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The church had approximately 800 parishioners at one time. Parishioners who subscribed had a pew with their name on it. The name cards are visible at the ends of each row.
As mining declined and families moved away from Smartsville they kept in touch with their former towns people and often returned to the church for weddings or funerals at the church. Frequently when someone who had left Smartsville passed away their remains were brought to the church for the funeral and buried in the local cemetery. As the town’s population dwindled so did the number of worshipers until in 1960s the Sacramento Dioceses decided that continued maintenance of the building was not warranted.
When Catholic miners lived in Rose’s Bar they worshiped at St. Rose’s church founded in 1852 down by the river. When the town of Rose Bar town was abandoned they constructed a new church building in Smartsville. The first church burned to the ground in the Smartsville fire of 1870.
At first the new church had no bell tower. A bell was made in 1878 by W.T. Garrett & Co. foundry in San Francisco and was housed atop a timber tower behind the church (W.T. Garrett also cast the golden spikes). Later, in 1895, a bell tower with a magnificent steeple was added to the front (south side) of the church. A storm in 1938 damaged the steeple and it was removed.
Approximately $6,000 was quickly collected to rebuild and in 1870 the new church, on the old building’s foundation, was erected the very next year. The new church was called the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
In 1998, Bill Ross, a Smartsville resident decided it was time to come to the rescue of the badly deteriorated building. He was able to convince the Sacramento Diocese to donate the church building and grounds to a new non-profit corporation that would own the building and commence restoration. Some start-up funding plus legal help in founding the corporation was provided by the Diocese. This was the beginning of the Smartsville Church Restoration Fund, Inc., lovingly known as SCRFI, or “SCRUFFY.”