Congregational Church History

Congregational Church Remodeled 1954, Exterior
Congregational Church Remodeled 1954, Exterior

Congregational Church Remodeled 1954, Interior
Congregational Church Remodeled 1954, Interior

Last updated: October 20, 2010

Library Archives
November 18, 1954

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH HISTORY GIVEN SUNDAY

The following article was written by and read by James R. Griffith, Sr. at the dedication of the First Congregational Church school addition Sunday. As it contains much history of the church progress made in Lusk it is being published here.


In the spring of 1886, the Rev. Harmon Bross, general missionary of the Congreagational Home Missionary Society, accompanied by Messrs. Goodwin, Richards and Conrad, held a street service in the old town of Silver Cliff, which was located west of the so-called Mining Hill on Running Water, then Laramie County, Wyoming Territory.

The service consisted of music, prayers and a brief sermon. The Rev. Bross brought with him a large tent, which he erected and used for a tabernacle. Mr. Goodwin, a student from the Chicago Theological Seminary, was left in charge of the work and remained in the field during the summer of 1885.

When the railroad failed in its negotiations to purchase land for a townsite on the site of Silver Cliff, the town was moved to its present location and the name changed to Lusk, in honor of the man who sold the railroad the land upon which the new town was to be built. The tabernacle was also moved to the new town and erected upon the lot donated by the railroad company, which is the site now occupoied by the Baptist Chruch.

In the fall of 1886, the Wyoming Sunday School Association sent a man to visit the frontiers of Wyoming for the purpose of organizing Sunday Schools wherever possible. When her arrived in Lusk, riding horseback, he looked about for a place to spend the night. Not finding anyone willing to take him in, he slept on the floor of a saloon, with his coat for a blanket and his shoes for a pillow. When he returned to Cheyenne he at once tendered his resignation with the report that it took a stronger and sturdier man than he to contend with the conditions which he found in Lusk.

The first sermon ever delivered in the new town of Lusk was preached by the Rev. Bross from a wagon standing in front of what was then the Baker Cros. store, for many years the Snyder store, on the ground now occupied by the Texas filling station. A wagon was rolled around in front of the place, the preacher turned the wagon seat around, using it for a pulpit, read his text, and proceeded to deliver his first sermon. When the service began word was passed around that a man was preaching up the street, stores and saloons were closed and all went to hear him. His congregation was made up principally of cowboys, gamblers, saloon keepers and store keepers of the town. They heard him in respectful silence and from all appearances seemed to enjoy the sermon, after which they quietly dispersed. Old-timers tell us that 120 men and not a single woman heard that first sermon.

During the winter of 1886-1887, Congregational church services were held in Curly Criswell's Hall, second floor of the Collins House, later named the Northwestern Hotel, which was torn down following a fire in the fall of 1930. The hotel was located on the present site of the Burge Motors. Services were also sometimes held in the Brooks home. Rev. Bross continued to come and preach once a month. At other times sermons were read by lay members of the congregation.

The organization of the Congregational Church of Lusk was perfected on February 20, 1887, with the following members: Mrs. J. H. Clark, Mrs. M. C. Martin, Mr. S. J. Kingman, Mrs. A. B. Carpenter and Mrs. J. E. Blodgett.

CIRCLE ORGANIZED
The ladies of the church organized their Aid Society, or what is now the Church Circle, on January 24, 1887, and the subject of erecting a church building was immediately taken up. In May, 1887, material was secured and the building commenced. The dedication took place on January 22 , 1888. The entire cost of $500.00 was a grant from the Congregational Building Society.

The building committee of the first church was composed of Mr. Frank S. Lusk, the man for whom the town was named, and who passed away in Missoula, Mont., many years ago; Mrs. E. E. Onabaugh, now deceased, for many years a practicing attorney at Sheridan; and Mr. John H. Barron, who also passed away about 25 years ago.

Going through the church records and through the old files of The Lusk Herald to unearth this bit of church history, we ran across an aricle written by the late Mrs. Anna Gray on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Ladies Aid Society, or Ladies Circle. Says Mrs. Gray:

"When the building was finished, with the roof, floor and bare walls, it was turned over to the Ladies Aid Society in the fall of 1888. I wonder if a happier band of women ever buckled on the armor than the dozen ladies who gathered on that appinted morning, armed with brooms, mops, soap and water. Before nightfall we looked upon a room that appeared beautiful to us. A floor scrubbed to the last degree of whiteness; windows that sparkeled in the autumn sunshine and the fine white walls - nothing more - neither lamp, nor chair nor table."

The dedication of the church building was quite an event in the town. Standing room was at a premium, the entire town turning out for the ceremonies. The Ladies Aid Scoiety women carried in tables, chair, rugs and other furniture. A new organ arrived barely in time for use. Rev. Bross conducted the ceremonies, assisted by the Rev. Jenkins, the regular minister. Mrs. Henry L. Reed presided at the organ and the opening hymn was "I Have Come to Save You" and the closing hymn "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."

In the spring of 1919, 31 years after its dedication, this building (now the Baptist Church) was sold and was used as a postoffice during the oil boom days. Later the Baptist Church was organized in Lusk and bought the building which it still occupies.

Rev. R. R. Shoemaker was then pastor and it was through his influence that the old building was sold and lots on Pine street purchased, which were never used and were later sold for only a fraction of their original price.

A building known as the Community Hall was rented temporarily for services. With the death of the oil boom the prospect of a new church building became more and more remote with Rev. Shoemaker resigned and left town.

Ten years passed, during which time services continued to be held spasmodically. Ministers serving during these years were Rev. Harry W. Johnson, Rev. Harry H. Koontz and Rev. S. C. Cadle.

In 1929 the ladies of the Church Circle purchased the Dr. Hawthorne house (now the Manring Convalescent Home) and for the next two years services were held there. It was during this time that Rev. Edwin F. Irwin was engaged as a minister and it was due to his untiring efforts and unbated enthusiasm that a new $20,000 brick church, our present church home, was built. The present building was dedicated on February 15, 1931, at an all-day service at which more than a thousand people attended. Except for a loan of $2500.00 made by the Congregational Chu4rch Building Society,of New York, the building was entirely paid for when dedicated. Sufficient money was left over from the building fund to buy the grand piano now in use and put five tons of coal in the basement. The $2500.00 loan has been paid in full.

The first minister of this church was named George Jenkins, the first child baptised was named George Jenkins and in the 30's our minister was named George Jenkins, coming here from Lander.




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Debbie Sturman, Director
425 South Main Street, P O Box 510
Lusk, WY 82225-0510
Phone: 307-334-3490
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