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At the Heart of a Community - the Continuing Story of the Church of St. Hubert the Hunter

"The native pine log Church of St. Hubert the Hunter stands along the Hoback River, surrounded by mountains, in the beautiful basin of Bondurant, Wyoming."

"There is quite a story behind its existence, which stems back to 1937 when the Episcopalian Bishop of Wyoming, Bishop Winfred H. Zeigler, made a trip through our community in mid-winter and found himself marooned during a blizzard. Some of the ranchers and their families extended their kindness and hospitality to him until the blizzard subsided.

"At this time there wasn't a church or gathering hall of any kind in the entire community.

"Some time later, when Bishop Zeigler went to Philadelphia to fill some speaking engagements, he heard from Bishop Perry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, the story of a diamond - a cherished heirloom of Mrs. John Markoe. She had given the diamond to Bishop Perry some years before her death, with the request that he sell the stone and build a memorial church with the proceeds. Jewelers, however, offered only half what the Bishop knew the gem was worth. So he kept it for some time in a safe deposit box. Bishop Zeigler immediately thought of Bondurant. Both Bishops agreed that Bondurant really needed a church. That same week, Bishop Perry was able to sell the diamond for $1,400.

"Upon Bishop Zeigler's return to Wyoming he made another trip to Bondurant and asked for volunteers to build a Church and Community Hall. In late March or early April 1939, with the snow still deep, a group of some 25 ranch men, Bishop Zeigler and two other priests, crossed the Hoback River and climbed the hill on the other side with a team and sled to get into the pines and cut the logs for the new church. The water was high and only partly frozen. As they started across the horses fell through belly deep and the sled followed, showering the Bishop with water. But he took it all good naturedly and they pushed on.

"At noon they built a fire, melted snow to make coffee and soon had sandwiches and coffee. After lunch they continued cutting logs, and by four in the afternoon they had enough logs felled and started their sleigh ride homeward.

"Some time later the logs were snaked out by teams of horses and hauled to the church building site. The fall of 1940, the first service, a wedding ceremony, was held there with only five rounds of logs having been laid up.

"The spring of 1941 the ranchers resumed their donated time and worked to complete the building. The flooring, glass and hardware had been purchased with the money the Bishop of Rhode Island secured with the sale of Mrs. Markoe's diamond.

"The altar window in the Church depicts the vision of St. Hubert and was made by Miss Jessie Van Brunt of Brooklyn. The rustic altar was built by two brothers, Vincent and Daniel Fronk, who lived on a ranch far up the valley and were snowbound much of the year. The elkhorn chair was built and donated by one of the local residents, John D. Wertz.

"In 1943, through the generosity of a friend in the east, another log building was erected next to the Church that contained the Library and fully equipped first aid dispensary.

"On August 3, 1941, with a steer that a Big Piney, Wyoming, rancher donated, and the other food donated by local families, we held our first, free barbeque.

"Bishop Zeigler, along with the Governor of Wyoming, were brought from the Triangle "F" Ranch by stagecoach to the Church. Many others followed on horseback from the surrounding ranches. Bishop Ziegler consecrated the completed Church and presented an axe to each man who helped build it. There were more than 500 people in attendance that day.

"In 1950 Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Maercklein donated the collection plate to the Church of St. Hubert the Hunter. The hand wood carving of St. Hubert was done in Germany and was donated to our Church.

"We have come a long way since then. The only ladies' organization we had at that time was the Crazy Calico Club formed in 1931. So we changed our name to the Ladies' Guild of Bondurant and took over the responsibility of the upkeep of our new building and planned our new Library and dispensary that was erected in 1943. Our membership dues raised from 50 cents to $1.00.

"For several years, we held bake sales, raffles from other donated articles and did almost everything we could think of to raise money, along with putting on the barbeque. The ladies of Bondurant and surrounding communities donated all of the food. Some of the beef was donated from time to time but the Ladies' Guild bought it when need be and also paid for having it barbequed in the outside pit.

"The price of our tickets was set at $1.00 for children 6 to 12 and adults $1.50. We managed to hold these prices until 1966. Due to needed repairs on our buildings, which were getting some age on them, and the starting of inflation, we were forced to raise the price of the adult tickets to $2.00.

"Since that time and up to now, all the beef has been donated by local ranchers. Home baked cakes, potato and kraut salads, and also the baked beans (cooked in a large iron kettle outside) are donated by the people of Bondurant and surrounding communities.

"In 1972 our barbeque was held in honor of Bishop Ziegler. He was able to attend and when he got up to speak, that old familiar voice sounded just as strong and as good as it had 31 years before.

"Last year 1979, we just got the plumbing hooked up in our new kitchen and two restrooms in time for the 39th annual barbeque. Something we had been saving and praying for, for some time.

"Each year we have served from 800 to 900 people. We have some people who have never missed a one of the 39. We hear each year such remarks as "We will see you next year!", "Such a wonderful meal!", "We arranged our vacation at this time so we could take in the barbeque!" and many, many more too numerous to mention.

"The old timers and senior citizens especially enjoy the comfort of being served inside the Church/Community Hall. This way they have a much longer time to visit with each other and do not have to stand in line to be served.

"The services are held outdoors in front of the Church at 12 noon and we start serving at 1 o'clock sharp. The people go through the line quite rapidly and we usually have the majority served by 2:30.

"During the past years we have donated to St. John's Hospital in Jackson, Wyoming, the Bondurant School, Sublette County Welfare, helped local families in times of need, sent remembrances to our members during times of illness and rejuvenated our local cemetery.

"This year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary and we hope to have a larger crowd than ever. The price of the tickets this year will be children 12 years and under $2 and adults $5."

By Mrs. Eileen Fronk Dockham © 1980
Reprinted with the permission of her family

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