As commuters whiz past on their daily trek to Thiokol's rocket plant, they are hardly aware of a Utah religious monument just off U-83.

There, down the street from a grain elevator and around the corner, stands Utah's oldest existing Protestant church building. The paint of the Corinne Methodist Church is fading, the stained-glass windows have long since been broken out and replaced by Plexiglas and neighbors park their trucks on the lawn.For years now, there hasn't been a congregation to meet here, except for occasional Christmas Eve and anniversary services of Methodists from Brigham City. Furthermore, the fund to help with the upkeep on the church has been depleted.

Still, Brigham City residents Don and Bernie Mitchell keep the memory of this country church alive in the hearts of Utahns.

"There's just a neat feeling with this building," said Bernie Mitchell. She said the church is seeking money for upkeep and further repairs. Even in its present condition, the church needs $150 a month to keep the building heated to 50 degrees during the winter.

Despite earlier restoration efforts, the Mitchells talk of new proj-ects to keep the building sound - circulating air under the foundation to stop water from seeping up the walls, insulating the ceiling and new flashing on the roof.

Inside the building, the need is apparent. Pieces of the ceiling have fallen on the old wooden pews, and the wallpaper peels around a simple wooden cross.

Come September, it will have been 122 years since the building was dedicated in the then-booming town of Corinne. The railroad town once boasted a population of 5,000, had many businesses, more than 100 saloons and gambling halls.

The town sprang up in 1869 in anticipation of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Merchants expected Corinne to become a major shipping, trading and business center. It had been designated by Union Pacific as a freight junction for merchandise transported by steamboat via the Bear River, the Great Salt Lake and Jordan River to Salt Lake City.

In June 1870, three visiting ministers promised $1,000 for a building if $2,000 could be raised, according to Brigham D. Madsen's book "Corinne." The church opened in September, and several months later it was graced with a 402-pound bell, costing $200.

Today, an occasional visitor to the church can ring the bell, momentarily waking this sleepy little town of 640 residents.

Corinne's newspaper of the time, the Utah Daily Reporter, said this: "The lot selected is on the corner of Sixth and Colorado . . . in a few weeks more we shall use this beautiful edifice assuming proportions suggestive of its mission and towering toward the heavens in all its sublime grandness, the beautiful guide of sacred thoughts."

By 1879, the town and the church declined, leading to the building's closure. Later the church was refurbished and used again until 1957. In the late 1960s, members of the Aldersgate Methodist Church again made extensive repairs on the building and worshiped there until the mid-1980s.

The congregation relocated to Brigham City hoping to draw more members. But members occasionally worship in the building, sometimes keeping off the electric lights in favor of old kerosene lamps mounted around the church's interior.

The Rev. Dan Nelson, Aldersgate minister, said while he's not a sentimentalist, he appreciates the meaning of the building to people who once worshiped here.

"What I am seeing is just a building. But people had life-changing experiences and activities associated with this building," he said, noting that members of his current congregation have undergone a similar experience with another building. The congregation has purchased and renovated the former chapel at the Bushnell General Hospital that later became the Intermountain Indian School.

"It's like being part of a family. There's a good feeling with this building," the Rev. Nelson said.

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Donations welcome

To help with upkeep and future restoration of Utah's oldest existing Protestant church building, contributions may be sent to: Aldersgate Corinne Church Fund, c/o Donald E. Mitchell, 804 N. Holiday Drive, Brigham City, UT 84302.

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