Gill — Churches
Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.
Early in 1794, shortly after the incorporation of the town, church matters came up for consideration, and it was at once voted to raise £50 to procure materials for a meeting-house. In May of that year it was decided to locate the meeting-house "between Mr. David Squires' and the school-house, near Woodard's Brook, on condition that Ebenezer Field, Jr., and others belonging to the town of Northfield, are annexed to the town of Gill."
For some reason this plan came to naught, for in September, 1794, there was a fresh resolve "to build a meeting-house 50 feet long, and 40 feet wide, that a committee be appointed to procure step-stones and underpinning, and that a committee be appointed to set up the frame, cover it completely with boards, frames and sashes, and shingles." This project was, however, opposed and delayed by a wrangle over the question of locating the structure, and, unable to settle the matter among themselves, the townspeople were forced to call in a committee from adjoining towns, consisting of David Saxton, of Deerfield, Hugh McLellan, of Coleraine, and Elisha Root, of Montague. They reported that "if that part of Northfield called Grass Hill should be annexed to Gill, the meeting-house ought to stand between Mr. Squires' and the school-house, and that if Grass Hill should not be annexed, the house should be on the hill near Mr. Bates' barn."
Mr. Squires' house occupied the site upon which the parsonage of the Congregational Church at the centre now stands, and the school-house stood at the east end of the common. It was between these two points that the house was erected shortly after a meeting held in March, 1795, when £170 were appropriated for its construction and £15 voted to hire preaching. Work upon the building progressed slowly, and it was not until 1798 that it was occupied, while it was not thoroughly completed until 1805. It was voted in April, 1795, to build a belfry for the meeting-house in case of a £30 subscription, but there was no bell in the belfry until 1816. Gov. Gill presented the town a Bible, communion-service, etc., for the church, and a bell was also expected from him, but the people eventually themselves provided a bell, as has been seen, in 1816.
The first minister engaged by the town was a Mr. Baker, of Greenfield, touching whom a record dated September, 1794, says, "Voted to appoint acommittee to notify Mr. Baker, of Greenfield, that it is the mind of the people of this town to hire him to preach next summer on probation."
The church was probably not organized until 1796, since in May of that year the First Church, at Greenfield, voted that "members of this church residing in Gill may organize a church among themselves." It is, however, supposed by some that the church was organized as early as 1793.
The first settled pastor was Rev. Zephaniah Swift, who was settled shortly after July, 1796, and promised a salary of £110 annually. The early church records being lost, no record shows when he was dismissed; but it is nevertheless certain that he did not preach long, for the Rev. John Jackson was called in 1797, and ordained in 1798. In that year the town appropriated £20 to be expended for singing. He was succeeded in 1802 by Rev. Jabez Munsell, who was in turn succeeded, in 1806, by Rev. Josiah W. Canning. Mr. Canning preached until 1827, when he was dismissed at his own request. Rev. F. S. Whiting followed him in 1827, and in 1829 Rev. James Sandford was settled, and remained until 1831. In 1832, Rev. Mr. Canning returned, and preached as stated supply until 1839. He was resettled in the latter year, and continued in the pastoral charge until 1846, when a paralytic stroke compelled his retirement, although he retained his pastoral connection to the day of his death, in 1854. Rev. Wm. Miller preached from 1849 to 1850, and following him were Revs. Mr. Leland, Edward F. Brooks, A. B. Foster, A. Stowell, S. R. Asbury, and Edward J. Giddings. The pastor now in charge of the church (1879) is Rev. James Cushing.
The church building now used for Congregational worship at Gill Centre is the building erected by the town in 1795, having been remodeled and improved in 1848.
A Methodist Church
A Methodist Churchwas organized in 1803, and in 1826 the house at Gill Centre now used was erected. Among the early pastors were Revs. John Nixon, Alexander Hulin, Elisha Andrews, John B. Husted, F. W. Sizer, James C. Bontecou, Wm. Todd, O. E. Bosworth, Windsor Ward, and Horace Moulton. The present pastor is Rev. C. N. Merrifield.
The history of the church has been an uneventful one, and "in the even tenor of their way" the members have lived with faithful adherence to the church, and watched its progress since the day of its creation.
Mention is made in early records of the existence of Baptists in the town, and of the fact that they were excused from paying the minister-rate, but no evidence is at hand to show that they ever organized either a church or society.
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10 Jul 2005