Famous Church in Lamoille, Nevada
Churches and saloons, both meeting places, were early fixtures in most pioneer communities in the American West. Lamoille was no different. Sometimes drinking establishments lasted longer than the houses of worship but the Little Church of the Crossroads remains, still a vital part of the town and probably the most photographed building in the area.
A complete history of the little church will not be told here. It will be enough to introduce the famous landmark most to those who have seen the building on trips to Lamoille.
Lamoille's first church service was on June 20, 1872. C.D. Roberts, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Elko preached the first sermon. He had driven his buckboard 20 miles to the newly constructed school house in Henry Thompson's field.
During the next 18 years church services were sometimes few and far between. Then James McCombs, a missionary who had just returned from service in India, came and found a few men and women in Lamoille who sincerely wanted a church. He met with those people in the school building and formally organized the Lamoille Presbyterian Church.
Although plans were made to build a church, financing the enterprise just didn't work out. Twelve long years passed with a multitude of preachers until George H. Greenfield showed up and reactivated the church and put it on a firmer basis.
They talked of purchasing and remodeling Harmony Hall but the building just wasn't right to be a church. Wanting a real church building, the congregation decided to build a new structure.
Dreams slowly became reality. Land was purchased from C.E. Noble of Lamoille for thirty dollars. Contractors O.T. Hill and David Weeks of Wells, Nevada, put up the building and George Vardy, also of Wells, did the interior work.
Dedicated on November 5, 1905 the church had cost $3,000 in donations from people in Elko, Lamoille and other valleys in northeast Nevada. The cornerstone contains a 1905 nickel and 1905 half-dollar.
For about forty years the congregation was active and regular services held. The building slowly fell into disrepair. Not much was done to the aging church. Enough funding was raised to repair the roof to protect the interior from further damage. Members lost heart and abandoned the church in 1954.
Thirteen members reactivated the structure a year later. Donations helped fund replacement of the clapboard siding full of woodpecker holes and sorely in need of a paint job. The old oil stove was replaced by a propane heating system. A bell was given by the Elko Presbyterian Church but it was too heavy for the belfry. The problem was solved by trading the bell for a lighter one with a church in Bishop, California.
Nothing was left with which to decorate the interior. Wallpaper was dirty and water stained. Pleas again went out for money and enough was donated to do partial refurbishing of the interior. Still, the interior gradually deteriorated even more.
Members of the Lamoille Women's Club came to the rescue making restoration one of their major goals. Walls were repainted, small stained glass windows restored, door refinished, carpeting and altar panels restored. The list of repairs was long. New cement steps and a sidewalk were poured. An electric organ was secured to replace the old foot-powered instrument. The heating system and wiring were brought up to date. The club accomplished a great deal before funding petered out.
People began using the church again. Presbyterians, of course, populated the pews in growing numbers. Catholic services were held from time to time. Work on the old building continued for several years. A Sunday school room was added, inside restrooms were installed along with a kitchen.
When the Elko County Courthouse was remodeled, light fixtures, destined for the dump (Oops! Sanitary Landfill to be politically correct) were rescued and put in the church. They were of the same period in which the church was built.
Then the steeple began to lean to one side. Max C. Fleischmann Foundation provided a grant for belfry and steeple repairs. Dale Hock refinished the original doors and new siding was put on. Lamoille residents continue doing the landscaping.
In 2000, the old, but loved, building has been standing for 95 years and looking forward to its 100th anniversary in five short years. It is, without any reservations, the most photographed building in the county.
Lamoille Valley's Little Church of the Crossroads proudly stands because of the love of the town's people and untold numbers of northeast Nevada residents. When the bell tolls it reminds all those within hearing that the church is a treasure, a personal treasure to each who donated money or gave time and materials to keep it standing and in use.
Note: Most of the material for this story comes from Little Church of the Crossroads by Edna M. Patterson. It appeared in the Summer, 1986, Northeastern Nevada Historical Society Quarterly. Those who want to know more about the church can get a copy of the quarterly at the Northeastern Nevada Museum.
Edna is, without a doubt, the most knowledgeable, the most published, of local historians. Most of her books are out of print, but the museum and Elko County libraries have them. Researchers will have to read them on the premises.
Edna, thank you. You have recorded a great deal of our local grassroots history that would have been lost if not for you. Local history is where the big picture begins.
March 8, 2000