Little Church on the Hill

Nuggets from the Past

August 3, 2011 

Those of you who know and cherish "our" wonderful, historic Little Church on the Hill in Oakhurst Cemetery, know that the beautiful stained glass "diamond" windows are in jeopardy. The weight is causing the frames to buckle, and the repairs are under way.

The problem is, the work is expensive. The foundation recently held a dinner to raise funds for the repair. Now please put Aug. 19 on your calendar for a second dinner to hopefully complete the fund drive.

Here is a little history about those windows taken from the book "The Little Church on the Hill, A Monument to Volunteerism," by Dwight Barnes.

Long before the Little Church Foundation was created, some of its advocates had dreamed of recreating the stained glass windows. Back about the time he left Fresno Flats, previous name for Oakhurst, in 1900, Father James McGowan had written in his journal that Christ Church was "a pretty little church with stained glass windows," a casual remark that had intrigued people for years.

Local folk who as small children during the 1920s and '30s had attended the church or Sunday School remembered being fascinated with spots of color moving along the pews as the morning sun climbed to its zenith and the sermons got longer.

Early photos showed an overall diamond pattern of the lead in the windows, but efforts to computer enhance the photos so details of the glass design could be seen failed. By the time the church was moved in 1957, the original windows were gone, replaced by plain yellow "bathroom" glass, which some thought gave the church interior a lovely soft glow. But they weren't original and these replacements were beginning to crack and break. Most people wanted true stained glass windows, hopefully as close to the original pattern as possible.

On a cold, windy weekend late in January 1996 ... a full scale "dig" on top of the Chapel Hill property began. A series of grids were laid out to accurately chart the areas in which soil was to be removed and carefully sifted. Locations of any treasures found were to be mapped carefully. By the end of the day, 60 pieces of glass from the original windows were recovered.

Working with the shards, stained glass artist Jim Moore, who with his wife Rosemarie had joined in the exploration, was able to fit together the basic pattern of the original windows. Subsequent digs yielded an additional 250 pieces, including colored glass from the outside edges, the pieces through which the sun had shone to intrigue little children 60 or 70 years earlier.

Thus, the effort to return stained glass windows to the Little Church had begun, but it was nearly three years before the altar windows were installed and a decade or so later the eight side windows completed.

The Aug. 19 dinner tickets may be obtained at the Ameriprise Financial office in Oakhurst at 40291 Stagecoach Road, north of Crab Cakes Restaurant or from any foundation board member.

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