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Venture of Faith - the Planning, Construction, and Consecration of a Mountain Church

August 3, 1941: "It was well after eight P.M. when the last car left the grounds. One came away with the strong feeling that it was something more than a "festive" day - for something deep and lasting had come into being in Hoback Basin..."

Laramie Wyoming, 1941: On Sunday, August 3rd, Bondurant Wyoming, in the Hoback Basin, just south of the Jackson Hole and Teton country, was the scene of one of the most colorful events of the Episcopal Church in Wyoming: The Consecration of the new Church of St. Hubert the Hunter.

In the winter of 1940, Bishop Ziegler and the ranchers of the Hoback Basin, went into the woods by sleigh, and cut down the trees that were to become the future St. Huberts. Later in the winter these logs were brought out by bob-sleigh, stacked at the top of the hill a short distance behind the Church site, and when the snow melted, the logs were rolled down the hill, and dragged to the site.

In September 1940, building operations began, with no paid labor... instead the ranchers volunteered their services.

When the Church was "three-logs-up" there was a wedding ceremony - the Sanctuary was floored by shoving in temporary loose boards, the automobile robe from the Bishop's car carpeted the Sanctuary, and the Bishop's Portable Altar was set up: "Slim" Stone and Lois Paris were married Sept. 5th.

The Church was eleven-logs-up when snow came, and work had to be abandoned until Spring, and Spring and melting snow in that country means almost summer. In late June and July 1941 intensive work began again, in order to complete and consecrate the Church by early August.

A year ago August, when Miss Jessie Van Brunt, of Brooklyn, New York, and her sister Carrie, visited the Chapel of the Transfiguration, Moose, for the dedication of two vestibule windows "Summer" and "Winter," made and given by Miss Van Brunt, Bishop Ziegler told the story of his plans for a St. Hubert's Church at Bondurant, in order to provide a decent place for social and religious life in that isolated area, and the forty or so families living on ranches in the Basin. Miss Van Brunt asked if she might make a window of the Vision of St. Hubert, for the Church. Of course Bishop Ziegler and all concerned were delighted.

The very day work began on St. Hubert's, September 1940, Miss Van Brunt's sister, Carrie, died suddenly in Colorado Springs. During the winter following Miss Van Brunt carried out her promise and made the window as a memorial to her sister, who was a great lover of animals.

The building of St. Hubert's was in truth a venture of faith - the people of the Basin are hard-working ranchers, with no cash - when they sell their cattle in the summer they try to get enough to pay their winter's grocery bill. But before the Church could be completed, cash would be necessary, to pay for floor-boards, hardware, cement for foundation posts, roofing, window-panes. During the year, as Bishop Zieglar told of St. Hubert's, offerings were devoted to the new Church. But more money was needed.

Providentially, Bishop Perry, of Rhode island, heard of St. Hubert's - and then told Bishop Ziegler of the diamond Mrs. Markoe had given him ten or more years ago, to be sold after her death and the money used in the Mission field, as a memorial to herself and her son James. Bishop Perry offered to dispose of the diamond and devote the proceeds to St. Hubert's. The value of diamonds had gone down, especially old-fashioned cuttings. But through the great efforts of Mrs. Brank Hinckley of Providence, Rhode Island, a purchaser of the diamond was found. This meant $1400, which would almost finish the Church debt-free. A few private gifts, and an offering at Moose on the very day of Consecration, completed the sum needed.

The great day arrived: The Governor of Wyoming, Nels H. Smith, came, and rode to the ceremony in a stage coach with Bishop Ziegler, from the Triangle F Ranch (one miles north of the Church), escorted by 75 "dudes" on horse-back (dudes vacationing in Wyoming). Cars poured in from almost every State in the Union - vacationers - as well as dozens of Wyoming cars.

Miss Van Brunt, the maker and donor of the window arrived.

The Service of Consecration took place at four o'clock in the afternoon, with the Bishop officiating. The Rev. Dudley B. McNeil of Evanston, Wyoming, read the Sentence of Consecration, and the Rev. Walter W. McNeil of Kemmerer, Wyoming, preached the Sermon. St. Hubert's is part of the great field served so finely by these two priest-brothers. Eight children were baptized. One lady was confirmed. The beautiful stained-glass window was blessed; the beautiful rustic altar, made by local men, was blessed. The whole was deeply moving.

The Church of course was jammed, with hundreds of people unable to get in. Two ranchers took up the offering in ten-gallon hats (with six-shooters on their belts). And they didn't confine the offering to those who could get in - five hymns were sung while they circulated amongst the crowd without.

Following the Service, the crowd gathered about the Church steps, and the Governor of Wyoming was introduced and spoke happily on this occasion. Miss Van Brunt received great applause when Bishop Ziegler introduced her, and the crowd demanded that she speak - which she did, delightfully.

Then came the distribution of fine double-bitted Kelly axes, 5-pounders - to all who had had a part in the actual building of the Church... 42 axes to these men, all inscribed in Bishop Ziegler's writing (by woodburning stylus) "To a Builder of St. Hubert's Church, Bondurant."

Then came the Barbecue - Mr. Frank Bessette, deputy sheriff of Teton County, as master of the Barbecue, had arrived at 6 A.M. to prepare the beef - and had the "critter" cooking all day over the barbecue pit. (see accompanying picture).

It was well after eight P.M. when the last car left the grounds. One came away with the strong feeling that it was something more than a "festive" day - for something deep and lasting had come into being in Hoback Basin - something that would bind together these ranchers in a helpful wholesome way, rather than pulling them apart as we know that kind of isolation is prone to do.

It was deeply moving to go into the Church, when the crowds were around the barbecue pit, and find a few people coming and going, sitting quietly for a while, admiring the simple beauty of the whole interior - and thinking... we know not what, but obviously thankful for what had come to them. Before the crowd dispersed a little group gathered in the Church, while a musician present played the organ. He could hardly leave; "more" calls for "more" came as he ended each piece. The wanted hymns played, one after the other.

Yes, something as come to the Hoback Basin, something eternal.

By Mildred S. Capron
Secretary to Bishop Ziegler
Laramie, Wyoming © 1941
Courtesy the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, Laramie

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