Gold was discovered in Colorado in 1848. During the next ten years, thousands of fortune seekers arrived to make it rich. As the number of people increased, permanent camps and settlements were established, among these was Denver.
Fr. John P. Machebeuf arrived in Denver on October 29th, 1860. he was consecrated Colorado’s first bishop on August 16th, 1868. He was given the title Apostle of Colorado.
In 1872 Bishop Machebeuf ordained Fr. Henry Robinson. Two years later, Fr. Robinson became the minister to the South Park mission and the upper Arkansas River valley. He alone attended to these missions including Poncha Springs and Salida. He was the pastor of Leadville, at that time it was booming mining town.
The first mass in this area was celebrated by Fr. Robinson in 1875 in the home of the Burnett family in Poncha Springs. Ecumenism began early. The Burnetts were not Catholic yet they generously allowed their home to be used for religious service.
Fr. P.J. Gleason became the first resident pastor in Salida in 1885. He offered mass in the old Central School because a fire had destroyed the small frame church that was probably built by Fr. Robinson in 1880. A new church was built by Fr. W.M. O’Reilly, who followed Fr. Gleason, in 1889. That building was located next to the present church. It was later used as the school. It was then moved out of town and became the Grange Hall. By the turn of the century, 56 Catholic families were living in Salida and Buena Vista.
The present church, on the corner of 5th and D Street, was built by Msgr. Dean T. Wolohan in 1909. It was listed as one of the most beautiful churches in the state. The ceiling was painted with six circular symbols. Beautiful statues and the Stations of the Cross were donated by many devout members of the parish. In 1924 Fr. Manus Boyle supervised the redecorating of the Church.
The longest pastorate was held by Fr. Bernard Gilliek between 1933 to 1956. He was followed by Fr. Maurice Gallagher who initiated a successful fund drive resulting in a new school building which opened its doors in September 1957. Fr. Gallagher also supervised the remodeling of the interior of the church to follow the directives of the Second Vatican Council. During the next 50 years there have been numerous priests who have changed the interior of the church building.
In 1992, the parish has to close the parish school due to lack of funds and families attending the school. At the present time the school building is used for various parish functions, and religious education programs. The parish leases the building to the local Chaffee County Boys and Girls Club.
The parish celebrated our 100th Anniversary in March of 2009. Bishop Michael Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado Springs celebrated Mass and a nice dinner was served to the parish family. Each family was given a 100th Church Anniversary Book. A 100th Church Anniversary book has been written by parishioner, Jean Hanfelt. These books are available for $ 5.00 each by calling the parish office at 539-6419 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Joseph Catholic Parish is located at the corner of 5th and D Street, Salida. We belong to the Diocese of Colorado Springs.