Cherished chapel of love: New owners of Rough and Ready wedding chapel seek to keep tradition alive |

Cherished chapel of love: New owners of Rough and Ready wedding chapel seek to keep tradition alive

Originally opened in 1959, the wedding chapel in Rough and Ready has been reopened by new owners Kim and Billy Wise as the "This Little Light Wedding Chapel."
Brian Hamilton/ |

A Rough and Ready woman fulfilled her promise to God and built the Rough and Ready Wedding Chapel 57 years ago.
Lisetta Sheave was in a shipwreck in 1921, while traveling from Portland, Ore., to San Francisco with her husband and 9-year-old daughter.
Sheave and her baby were rescued. Her husband Harold was separated from the family in the turmoil.
While in a lifeboat, Sheave prayed and vowed that if she were reunited with her husband, she would dedicate a project to the glory of God.
A freighter passed the lifeboat and picked up Sheaves and her baby. The freighter earlier had rescued her husband, and the family was reunited.
The family continued to San Francisco. They returned to Portland and eventually moved to Colorado. Two more children were born.
The couple moved to Nevada City to run an assay office in 1945, and they moved to Rough and Ready in 1953.
When her husband died in 1958, Lisetta Sheaves began to make good on her lifeboat promise. The chapel was built in 1959.
“This Little Chapel was completed Jan. 27, 1959,” Sheave wrote on page one of the chapel’s guest registry. “It is for all faith, to worship here — It was dedicated to the glory of God Feb. 19, 1959.”

This Little Light Wedding Chapel
14526 Rough and Ready Highway, Rough and Ready, CA
Email for more information or to share photos of couples who were married at the chapel.

Maxine Barnett considered it a miracle, when she and Dick Osgood exchanged vows in a Valentine’s Day ceremony inside the Rough and Ready wedding chapel.

It wasn’t exactly the ceremony that she considered miraculous. Rather it was that the couple had their hearts filled by newfound love, merely months after each had lost the love of their own respective lives.

“I’d just lost my husband, and he had just lost his wife — just within a few months of each other — so we were going through the same thing,” Maxine said. “I’d start crying, but then I’d talk to him and start to feel better. Talking to him was like therapy for me. I thought it was cheap therapy. … But we talked and talked, and then got together and started seeing each other and ended up getting married.

“It was amazing to me. God has certainly been good to me, helping me.”

Such words would sound like music to the ears of Lisetta Sheave, the woman who nearly 60 years ago built the chapel and dedicated it to “the glory of God” to keep a promise she’d made to her creator in the face of tragic times (See accompanying story). The result of Sheave keeping her word was the creation of a chapel that has celebrated the love of hundreds, if not thousands, of couples.

And now, thanks to one of the couples once wed there, the Rough and Ready chapel is ready for more.

All signs point here

Kim Wise said she just couldn’t ignore all the signs that were leading her and her husband, Billy, back to the chapel where they exchanged their vows 32 years ago.

Sharing a photo from their wedding day, with Kim in white next to her sister, Wanda, and longtime friend, Darlene, she traces their path back “home” from Loma Rica to Rough and Ready. Darlene, whom she’d known since elementary school, had died following a stroke six years earlier. And though Kim felt she’d gone through the grieving process, she suddenly started to have “constant reminders” of her close friend.

“It was like ‘OK, she’s trying to tell me something,’” Kim said. “It was kind of overwhelming.”

Kim, who has cleaned houses for many years, was looking to make a career change, something she said Darlene was doing at the time of her death. The reminders only reinforced to her that it was time to move forward.

“I even wrote on a piece of paper: ‘Change your life. Darlene is watching,’” she said.

Billy encouraged her to make a change, although she didn’t know what that was. And while the couple were discussing doing exactly that, their daughter interrupted to show them something on her smartphone.

“She said, ‘Look what’s for sale,’” Kim said. “And I said, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and we drove up right away.”

The listing on her daughter’s phone was the chapel where Kim and Billy were married. The same place her brother, sister and father were also wed. The couple liked the idea of having a home that also offered a business opportunity on the same site, so they wasted little time in looking into the chapel and the cottage next door.

After touring the property with a real estate agent, and mulling over the finances involved, they weren’t yet sold on the idea. But before heading out of town, they stopped off at a yard sale. There they came across an artist’s drawing of the chapel they’d just checked out, which Kim took as another sign but began to leave without buying it.

“Aren’t you going to buy that?” Billy asked.

As she paid for the piece, the woman who sold it asked why she had come back for the picture. They explained they were looking into buying the chapel, and shared with her that they were from Loma Rica. Then the woman told her that her daughter also lived in Loma Rica, on a property known as RayDar Ranch. Had they heard of it?

“That was the ranch that Darlene lived on,” Kim said. “Her husband’s name was Ray, so they called it ‘RayDar’ Ranch. That totally overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even talk.”

On the back of the portrait, Kim posted a note: “Dear God. Thanks for the motivation. I’m listening. — Kim.”

Over the course of the next three months, Kim and Billy Wise made the move and looked forward to their new life on the land were they’d married. Kim considered opening an antique shop in the chapel, which had been used for purposes ranging from an art studio to a real estate office in recent years.

But as they settled in, they soon realized how cherished the chapel was by the community.

“A lot of people stop by to visit, and to reminisce,” Billy said.

“There was an older couple the other day; they were so very cute,” Kim said. “They were apologetic and asked if we would mind if they took a look around. She was saying to him, ‘Do you remember? This is where I was standing. Do you remember what I was wearing?’ She remembered every detail.

“Within our first month, I’d changed my mind. It means so much to so many people. It couldn’t be an antique shop. It has to be a chapel.”

10-year Valentines

The wedding of Maxine Barnett and Dick Osgood was quite an event, one that sealed the “miracle” for which Maxine was so thankful.

Dick had just turned 81 and Maxine was 77 when they said “I do” on Valentine’s Day in 2006.

After being surprised by a phone call this week from a total stranger wishing them a happy 10th anniversary, they were not only taken aback, but also taken back to that enchanting evening 10 years earlier.

Maxine remembered having 20-30 friends with them that night at the chapel, which resulted in a romantic story published by The Union that shared how they found each other — online, in fact — and how they’d leaned on each other through the grief that followed the death of their spouses. She remembered Dick pulling on the rope to ring the bell at the end of the ceremony, which announced their marriage to the community.

“We were on the front page of The Union,” she said. “I was amazed!”

The couple now resides in Colfax, where apparently they are nowhere near acting their age, Dick, now 91, and Maxine, 87.

“We’re still going out and doing stuff,” Maxine said. “We belong to some groups, like this widows group that I belonged to before we got together. We still go to that, because I feel like I can help people who lost their spouse and help them through that so they can move on with their own lives.

“(Dick is) doing fine,” she added. “He’s outside working right now. He was a building contractor and he’s still physically active and everything. I don’t have to hire anyone to fix anything. He does it all.”

And then Dick picked up the phone.

“Don’t tell me I’ve been married for 10 years!” he shouted with laughter. “That means I’m 10 years older!”

“I’m great!” he added. “Just working away every day and plugging away!”

As we talked about their wedding and the chapel where they began their new life together, it was clear that they cherished the memories and that the community cherishes that chapel. They were glad to hear it was being reopened.

“We are doing great,” Dick said. “I’ve had a very good life. I’ve got an angel on my shoulder.

“I know a lot of people up around here who went out there and got married at that chapel.”

Community connections

It seemed to genuinely delight Dick and Maxine, and Billy and Kim, to learn that they had just met one half of one more couple that was married at the “Wayside Wedding Chapel of Rough and Ready.”

My wife, Betsy, and our daughter, Vivian, made the trip with me from Indiana to be wed there. I’d learned of the place while living in Rough and Ready during my first stint with The Union. And, when we’d determined that we didn’t want a “big” wedding, the little chapel seemed to be the perfect place to tie the knot, as we hoped to one day soon call this place — this community — “home” again.

While we were somewhat “eloping” we did announce our plan ahead of time with dear friends who lived just a few miles up Rough and Ready Road. Michael proved to be a lifesaver in lending me a pair of shoes just minutes before showtime, after I’d accidentally bought a box with two left feet. Susannah put her special touch on the day by arranging a tiny horse and buggy to bring my girls to the chapel. And Kristina, their daughter, was so sweet in keeping up with our 3-year-old, Vivian, who found equal enjoyment in pulling the rope to ring the chapel’s bell and gulping down root beer to celebrate the day.

That was May 2002, but it might as well have been last weekend as I pulled up to the chapel to chat up the new owners.

So many memories — and for so many members of our community.

“My husband and I were married there June 21, 1969; we will be married 47 years in June!” Jacki Briggs Russell wrote on Facebook, where we asked friends who else had been married at the chapel. “My brother was married there also. We lived in Grass Valley for 30 years and still have family there.”

Many more shared the dates of their own weddings there, or those of brothers, sisters, parents, cousins and friends. Susann Grace wrote of her brother-in-law’s Scottish-themed ceremony, complete with bagpipes. Jacci Filer wrote how as a teenager she used to clean the chapel for Mrs. Sheave, who built the place.

“Such a sweet small venue!” Denita Patton wrote.

“My wife and I were married there on 09/10/94,” wrote John J. West. “Love that place.”

As I spoke with the new owners about some of the feedback on news of the reopening, and they shared some of the photo albums of weddings past, it was obvious to all of us that Lisetta Sheave’s chapel has become quite a community treasure.

“I’d love to start a scrapbook with photos of all the couples who were married here,” said Kim Wise, noting they’ve so far hosted one wedding with five to six more couples in the planning stages. “The number of people who stop and visit … and everybody being so sentimental about it … It just totally feels like it was meant to be.

“We’re at the beginning of what we hope will be a long life with it here. And we’re going to try to keep it going, because it obviously means a lot to a lot of people.”

Brian Hamilton is editor of The Union. Contact him at or 530-477-4249.

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