A Brief History of the Paonia Friends Church
1903 – 2010
“On October 3, 1903, Friends met in the home of Asa Hockett with the intention of organizing a Monthly Meeting of Friends but failing to receive official notice from the Oskaloosa Quarterly Meeting, in Iowa, to which we made request for a Monthly Meeting, an informal meeting was held.”
On that eventful day in October, 1903, those Friends met to ask God for direction on this new adventure. The next month they purchased four lots in Paonia for $700.00. With the purchase of this property, the meeting officially began.
The signers of the Friends Constitutional Document were L. W. Heston, Emma J. Heston, Fred H. Bryan, Lizzie M. Bryan, Mary C. Cobbs, Eli Jones, Rebecca P. Jones, Annis Jones, Thomas B. Paige, Rosina L. Paige, Anna B. Thorndike, Everett S. Branson, and Lillie A. Branson.
It was decided to build a one story structure (28′ X 34′) for the Meeting House and later convert it into a parsonage. Before they started building, the plans were changed to a building (34′ X 54′) outside measure with a basement (16′ X 18′). The structure would be stone and brick. The estimated cost was $1600.00.
Some of the Standing Committees of the church in 1903 were: Trustees, Sabbath School, Necessities of the Needy, Sick and Funeral, Book and Tract, Finance, Overseers, Elders, Peace, Suppression of the Liquor Traffic, Ushers, Recorder, Clerks, Treasurer, Chorister, and the Interdenominational Aid Committee.
By August of 1904, the membership was 68 and by September it had increased to 82 people, thereby drawing the conclusion that the Colorado Meetings needed their own Quarterly Meeting. A special request was made to form the Denver Quarterly Meeting. At the same meeting an Anti-cigarette Committee was formed with $2.00 designated for their work. A dedication service was held for the church building on October 9, 1904. This was an item in the Paonia Newspaper on October 14, 1904. In the same newspaper on November 11, 1904, there was a picture of the finished church with an article of recognition.
In June 1905, the Membership was 154 and during this time the whole town was under quarantine. This greatly hindered the work of the churches. Through this adversity and other factors, people flocked to the meeting for Friends.
In 1907 the Friends hired the only full time nurse in the valley to handle the sickness. The whole town was again under quarantine for typhoid fever. The membership was 195. In 1909, the Friends movement had grown from one meeting in Paonia to 15 meetings for worship on the different mesas.
On October 30, 1909, it was approved to build a seven room cottage to be used as a parsonage. The committee planning this said, “It will be well built with all modern conveniences.” The parsonage was completed in 1910 for $3000.00. Membership was 219.
In 1912 they started to lose their members through death and non-residency. They decided to meet with the Congregationalists and in 1918 they rented their buildings to the Episcopalians. The Friends didn’t use their buildings for meetings for the next 18 years. Not having the desire to “lay the meeting down”, they continued having monthly meetings in the homes with interim pastors.
On September 17, 1933, Charles Townsend asked the Monthly Meeting to allow him to respond to the call God had given him to serve in this community. In 1934, he came to Paonia with his family and a vision. The vision was “The Lord has spoken to me about a Friends Meeting in the Paonia, Colorado area. Will you allow me to fulfill my vision?” The meeting consented to start again in the Friends Meeting House, with the Townsends living in the church basement, as the parsonage had been leased. It had been a long hard struggle for Friends, but God had been extra kind in His Grace.
Foreign Missions has always been a part of the Friends Church outreach beginning in 1905 with money sent to Jamaica, adding Cuba and Africa in 1908. The church, through Evangelical Friends Missions, sent the Carl Hunerwadel family to India in March, 1992. The Garhwali people of India were adopted through the Adopt-A-People Movement and a certificate of adoption hangs in the Fellowship Hall. We continue to support other Missions including Rough Rock Navajo Mission near Chinle, Arizona.
Through the church efforts, a Monthly Meeting was established in Grand Junction on April 24, 1912. This was re-established in 1954 with a membership of 39. A need for a work in Crawford was expressed first in 1941. The Monthly Meeting approved an outreach in Crawford in 1990. Today this is a healthy, growing Church, meeting the needs of the Crawford Community.
After Camp Id Ra Ha Je started in 1975, we have helped support and have used the facilities many times. We have enabled many children to attend Camp where many have given their heart to God. We have aided in construction, maintenance and provided many counselors.
The Fellowship room addition to the church building was started in 1981, finished and dedicated in 1982. We burned the mortgage in May, 1990.
In 1975, we allowed Carver and Penny Sutton to start Little Friends Pre-school in the basement. As the children were brought to their care, many parents were invited to church with many accepting Jesus as their Savior and becoming a part of the church.
Each pastor has added to the fulfillment and the edifying of the church and new growth and interest in the work of the Lord has been inspiring. Many pastors have been officially recorded as Ministers of the Gospel while serving at Paonia Friends Church.
Through the years, there have been discussions about a new building or adding on to the existing one. In November, 2003 land was purchased to build a new facility. This present facility has served God and the people very adequately. As we look to the future, we plan to seek God very carefully, desiring His will as He uses us to reach the many people of our valley for Him.
We pray that the Lord of the Harvest will bring forth laborers, to bring the multitudes in the North Fork Valley to His Kingdom.