This year marks the 200th anniversary of the first vision of Joseph Smith in which he saw God the Father and His son Jesus Christ the Savior.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold sacred the events of that morning which ushered in a new dispensation and a restoration of the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This being the 200th anniversary of that event; many members of the church may be inspired to visit the sacred grove south of Palmyra New York where the church normally operates a few museums and provides tours.
For those of us in Colorado, even in the best of times a trip to New York may be out of the question; but given the current COVID-19 pandemic even if you drove to Palmyra you would find the site closed to the public until further notice.
So I embarked on a journey to discover more of the church’s history here in Colorado. Without violating any social distancing protocols I invite you to consider taking this journey with me; either virtually via the pictures below or on your own on a Sunday evening to come!
Where it All Started In Colorado
On August 7th, 1846 a settlement of 61 recent converts of the church traveling from Mississippi made camp on the Arkansas River just east of present-day Pueblo.
They had come along the main Overland trail to Fort Laramie but discovered the first groups from Nauvoo had stopped for the winter at Council Bluffs. Rather than turn back to join them; a trapper named John Renshaw led them down to a small adobe trading fort called El Pueblo which was thought to be a more suitable place to spend the winter.
They made their camp about a half-mile south of El Pueblo.
While encamped in Pueblo the settlement was also joined by 3 different groups of the Mormon Battalion arriving between September 1846 and January 27th, 1847. With the arrival in January, the population of the colony reached 289 people.
While encamped this temporary colony was the first branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Colorado. The settlement is also widely believed to be the first Anglo settlement in what is now the state of Colorado. The settlement also was the home of the first anglo born child in Colorado; Sarah Emma Kartchner.
In April 1847, the first members of the settlement began their trek north to Fort Laramie where they were waiting when Brigham Young arrives on June 1847. By the fall of 1848, all the members of the church had left the Pueblo settlement.
When You Visit:
Click here for Google Maps. Nestled behind a city baseball diamond on an empty corner of the lot is a marker. The nearest public parking is at the Runyon Field Sports Complex.
“Mormons Are In Denver”
The first official opening of the church in Colorado took place on December, 15th 1896 when John W. Taylor arrived in Denver with three other missionaries. At that time the mission was named the “Colorado Mission” and comprised the State of Colorado.
The first mission home and consequently the first building officially occupied by the church in Colorado is shown below. Its address or where it was located in Denver is not known although I found a home extremely similar near the Governor’s mansion on Pennsylvania st, I’m rather confident that the home shown below at which President Taylor lived is either no longer standing or is still hiding from me.
President Taylor remained the mission president until 1901 when Joseph A McRae was called. He served until 1909.
In 1904 the church built its first building in Colorado. The building would serve as the new mission home and the first chapel until 1917. That building is still standing and is located at the corner of Galapago St and 6th Ave.
On the end of the building, easiest to read from 6th avenue is a plaque erected June 1, 2000, for the 60th anniversary of the Denver Colorado Stake.
On April 1st, 1907 the mission name was changed to the “Western States Mission and encompassed several other neighboring states.
Bonus Places to Visit
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site sits east of the original Mormon settlement in Pueblo along the Arkansas river.
Although there is no marker about the Mormons at the Fort, they did have a lot of interactions with the site during their stay at Pueblo. Two of the Mississippi Saints from the colony; William Kartchner and James Harmom worked for the U.S. Army setting wagon tires.
Journal entries from members of the first detachment to separate from the Battalion, called the Higgins, or Family Detachment, mentions that after they separated from the main Battalion in present-day Kansas, they stopped for a couple of days before reaching Pueblo to use a forge to make repairs on their iron wagon tires. The only place along the Santa Fe Trail between Kansas and Pueblo with a forge that would enable them to do that was at Bent’s Fort. Therefore, it is safe to speculate that perhaps some of the women in the group may have visited the Fort, making them among the first Angelo women to be there. Finally, because the Battalion members at Pueblo were active members of the U.S. Army, they were authorized to draw rations from the Army’s food and supplies that were stored at the Fort, which they did on at least two occasions.
The Trappers Trail Marker is a marker that sits on the property of Adams County Historical Society located at 9601 Henderson Rd, Brighton, CO 80601.
Donated by members of the church, this marker tells the story of the “Trappers Trail” which was traveled primarily by trappers between Fort Laramie and Bent’s Fort in the 1800s.
It was along this trail that the members of the church from Mississippi traveled down to the settlement in Pueblo and likely along this same trail that they traveled back north in 1847 to join Brigham Young’s party.
That concludes my church history tour of Colorado!