Steve DiGioia

Arizona’s Oldest Church: Unveiling History’s Sacred Site


Arizona’s rich history is beautifully showcased through its ancient churches, offering a glimpse into the past. 

These remarkable sites, many of which have origins dating back to the Spanish colonial era, beautifully showcase the rich cultural and religious heritage of the state.

The Whereabouts of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, founded in 1882, holds the distinction of being Arizona’s oldest Protestant church. It offers a glimpse into the state’s more recent history.

The church is situated at the intersection of Third and Safford streets in Tombstone, Arizona, a renowned town with a rich history, particularly known for the O.K. Corral shooting. 

Visitors are welcome to explore the site daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They have the opportunity to delve into its rich history and even participate in Sunday services at 10 a.m., which are conducted by clergy from diverse religious backgrounds.

It Was Founded by Endicott Peabody

The construction of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1882 was driven by the ambitious vision of Endicott Peabody, a clergyman hailing from Boston. 

Peabody was dispatched by the Episcopal Church to Tombstone with the mission of instilling civility and decency in the lawless frontier town plagued by crime and corruption.

Peabody managed to secure funding from a diverse range of sources, including miners, locals, and some rather unconventional backers like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton gang. 

The church was finished in under a year and consecrated on March 11, 1883, as a testament to Peabody’s vision and the strong support from the community.

Architecture & Design

Arizona’s rich history is beautifully showcased through its ancient churches, offering a glimpse into the past.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is a charming structure built with adobe bricks and wood, showcasing the timeless beauty of the Gothic Revival style that was beloved in the nineteenth century. 

The design draws inspiration from medieval Gothic architecture, featuring elegant pointed arches, grand vaulted ceilings, and exquisite Belgian stained glass windows.

Importance and Impact

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of Arizona’s cultural and religious heritage. 

In spite of significant events like the O.K. Corral gunfight, the decline of the mining industry, and Arizona’s statehood, the church has continued to serve generations, fostering a sense of community among its parishioners.

The church’s influence extends far beyond its physical boundaries, as Endicott Peabody leaves a lasting impression on Tombstone and Arizona. 

Peabody, a visionary and pioneer, established not only a church but also a school, hospital, and library, all while actively advocating against violence and injustice.

Arizona’s Church History: Ancient to Episcopal

Arizona’s fascinating past is evident in its ancient churches, such as Mission San José de Tumacácori and Mission San Xavier del Bac. 

Nevertheless, this page delves into the history of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Tombstone, which was built in 1882. 

Endicott Peabody established Arizona’s oldest functioning church, which displays a stunning Gothic Revival style while also embodying diversity, resilience, and the lasting impact of its visionary founder.


Read also: California’s Unforgettable Coastal Gems: Seven Beach Towns to Call Home

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