Church of Our Saviour 1903

A Brief History of The Episcopal Church of Our Saviour

The Early Years: 1861-1903

The Parish of Our Saviour was organized by the Rev. Charles Caleb Pierce on July 20, 1861 in the midst of the California Gold Rush. The first services were conducted by Fr. Pierce in the old Courthouse in Placerville. Fr. Pierce immediately began his missionary travels to the various mining camps. The report of his first year's work listed services held in Placerville, Coloma, El Dorado and Diamond Springs with a combined congregation of 275 communicants.

Rev. Charles Caleb Pierce, the People's Pastor
Rev. Pierce, last portrait, 1903

The new congregation used the old Placerville Courthouse as a place of worship until 1864 when a move to erect a church building was initiated. The fund raising fair and three day bazaar yielded enough money to purchase the present lot on Coloma Street. The church opened on December 23, 1865. The building was consecrated on April 14, 1866. The Mountain Democrat reported the cost to be about $10,500. Fr. Pierce was well known and honored throughout the community. He served many years on the Board of Education as City Superintendent of Schools and was a member of several fraternal organizations. When Fr. Pierce died on March 14, 1903 schools and busineses closed in his honor.

New Century, New Challenges

Information about the church immediately following Fr. Pierce's death is slight. From 1903 to 1912 four different priests served the parish. The years from 1912 to 1923 mark a difficult era in the life of the parish as the church was without a rector. In the register of this time, David E. Holt and Barr G. Lee's names appear as Arch-deacons and Edwin Jukes as Priest in Charge. The period from 1923 to 1952 reveals signs that the parish was winning the long struggle to become a stable, organized church. In November, 1923, the Rev. Thomas Maxwell arrived to take charge of the parish and his ministry of seven years resulted in substantial communicant growth. The parish was without a rector from 1930 to 1933 and Mr. Ronzone conducted lay services with Arch-deacon Lee coming in for Holy Communion service once a month. During this period Fr. John Barrett and his family moved to Placerville. He was recuperating from illness and when his strength returned, he assisted in services. In 1933 he was appointed Priest in charge of the parish and served for the next four years.
From 1938 to 1942 four priests led the parish for terms of about one year each. Our present organ was installed during Fr. Sidney Bennett's ministry in 1941. His rectorship was cut short due to serious illness and Fr. Edward R. Birch served the parish in 1942 before leaving to serve as the chaplain of a Canadian regiment during World War II. In October 1945, Dr. A.W. Sidders began his ministry in Placerville. During his six years as rector the parish enjoyed an increase in strength and developed a deeper spirit of fellowship. At the Diocesan Convention of 1947, the petition for parish status was granted. In 1955 Fr. Wilbur L. Lear came to Placerville to serve temporarily, but was soon called to be the rector. In 1957 chimes were given in memory of Charles Caleb Pierce. Fr. Lear resigned in October, 1960. On November 22, 1960, Fr. W.R. Baskin assumed the rectorship of the parish, having been called from St. Paul's Church in Healdsburg. During his tenure, a new rectory was built near Marshall hospital. Fr. Baskin served until 1968. By the time he left Our Saviour, the new highway, US 50, through Placerville was completed, separating the church building from downtown Placerville and forever changing the face of this old gold rush community. In 1969, the Rev. Robert Hasseries became rector. During this time the crumbling rock foundation under the sanctuary was replaced with concrete. During Fr. Hasseries' ministry the church doubled in size. In 1976 Fr. Ellsworth Wayland arrived and the next six years saw many changes. The Rev. Raymond Reid arrived in 1983. During Fr. Reid's ministry a mission was begun in Mt. Aukum, a rural area in southern El Dorado County. Attendance and outreach increased considerably under his spiritual guidance. In 1988 Fr. Reid enlisted the help of Fr. Bud Torgerson, retired, who acted as Assistant Priest until his death in 1990. The Rev. Canon James C. Burnett joined the staff as Assistant Priest in late 1989. When Fr. Reid left in 1990, Bishop Thompson appointed Fr. Burnett as Interim Priest. Under his leadership a week long celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the church was held and received widespread community recognition. In 1992 Fr. Charles Rines became rector. During his six year ministry the church continued to grow and additional space was needed. The small, single story classroom and office next to the church, built in 1972, underwent major remodeling including the addition of a second story. Fr. Rines retired on January 31, 1998, and Rev. Canon James C. Burnett was again appointed Interim Rector for Our Saviour.

Our Saviour Enters A Third Century

Fr. Craig Kuehn became Rector of Our Saviour in February of 1999, and thus became the priest who would lead the parish into its third century of service to God and the people of El Dorado County. This space is dedicated to the history yet to be written by the people of the Church of Our Saviour.

For further information on the History of El Dorado County, please visit the El Dorado County History site.