Colrain — Churches
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
The first move made by the early settlers toward the encouragement of public worship was early in 1742, when a committee was appointed to provide preaching; and a committee was also appointed to treat with "the gentlemen" for a ministry lot. About that time a committee was appointed to see "the gentlemen" (the Coleraine proprietors) and ascertain what offers they would make to give encouragement for the settlement of a minister.
In that year a meeting-house was built on what is now sometimes called Meeting-house Hill, about a mile east of Coleraine Centre, and west of the old burying-ground. There was some fear that the completion of the house would fail, and "the gentlemen" were again appealed to to assist in building the church.
Whether the aid was furnished or not is not known, but it is certain that the structure was not wholly finished and furnished until 1769.
The Rev. Mr. Morrison was probably the first preacher to occupy the pulpit of the first church, for an entry in the proprietors' records, dated Feb. 21, 1743, sets forth that "we will continue Rev. Mr. Morrison some time longer."
In 1744 it was voted to have transient preaching, and in 1745 the proprietors sent to the Boston Presbytery for a minister, making at the same time an appropriation of £120 to meet the charge of a minister. In May, 1746, a Mr. Graham was the pastor, but how long he served cannot be told. In 1750 the Boston Presbytery appointed Rev. Mr. Abercrombie, of Pelham, "to ordain the elders at Coleraine and prepare the way for the administration of the Lord's Supper." In 1752 the sum of £120, old tenor, was granted for "the charges of the gospel," and to Rev. Daniel Mitchell (who had supplied the preaching in 1749, 1750, and 1751) an offer of a settlement was made, with the promise, as a salary, of $210, 30 bushels of wheat, and 60 days' work yearly, but the Presbytery declined to consent to the settlement. Early in 1753 it was decided to extend a call to Rev. Alexander McDowell, who had been preaching, to the church, which was organized as a Presbyterian Church about 1750, and in September of that year he was ordained. He preached until the summer of 1761, when he was dismissed. He died in 1762, and was buried in the old cemetery on the hill, but no stone has ever marked the spot where he lies. Mr. McDowell's annual salary was £200, old tenor, or £26 13s. 4d., lawful money, 40 bushels of wheat, and 60 days' work. In 1768 the town, discussing the question of Mr. McDowell's neglected grave, voted not to get gravestones for it.
In 1763, Rev. Mr. Abercrombie preached occasionally, and he was boarded, according to town agreement, at Deacon McGee's; but for some reason he failed to give satisfaction, and the town, deciding that he should preach no longer, sent for Rev. Mr. Thompson, of Nassau Hall, N. J.
In 1764 it was announced that any man who would take the shingles off the south side of the meeting-house might have them if he would return the nails to the town. Rev. Mr. Kinkead was supplying the preaching that year, and was chosen a commissioner "to do his indevor to invite a minister from pensilvania to preach with us and also to settle with us, if we like each other." At the same time £45 were raised for a settlement, and £&40 salary promised for such minister as should be settled. At this time Mathew Bolton was directed to "frame in a cell" in the south side of the meeting-house, and it was further decided to color the meeting-house "Blew."
There was much apparent difficulty attendant upon the securing of a pastor, and, in 1765, Abner Newton, with whom the minister boarded in 1764, was sent to the Presbytery at Pelham, at a cost of £2, to "do the business of obtaining a preacher." Rev. Jonathan Leavitt was invited to preach in 1766, and, in 1767, Rev. Simeon Miller was given a call, with the promise of a settlement of £100 and a salary of £40. There was, however, no settled pastor until 1769, when Rev. Daniel McLellan was ordained. It is related that Mr. McLellan, having also another call besides that of Coleraine, was undecided which to accept, and, finally setting a stick on end, it fell toward Coleraine, whereupon he determined to go thither. He died in 1773, while in the pastoral charge, and from that date until 1777, when Rev. Samuel Taggart was ordained, the church depended upon supplies.
Shortly after Mr. Taggart's settlement, in 1779, there was some agitation in favor of building a new meeting-house on the west side of North River, because of the change in the centre of the town's population, but the project was deferred until 1788, when, the matter being revived, the building of a new house was decided upon, and a committee appointed to direct the enterprise. Meanwhile, in 1784, dissensions arose in the first church, and several members withdrew, but, beyond reference to the appointment of a committee to settle the controversy, the records throw no light upon the matter at issue. It is supposed the trouble was owing to objections by some members to the choice of location for the meeting-house. The breach widened, however, and some time thereafter the seceders built a church of their own, about two miles southeast of the site of the present Congregational Church.
Mr. Taggart was, in 1784, directed by the town to preach one-third of the time on the west side of the river, although there was no church there. In 1786, Mr. Taggart preached there one-half the time at the house of George Pattison, and in 1788 or thereabouts, as related, the new meeting-house was built on that side the river.
There were, therefore, at this time two meeting-houses in town, one owned by the town, and one owned by those who withdrew from the first church. These latter returned, however, to the mother-church in 1827.
Mr. Taggart maintained his pastoral connection with the first church for a period of upward of forty-one years, although for fourteen years from 1804 —during which time he represented his district in Congress — his pulpit was supplied by others. He was dismissed in 1818, and, continuing to reside in Coleraine, died there in 1825. Among his immediate successors were Revs. Aretas Loomis, Horatio Flagg, and C. W. Allen.
In December, 1819, the church dissolved its connection with the Presbytery and was changed in its organization to a Congregational Church.
The church building, erected in 1788, was replaced in 1834 by the structure now standing in Coleraine Centre, which latter was remodeled and enlarged in 1853. The pastor now in charge is Rev. David Strong.
Among the Congregational ministers originating in Coleraine were Revs. Oren Johnson, Aretas G. Loomis, Elihu Loomis, Lorenzo Lyons, Luke Lyons, Jonathan McGee, Wm. Riddel, Hugh Wallis.
The First Baptist Church
AThe First Baptist Church was organized in September, 1780, and had then a membership of 19 persons, whose names were Hezekiah Smith, John Call, Thomas Fox, Oren Smith, Hezekiah Smith, Jr., Nathaniel Smith, David Smith, Abner Atwood, Calvin Smith, Stephen Call, Sarah Pennell, Eunice Smith, Lucy Call, Grace Fox, Kezia Smith, Elizabeth Burrows, Elizabeth Call, Esther Smith, and Sarah Pennell (2d).
AA church edifice was erected near where Mr. 0. J. Davenport now lives, where worship was observed until 1848, when the present structure in Foundry village was built.
AAmong the early ministers were Revs. E. Smith, Obed Warren, John Green, R. Freeman, Thomas Purrington, George Witherill, James Parsons, George Robinson, J. M. Purrington, Joseph Hodges, Francis Smith, Milo Frary, A. V. Dimmock, and Wm. E. Stowe. The pastor now in charge (1879) is Rev. S. P. Everett.
The Second Baptist Church
AThe Second Baptist Church was organized in 1786, and some time thereafter a house of worship was erected just north of Christian Hill, where there is now a neat and substantial edifice. Some of the early ministers were Rev. Edmond Littlefield (who preached eighteen years), Rev. Edward Davenport (who served nearly thirty-five years), and Revs. Mr. Smith, Arad Hall, D. H. Grant, Nathaniel Ripley, E. L. Baker, and A. W. Goodenow. For some time past the church has been without regular preaching.
In October,1797, the Baptists were exempted by the town from payment of the minister rate, previous to which a committee was appointed by the town "to agree on reference with those of the inhabitants of the town that profess to be of another denomination, and feel themselves grieved by being taxed in the meeting-house tax."
A Methodist Class
A Methodist Class was formed in 1832, and from that time to 1836 public services were held in school-houses and the Foundry Village Baptist Church. In 1836 a church was organized, and in that year the church building now in use at Coleraine Centre was erected. The early ministers were Revs. J. D. Bridge, E. Mason, Freeman Nutting, D. E. Chapin, H. P. Hall, John Cadwell, W. A. Braman, A. S. Flagg, W. M. Hubbard, and Mr. Middleton. The present pastor is Rev. John Capen.