Helena was a raucous gold-mining town when Bishop Daniel Sylvester Tuttle and The Rev. E. N. Goddard held their first Sunday services on August 11, 1867. Sunday streets were crowded with men and teams. Auctioneers were selling wares, hurdy-gurdy houses were thronged and more than one hundred businesses were open. Sunday was not the Lord's Day! It was a day for miners to come to town, stock up on supplies and relax.
On a subsequent visit, Bishop Tuttle formed a Bishop's committee to create an Episcopal mission in Helena. He launched this effort by celebrating Holy Eucharist at the courthouse on March 28, 1869. Later that year, he paid $1,200 for property on which to build a church. At the intersection of Warren and Grand Streets, a stone church complete with a bell tower was soon finished for the price of $12,000. The original bell and brass altar rail still grace our church today. You can find a painting of that first building in the stairway at the back of the church. Holy Eucharist was first celebrated there on October 19, 1879, and the building was consecrated on November 11, 1881.
In 1927, The Rev. Henry Daniels began a capital campaign for a new and larger church. The present land on Park Avenue was purchased in 1930. Bishop William F. Faber laid the cornerstone on September 10, 1931. Harold Whitehouse, who also built Episcopal churches in Missoula, Butte, and the lovely cathedral in Spokane, was the architect. The cost was $90,000 - a huge sum and an act of faith for the parish during the Great Depression. Bishop Faber dedicated the new church on Easter, March 27, 1932 and designated it the pro-cathedral of the diocese. Father Daniels became the first of seven deans of the cathedral (the Very Rev. Charles Wilson, The Very Rev. Raymond D. Brown, the Very Rev. Jim Reeves, the Very Rev. Arch Hewitt, the Very Rev. Stephen Brehe, and the Very Rev. Heidi Kinner) until it reverted to parish status in the mid-1990's. In November 2004, St. Peter's was once again dedicated the cathedral church of the diocese. In 1941, the church built a deanery for Dean Wilson and his family, which now serves as the Diocesan Offices. An educational building was added in 1959 and later named Wilson Hall in honor of Dean Wilson's 26 years of service.
Today, Sundays in Helena are a bit quieter. St. Peter's has raised up many community leaders over the years which all began with the pioneering men and women of Helena in the latter half of the nineteenth century.