IDAHO CITY, ID – At one time, Idaho City was one of the largest communities in the Northwest. It was a rough and tough mining town where the long arm of the law was scarce. But up on the hill overlooking the city was a place where people could come and find some peace. Patrick Minto is a longtime parishioner who says it was actually the first permanent Catholic church for Europeans in Idaho.
“You can imagine the den of iniquity that would be fifteen thousand miners and booze, without police and in an anarchic Western environment.”
Built during the Civil War, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church still stands and it’s after a fire, intermittent repairs, some more complicated than others and of course surviving the wild west. The local archbishop took notice and quickly sent not one, but two priests to the mountain town. Minto says the two definitely had their work cut out for them. Inside the church there are oil paintings over a hundred years old and wooden pews from Idaho, but Minto adds that not everything is original.
“Part of the bicentenary in 1976, they actually lifted the whole structure up and put it on a concrete foundation for the first time since it was built. At that point, they discovered a whole bunch of stuff left under the structure, which dated from the fire of 1867.”
And if you look closely, on the parking side of the church, the top board seems to disappear under the awning. Minto explains.
“The reason is that this side is eleven and a half high, this corner of the structure is eleven.”
Not perfect, but for over one hundred and fifty years, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church has provided a place where people can find hope in an imperfect world.