Like so many other communities, Craig often repurposed its early structures that had been frequently well-built. As the little town grew in the post World War II era, there was an increased demand for homes, as well as other infrastructure buildings, including schools and churches. In 1959, the First Congregational Church of Craig moved into their new church building on Green Street and put the old church and the parsonage up for sale.
Young Bonnie Clifton, married and with three little children underfoot and twins on the way, was surprised one day when her husband Don came home and announced he had just put in a bid of $1,500 on the old Congregational church and parsonage. The buildings would need to be moved from their location on Victory Way. When she questioned him on how they would pay for it, he responded that a business acquaintance had agreed to loan him the money, which he could pay back in monthly installments.
As it turned out, Bonnie reminisced, the business friend was unable to loan them the money after all. Bonnie continued with the story, “My folks knew an old hermit who lived out at Great Divide and who would frequently loan money to people. My folks, Don and I started driving out to see him when we met him coming into town in his pickup, and my dad waved him down. We told him what we needed, and he said ‘Sure, just don’t know what bank to write the check on.’” Wow!
So the Cliftons were able to buy the two buildings. They sold the main portion of the old church structure to the Episcopal church congregation, and the back addition was removed and sold to Bonnie’s cousin Grace Bishop and her husband Paul. The Bishops took the lumber from the removed addition and used it to build a home just north of town. It still stands today. The main church building was moved to its new location on Green Street.
Bonnie said, “We got our $1,500 back by selling the main church building and its addition, so our house (the old parsonage) was free except for the cost of the lot, the foundation and the price of moving it to 865 Russell. When we drove out to pay back the money to the old hermit, we found he wasn’t home. So we left the check on the table. His house was a two-room shack with a dirt floor and pigs running in and out. What an experience!”
The Cliftons had their work cut out for them in upgrading the old parsonage after its move to Russell Street. But they were there only four years, when once again, Don came home one day and surprised Bonnie with another bombshell! “Hey, honey. I’ve sold the house. But don’t worry, we have two weeks to move.” Bonnie said she can laugh now, 50 years later, but it wasn’t a laughing matter then, when she had five little children and had to squeeze everyone into a little apartment while they built another house.
The Museum of Northwest Colorado loves collecting family stories, and thanks Bonnie Clifton for sharing this story about the old parsonage. Stories such as this one are an incredible part of the fabric of our community. If you have a family story you’d like to share, contact the staff at the museum at 970-824-6360 or visit us online at www.museumnwco.org. Remember “your story” is “our story” and is “history!"