Episcopal church, Gazette share link in former editor

April 28, 2013
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Did you know that Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church shares its historic roots with The Gazette?

The 1872 editor, publisher, reporter and pressman of The Gazette, J. Elsom Liller, was a founding member of Grace Church at Colorado Springs.

This month, The Gazette published an article on 141 years of printing in Colorado Springs. The story credited Liller with publishing the town’s first newspaper, Out West, which, in 1873, became the Colorado Springs Gazette and El Paso County News.

Joe Hight, editor of The Gazette, noted that the city’s founder, Gen. William J. Palmer, “hired Liller to help further his dream for this region.” The town was incorporated in 1872, four years before Colorado became a state.

Colorado Springs was in the Episcopal Missionary Diocese of the Colorado Territory, which included Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. The first service of the Episcopal church (in what was then a village) occurred Jan. 13, 1872, in Foote’s Hall, on the southeast corner of Cascade Avenue and Huerfano Street (now Colorado Avenue).

The five-member choir included Mrs. William J. (Queen) Palmer, Gen. Palmer’s wife, and Mrs. J. Elsom Liller, wife of the newspaper’s editor and publisher.

In our parish history, “An House Not Made With Hands,” Mary Louise Perkins writes, “Mrs. Liller’s husband, an Englishman and editor of Palmer’s newspaper, Out West, was a frequent lay reader during the early days of the Episcopal Church here.”

Later, Episcopalians held their services on the second floor of The Gazette printing office, on the northeast corner of Tejon Street and Huerfano, in a room designated as the reading room of the Fountain Society of Natural Sciences.

It was not long before the Episcopalians decided to build a church on land donated by Gen. Palmer, himself a Quaker. The site was on the southwest corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Weber Street. Liller was on the five-member building committee that contracted Robert Richens to build a stone Gothic-style church.

Winfield Scott Stratton was one of the carpenters the committee engaged to complete the wood work in the church. Eighteen years later, on July 4, 1891, Stratton discovered the gold-rich Independence Lode near Victor and became Cripple Creek’s first millionaire.

After the cornerstone for an Episcopal church was laid on July 12,

1873, a meeting was held Oct. 14 of that year “of those interested in forming a Church Society and … a Vestry,” according to Perkins. The group met in the newspaper’s offices and selected the name “Grace Church at Colorado Springs.” And once again, Liller was selected for a leadership position, this time on the vestry.

For many years, The Gazette generously covered the activities and life of Grace Church at Colorado Springs (1873-1923) and later, those of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (1893-1923) and Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church (1923-present).

Liller indeed was devoted to his community of Colorado Springs and to his parish, Grace Church at Colorado Springs.

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