Filed Under Butte

Trinity United Methodist Church (decommissioned)

971 North Main

Thousands of skilled miners from Cornwall, England, immigrated to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century as English tin and copper mines played out. Many settled in Butte’s working-class communities. Centerville was home to equal numbers of Cornish, who were mostly Methodists, and Catholics from Ireland. There were two sets of businesses and two churches—one serving each group.

By 1884, Centerville’s Cornish residents had formed a Methodist congregation. During the pastorate of Rev. Joel Vigus, the Butte and Boston Mining Company donated the land and this church was built in 1889. In the 1890s, U.S. Senator and former Butte mayor Lee Mantle donated electric lights. Workers added brick veneer, a vestibule, a choir room, and dug a basement to accommodate a fellowship hall.

An enduring Cornish tradition is the pasty, a meat pie in a pastry envelope. Carried underground in dinner pails, miners lovingly called it a “letter from ’ome.” Trinity’s fellowship hall hosted many pasty dinners. The simple Gothic style “miner’s church” with its sturdy central tower recalls the Cornish miners and their families, far from home, who worshipped here.

The brick structure displays the simple architectural lines common in small church construction at the time. The windows are also simple in nature, representative of the working class that worshipped in the church. The windows were presented by M. J. Connell, a prominent Butte merchant whose imposing home stands at 301 W. Granite Street.

All of the stained glass windows in Trinity Church’s walls are dedicated, with honorees named in the glass itself, such as Trinity’s women’s H.U. Club, or Higher-Ups Club. In some cases the dedications were added at later dates, as recently as 1955. Most of the glass in the church is of the opalescent variety.

Centerville, home to comparable numbers of Cornish and Irish residents, had two of each kind of business, from barber shops to clothing stores, to serve the two ethnic communities. Trinity Methodist Church was erected by and for the Cornish residents.

The Mountain Con, Butte’s deepest mine at 5,300 feet, lies on the eastern edge of Centerville and many of its residents worked there. When the Con shut down in 1975, stores, bars, and community halls shut down as well. To the great consternation of its dwindling congregation, Trinity Church eventually followed suit in 2016. The building is now privately owned.

Images

Trinity Methodist Church
Trinity Methodist Church Trinity Methodist Church (PAc 91-51 B5 RollBS01 F14). Front to side view of the building, facing west to northwest on the corner of North Main Street and West La Platte Street. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Brian Shovers Date: 1984
Untitled Source: Richard Gibson
Untitled Source: Richard Gibson
Trinity Methodist Church, Walkerville, MT
Trinity Methodist Church, Walkerville, MT View of facade Source: iPhone 8 image capture, jpeg Creator: Martha Kohl, photographer Date: May 28, 2021

Location

971 North Main Street, Butte, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program
Marian Jensen
Richard Gibson, “Trinity United Methodist Church (decommissioned),” Story of Butte, accessed February 22, 2024, https://storyofbutte.org/items/show/1977.