Smartsville Church Belltower, CA 2019
Smartsville Church Belltower, CA 2019

Smartsville Church Belltower, CA 2019

Smartsville Church Belltower, CA 2019

PROJECT PARTNER: Smartsville Church Restoration Fund


  • April 7-12
  • April 14-19
  • April 21-26
  • April 28 – May 3
  • May 5-10
  • May 12-17


SITE INFORMATION:         Site is RV/trailer accessible  Tent camping only showers available

LOCATION:  We camped about ten minutes’ drive away at the comfortable and convenient Sycamore Ranch Park and Campground

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. The majority of project costs are covered by our project partners and grants, but as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Project Site Description & History

California, 1860s: The Gold Rush. A mass migration of men and women, brothel owners and men of the cloth, bankers and lawyers, ranchers and snake oil salesmen, all heading to the new American West in search of riches. Smartsville was a center of activity.

The Smartsville Church Restoration Fund, Inc., (SCRFI) an enthusiastic nonprofit organization and our project partner, has an excellent and extensive website covering the history of this community’s church and people. Excerpts are included below, and history buffs will enjoy exploring the Fund’s website at!

Before Smartsville, a town called Rose’s Bar was home to Gold Rush miners. After some time the community decided to reestablish themselves in a new location, which we still know today as Smartsville. Catholic community members built the original church in 1860, but it burned down in 1870. According to SCRFI’s website:

“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. 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.”

At its height, 800 paritioners worshipped at the church; but as the economy changed, so did the community. The congregation shrank with the town’s population, and in the 1960s, the church’s doors were shuttered. In 1998, Smartsville resident Bill Ross “[convinced] 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.’”

HistoriCorps is proud to partner with SCRFI to restore this iconic church’s belltower so it can continue to serve as an historical resource and point of community pride.

Scope of Work

Volunteers worked alongside expert field staff to learn the following skills. This project’s crew worked together to rehabilitate and stabilize Smartsville’s historic church belltower so it can continue to contribute to the cultural landscape and represent the community’s history. Our project focused on stabilizing and restoring several critical building elements.

A subcontractor erected scaffolding and stabilized the belltower ahead of volunteers’ arrival.

  • Replace deteriorated structural wood framing:  15%
  • Remove and replace deteriorated wood siding:  15%
  • Rehabilitate wood siding and trim on belltower and its cupola:  15%
  • Re-roof cupola (if necessary) using asphalt shingles:  10%
  • Scrape loose and deteriorated paint, and repaint:  45%

If time allows, we will add the following tasks to the scope of work:

  • Protect window openings
  • Rehabilitate exterior doors

Preserving the church’s belltower will be both interesting and rewarding!

Come home to a relaxing campsite just 10 minutes from the church.

Volunteers work on the church at a community preservation event. 

Smartsville in its heydey. Note the now-gone spire on the church’s belltower.

Historic Smartsville Church

Smartsville Church today