The history of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, is like a page out of an American History book. The report of gold being found in streams coming out of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and the lure of fertile homestead lands available for settling brought people to this area of Colorado.
But it was the sugar beet industry that attracted the German people who were migrating from Russia where they were being oppressed. Thousands came, bringing with them their language, habits of thrift, industry, honesty, and a desire for freedom of religion. Many settled in the vicinity and town of Loveland. Some lived in tents where County Market now stands, until housing was available.
Having farmed in Russia, they sought life on the farms in the area.
The wanderings of these people from their native Germany to a long sojourn in Russia, the oppressions imposed upon them, the attacks of the Russian Cossacks upon them, the epidemics of disease suffered by them, and then their long journey to America, makes a story as interesting and intriguing as the Holy Crusades.
Arriving there, they had no church connection. Some of them had come from other areas in the United States where there were German Congregational churches. The freedom of worship exercised by the people in these churches appealed to them as compared with the strict Lutheran adherence to the rule of the churches they had known in Russia. Thus it was that the First German Congregational Church was organized in 1901.
The first building occupied by the congregation was built in 1903. It portrayed the architectural style of building in that early pioneer era, with its tall chimney, steep pitched roof and high narrow windows. It served the German congregation from 1903 until 1915 and was then demolished.
The present structure was built in 1915. The overall construction was supervised by a contractor from Denver, Colorado, who hired local help and professional people as required.
There was great harmony and cooperation between everyone who worked on this project. The basement was dug by two horses pulling a scraper that was controlled by one man guiding its depth of cut and fill. The scraper resembled a huge overgrown scoop with two handles.
It took three weeks to excavate the basement. The concrete footings were then put in and, as soon as they were set, the concrete walls of the basement were completed. The carpenters went to work and the flooring and the wooden framework of the building were put up. The light colored brick was obtained from the Denver Brick and Pipe Company, who was then a well-established and reliable brick manufacturer of the area. The bricklayers then completed the outside brick walls while the plasterers finished the inside walls and the carpenters finished the roof, installed the pews and built the altar. Plumbing was furnished by a local plumber, who put in a coal fired furnace, the iron radiators and steel piping. The church was completed in the early part of November, and the overall dimensions were 56 feet wide and 101 feet long. It cost $22,000.00.
The church was dedicated on the 14th of November, and was marked by the longest worship service ever held in this structure. At the dedication, the Rev. John Hoelzer entered the building first, then the church choir, followed by the entire congregation. It was a glorious occasion, but it took many years of toil and sacrifice to pay off the debt of this church, when you consider the value of the U.S. dollar at that time.
The large church bell, which has tolled out its worship message each Sunday to the church members, visitors and community for these many years, was purchased in 1903 and delivered free of charge to the congregation by the C & S Railroad. At the present time the bell is rung by an electrically operated clapper.
Because of many of the younger people being unable to understand the German language, it was decided in 1958 to use the English language during the worship services. First they had one English service a month, then half and half services. Then they finally went to English altogether. During that transition time the Brotherhood and some of the Church School and Christian Endeavor for the young people were still using the German. At that time the name of the church was changed from First German Congregational Church to First Congregational Church. In 1974 First Congregational Church became a part of a new union, consisting of Evangelical Reformed Churches, German Congregational and English Congregational Church, which was named United Church of Christ. Therefore, the new name is First Congregational Church United Church of Christ.
The First Congregational UCC is a church whose affairs are managed by its own members. It provides the widest liberty in the matter of doctrines and policy. It creeds are not necessarily binding and its platforms have been open to change. It is a group of people who believe in Jesus Christ, who join together for worship and fellowship and carry on the work of the Kingdom of God within their own community.
Wherever these churches were formed, they brought with them a high devotion to Christian idealism, and a fortitude which comes as a bright heritage out of the heroic suffering, sacrifice, and victory in their glorious past.
Information taken from past history of the church, Mrs. Katherine Trupp, and “The Bible and the Gold Rush” by Walter S. Hopkins and Virginia Greene Millikin.
Compiled by Viola L. Stroh, 1987. Updated 1995, 2017