Stories of the town and church of Ward, Colorado

Cover of the Ward Community Church booklet
Cover of the Ward Community Church booklet

From the reminiscences of Mary E. And Charles G. Greg. [We think this was written in the 1950s]

The writer, Gerald Greg, son of Charles and Mary Greg, finding that there was no written history of the town and church at Ward, wishes to remedy that defect.

My mother, still living at the extreme age of 94 years, is possessed of a keen memory of the times of the foundation of the Community Church. From her memories and the stories of my father, who died in 1942 at the age of 78, this record is compiled.

At some time in the fall of 1894, three men sat in the back room of Charles Greg’s drugstore playing their usual evening game of cards. All three men were Masons. There was George Williams, the superintendent of the Utica mill; Charles Grant Greg, owner of the town’s only drugstore; and one other whose name I am not sure of. I have the impression that he was Col. Brainard of Brainard’s camp down in left hand Canyon. These men, in a desultory conversation concerning the morals of mining camps, came to the conclusion that a gold camp without a church and a school could not successfully combat the extremely free and easy morality that went with large numbers of men living in a state of bachelor hood. Also, it was agreed amongst them that their wives wrath at the lack of church services might be ameliorated. It should be remembered that in those days of the turn-of-the-century the Church with its attendant social life was an extremely important aspect in all American small towns, and was nowhere more important than in the raw towns of the West. For one thing, church attendance separated the sheep from the goats, the respectable from the disreputable. Lines were very sharply drawn in those days—men were either Gentlemen (capital “G”) or bums. Women were either Ladies (again capitalized) or trollops. there were no gradations or amelioration’s.

Thus it was that these three men decided that Ward needed a church and since, in those days, it was considered proper to “put up or shut up,” they agreed to bankroll the project. As far as my information goes, these three men donated the money for the building. Other men, including Edward Gibbons, who was an expert carpenter, and Charles Walters, contributed their free services in the actual building of the church and very probably contributed monetarily. My sincere apologies are tendered to those other men of the town who gave generously of their labor, and whose names I do not know. I have heard secondhand, from the son of Dr. Eccles, the first minister of the church, that the “ladies of the evening” contributed, but of this mother knows nothing, and quite naturally Victorian Ladies of good family either did not know or ignored such matters.

As to the organization of the church, it started and has remained in its 73 years of existence a completely and uncompromisingly community church, according to the terms of its organization. It was given on the understanding that no church organization of whatever denomination should own or control its functioning.

The choice of minister and service rested entirely in the majority vote of the Protestant community. Of course, it rested, too, in the willingness of a minister to come up to a rowdy mining down under those conditions of employment. It so happens that Father and Mother had been married a few months earlier at the Congregational Church in Boulder, where both of them sang in the choir. Also, a cousin of my father, Dr. Frank Greg, was a Congregational minister who held the longest pastorate of any Congregational pastor in Colorado. So it was more in the nature of accidents that the headquarters of the Congregational Church Mission in Boston was appealed to for furnishing the architectural plans and, if possible, a minister. Hence the decidedly New England appearance of the Ward Church. I should mention in passing that although Mother was a member of the Congregational Church of Boulder, my father was Presbyterian and was the son of an early day Presbyterian circuit riding minister. Dr. Eccles was the first minister called to the pastorate of the Ward Church. After he left, an Episcopal minister was chosen largely through the agency of Mr. R. D. Ward, who was stationmaster of the C and N depot. Mr. Ward gave most generously of his time and funds for the purchase of books and hymnals, conducting Sunday school, etc. At the present time, Rev. Bob Perrin holds services in the summer months. He makes the trip up from Jamestown every Sunday to hold services, and then returns to hold services in that town.

There were very few amusements available in a mining camp, at least not amusements as they are known in this day of television, radio, motion pictures, etc. I remember seeing my first motion picture in 1907 in Boulder. It was a romantic version of Hiawatha’s love for Minnehaha, all wrapped up in one reel and blue light, and considered a famously artistic effort and eminently suitable for children. A pianist down front played “Southern Roses,” by Waldtenfel, throughout the showing, and mother expanded five cents a head for herself and three children for this excursion into modern culture. Don’t laugh, please. $.20 bought a whole pound of fillet mignon in those days.

Thus it remained the duty and (I may add) pleasure of the Ladies Aid Society of the Church to provide genteel and ladylike entertainment, and incidentally to raise money for church repairs, Sunday school supplies and, in the first days of the church, the purchase of various articles for the adornment of the church. Through some odd oversight, no provision had been made for the purchase of a bell, so the ladies of the church got out and frankly begged the minors for donations. Those ladies that I remember were Mrs. Will Schmaltz, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Hartley (she of the aristocratic British blood), Mrs. Charlie Walters, Mrs. Eccles and my mother, Mrs. Charles Gragg. George Williams of the Utica mill donated 5 ounces of pure gold, and another mine owner donated $100 of silver bullion to be used in the casting of the bell, but the cost of the bill was $250. The ladies had cajoled every miner in sight for every last nickel and dime, and still they were short $50 of the purchase price.

Mother was just a young bride of 18 years and as she now admits (at age 94) “somewhat naïve and green.” So she told my father, “I think I will ask Mr. Ed Murphy for donation.” Now there were two men in town named Ed Murphy. One was an old villain, generally drunk and fondly known in the camp as “Old Dirty Ed Murphy.” The other was called “Good Ed Murphy.” It was the good Ed Murphy mother was planning to put the hammer lock or half Nelson on for a gift. Unfortunately, from the Protestant viewpoint, the good Mr. Murphy was a devout Roman Catholic. So my father sneered openly in mother’s intentions saying, “he is RC and won’t give you a dime!” With that charming guile of the young and very pretty bride, Mother said, “He’s a very nice man and I am going to ask him anyway.” Which she did. To her delight the good Mr. Murphy said, “Happy to oblige, ma’am. I wondered if any of you ladies were ever going to ask me!” Whereupon he pulled out a chaniois miners poke and poured $50 in gold out into Mother’s hand. It was by far the largest single donation for the bell.

Another activity of the Ladies Aid was the holding of bazaars and church socials and ice cream festivals in the summer. The ice cream, of course, was home made out of pure cream from Mrs. Schmaltz dairy cows, and the huge old ice cream churns were turned by any unlucky minors the ladies happened to seize upon.

In those days a lady was known for her proficiency in the kitchen. In fact, the word more nearly approximated the actual meaning of the ancient Anglo-Saxon title, “she who makes the bread,” and there was considerable rivalry among ladies as to the finished product. As I remember it, Mother was famous for the excellence of her donuts; Mrs. Grover, who was Norwegian, for her bread; and Mrs. Schmaltz created, in my mother’s words, “the best souze I ever tasted.” For those who are unacquainted with the sheer gustatory delights of souze, its headcheese, but a head cheese such as no one can get nowadays. That icky mess peddled in the butcher shops today is unworthy of the name. Old Mrs. Weise, who lived in the Tucker Gunn house, made fabulous German küchen and Mrs. McKenzie who at that time operated the Columbia hotel, gave out with all sorts of goodies. I don’t remember the specialties of Mrs. R.D. Ward or Mrs. Hartley or Mrs. Jackson, but they all belonged to Ladies Aid and worked hard at the box suppers, bazaars and church socials. Mrs. Jim Rundle, wife of the mayor, was active in everything concerned with the church.

Then there were the famous theatrical evenings held in the church. This event was called “Living Pictures.” A large frame was erected on the podium and, with suitable lighting (from numerous coal oil lamps), human figures in costume and pose reproduced famous or popular pictures. Mrs. Smaltz in mop cap and with the flag draped over her knees, and a bewigged George Washington did Betsy Ross creating the American flag. Mother was an improbably young Martha Washington with powdered hair and panniers. Some of the gentlemen, pressed into service much against their will and in the face of conjugal threats, posed in various pictures, usually of a patriotic nature. Roosevelt at San Juan Hill was a grand favorite. People were neither ashamed nor embarrassed to display their patriotism in those days, and all this activity by the ladies of Ward Church made money. It bought a stove to heat the congregation. It repaired the roof. It bought pews to sit in and paint to preserve the pressed steel that sheathe the church.

The ladies raised the money for the organ. Wait a minute—was the organ the gift of Mr. and Mrs. R.D. Ward? I think so, but cannot say positively. Always the ladies bell rang out clear and sweet with the silver and gold in its metal.

There were long, lean days when the camp’s life flickered almost out. Then a young couple came up to the hills, and that lady, between operating a restaurant and grocery, spurred a drive to repair and renovate the church. That job is almost finished, thanks to Mrs. Ole Johnson.

Mrs. Johnson spoke to Baker Duncan about the condition of the church roof, and between them they started a program of rehabilitation that is still going on. The money was raised by donations, started by the first donation by Baker Duncan.

The roof was painted in this suggested that the walls of the church could stand painting. Money was raised by more donations and by the sale of paring knives and of reproductions of two old pictures of the town of Ward, one from before the fire of 1900 and in another believed to have been taken around 1910. In 1964 and Morton and her parents were preparing the church for Anne’s wedding to Bill Spomer, and her father Harlan Morton noticed that the rear end of the church near the foundation was badly damaged from the earth and rocks that caved from the hill. Another project to be planned for. Contractors with dirt moving know-how were contacted. Machinery was the only way to accomplish the difficult job, only there wasn’t any spot where the machinery could be placed on the hillside to do the work. W. J. Ostergaard secured the services of Ira McDaniel, a good shovel and a wheelbarrow. The Boulder County Commissioners were kind enough to loan a dump truck, which Mr. McDaniel filled with the aid of a ramp. Mr. Ostergaard emptied the truck many times to remove the tons of debris about the rear walls of the church. Mr. Ostergaard did the carpentering, replacing massive, but rotted, timbers.

Mr. Ostergaard has subsequently paneled the inner walls and ceiling of the church, and has done innumerable other jobs in the church. The work goes on, made possible by the hundreds of donations from givers all over the world. Only a month ago a group of Afghans touring the Rockies contributed. The written record of donations includes visitors from every state in the Union.

Every summer sees an attendance of visitors from all over the United States at the Sunday services. In this day and age they come by automobile. In the days prior to 1918, they arrived on the old No. 30 train of the Switzerland Trail. There were few guests stopping over the weekend at the C and N Hotel who didn’t attend divine services in the Ward Community Church. This was highly gratifying to the ladies of the church. Every feminine eye assessed the quality and style of apparel of the lady visitors.

Just let some tourist appear “en deshabillé,” and she was discussed (and not favorably) by the town’s ladies. I well remember my Aunt Edith, when she came for a visit from Washington attired in the very latest wrinkly from Paris. It was a confection of Battenberg lace over pale green satin, and was fitted with what was rather vulgarly termed a “hobble skirt.” Hobble skirts blossomed all overboard until the ladies discovered to their sorrow that scrambling up and down our streets simply could not be done in a hobble skirt. I also remember Mrs. Gus Meador remarking with considerable awe that one of the ladies at church wore a black voile skirt with “My dear, 16 gores.” I didn’t know what a gore was, and still don’t know, but an article of clothing with 16 of anything was certainly noteworthy. Incidentally, a word to mothers of today. You can never tell what a five-year-old youngster hears and remembers—I’ve remembered that skirt with 16 gores for 60 years! So be careful what you say in front of a child—they not only have big, flappy ears, but exceedingly long memories.

I mentioned recently that the church was being paneled. Frankly the church of today is a vastly more attractive structure inside than ever before. In the old days it was stark and rather grim in appearance. Everything wasn’t better in the old days. The church is infinitely more attractive since Mr. Ostergaard has worked it over.

I have before me a large box in Johnson’s Store. Theron it states, “the deep gratitude for all the donations toward refurbishing the Ward community church”—to which I can only add a hearty

Amen

Gerald C Gregg