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

Page 83

          This change in my fortunes, however, did not lessen my work as a priest, but rather increased it. Lines drawn from Denver to the boundaries of the state both north and east would cut off a section nearly one hundred miles in width and one hundred and fifty in length. This section had no priest in its entire extent. Father Conway of North Platte, Nebraska, had made one or two visits to a part of it but no priest in Colorado had charge of it. In leaving Denver I assumed the care of this field.It is not that most of it was unbroken prairie over which herds of cattle ranged, but there were two railroads crossing it and homesteaders were then coming in and taking up government land. Several little towns were starting also, among which were Brighton, Platteville, Fort Morgan, Sterling, Julesburg, Akron, and Yuma. Section houses at the intermediate stations were about fifteen miles apart, and many of these were in charge of Catholic men. My first work was to explore this region and find out who and where the Catholics were. After locating them I made the little towns my stations for Sundays and visited intervening station houses during the week. My first headquarters was at Brighton, about twenty miles from Denver, and there I built my first mission church. Mr. Daniel Carmichael donated the ground and in 1888 I built a neat brick church which served the congregation well until a new one was built about 1930. Sterling was then growing and a new railroad was coming to it when the Burlington was building from Holdrege in Nebraska to Cheyenne in Wyoming. From the graders on this road I collected enough money to buy a block of ground in Sterling, and in 1888 I built a frame church which was dedicated by Bishop Matz, June 24, 1888— the feast of its patron, St. John the Baptist. The church had the misfortune of being hit three times by hurricanes and demolished the third time.

          In one of my old notebooks I find data which I condense:

          “Prior to 1887 there were but few Catholics in what is now Logan and Washington counties. Both these counties were then a part of Weld County (both counties have since been subdivided several times) and had no settlers except along the lines of the union Pacific and the Burlington railroads. Sterling was a division station on the Union Pacific road, and as such, had prospects of becoming a town of some importance. It was founded by people from Mississippi and Tennessee who belonged to the Southern Methodist or Cumberland Presbyterian denominations, and these natural inherited a great deal of religious prejudice. However, none of these opposed me in efforts to establish a Catholic church there, and some of them even added there mite [might] to my subscription list. I first set mass in the railroad section houe [house] occupied by Mr. Micheal Nellingan, then in a small hall owned by a citizen and rented for any public purpose, and finally in my new church. The congregation was composed mostly over railroad men, and the remainder, about a dozen in all, were business men and homesteaders.

           “Julesburg was at the north east corner of the state at the junction over the main line over the Union Pacific railroad and the branch leading to Denver. It was a new frontier town and was all agog over the rush of settlers seeking government land. Lake all frontier towns it was praised as the future great city, from which we are railroads were to radiate to all parts. It was said to have every natural advantage and a blessing except rain, and that that would follow as it always did when the country was settled and the ground plowed. There were several good business blocks there, and I bought a site for a church, but in the meantime said mass at the section house. Counting the homesteaders with

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