History of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Episcopalians in Steamboat Springs were fulfilling their spiritual needs as far back as 1889 when a bishop would arrive either on horseback or by wagon to hold services. Over the course of years they met in various locations including The Welcome Inn, the old courthouse, the Methodist Church, and later in the Masonic Hall. They were western town visionaries who were devoted to developing a community of believers, and went about preparing for what they believed would be population growth in their town and county. Although only a handful of registered Episcopalians resided in Steamboat Springs at the turn of the century, they were faithful to their cause, especially the pioneer women who started a cookbook that became a church tradition.
Their visioning process was correct, for, in the 1890's extensive coal fields were discovered in Routt County, and the census began to grow. These pioneer visionaries working with their bishop in 1897 purchased lots on the corner of 9th and Oak Street. By 1910 the people of St. Paul's made the decision to build their own church. The cookbook including business advertisements generated enough funds to erect the original stone church built from donated stone carved out of the Emerald Mountain quarry. It was consecrated on December 7, 1913 by Bishop Benjamin Brewster of the Missionary District of Western Colorado.
The original church was dedicated a mission, and was served by vicars who were circuit riders providing services to not only St. Paul's but other communities from Grand Lake in the East to Craig in the West, and South to Kremmling, and North to Hahn's Peak. Thus, for nearly ninety years, St. Paul's was a mission served by the circuit priests, maintained by the devoted believers who were determined to preserve their God-centered community. They desired an in-resident priest who lived in Steamboat Springs and would be available for their spiritual needs and who would conduct weekly services.
The Rev. Leon Wilkins began his Colorado ministry in Rangely serving as a circuit priest, and providing services in Rifle, Meeker, Craig, and Rangely. He was eventually instrumental in finding priests willing to serve in those communities. In 1971, he accepted the opportunity to be the vicar at St. Paul's and moved to the community.
In 1984, St. Paul's met the criteria and accomplished parish status within the Diocese of Colorado under the leadership of Bishop William Fry. Father Wilkins became St. Paul's first rector where he served until his retirement in 1988. He and his wife Mary remain in Steamboat Springs. Leon continues to have a presence at St. Paul's as Rector Emeritus.
Reminiscent of the early pioneer spirit that generated the resources to build the original stone church and later augmented in size, the parish community realized the need for a new church that would accommodate the expanding number of worshipers stemming from exponential population growth in Steamboat Springs and the Yampa Valley. Because of it's being a resort town, there were increasing visitors as well. The new parish hall and church that all interconnect with the old stone church and the new school was consecrated by Bishop Winterowd August 2002.