Editor’s Note: In July, as Colorado Springs prepares for its 150th anniversary on the 31st, The Gazette prepared a series of articles on the history of our city. Return for a fascinating glimpse into the people and events that made Colorado Springs the landmark it is today.
Churches and religious communities have played a central role in the formation of Colorado Springs, from its formative roots in the mid-1800s to the 21st century.
“Colorado Springs, since its founding, has always had high religious goals and values in its growth and development, but, of course, these have changed with time and with people,” said Katherine Scott Sturdevant, professor. history to the community of Pikes Peak. University.
From the Wild West that made gold diggers into millionaires and helped treat tuberculosis patients in need of fresh mountain air, came Catholic nuns caring for injured railway workers and settlers building a town in from dry semi-arid desert lands.
The sisters worked to help open the city’s first hospital, St. Francis Health Center, in 1887. Another group of Catholic nuns entered the medical scene in 1893, taking control of the Glockner Tuberculosis Sanitorium, the current site of Penrose hospital.
In addition to Colorado Springs being a “city of trees,” founder Brig. General William Jackson Palmer wanted it to be a “city of churches,” Sturdevant said.
Palmer and his Colorado Springs Company, which he formed in 1871 with his business partner, Dr William Bell, donated land to build most of the churches in the historic downtown area, said John Harner, professor in the geography department. and Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado at Colorado. Springs.
“It fits with his vision of creating an honest and engaging community,” he said.
Palmer’s philanthropy also matched his temperance clause which banned alcohol, in an effort to protect property values and attract investors, Harner said.
Palmer, recipient of the Civil War Medal of Honor for his leadership in combat, was the product of a Quaker education in Delaware, noted Sturdevant.
“Although he may not have been publicly active in the church like most Quakers, he remained influenced by his core beliefs,” she said. These included equality and pacifism.
“Young Palmer was a passionate abolitionist who argued at his Philadelphia friends reunion and with his parents when he determined that fighting during the Civil War to end slavery was more appropriate than ‘act only on pacifism,’ Sturdevant said.
The United States was in a time of wars and political “polarization” when developers built the Pikes Peak region, Sturdevant said.
In Colorado Springs, Palmer gave up Quaker meetings and joined other Protestant churches.
“Like many Quakers, he exercised the values of Quaker practice in his utopian community – ‘moral’ behavior, racial equality and quality, integrated public education,” said Sturdevant.
Many settlers subscribed to the moral reform and social experimentation of the Second Great Awakening, she said.
“These ‘awakened’ people joined forces with Quaker social activists to fight slavery and for equal rights for women and races,” she said. “They left a mark by leaving their marks.”
Palmer also wanted Colorado Springs to become a college town, said Sturdevant, the first college – Colorado College – being established in 1874 with help from the Congregational Church. The school no longer has this affiliation.
Palmer and Bell’s generous land donations meant Colorado had “a broad representation of most traditional denominations from the start, including African-American churches,” Harner said.
The first black congregation, Payne Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, was erected in 1875 at 128 Pueblo Avenue in Weber Street.
Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church opened its doors three years later on Pueblo Avenue and East Cimarron Street.
The churches were centered in one of the state’s largest black communities, Payne Chapel having served from 1921 to the mid-1930s as the city seat for the Universal Negro Improvement Association’s empowerment movement, according to reports. historical reports.
A “consciously benevolent relationship” between black and white churches existed at the time, Sturdevant said.
In 1876, Payne Chapel AME Church celebrated the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies with a picnic attended by “colored” and white people, newspaper accounts detail.
In addition, the AME Church held “particularly attractive social events for Thanksgiving and Christmas every year, to which everyone was welcome,” one article read.
“When the newspaper praised the intelligence and progress of the citizens of Colorado Springs, it was keen to say that the citizens of color were also intelligent and progressive,” Sturdevant said.
Other historic downtown churches include:
• First United Methodist Church, founded in 1871
• First Baptist Church, founded in 1872, when Colorado Springs had a population of 300
• First Presbyterian founded in 1872, 16 days before Colorado Springs filed for incorporation in Colorado territory
• Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church, founded in 1872 and completed in 1926
• First congregational church, founded in 1874
• St. George’s Anglican Church, built in 1874 and previously used by Grace Episcopal Church
• The Sainte-Marie cathedral, inaugurated in 1891
• Chadbourn Gospel Mission or Chadbourn Spanish Gospel Mission, founded in 1930 to provide religious and educational support to the Mexican community in the Conejos District who worked on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, according to the Colorado Register of Historic Places
Alongside Christian families, the first Jewish settlers settled in the city of Colorado City shortly after its founding in 1859, in the area now known as Old Colorado City.
In a decade, they’ve grown into real estate developers, hoteliers, stagecoach operators, city administrators and cattle ranchers, according to a historical overview of the Jewish community published in the Intermountain Jewish News.
The homes hosted the first religious services, such as an 1895 memorial service and great holy day services later in the year, according to accounts by Perry B. Bach, author of “Glimpses at Our History: Temple Shalom’s 40-year Anniversary & Colorado Springs Jewish Community 110 Years. “
In 1900, 21 Jews donated to purchase a Torah scroll and organize the first congregation, the Orthodox Kehilla of Colorado Springs.
The evolution of values-based politics
As the city grew, after World War II, military installations began a march towards pursuing the ethical mindset of the founders.
During the 1980s, churches played an important role in community culture, but not in politics, Harner said.
Values-based politics began to define the city in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as economic development efforts to attract evangelical Christian organizations to Colorado Springs proved successful.
“There was a desire to have a ‘clean’ industry that would not ‘pollute’ us environmentally or morally – thus detracting from our attractiveness,” Sturdevant said.
“There was the ambition to be the Christian radio capital of the world, the Bible publishing capital of the world, and the arrival of Focus on the Family was eagerly awaited.”
Colorado Springs residents launched a statewide voting initiative in 1992 to amend the state constitution to prevent protected status based on sexuality. The United States Supreme Court overturned the approved voting measure, and it never became law.
The prolific rise of fundamentalist religious ministries in Colorado Springs – more than 30 organizations arrived between 1988 and 1993 – led the city to become known as the “Vatican of evangelical Christianity” by some and the “evangelical capital” of the nation by d ‘other.
Missionary and evangelical outreach groups, ministry training, video printing and production, radio broadcasts, orphan support, Christian publishing and related support industries have flocked to Colorado Springs.
Among those headquartered here: Focus on the Family, Biblica (formerly International Bible Society), Reach Beyond (HCJB World Radio), Every Home for Christ, OC International, Mission of Mercy, Christian Camping International, Missionary Internship, Inc. , Young Life, Compassion International, The Navigators and the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which is now leaving, claiming the cost of living is too high for its employees.
The political power of James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, a multimedia organization, and Ted Haggard, founder of New Life Church, which now has more than 10,000 members, was strong, said Harner.
“Both were national leaders of the Christian right, with major influence within the Republican Party,” he said.
After rumors about Haggard’s sexuality surfaced, he admitted on national television that he had an inappropriate relationship with a male volunteer and used drugs.
Haggard’s “fall from grace” caused the evangelical community to engage in “much needed soul-searching and withdraw from aggressively promoting their agenda in the political arena,” Harner said.
Today, the evangelical Christian community is still a major player in the local economy, he said, with the concentration of Christian organizations creating savings through the sharing of resources, labor expertise and development. ‘a united community.
New evangelical churches continue to open in Colorado Springs and more have developed. The community is more diverse than ever, historians say, but its roots continue to leave a “lasting legacy,” Harner said.