The Cornerstone for St. Columba Church was laid June 12, 1881 on land donated by real estate developer Peter Fassbinder. The location, halfway between Animas City and Durango, meant that the church escaped fires that consumed other early churches along 3rd Avenue. Not only the building, but the people of this faith community have flourished in spite of a history of struggle and imperfection. Even St. Columba had problems before he achieved sainthood. He made his epic journey to Scotland in 563 AD, and began establishing monasteries after being accused of starting a war. Sheriff Robert Dwyer was present when the church’s cornerstone was laid, as there were no barroom brawls to break up that day. Sister Mary Baptiste Meyers, who led the Sisters of Mercy to Durango in 1882, was beheaded in a 1901 train wreck while traveling to Denver to visit a sister who was gravely ill. Father William Kipp traveled all over the mountains of southern Colorado in the 1920s bringing the sacraments to miners, and others who lived in remote locations. The Sisters of Mercy bravely cared for patients during the smallpox and flu epidemics of the early 20th century.
Wars came and went, and the mines of the San Juan Mountains produced minerals needed for weapons and industry. National economic problems had their effect, like the demonetization of silver, the crash of 1893 and the depression 35 years later. The mines that drove the economy of the region thrived, and eventually died. But in the end, families that started the parish in the early years are still represented at Mass each Sunday. Newcomers from all over the country have joined the parish, coming to retire, to work in natural gas production, construction or the tourist industry. They come for the quality of life, abundant outdoor recreation, and for the excellent, yet affordable St. Columba School. Together they have kept alive a common faith, in spite of their differences and hardships, so that the faith community of St. Columba Church might flourish.