A Brief History of St. John's
The current structure housing St. John The Baptist Episcopal Church was initially built in the late fall of 1881 for use by the Congregationalists and was designed by Elias Nashold. It was built on the northwest corner of Lincoln and French Streets where the front lawn of the courthouse exists today. The first services were held before it was entirely completed, beginning October 30, 1881.
Initially, the Congregational church was well-attended and had an extensive social program. The Summit County Journal of July 22, 1887 reported: "The Congregational Church now has a full choir accompanied with a coronet and the music is excellent."
Later in 1887 attendance was waning and subsequently the church was struggling to stay afloat. Luckily, toward the end of the year The Rev. William C. Gibbons arrived and managed to enliven the congregation once again. Unfortunately, the financial rewards were not as plentiful as it had been hoped they would be. The church was in dire need of a coat of paint. Hard times did not disappear.
As early as July 1887 the Episcopalians were renting time in the Congregational church. In the months of September and October 1891 they used the church for Sunday School classes as well as for morning and evening services. In October 1891 The Rev. Charles W. Hodder arrived and the following announcement appeared in the Summit County Journal: "We are pleased to learn that our Episcopalian friends have purchased the Congregational Church and lot. The building will be removed to the lots of French and Lincoln Avenues where considerable additions there will be made."
The new Episcopal church was dedicated on March 13, 1892 (the same year that the 1789 Book of Common Prayer was updated). The first vestry was formed March 14, 1892 and the parish was designated as Saint John the Baptist. The Reverend C. W. Hodder was engaged for $100.00 per month. He was highly educated and often presented lectures of public interest in the G.A.R. Hall. One series was on Africa; another on the Necessity of a Personal God. And he also gave a number of lectures explaining electricity when it was first used in Breckenridge in March of 1892.
For the next 25 years the district of Western Colorado had but one bishop and nine priests. Some served as resident rectors, but others served on a circuit from Buena Vista, Idaho Springs, Trinidad and Denver. One departing priest commented: "There is an appalling lack of interest for this Mission. Consequently, I have resolved to move to Leadville at the earliest opportunity where the work of the church may more profitably advance."
How surprised this priest would have been with the changes in store for Breckenridge and Summit County. Perhaps as a reflection of the town, the "little yellow church with the red doors" - still St. John The Baptist Episcopal Church - now supports a vibrant, active community which looks forward to another 115+ years as a community practicing hospitality, spirituality, and service!