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church Pitkin

Schedule: Because the summer population of Pitkin swells to over 300, and the permanent population is under 90, the Pitkin Community Church is a summer church, open between Memorial and Labor Days. In June and July there are usually two services to accommodate the attendees: 8:30 and 10:00 a.m.

Membership/Attendance: Most people attending are summer guests, either visitors for a weekend, a week, or the entire summer. The Church offers Associate Memberships to guests who have permanent memberships in their home area. Any summer Sunday morning, you will find most pews and chairs filled.

Guest Ministers: As the church enters its second century of ministry, worship services are conducted during the summer months by volunteer ministers who are scheduled by a member of the board of trustees.

Donations: 70% of offerings are donated to several missionaries supported by the church. This is possible because the church has no year-round utility or salary expenses.

History: The Pitkin Community Church was established May 1901 as the First Presbyterian Church of Pitkin Colorado.

The story of the earlier 1860-1870’s gold rush pioneers who were responsible for first populating this area, is one of adventure, courage, faith and hope, vision and sacrifice. The men and women who came here seeking wealth also sought to establish their faith—and while most of the evidence of their existence is gone or in ruins, one monument still stands: that is the Pitkin Community Church, the little gabled Queen Ann style building stands as a testimony to those faithful pioneers.

The following excerpts are from “A Rock of Ages in the Quartz Creek Valley” by Myron D. Dillow, copyright 2002:

“The gold rush of 1859 brought thousands of miners to Colorado seeking their Bonanza and a corresponding lifestyle. However, the vast majority fo those fortune seekers found life very harsh.

The exact date miners first entered the Gunnison Country has not been established; however, they were in the area by 1859 to 1861, and some even earlier.

Among those who followed the migration west were missionaries and preachers. John L Dyers (1812-1901), a pioneer Methodist preacher called “The Snow-Shoe Itinerant”, was one of those courageous and hearty pioneers.

On Monday, September 16, 1861, he set out for California Gulch, now Leadville, having been solicited to preach there by the pastor. He made his way over the range, about eight miles, to the top of Mosquito Pass, noting it was “the highest range I had then crossed.” From that vantage point he “could see the head of the Platte River, Arkansas, Blue River, and the head of the Grand River; like the Garden of Eden, it was at least the starting point of all these mighty rivers.” He continued:

As I took a view of those gigantic mountain peaks and deep gorges, the thought came to me, if heaven is above, I am nearer Canaan’s shores than ever before. After prayer for our country (now engaged in the bitter Civil War) on both sides, and for myself, alone on the dividing range of our great cotinent, I partook of my frugal stores, and that night preached at California Gulch, now Leadville. The next day (September 17, 1861) started alone for the Gunnison country, following an Indian trail. Had to wade the Arkansas. Took off my boots and I thought the top of the cold water would cut my legs off; and that day I saw for the first time the beautiful Twin Lakes. My surprise may be imagined. My path was up Lake Creek, a perfect mountain wilderness, snowy ranges towering on either side. I had not seen a human being for several miles; night was coming on, and I began to look for a camping place. I heard, just as the sun was sinking behind the snow-capped mountains, the sound of a bell, and soon found five men. They had one burro to pack their food and blankets. I asked for lodging. They said” “If you can furnish your own accommodations, you can stay.” I accepted.

I told him I was a bit of a Methodist preacher, and would like to preach in his house. He said: “you can, sir, when I get the roof on.”

It was announced for the next night, and nearly every man in the diggings came. There were a table and two benches. When the benches were full, the hearers sat on the ground all around the walls, and the next row against their knees, until every foot of space was filled….My subject was “Repentance and Conversion.” A more attentive crowd is seldom seen, and God’s presence was manifest, and the preacher felt that he was standing between the living and the dead.

This was the first effort in the way of preaching ever made in all the Gunnison country. …”

One can only imagine the awe of those who first crossed the Continental Divide and looked down upon the pristine beauty of the Quartz Creek Valley—the majestic mountains, the beautiful valleys, streams, large park or meadow where Pitkin would one day be located.

These pioneers established a town called Quartzville in February 1879, then changed the name to Pitkin in honr of their respected governor, Fredrick W. Pitkin, in August of that year.

News of ore discoveries spread like wildfire, and prospectors came by the scores. The census of 1880 reported 1,893 residents in the town alone. “

Unlike John Dyer noting in his journal the first preaching of the Gospel in the Gunnison Country, we do not have a record of the missionary or preacher’s name that first preached the Good News here. However, we have glimpses and sketches of their work in the valley. And the fact that we celebrate over a century of their work is a tribute of the lasting value of their faith and work.