Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 78

          I found the people good but divided into factions and clamoring for toree [three] churches in three small villages which formed the parish where one was fully sufficient and reasonably convenient. Then, a portion of the Irish did not come to mass because of differences with former pastors. I said mass in two of the villages for a time, and was glad to find the Protestants put obstacles in the way of building a church in one of them. The church I had was a big stone basement and a grandiose plan for a superstructure that never could be realized. The front of the basement was above the street and the rear was excavated into the mountains. One half of the basement was used as living rooms and the other half was the church.

          My first work was to see the creditors and secure them of payment of their claims, which they had almost despaired of. By paying small instalments I gained their confidence, and when by degrees a spirit of unity came back to the people my way seemed clear. I removed the partitions from the basement and soon the congregation filled the entire space. The result of this was that all cause of the Bishop’s worry passed away. It took years to pay off the indebtedness but the end came, and while it was coming I secured ground and built a comfortable rectory, and also brought a fine bell from the Stuckested Foundry of St Louis, the same that had made the bell for the Cathedral in Denver, and both bells are still admired for their beautiful tones. One of my altar boys and first communicante there was little John Brown, who became a Jesuit and rose to be the Superior of the Rocky Mountain Mission of that order. He was recognized first for Bishop but declined and remained a Jesuit to act as spiritual director at several of their novitiates.

          I had some outlying missions but none regularly constituted. They were little mining camps that flourished for a while and then faded away. These I visited and often said mass at the house of some Catholic, and I was always well paid for these trips, for the miners were not stingy when they had money.

          In those days the whole of Northwestern Colorado was almost a wilderness. The Ute Indians had been removed to Utah after the Meeker Massacre, but they would return at times in the hunting season and then were [there] would be trouble. In 1879 they killed some of the adventuroue [adventurous] settlers near Meeker, and were supposed to have set fire to the timber. One Sunday the smoke was so thick people could not assemble. It was a false alarm, however, for the Indians were nearly a hundred miles away. One against them (by the State) and after a single skirmish they retreated to the reservation in Utah and were kept there by the U S forces. 

          In 1880 one of my best families moved into the Middle Park district, some fifty miles from Central City. Cozzens Ranch it was called, or Graver, the name of the post office. Mr Cozzens was not a Catholic, but his wife and children were good ones. When they were leaving Central City, Mrs Cozzens gave me her fine cooking stove for me new residence. The father and mother were the first couple married by Father Machebeuf at Central City in 1860.

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