In early 1850, in what is now Nevada City, California, a collection of tents, brush shanties and a few board houses were beginning to take on the appearance of a town. The quest for gold was in full swing and every man had to fend for himself. To give up even the Sabbath for a day of rest and worship was to give up the yield of that day's gold which few felt they could afford. However, there were those who realized the importance of their religious beliefs and sought to abide by them.
During the summer of 1850 a Mr. Stamps who was Chief Magistrate of the town and a Mr. Lamden, an ex-minister, helped build a small shake structure erected on the lot where the present Baptist Church now stands at 300 Main Street. Shakes were nailed to posts driven into the natural contours of the ground which made the dirt floor very uneven. Boxes and whiskey barrels were used for seats. This building was used for all denominations and called "Washington Monument Church." A church built later on this same site was dedicated "Congregational."
In 1851 fire destroyed most of the town including the little shake church. Soon, new buildings were begun and the strongest religious denominations began to build their own churches.
Records show the first religious service named "Baptist" was held in the Jenny Lind Theater in December 1854, by a Rev. Winn for the American Home Mission Society. This theater was above the Broad Street bridge and spanned the creek itself -- resting on supports on each side of the creek. Baptist services were also held in the Temperance Hall on lower Main Street.
In 1855, under the direction of a Rev. Stone, the Baptists built a church on the corner of Pine and Spring streets. The owner of the National Hotel gave the property to the Baptist people. It was in this church where Emma Nevada sang her first solo -- thus beginning her famous career.
Another fire struck the town in 1856. Four churches were destroyed including the Baptist church. Not until 1860, under the leadership of a Rev. Brierly, did the Baptists begin another building on their lot at Pine and Spring. This was a frame building which, after many changes, stands today as the Powell House.
The present owner purchased the building and after several years of planning and renovation, the historic Powell House is finally finished and ready to rent.
The two front doors on Pine Street and large braces under the third story balcony are the only original material left from the church. Some of the damaged original stained glass windows were used to create similar windows.
The new Powell House is a beautiful, inspiring addition to Nevada City's landscape.