A Founders’ Day celebration was held at Cedaredge Community United Methodist Church on Feb. 28 to rededicate the hearts of its members and to remember 113 years of church history.
A booklet, compiled by Enid Lewis for the event, includes much of the history used for this article, a list of the 45 pastors who served the congregation from the ﬁrst — John Wood — to the present — Debra A. Edwards — and a page of many projects undertaken over the years.
Intentions are to celebrate this date each year.
The Ernst Stolte home, north of Cedaredge, was the ﬁrst meeting place for 20 area individuals with a single purpose, to form a local Methodist Episcopal Church in Cedaredge. On that date, Feb. 26 1897, the church was ofﬁcially organized.
Logs were cut on Grand Mesa, hauled down the old lake road, hand hewn and used to build the ﬁrst church building. The location chosen was on the west side of the road about three-fourths of a mile north of Cedaredge.
When Johnny Wetterich was alive to tell about it, he said, “They had a ‘circuit preacher’ off and on, Rev. Hunsicker preached too. They even buried a few people next to the church, but we had to move them later into the town cemetery.”
The log church was moved and relocated to school property on the highway. Church services as well as some school classes used the log building until about 1914 when the log structure was sold to School District #36 and continued in use for school classes.
Church services were held in the hall above the First State Bank for a short time. A tabernacle was built in 1915, located one half block south of the present stone church.
Doris Stewart described the location of the tabernacle as “between the Baptist church and the old house on the corner.”
In 1919-1920, Rev. O.H. Carpenter headed the planning of the native stone landmark. The 1920 ﬂu epidemic postponed the beginning of work for about one year, and then, with a determined congregation, a nine-year excavation and construction project began. With teams of horses, chain, scraper, hand-held rock drilling equipment, dynamite, picks, shovels, and daily prayers ‘mountains were literally moved’ and the original stone church emerged.
Those who knew the early history from ﬁrst hand experiences are sorely missed. Jack MacAdams was a great story teller. When he was interviewed some years ago he stated, “My grandfather helped haul out the dirt, rocks and boulders from the basement area by an ore-like car. Digging the basement was like a mining operation. And, he hauled in much of the unique wall rocks from around the valley that became the church.”
MacAdams also said, “The church pastor blessed the rocks going out and rocks coming in. Everything hauled out of the basement went to ﬁll in the town ‘swamp’ at the west end of town. Most of it went in under what is now Odd Fellows Hall and the Masonic Lodge.”
Both Wetterich and MacAdams remembered playing basketball in that basement before the church was built above it.
A quote from Surface Creek Country reads, “Some people have wondered why the basement walls were built so high, which made it necessary for the long ﬂights of stairs to reach the sanctuary. The basement was planned to provide a place for young people to play basket and volley ball (this was before the high school gym was built).”
Doris Stewart recalls. “My future father-in-law (Dad Stewart) was owner of the mercantile in town. He would round up the men to help with the rocks and then help build the church.”
Robert (Bob) James, postmaster and builder of many structures in Cedaredge, built the stairway at the west entrance to the basement after retiring at age 70. His daughter, Margaret Mills, said, “His signature was to always use piping for handrails because they never wore out. His original stairs and handrails are still in use today.”
The building was completed and dedicated free of debt in 1929.
In that early interview with Johnny Wetterich, he told about 16 blue spruce trees brought in from above Paonia. “One tree went to the south side of our Methodist Church between the stairs. Eventually it was a big controversy taking that beautiful tree out of there. Water leakage was getting into the basement and it had to go. That was a tough decision for everyone who loved that big old blue spruce.”
Bev Gardner said that the basement walls were crumbling from pressure caused by huge roots. After much discussion a vote was taken and the tree was removed.
In September 1987, Rev. Mike Morgan became the pastor. Under his leadership the Board of Trustees launched the “Good as New” project to modernize, while maintaining the historical integrity of the church building. On Aug. 5, 1989, with only the sanctuary carpet to be laid, a devastating ﬁre occurred. Damage was extensive, gutting the building and destroying many records and photos. Members have contributed photos for replacements.
Many tears were shed, many hearts were broken. Determination and dedication were renewed. Many hours were spent removing debris, salvaging useable church equipment, negotiating an insurance settlement, and meeting to pray for funds each day. All of the ﬁnishing work was done by members. Russ Maine hand crafted the pulpit, the cross and many other pieces for the sanctuary. Stained glass windows (melted during the ﬁre) had to be replaced.
A rededication service was held on August 5, 1990, exactly one year after the ﬁre. What seemed impossible was completed.
A centennial celebration took place on Feb. 23, 1997 to commemorate the church’s 100th anniversary. Records and photos were on display.
Repairs and replacements continue to restore the building as needed; the most noticeable a concrete stairway replaced the crumbling front steps in 2002.
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