he was then I think about eighty years of age. While resting at Twin Creek, the bishop climbed down and bathed his face in the cool waters of the mountain streams and stretched his limbs. Beside the road was a wide flat granite rock which, by erosion, was worn smooth as maple floor. On this rock he laid himself down stretched to full length, thus resting about twenty minutes, by which time we were ready to continue our journey. We reached Miners' Delight, where the people met in a vacant building, where a short service was held and the bishop talked to the congregation for a few minutes and was introduced, when we passed on to South Pass, arriving there in the evening, where another service was held and the next morning he baptized a family of five children. Here at this time we separated, never again in this life to meet again our beloved bishop, for he never afterwards visited the agency. Arriving at his home in Denver he was confined to his room, and a short time afterward we received the sad intelligence of his death, which occurred September 28, 1873."
"My mind has reverted many times to the scene of the bishop taking his rest on the rock on the banks of Twin Creek and I at the time named it Bishop Randall's Rock. In my mind's eye, he is seen today as he then lay, as plainly as at that time."
Bishop Spalding was consecrated to succeed Bishop Randall on December 31, 1873. Ten years later he addressed himself to the Indian problem at Wind River, by sending the Rev. John Roberts as missionary to the Shoshones. Mr. Robert's trip across the divide from Green River took place during the most severe storm known for years, when the snow was three feet deep and the thermometer 50° below zero. Mr. Roberts himself reported to Bishop Spalding under the date of February 14th, 1883, as follows:
"I reached the Shoshone Indian Agency safely last night, after a trying journey of eight days from Green River. At the end of my first day's ride I found that ahead two coach drivers and a passenger were frozen to death and three others badly frost bitten. I afterwards saw some of the sufferers and buried one of the drivers in the snow."
Within a year Mr. Roberts had established a small school in a building erected by the Government for that purpose, with sixteen boarders and eight day pupils. He had also established a mission in Lander. Later Mr. A. C. Jones, now a banker in Laramie and the treasurer of the Cathedral Chapter, was in charge of the Shoshone scholars. He remained however, but one year. The Church of the Redeemer was completed in 1885, through the gift of $2,000 from a lady of Philadelphia: and also Trinity Church, Lander, in 1886.
During this year Mr. Roberts became superintendent of the Government school and busied himself superintending a household of eighty-six Indian children. In 1896 Mr. Roberts was still at his wonderful ministry of blessing, but now in charge of a contract school of twenty Shoshone Indian girls.
In 1898 a beautiful log church erected by the labors of our Indian catechist, joint translator with the Reverend Mr. Roberts of a mission Service Book, the Gospel of St. Luke, called the House of Prayer, was dedicated by Bishop Talbot on St. Bartholomew's Day.
In 1899 Chief Washakie and the Shoshones, with the consent of the Government, gave 160 acres of land one mile west of the agency, to be used as a church school and mission farm. $7,000 were spent in the erection of suitable buildings. In these buildings, known as the Shoshone Indian Mission, Mr. Roberts has carried on a church school with some fifteen or sixteen girls in constant attendance. From this mission has gone forth all the spiritual life of the reservation, and among the Shoshones our good Evangelist Moo-yah-vo has passed on Mr. Robert's message, both in word and through a goodly example.
During Mr. Robert's heroic work among the Indians, he also found time to build St. Thomas' Church, Dubois; Trinity Church. Lander; St. Matthew's Church, Hudson; St. James' Church, Riverton; and St. Paul's Church, Milford, besides the churches on the reservation.
|ST. MICHAEL'S MISSION|
|Nothing was done for the Arapahoes by the church since their arrival, except what was accomplished by the personal services of the Rev. John Roberts whose primary duty was to the Shoshones, and by the efforts of the Rev. and Mrs. Sherman Coolidge whose labors are beyond praise, until St. Michael's Mission was founded through the generous endowment of Mrs. Baird Sumner Cooper in 1910. This mission has been located about six miles east of the Government school, the plan calling for a new departure in Indian education and development.|
|THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH|
| The first permanent Congregational Church work was begun in Wyoming Territory soon after the survey for the Union Pacific Railroad reached the base of the Laramie Mountains and the Town of Cheyenne had been located bv the railroad company.|
Rev. R. T. Cross, an early historian, speaks of Cheyenne in 1867 "as a permanent camp established in the desert, with no gardens, no trees, and no weeds."
This camp was located on Crow Creek at what was then the terminus of the railroad, near the site of the City of Cheyenne, and was known by the opprobrious title of "Hell on Wheels."
The Methodists were the first to begin christian work in this embryo frontier town. They were followed shortly afterward by the Congregationalists whose preliminary work was conducted under the leadership of Rev. J. E. Roy, D. D., of Chicago, who was the missionary superintendent for the Northwest at that time.
Col. J. D. Davis, a color bearer in the Civil war, and a graduate of Chicago Seminary, was the first commissioned minister sent to Cheyenne, Wyoming, Territory. He reached his field and began work June 6, 1869, and organized the First Congregational Church of Cheyenne the next Sabbath with thirteen members.
On the 4th of July, three weeks later, the first communion service of the new church was held, the Methodists uniting with them. In the evening a Union preaching service was held in the theater.
The erection of a Congregational Church edifice, the first in the territory, was begun in September, 1869, and was completed and dedicated in December of the same year. Until then the regular Sabbath morning services were held in the schoolhouse.
The same fall the pastor and his wife built a parsonage with their own hands, receiving only two days work from others.
When denominational fellowship meetings were planned it was found that the nearest Congregational Church to the East was 400 miles from Cheyenne; to the South 100 miles; to the West 1,200 miles; while if a person wished to take the northern route he would be obliged to travel 23.900 miles to find a church of his faith and order with which to fellowship.
As soon as the Union Pacific Railroad was completed to Rock Springs a Union Sunday School was organized, which later became Congregational. Fortnightly Congregational Sabbath services were held in the schoolhouse on B Street where the Sunday school had its home, and where, on the evening of September 16, 1871, the Congregational Church of Rock Springs was organized with nineteen charter members. Early records show that for some unexplained reason the church rented a saloon for a time at $50 per month, in which it held its services. It has now commodious church and parsonage buildings. Rev. George L. Smith was its first pastor.
Following closely the line of the newly built railroad went a young man, a student of Grinnell College, Iowa, with full purpose of heart to organize Sunday schools in the newly opening Northwest. As he neared the western boundary of Wyoming he came to a new town nestling under "Castle Rock," while a great stone face, like the face of a guardian angel, carved on the rock by the hand of nature, was gazing down upon the hamlet from the mountain crest. A large sign board had been planted in the center of the village bearing this inscription in large letters: "One hundred and five miles to South Pass; Three hundred miles to Salt Lake; Six inches from Hell." As he stood reading this remarkable production a man approached and inquired his business which he willingly told. He was immediately informed that a man had been shot and they would like to have a real funeral. To this the young man agreed and the next day went to the saloon where the body lay wrapped in a gray blanket. He began his service but was frightened and did not know what to say. Then a child cried and a man swore, and the young man's senses came back to him, and he said, "Don't swear like that. I'd give five dollars to hear the child cry again, it sounds like my sister's child, and I'm homesick." Then he preached the sermon and the people said "the kid did mighty well"' and gave him some money which he used to buy singing books and supplies for a Sunday school. Later on a man from the East drifted into this town and inquired for a church. The man of whom he inquired told him that they had no church but that they had a schoolhouse and that he and his pard were running a Sunday school for the kids.
"My pard is in there," he said, pointing to the saloon. "I'm waiting for him now." In a few moments he came out and they went to the schoolhouse and held a session of some sort. When they were ready to close the school one of the men said to the other, "Is'nt it time to close this here thing up? I'm getting awful dry." A little girl repeated the Lord's Prayer and the Sunday school came to a summary end. Out of this beginning the Congregational Church of Green River came into existence. For many years it was the only church in the town.
The young missionary who did this pioneer work went from there to the next camp, where he held a service, preached another funeral sermon, and comforted a heart broken mother to whom after many years a picture was sent with these words: "We thought you would like to have a picture of the man who started Christian work at Green River and preached Sarah's funeral sermon—Newell Dwight Hillis.
Doctor Hillis is now one of the most noted and talented preachers in Brooklyn, N. Y., but he never did a greater work than that at Green River, Wyo., and when he preached Sarah's funeral sermon.
Big Horn, the oldest town in Northern Wyoming nestles close to the base of the mountains from which it derives its name. On the arrival of the first permanent settlers they found a long low log house and stable with accommodations for twehty men and horses, built upon a beautiful but secluded plateau close to the heavily wooded banks of Goose Creek, which proved to be the northern rendezvous of the notorious James Brothers, bandits, to which place they retreated when hard pressed by the officers of the law. They usually came and went in bunches of three or four. This retreat was kept in readiness for them by a darky by the name of John Lewis, and Big Nosed George, the latter a cruel faced fellow who was finally caught and hung by the settlers at Miles City, Mont., for robbery and murder.
The first postoffice established at Big Horn was in 1879, and the first sermon was preached in the saloon in the fall of 1881, a curtain being drawn across the front of the bar during the service. As soon as the schoolhouse which the people began to build in the winter of 1881 was completed, the Sunday school which had been organized and held in the log house of W. E. Jackson, was moved to it. When this was accomplished a friend of the Sunday school went to the saloons and gambling houses and said: "Boys! The people are trying to start a Sunday school over in the schoolhouse and they need some help. You used to go to Sunday school when you were kids. For the sake of those good old times let's go over and help them out. And then one of the saloon keepers spoke up: "See here, fellows, this saloon will remain locked until that thing is over, and remember that nothing less than cart wheels (silver dollars) goes into the hat." It was from this beginning that the Congregational Church at Big Horn came into existence. At an early day a mining camp was started in the eastern part of Converse County and went by the various appellations of "Running Water," "Silver Cliff," and "Lusk." It soon became the center of a rich mining and stock raising district. Gold, silver, copper and coal were mined and a smelter erected. Like many another mining camp it soon grew into a veritable city of tents. The sale of lots at Lusk began in 1886 and in two months the place boasted of forty business houses and a large population. In May of the same year Rev. Harmon Bross held a street service from a wagon, and afterward in a church tent. From this beginning grew the Congregational Church of Lusk, now a strong and prosperous organization, well housed, and with a complete equipment for all lines of church work.
The Town of Douglas was started in September, 1886, and in one month had a population of 1.500, with twenty-seven saloons, two dance halls, and all that went with them to make up a typical "Jumping off Place." Today Douglas is one of the model western towns, the home of many wealthy stock and sheep men. It was for many years reputed to be the richest town, in proportion to its population, of any place in the Rocky Mountain states.
The first religious services in Douglas were held in a tent by Reverend Mr. Rankin of Denver. Later on a Presbyterian Church was established which afterwards sold out to the Congregationalists. This church has grown strong in membership and influence and is now occupying its third church edifice, built of pressed brick and modern in all its appointments, ranking as among the finest buildings in the state.
Buffalo, an inland town, has for many years been the center of a growing cattle industry. In early days it was the center of the "Cattle War" which gave Wyoming an unenviable reputation. The town was located on Clear Creek, near Fort McKenzie, whose protection she appreciated in the early days of her history. It was in this town that the Congregationalists planted their second church. The building was erected on the crest of a hill in the center of the place and could be seen for miles in all directions. It is known as "The Church on the Hill," and for years the settlers, the country over, have been wont to bring their dead for christian burial. The church has recently been greatly enlarged and modernized in all its appointments.
Sheridan, Wyoming's northern metropolis, has grown in size and influence with great rapidity. It is a strong competitor with Cheyenne and Casper for first place in Wyoming's towns.
The Congregational Church was organized early in the life of this town and has held a strong place in the hearts and lives of the citizens from the beginning. This church has now the finest church edifice of any in the state. It is equipped for all lines of church and social activity.
The organization of Congregational churches at Dayton, Wheatland, Lander and the newer towns, followed unceasingly, until now the Congregationalists number seventy-five churches and missions that they are caring for within the .State of Wyoming. But few of the churches organized by the Congregationalists have disbanded, though a few have been discontinued on account of the removal of the membership to other localities.
With extremely few exceptions, the Congregationalists have not established their work on fields, or in towns where other denominations were at work, but almost invariably they have been the first on the ground, and in the work of laying Christian foundations in Wyoming they stand second to none.
Prior to January 1, 1900, Wyoming was yoked with several other states for missionary purposes, and during that time was under the leadership of eight different superintendents.
On January 1, 1900, Wyoming was made a district by herself and Rev. W. B. D. Gray was appointed its superintendent of missions, with headquarters at Cheyenne, and for more than eighteen years he has had full charge of the Congregational work in the state.
In retiring from that work, which he has voluntarily and insistently done, he closes thirty-seven years of missionary service, thirty-five years of which has been consecutively spent in the superintendency of the work in the Dakota's and Wyoming.
Were it possible to write the early history of the Congregational, as well as other churches of Wyoming, it would have as thrilling a narrative as Ralph Connor's "Black Rock," or Owen Wister's "Virginian." Indeed the real "Virginian" lived at Lander for several years, an honored officer in the Congregational Church, and his wife, a skilled musician, the leader of the choir and an active church member.
The experiences of the missionaries in those early days were as thrilling as can well be thought of–when one remembers that for many years the railroad facilities were meager, and very much of the travel was accomplished by stage, through the valleys and over the mountain ranges, in a cooutry so sparsely settled in those early days, that in long drawn out rides one was fortunate if he met a couple of cowboys on horseback.
In those days the traveler carried his bed with him, and when he came to a house if the family were not at home, he would most likely find the door key hanging in plain sight so that he could go in, cook a meal, and make himself comfortable, but it was, and is the unwritten law of the mountains and plains, that the unknown visitor must wash his dishes and leave the place as neat as he found it.
Life lived on the boundless silent plains–the matchless scenery that is met–the freedom and greatness of it all–the vast things to be accomplished–made great men and women of the pioneers.
Were there not mountains to be tunneled–railroads to be built–wildness to be overcome*ndash;irrigation ditches made to traverse the plains and carry water like rivers to enrich and fructify the land? Was there not vast wealth in coal and iron–gold and copper–oil and gas, to be discovered and utilized?
Too much admiration cannot be accorded to the pioneers of Wyoming, grand people all of them. Splendid men and women who left their eastern homes—bringing with them their culture of school and church, to carry out God's great plan, and found a new commonwealth under the shadow, and in the fastnesses of the Wyoming mountains, giving of themselves unstintingly, to lay a glorious foundation in school and church and community life, that nations yet unborn may be benefited thereby.
W. B. D. G.
|THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH|
| Methodism began in Wyoming about fifty years ago. In the city hall at Cheyenne on Sunday morning, September 20, 1867, Reverend Baldwin of Burlington, Colorado Territory, delivered the first sermon in the Methodist faith in Cheyenne. In fact, it was preceded by only one other sermon–that of a Baptist clergyman. After the sermon a Methodist society was organized by Dr. D. W. Scott, a practicing physician of Cheyenne. He was authorized to act as local preacher by Rev. W. M. Smith, P. E., of the Denver district. A Methodist Sabbath School was organized October 6, 1867, with the following officers: Dr. D. W. Scott, superintendent; Frank B. Hurlbut, secretary; J. W. Hutchinson, librarian and treasurer. The first quarterly conference was held June 9, 1868–W. M. Smith, P. E.; Doctor Scott, pastor; W. D. Pease, leader; Theodore Poole, steward; and G. S. Allen, local preacher.|
The public schoolhouse was obtained within which to hold church services and Sunday school. Rev. A. Gather succeeded Doctor Scott as pastor of the Cheyenne church in August, 1868, and during his administration two lots were secured for a church building on Eighteenth Street. At a quarterly conference held February 21, 1870, Rev. J. Anderson, then the pastor, offered to carry on the church construction and so he was appointed financial agent and superintendent of construction by the trustees. By the middle of July, after many difficulties, the church building was almost completed and provision was made to cover the entire indebtedness. The building was dedicated September 23, 1870, by Bishop Ames. At this time the society had a membership of nineteen. During the winter of 1874 the roof of the church building was blown off during a heavy storm, which necessitated an expenditure of over one thousand dollars for repairs.
At the General Conference which met in New York in May, 1888, Wyoming was made a mission, having before been a part of the Colorado Conference. At the next annual conference, which met in July, 1888, Reverend Rader was appointed to the position of mission superintendent of Wyoming.
The dedicatory service of the present church building in Cheyenne was held March 25, 1894. This handsome church, at the corner of Eighteenth Street and Central Avenue had been started in 1890 and had been finished under the burden of many difficulties. At various times since the dedication improvements have been made upon the structure.
The Wyoming State Conference was organized at Newcastle, Wyo., September 7, 1914, Bishop Edwin H. Hughes, presiding. At the third annual session of the conference in September, 1917, it was shown that in Wyoming there were thirty-eight churches, twenty-eight parsonages, and a total of 4,478 members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In the Cheyenne District of the Wyoming State Conference there are societies at Carpenter, Cheyenne, Chugwater, Douglas, Egbert, Evanston, Hanna, Hudson and Riverton, Kemmerer, Lander, Laramie, Manville, Pine Bluffs, Rawlins, Rock Springs and Wheatland. In the Sheridan District there are churches at Basin, Big Horn, Buffalo, Cody, Cody Circuit, Casper, Clearmont, Hyattville and Tensleep, Garland, Newcastle, Powell, Sheridan (charge and circuit), Sundance, Rozet charge, Torrington, Thermopolis, Upton, Worland.
|THE BAPTIST CHURCH|
| The first Baptist Church in Wyoming was started at Laramie City several years before the establishment of a society at Cheyenne.|
On September 21, 1877, a number of Baptist residents of Cheyenne met in the Congregational meeting house and organized the First Baptist Church and Society of Cheyenne. There were twenty-one constituent members upon the first membership roll. Articles of incorporation were filed with the secretary of the territory and with the clerk of Laramie County on December 11, 1877. The signatures of S. A. Sturgis, I. C. Whipple, F. E. Warren, J. M. Thayer, J. T. Holliday and C. S. Wells were appended to the articles, as the first six trustees. The members comprising the organization were: Ithamar C. Whipple, Mrs. C. S. Wells, C. S. Wells, J. T. Holliday, S. A. Sturgis, Mrs. Emma J. Sturgis, J. L. . Cabe, D. C. Lusk, Mrs. Sarah L. Lusk, C. S. Bradbury, Elizabeth Wallace, Mrs. Sidney Davis, Mrs. Florence J. Gardiner, Mrs. Rebecca Crook, Mrs. W. W. Crook, Marietta Williams, Mrs. Esther M. Durbin, Mrs. E. A. Douglas, Asa C. Dobbins and Edna J. Leibey.
After the organization meeting the society rented the Y. M. C. A. rooms for the weekly meetings. Rev. D. J. Pierce, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Laramie City, presided at the organization of the Cheyenne Society and became its first pastor, preaching here once a month. On January i, 1879, Rev. William M. Young became the pastor and the courtroom was secured for the services.
At a meeting of the church November 22, 1877, I. C. Whipple, C. L. Wells and S. A. Sturgis were appointed to investigate the cost of lots and a church building. However, the church did not build until 1880. On September 24th of that year a contract was let for the construction of a church on the corner of Eighteenth and Ferguson streets (Carey Avenue). The second church building was located on the corner of Warren Avenue and Nineteenth Street and was constructed in 1894. The cornerstone was laid in July and the building dedicated in December of the same year.
The Sunday school was organized January 12, 1879, in the courthouse, with Prof. C. L. Wells, superintendent.
In the Southeastern Association churches are located at Casper, Cheyenne, Durham, Chugwater, Dwyer, Evanston, Gillette, Hulett, Jackson, LaGrange, Lusk, Rural, Laramie, Rock Springs, Sheridan, Pleasant Valley, Douglas and Ucross. In the Big Horn Basin Association churches are at Basin, Burlington, Greybull, Colter, Gebo, Lower Shell, Lucerne, Manderson, Meeteetse, Neiber, Otto, Powell, Shell, Thermopolis, Worland, Kane, Lovell, Lander and Riverton. Out of this number regular pastors are located at Manderson, Hulett, Casper, Sheridan, Meeteetse, Powell, Lovell, Evanston, Durham, Gillette, Glenrock, Douglas, Riverton, Jackson, Cheyenne, Shell, Laramie. Basin and Rock Springs.