The Mail may have found the last word on the origins the Little Church, and it may have come from a cookbook.
The Mail has received an avalanche of feedback since originally questioning the dates of the origin of the Little Church. Though it might be small, thousands throughout the years have visited it. It is obviously a source of pride for those who have tracked its history, or were involved in building and maintaining the 12-foot steeple and vestibule.
Hester Borsheim, long time resident of Drumheller, brought in a copy of a cookbook called the Favourite Recipes of our friends, by Reverend and Mr. E.C. O’Brien and Patricia.
This is of course the Reverend E.C. O’Brien who came up with the idea, and saw the construction of the “World’s Largest Little Church.” He provides a small blurb about the origins of the church.
He talks about the church sitting “majestically on top a small hill that has been worn smooth by the feet of thousands of visitors nestled in the heart of the Drumheller Badlands, 4 miles from the main highway on a country road called ‘The Dinosaur Trail.’”
He characterizes the creation the church as a community project.
“An explanation of its existence begins with the imagination of one man and ends with the co-operation of an entire community,” he writes.
“I felt that a small church erected among the fossil-rich hills of the Badlands would testify to man’s faith in the Creator whose prehistoric handiwork was attracting increasing multitudes each year. The idea caught fire immediately and construction was begun.”
He writes Robert Gibson was responsible for the architecture. Trygve Seland almost single handily built the church, and refused remuneration. Gibson also hand-painted the original windows portraying Christ teaching the Apostles in a boat on blue Galilee. All of the materials were donated.
Most telling, E.C. O’Brien records the opening date for the attraction as July 9, 1958. While the books has no publications date, he goes on to say the guestbook at the Dinosaur testifies that upwards of 50,000 people visit the church each year. While the church has been rebuilt, and refurbished a number of times, the original slogan of “Seating 10,000 people - 6 at a time” has endured.
“The 10,000 has been multiplied many times since 1958, and of these thousands who have stopped out of curiosity, hundreds have stayed to worship, to pray or meditate,” he writes.
“Community Spirit still persists as one civic group after another take upon themselves the task of cleaning and improving the Little Church whose primary purpose still is to cause men to think of their Creator and Lord.”