Marsh, The Reverend Mordecai Lewis, Jr.

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .



“Father Bud” Marsh

(1912 – 1983)

Bud Marsh was born in New York City and spent his formative years in a suburb, graduating from high school in Rahway, New Jersey in 1931. His mother is known to have said, “Buddy always wanted to become a priest.”

He received his undergraduate degree from The College of St. John the Evangelist, which later became Colorado State Teachers’ College in Greeley and then the University of Northern Colorado. He lived and worked in Greeley until leaving for the General Theological Seminary in New York City in 1938, completing the seminary in 1941.

Making it known to the Bishop that he wanted to stay in Colorado, he was assigned to the little Episcopal Mission of the Transfiguration in Evergreen in 1941 where he was ordained on December 7, 1941, returning home from the ordination to learn of the devastation at Pearl Harbor.

He was the only resident clergyman in Evergreen at that time. During the summer months he lived in quarters connected to the Mission, and during the winter months he lived in the Liston Lodge below the dam.

The year-round population of Evergreen then was fewer than 1,000 but was known for growing dramatically during the summer months, as many well-to-do Denverites and those from other parts of the country had summer homes or cabins here; thousands of others vacationed at the Troutdale Hotel or one of a number of guest ranches in the area.

History of the Episcopal Church in Evergreen

The Episcopal Church has played a central role in the development of Evergreen over the years.

Episcopal services had been held in Evergreen since 1871, first in the Stewart Hotel for townspeople largely involved with sawmill activities. The Mission, serviced by clergy from Golden, experienced a hiatus in 1883 when there were only 40 adults in the town. It was revived 10 years later in 1893 when Mary Neosho Williams initiated services in a tent on her property, now known as the Hiwan Homestead Museum. When her daughter, Dr. Mary Josepha Williams, married Canon Charles Winfred Douglas, Dr. Jo bought the 20-room Stewart Hotel and hired Master Carpenter Jock Spence to convert the hotel into a church and quarters for a vicar. The building was named St. Mark’s House to commemorate the first mission.

The first service was held there in 1897, and it was dedicated in 1899. Canon Douglas, who led services from 1909, became renowned for composing and arranging church music, and he would develop The Evergreen Music Conference in 1907 around the Episcopal Mission in Evergreen. Clergy and music directors from all over the country would travel to Evergreen for six-week periods during the summer to study church music under Canon Douglas. The church and the Evergreen Music Conference would be intertwined until the Conference disbanded in 2002 because of funding issues.

Father Bud’s roles in the Evergreen community

Father Bud, as he was known, was assigned to assist Canon Douglas who was devoting much of his time to the Music Conference. Reportedly, Canon Douglas was a great mentor to Marsh, but Father Bud was essentially “on his own” as Curate until sometime in 1944 when Douglas died. At that time he became Vicar at the Mission and Manager of the Evergreen Music Conference and Music School.

During World War II, Father Bud worked in conjunction with the American Red Cross and the only resident doctor in Evergreen, John Hunt, in making calls throughout the south end of Jefferson County and Clear Creek County to be with those who lost family members in the war – dead, missing in action, prisoners of war.

“When casualty messages came through, they would call me and I would go out to the families. Places around the world like Anzio and Iwo Jima where ‘my’ boys were a lot – I called them all ‘my boys’ – still have a very sentimental attachment for me,” he said in an interview with the Eugene and Barbara Sternberg late in his life.

In 1942 when the PTA Christmas program failed to materialize as planned, Father Bud restored the custom of a living Christmas pageant. He would stage it himself, utilizing many of Evergreen’s leading citizens in the cast. The popular tradition continued for more than 30 years.

When operation of the library was in jeopardy in 1943, Father Bud organized a board of three volunteers who managed to keep the library open during the summers.

In 1946 he met Helene Abbot when she worked as receptionist at the Evergreen Music Conference and Music School for the summer; they were married six months later. Between 1946 and 1952, the Marshes lived in a few rooms above the Mission during the summers and in St. Raphael’s for the winter. With a generous donation by Mrs. Anne Douglas, land was donated adjacent to the Mission for a Vicarage. Father Bud and Helene became the parents of three children: Abigail, M. Lewis and Stephen.

Father Bud held the title of Vicar until 1957 when the note on the building was retired and the church gained parish status. He then became the first Rector of the Church of the Transfiguration, serving until 1964.

According to his daughter, Abby, "He served with many men in Evergreen Kiwanis and assisted with a great deal of community outreach, including playing the role of St. Nick, who would ride the fire truck through town close to Christmas, distributing stockings to the children as they lined the streets.  In the summer months, they would hold the annual fishing derby along a stretch of Bear Creek on the Conference grounds.  This group was particularly concerned for children in the early days of Evergreen."

A period of growth

During his time as Rector at Church of the Transfiguration, Father Bud’s personality and involvement in the community stimulated the growth of the congregation, necessitating a larger place to hold services. He oversaw the construction of a 6,000-square-foot church building in the early 1960s located on the church campus marked by the historic bell tower along Bear Creek in lower downtown Evergreen.

The cost of the building was $72,000. His mother-in-law was a substantial benefactor who made the building of the new church possible.

By this time the population of Evergreen had grown to about 2,000 people year-round. The burgeoning summer population had declined with gas rationing during the war and the advent of air conditioning in private homes in the 1950s. The population would begin to grow tremendously with the opening of Interstate-70 west of Denver (to Idaho Springs) in 1961. With a population of 2,700 in 1970, 10,000 residents would be added in the next decade.

Other positions held

Due to health reasons, Farther Bud resigned his position at Church of the Transfiguration in 1964 and moved to a lower altitude, Wheat Ridge. At that time, he described his duties as 50% with the Diocese, 25% with the Music Conference, and 25% as the Vicar. Having had a lifelong interest in church architecture, he took on the position as Secretary of the Diocesan Architectural Commission when he relocated to Wheat Ridge.

Father Bud served as a part-time Archdeacon from 1941 to 1964. He became Archdeacon on a full-time basis until he retired in 1972. All of his ministry was in the Diocese of Colorado.

In 1971 Father Bud was honored by the Evergreen parish and the community-at-large.  He was a well-liked and highly respected member of the community, well known beyond his congregation. In 2012 he is still remembered in loving terms by those who knew him. Kenny Knoll, a lifelong resident of Evergreen since 1935 described Father Bud as "a beloved 'community pastor' at the Episcopal church who took in people of all denominations."  The Sternbergs described him in their book on Evergreen as “one of the most active community leaders ever to serve Evergreen.”

Sources: Evergreen, Our Mountain Community; the Jefferson County Historical Society; daughter Abby Marsh; Church of the Transfiguration with help from Marcia Younger and Shelley Black.