Our church was originally founded in 1870 as the Church of the United Brethren near the town site of Niwot. The valley where Niwot, Colorado is located was settled in 1865. The town was named for Chief Niwot (1825-1864), a peace-keeping Arapahoe Chief in the area. He is said to have died at the Sand Creek Massacre. Niwot means Left Hand(ed) and there is a canyon, a grange, a water department, a newspaper and many streets and businesses called “Left Hand” in Boulder County today.
The congregation in the area was a mission serviced by the early United Brethren missionaries and it was known as the “Eden Mission”. When a church developed from that group, it was called the Niwot Church of United Brethren in Christ, which was formed in March of 1870. The congregation met in a schoolhouse until 1884, when the school board decided that religious acts could not take place in school buildings. Fortunately for the church, the school board soon built a new schoolhouse so in 1885, Henry Hornbaker bought the old one for the church. In 1891, the Board of Trustees approved a new church building on a plot of ground donated by Alva Dodd, adjoining the town of Niwot, which at that time was west of the railroad tracks – between the tracks and where the old Dodd barn now stands today.
By 1912, the town moved to east of the railroad tracks after the Longmont Diagonal Highway was built and so the church followed suit – they moved the actual building! Now on Franklin Street, the church’s exterior was redone in brick in 1928. During the 1930s, Rev. William Parsons urged the members to contribute weekly instead of once a year – a new concept since most were farmers and had to sell their crops. In 1944, he urged them further to attend church at least 3 times a month and give a dollar every Sunday to help the church. They held contests with other churches to see who could increase Sunday School attendance the most. The ladies of the church, led by Helen Haass, raised funds for the church by collecting enough pennies to stretch from Niwot to Boulder. Another fundraiser was the annual Ditch Dinner when all the ditch shareholders met and conducted business. This went on until 1972 when it was decided that it cost more to hold the dinners than the money they brought in.
During the good years, the men would meet in the fall to chop wood for the church. Someone would donate a tree (usually a cottonwood) and the men would turn it into firewood. The women would serve a meal. Since cottonwood burns hot and fast, it generally took more than one tree to heat the church through the winter. When someone in the church died, the men would dig a grave in the Niwot Cemetery and then fill it in again after the service. During dry years this was difficult and more than one pick axe had to be used.
In 1946, the Evangelical Church and the United Brethren Church merged into the Evangelical United Brethren (E.U.B.) – now we were the Niwot EUB Church. Phillip Haass helped hold the church together when the church was between ministers. One always knew when they saw him coming, that the church must need money! That very dedicated man kept the doors open when others couldn’t. In 1951, that very dedicated man burned down the church! He banked the fire in the study and went home. The wall behind the stove got too hot and caught fire. People came running and saved the altar furniture, the pulpit and some of the pews. These pews are the ones we still have in the church today! Funds were gathered again and a new church was dedicated in 1953.
In 1968, the EUB and Methodist churches merged and our church became the Niwot United Methodist Church. In 1969, the Rocky Mountain Conference looked at the struggling little church and decided to move it to Lookout Road in Gunbarrel, an unincorporated area of Boulder, some 3 miles SW of the town of Niwot. The church split after having survived both world wars, the depression and the fire. The old-timers were dismayed at having to move their church out of Niwot. Those that stayed wanted the church to keep the Niwot name, which has resulted in much confusion.
For the first few years, NUMC was a mission church with the Conference paying part of the pastor’s salary. Our Bell Tower was built with memorial funds for Wynn Mecham, who died in 1979, and it was dedicated in 1980. The bell in the tower was brought from his hometown in Iowa. A new sanctuary was begun in 1981 but this extravagance caused more members to leave – so it wasn’t until 1983 that it was completed under Pastor David Jaeger’s guidance. Since 1985, NUMC has had five female pastors: Rev. Toni Cook (1985-1989), Rev. Edwina Ward Burton (1989-1999), Rev. Merlene Barner (2006-2010), Rev. Pam Everhart (2010 – 2017), Rev. Laura Hehner (2017-2019). In between, Pastor Matthias Krier served us for 7 years (1999-2006). Rev. Walter “Skip” Strickland served as our Interim Pastor August 2019 – June 2020. Rev. Emily Kintzel will begin her appointment as our Pastor on July 1, 2020.
The face of our congregation has changed after 140 years – there’s no longer a full-time farmer among us. The Membership has gradually changed over the years from predominately rural to a diverse mixture of families and individuals seeking a small but active community-based church. Many of our members are involved in the high tech industry. It is a more mobile congregation now. We may still be small, but our outreach is amazing – foods banks, mission trips, serving at the Boulder Homeless Shelter, donating school supplies for needy children, Thanksgiving baskets, providing Christmas for one or more families, and our United Methodist Women have raised thousands of dollars for various charities in the Boulder County area over the past few years.
The past 140 years was significant, but surely no more than the next 140 years will be. There will be someone to take Phillip and Helen Haass’ places – to step in and carry on. The scripture from Matthew has sustained our church through 140+ years – “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of time!”
Niwot UMC Timeline
1870: Left Hand United Brethren Church is officially chartered by Rev. St. Clair Ross in March of this year. Services are to be held in the School District 7 school house.
1884: Due to issues of “Separation of Church and State”, the school district will no longer allow the church to hold worship services in the school house. However the school district has decided to build a new, larger school house and offers the old building for sale. It is purchased by Henry Hornbaker and donated to United Brethren Church of Niwot.
1891-1892: On a parcel of land donated by A. M. Dodd, west of the railroad tracks and adjacent to the town of Niwot, a new church building is planned. Construction begins in late 1891 and on April 3, 1892, the new building is dedicated in the presence of 200 members and guests. In the years to follow, a four room parsonage is built near the church building.
1912: The church building and the parsonage are moved across the railroad tracks into the town proper. This new location, at 3rd and Franklin Streets, will serve as the site for the church for over 50 years.
1926-1928: With the congregation growing, it is decided to enlarge the church building by razing the existing structure and building a new one in its place. Demolition starts in late 1926 and during the rebuilding process, worship services are held in the Left Hand Grange Hall. On Sunday, July 27, 1927, the first worship service was held in the new, nearly finished, church building. Many months pass before the final touches are complete, and on June 3, 1928, the new church building is dedicated.
1946: On Saturday, November 19, 1946, at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the United Brethren Church is officially united with the Evangelical Church to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church.
1950: A new electric organ is donated to the church by the Dodd family in memory of the late Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Dodd, Mrs. Hugh Dodd, and Jerome Dodd. The dedication ceremony takes place October 29, 1950.
1951: On November 1, 1951, fire completely destroys the Evangelical United Brethren church building. While the building is a complete loss, the new organ, a piano, the pews, and some chancel furniture are spared. Damaged but not destroyed, these items will be renewed and reused in the new church building. Once again, the Left Hand Grange makes its hall available for worship services while the church is rebuilding.
1952: The groundbreaking ceremony for the new church building is held Sunday, September 21, 1952. Construction starts the very next day. The new building will be located on the same lot, between the ruins of the old building and the parsonage.
1953: The Evangelical United Brethren church once again has a home, as the dedication ceremony for the newly completed building is held March 15, 1953.
1968: The EUB and Methodist churches merge. We are now Niwot United Methodist Church.
1969: The church relocates to the Gunbarrel unincorporated area of Boulder.
1980: The bell tower is dedicated in memory of Wynn Mecham.
1983: A new sanctuary is completed under Pastor David Jaeger’s guidance.
2020: NUMC celebrates its 150th anniversary. We look forward to many more.