Between the years of 1880-1890, church communities began to emerge within the Town of Telluride. We began as a Congregational Church, which was the first church built in Telluride in 1889. Additional churches followed, including St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, and the Christian Science Center. Later, other churches of varying denominations were built.
In the late 1800s, with Telluride’s colorful, untamed mining character in full swing, the Reverend George Wallace Belsey and his family felt the call of the West, which led them to our Congregational Church in Telluride. George Wallace Belsey Jr. was 12 years old when he began hearing his father’s religious services, and he recollected them in a documentary in 1962: “Two inevitable facts of life gave considerable occupation to the Congregational Preacher; marriage and death. There were probably 10 unmarried men for each unmarried woman in town. There were many hurried marriages, though few weddings. Death took a goodly toll. The burials, in well-named Lone Pine Cemetery, were a big public event. The Reverend would make a few remarks, but I am sure no eulogy. After a brief service, a long cortege of buggies and riders would move slowly behind the hearse and a dance hall band, wailing a funeral dirge all the way to the cemetery. When the cemetery rites were over, the mourners rushed back to their places of business, followed by the band playing ‘There’ll Be A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight!'”
The Belsey family stayed in Telluride through 1910, and shortly after they left, the church and community fell on hard times when the mining industry went bust. In 1938, the Presbyterians helped revive the Telluride church considerably, and the first documented Roll of Pastors, Trustees, and Elders was kept. Records show that Paul E. Ferguson was the first Presbyterian pastor to be installed in our church on March 30, 1938.
In the 1960s, the old sanctuary burned to the ground. Because of the strong support of our local community and congregation members, caring individuals donated endless hours to help rebuild our church, which is now located at 434 W. Columbia Street in Telluride. At the time, a local women’s group; the lda Smith Missionary Society, held craft shows with proceeds donated to the cost of construction materials, and miners donated stone to encase the custom fireplace that still stands in the sanctuary.
Since the 60s the culture of Christ Church has changed with the wider community. Several successful pastorates have enhanced the connections between congregation and community. With three centuries of presence in Telluride, Christ Presbyterian Church is a vibrant, informed, and compassionate congregation ready to face the challenges of being church in the twenty-first century.