He came dressed quite like the other folks. He frequently came with the people of his neighborhood. He enjoyed meeting them and knowing what was going on with their lives. But he lived alone.
He was known to the people in the area as “the man of the belfry tower.” He did not wish to dwell with his friends and neighbors. Instead, he insisted on making his home in one spot—the turret of the South Broadway Christian Church in Denver, Colorado.
For over ten years he occupied a small room high in the turret of the square church tower. Here he slept and spent his remaining days, cooking his meals in the church kitchen and refusing to admit visitors up to his solitary chamber.
His name appears on a plate at the base of a tall stained glass window, which was placed by the Christian Endeavor Society. “In loving tribute to our Honorary President, Uncle John Sutton” is inscribed on the plate. It was Uncle John Sutton, then nearly 80 years old, feeble from sickness, and bent with age, who looked out on the streets below.
Watching the people passing, he dreamed of the days long past when his wife was at his side. He remembered when he was a young man back in Pittsburg and won distinction as an engineer for his judgment and skill in operating the throttle.
Thinking of those days, he would get up from his seat by the window and, going to a nearby table where he gazed at a worn leather case. Opening it, he handled the large gold medal presented to him by an order of master mechanics.
The South Broadway Christian Church is a beautiful piece of architecture. It was built in 1890 and has always been known as the church with a story. The story is Uncle John Sutton. $30,000 of the $60,000 which it cost was donated by Sutton. He soon became penniless. The trustees paid him a monthly stipend—interest on the money he gave, and that supplied his needs.
He regularly shuffled about the church, showing strangers its’ beauty. His pride in the structure was apparent. He often pointed out the handsome stained glass window he had placed there as a memorial to his wife. The inscription read “In Memory of My Beloved Wife, Henrietta Sutton.” Her Bible is buried beneath the corner stone of the church.
There have been many stories about Uncle John Sutton. Children often looked suspiciously at the tower as they passed in the twilight hours. But, as they visited the church they soon encountered the kind old man and their fears slowly disappeared.
John Sutton has longed past away and joined his beloved Henrietta in the other world. But every once in a while if you glance up at the belfry tower just before sunset, you just might catch a glimpse of the old hermit gazing down at the neighborhood he once knew and loved.
South Broadway Christian Church
23 Lincoln Street
Denver, CO 80203
For more info: Debe Branning [email protected]