ERIE: YESTERDAY AND TODAY



The following is an excerpt from ERIE: YESTERDAY AND TODAY, about the Rev. Richard J. Van Valkenburg (Br 7).

It is by the Sociology and History Classes of Erie High School,Advisor - Mrs. Karen Adelfang. (lst edition) April, 1967. (2nd edition) February, 1974.

The Rev. Richard Jeptha Van Valkenburg (#765,3l - Vol. I, page 312) was born Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1823 of a very patriotic family. His grandfather fought in the War of 18l2. At the age of eighteen, he entered the ministry. When President Lincoln put out his call for men to serve in the Civil War, he read the President's message from his pulpit which resulted in a Company of Volunteers. Later, he distinguished himself as a chaplain in the Union Army. Van Valkenburg married Cordelia Briggs, and they had four children. At the close of the Civil War, he left Pennsylvania seeking a renewal of his health, which had been lost asa result of wounds incurred in the war.

After wandering through Wyoming and Colorado as a Circuit Minister for ayear (He is still known in Wyoming as the "Sweet Singer of Hymns"), he and Cordelia settled in Erie, Colorado. Within a few months he had organized a Sunday School which met every week in his home. Thus it was in 1867 that the Rev. R. J. Van Valkenburg did more than he realized for he had organized the beginning of the Methodist Church in Erie, CO, and had made his name immortal in the community.

This minister was also the moving force behind the establishment of the Town of Erie, CO., which was named for his place ofbirth, Erie, PA. Colorado, in the 1860s and '70s was no place for a "milquetoast" minister. Churches were outnumbered by saloons and parlor houses. In towns that didn't have church buildings, ministers held services in school rooms, private homes, and, if no other space was available, in saloons.

They traveled from one town to another (circuit riders) in all kinds of weather, sometimes preaching sermons in three or four mining camps or valley towns in one day. A great deal of courage, endurance, determination, and a deep commitment to one's faith was required to be a ministerin Colorado in the early days. During the years thatfollowed, Van Valkenburg ministered to the people in the communities of Erie and Longmont, Colorado, and other nearby towns. He preached sermons and conducted weddings and funerals.

He also served Erie, CO, in the capacities of mayor, postmaster, police judge, president of the schoolboard, and justice of the peace. He helped organize thetown of Erie, CO, officially dated November l4, 1874, but in a notation with some papers taken from the cornerstone of the Erie Methodist Church in 1972, he had written "the town was laid out in 187l". He organized the I.O.O.F. (Oddfellows) Lodge, and at one time served as representative to the State Legislative from Weld County. He also owned the Erie Hotel.

On March l, 19l2,shortly before his death, he and his wife celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary. This was a good example to all of the "thousand and one" couples for whom he had performed marriage ceremonies during his long ministerial career. It is not known what became of his four children, but a grand-daughter later lived in Longmont.

Article from A. H. "Pete" (Br 7, great grandson of Richard Jeptha VV) and Jeanne Van Valkenburg of Walden, Colorado


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