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The Auburn Rock Church is one of the few buildings remaining from the early Mormon settlement in Star Valley. The church was built in 1889 by volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church) using locally available rock.
The town of Auburn, formerly known as Stump Creek, was located along the Lander Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail, where an estimated 13,000 people passed through on their way to the west coast between 1859 and 1912. Members of the LDS church began settling in Star Valley, located in western Wyoming, in the late 1870s, and in 1888 the town site of Auburn was surveyed into 24 blocks, each 10 acres. Like most Mormon settlements, the plat followed a strict grid pattern with 90-foot-wide streets and a central town square. The first building constructed in the new settlement was the Rock Church, erected on the town square. In addition to serving as a place of worship, the building was the center of social and cultural life—a hall for community meetings, dances, plays, musical events, reunions, holiday celebrations, and elections. The church was replaced with a larger frame building in 1926, but because the rock church was easier to heat during the winter months, it remained in use for religious services until 1984.
The church is a simple rectangular structure, 30 x 15 feet with a gable roof, built of rubble rock laid in irregular courses, with larger rectangular blocks set at the corners. There are three tall, rectangular windows evenly spaced on the lateral facades of the building. A double wood-paneled door is topped by a transom, deeply inset and centered in the main facade. Above the door is a round-arched opening framed in stone voussoirs and a stone sill, in which has been placed a plaque reading “Auburn Ward 1889.” The building’s character comes from the simplicity and enduring nature of its construction, and from the soft earth tones of the rock, which range from beige to rose to shades of brown.
The Rock Church was donated to the Star Valley Historical Society in 1984. The Society restored the building and uses it for a summer theater program. Though no longer used for worship it stands today as a monument to the early pioneers of Star Valley.
Hokanson, Paul Miller, “Rock Church,” Lincoln County, Wyoming. National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form, 1985. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
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