When one thinks of the California Gold Rush, images of the wild west come to mind. Miners trying to make their fortune, saloons bursting with voices and music well into the night. Lots of images are associated with the Gold Rush, but we tend to forget about the other aspects of a town that flourished and struggled right along with the frenzy to find gold.
What about the Churches that we built to try to bring some order to an otherwise wild west? Although small and quaint, they were built with loving care and beautiful design.
The Sutter Creek United Methodist Church is a classic example of a small gold rush town church. Its white steeple reaching far into the perfectly blue sky. Front doors that swing open wide to invite everyone in. The tall stained glass windows that let the sunlight stream in, in beautiful colors. Its raised pulpit, so that the ministers voice would carry out to all who attend. The balcony in the back to house the choir so that their voices loft over everyone below. The classic low back, wooden pews all waiting to be filled up. This little church invokes such warm feelings, that you cannot help but feel safe and calm inside.
One of the first sermons preached in Sutter Creek was delivered by Rev. William Hurlbott in Hardings Bar in 1852. Ten years later, a record book indicates that on April 2, 1862 the Sutter Creek church was incorporated. sometime between 1863 and 1867 the back room was added on at a cost of $1300. The debt was paid through the efforts of the Ladies Ais Society.
The church had difficult times during the 1870s when the Eureka Mill in Sutter Creek burned and affected the employment picture. The Sunday School lost attendance when the parents objected to some "colored" children being included in a Sunday School Picnic. A miners strike to obtain better wages led to a loss of income and some violence. within a few years, however, the church began to grow stronger and was prospering by the end of the century.