Building the Little Church on the Hill

Nuggets from the Past

December 3, 2010 

In "The Little Church on the Hill" written by Dwight Barnes, a description of the construction of the building helps us envision the church as it was at its beginning in 1892. The following is taken from the book.

Take this article and go visit the church as it now, sitting in the middle of Oakhill Cemetery in Oakhurst.

Whether it was built in 1892 within the first months of Father McGowan's arrival is not certain, but old timers believe that was the case.

It is of simple board and batten construction with the exterior walls only a single thickness of 1x12-inch sugar pine boards placed vertically over a simple framework with studs on eight foot centers.

The foundation probably was a simple one, posts on rocks or stones. A steep pitched roof was covered with hand-made cedar shakes. With materials on hand, a group of farmers, loggers and others could have erected the building quite quickly.

Tradition has it that is what happened.

The Fresno Flats -- before the name change to Oakhurst -- folk just turned to using lumber donated by local mills and built themselves a church.

It has been assumed that Robert Laramore, a local merchant who had been a foreman in construction of the 50-mile flume...volunteered to supervise the project.

An accused stagecoach robber, Charley Meyers, had fashioned the pews still in use today. He also is credited with obtaining the altar rail from a church in San Francisco.

In his memoirs, Father McGowans wrote, "On the hill, among the pine trees in Fresno Flats is a pretty little church with stained glass windows and a bell in the tower to call people to prayer and the hearing of the word."

In these words are found a couple of the true mysteries of Christ Church. At the time it was built, Fresno Flats was a small village of no more than 200 people.

There is no way that the community could have raised money to purchase either the bell or stained glass windows.

Where did they come from? Perhaps the stained glass was donated to the local church by people somewhere "back East." Tradition has it that these were sent from a church in Massachusetts.

Assuming that the windows were from a church that was to be demolished or which wished to replace its stained glass, inquiries to the New England diocese failed to yield any answers.

The other mystery is how a small poor mountain community could afford a large 26-inch, 300-pound bell. ...Charley Meyers drove his team more than 50 miles to the railroad to pick up the bell cast in Cincinnati.

"The Little Church on the Hill" book is available for purchase at Fresno Flats Museum and at the Coarsegold Historic Museum.

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service