With a letter to the editor of the Humboldt Times on November 21, 1868, Thomas Walsh announced his intention of “erecting an Episcopal Church in Eureka, to be called Christ Church.” He pledged $1,000 toward that purpose as well as asking for someone to donate a site for the building. A parcel of land located at 4th and E Street was donated and Walsh traveled to England and his native Ireland (where he has been raised a devout Anglican) to solicit financial contributions. With a site and all funds secured, construction began in 1869, and upon completion, a request was made of the Bishop of California for a rector. The Bishop is reported to have replied, “I would be happy to comply with your request if you would but tell me where Eureka is located.”
Happily the Rev. J. Gierlow found his way to Eureka and became the parish’s first rector, holding the first service on May 22, 1870. The following year (on February 5, 1871), the debt-free church was consecrated by the Right Reverend William Ingram Kip, who also held the first Confirmation of 30 persons during a week of celebration. Christ Church remained on 4th and E Street for 68 years; a time of colorful history on the north coast of California.
This was the time that Eureka was prospering as the timber industry developed and several successful lumber mill owners were active members, including William Carson. Parish records report that Carson often offered to pay half of whatever the parish incurred in the way of extraordinary expense, providing other parishioners raised the balance.
As Eureka continued to grow, a streetcar line was built with a major branch line running right in front of the church. It was the noise from passing streetcars that eventually necessitated the relocation of the church.
Groundbreaking ceremonies at our present location (15th and H Street) were held in 1938 and the “new” church was consecrated on April 19, 1939 by the Right Reverend Noel F. Porter, Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento (now the Diocese of Northern California).
Our beautiful redwood church was designed to incorporate many features from the original 1870 church, such as the fifteen beautiful stained glass windows, litany desk, pulpit, lectern, altar rail, baptismal font, bells and pews. The magnificent rose window that is above the baptismal font (at right) was a new addition.
During the post-World War II years, Christ Church rode the crest of the rising economy and population boom. In 1956 ground was broken for the Chapel of Our Merciful Savior and the education buildings. Another milestone happened in 1970, when our Centennial Pipe Organ was installed to commemorate the parish’s 100 th anniversary. Not only did this organ enhance our worship services, but also our parish became the site for many community concerts.
From our beginning in 1870 to the present day many faithful servants of God, lay and ordained, have been part of this parish family. Daughters and sons have grown up here, been baptized, confirmed, married, and over the years have participated in the sacramental life and mission of this historic parish, finally being buried by this loving church. We who now serve our Lord in this place, look forward with eager anticipation to the future because we know that the best times for Christ Church Parish are not behind us – they lie before us to be discovered in the years to come.