The LaPorte/Bellvue area is a treasure trove of history, and one of the gems is the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ. People for miles around can hear the church bell when it rings — as it has done for nearly a century — every Sunday morning.
The church, located at 5212 Rist Canyon Road in Bellvue, celebrated its 100th anniversary on Aug. 13 and 14 with a barbecue, an old-fashioned hymn-sing and lots of old-time games including a flour-bomb war. Marty Trujillo, preacher at Pleasant Valley for the past 18 years, was “killed” in the Saturday war but recovered in time to give a sermon on Sunday.
Another Sunday preacher was Dale Powers, who served the church until 1993, when Trujillo arrived.
Formerly called the Bellvue Church of Christ, the church was founded in 1911. The church building was erected in 1912. The congregation is the oldest Church of Christ in Colorado that has remained at the same location.
The church was founded after Bellvue resident Maggie Shipp asked her brother to find a preacher for the area. Once the minister arrived, he set up the first church meeting at the Pleasant Valley School. Twenty-eight people were baptized that day in the irrigation ditch near the school.
Church members also met briefly at the Bellvue Town Hall.
Wanting their own space, the small group purchased land and built the church that still stands today. Church members were poor, but they managed to scrape together $100 among themselves. They also borrowed $400 from a member’s brother.
Total cost for the lot and building was $594.56. The church was considered quite upscale for its time, with an inclined floor, arched ceiling and frosted windows.
In the 1940s, a basement was dug just west of the church, and the church was moved over it.
The oldest church member is Ed Folger, 81, and both he and Richard Carter remember growing up in the church in the ‘40s and ‘50s. In the winter the building was cold, said Carter, and in the summer it was hot. On cold winter Sundays, the children would huddle around the wood and coal stove in the front of the church.
Members read their Bibles under kerosene lights. There was an outhouse out back, and no running water.
Despite the lack of modern comforts, the church engendered a great deal of enthusiasm. There were “singing Sundays” every now and then that drew such big crowds that some of the men had to stand. People came from Cheyenne, Loveland, Longmont and Greeley to participate in the singings.
Baptisms took place in the Cache La Poudre River and later at Watson Lake.
Several families have been very loyal to the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ. Shari and Ron Stroup are both fourth-generation church members, and their grandfathers helped build the church.
The church owns the parsonage next door, which has a rich history of its own. It was built in 1883 and was called the Beehive Inn for many years. The Beehive was a boarding house, and several families called it home during the Great Depression. Ed Folger lived there as a child, and his father was custodian at the church. Now it’s home to Trujillo, his wife Alethea and their three children.
Over the years, Alethea said, the church has had good years as well as tough times. “It has never closed down,” she said, but there were some years when survival was touch and go. Sometimes the church couldn’t afford a minister, and even when there was a regular preacher in place, his salary was often paid — at least partly — in eggs or produce.
Now, Pleasant Valley Church of Christ has about 50 members, and judging from the big celebration in mid-August, they’re happy and proud to be part of the little mountain church that has stood the test of time.