Shelburne — Churches

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      Previous to the incorporation of Shelburne its inhabitants were compelled to go to Deerfield or adjoining towns to enjoy public religious worship. At the district's incorporation a committee was appointed to provide preaching, and £20 voted. Rev. Robert Abercrombie was doubtless the first preacher Shelburne had. In March, 1769, John Taylor was chosen "to git us a minister to preach next summer," and it was resolved to build "a round-log meeting-house." Previous to this, services had been held at the house of Daniel Nims. This house was erected soon afterward, and stood on a hill about a half-mile north of the present church at Shelburne Centre. In 1770 it needed repairs, but the people declined to mend it, although in that year they appropriated £60 for preaching. In this year a Congregational Church was organized, and Revs. John Marrett and John Wyeth were the preachers. The refusal to repair the log meeting-house may have been based upon a desire for a new house of worship, about the building of which there was now some talk. The old one kept growing worse, however, and in 1771 it was resolved to plaster up the cracks with mortar, to make a door and three windows, and to build a pulpit.
      Shortly afterward efforts were renewed, and toward the end of the year it was agreed to raise for the building of a meeting-house a sufficient sum; each man to furnish his proportion in wheat, rye, Indian corn, or fleece. In this year Rev. Jonathan Bird preached for the people.
      After reflection it was resolved, in 1772, to do nothing about building a meeting-house, and the log cabin continued to do duty. In this year Rev. Caleb Hotchkiss occupied the pulpit, and was promised a settlement of £125, to be paid in three years, although, for some unknown reason, he was not settled.
      In 1772 it was voted "to call Mr. Hubbard back to preach, and to be in preparation to build a meeting-house." This was the Rev. Robert Hubbard who had been preaching for them before, and upon his return they concluded to give him a call to settle; with an offer of £133 6s. 8d. as a settlement, to be paid in two years, and a salary of £60 annually for the first two years, to be raised yearly 50s. until it reached £70, together with an annual supply of firewood. Mr. Hubbard was not settled, however, until 1773, in which year the new frame meeting-house was built near where the log house stood, and was covered, so the records say, by "a gift."
      In 1779 the house needed a new floor, and, to provide nails for the work, £80 were appropriated (wellnigh a pound of money for a pound of nails); but, as Continental money rated at $72 for $1 in hard money, the £80 would not buy many nails. As another example, it was at this time voted that, instead of paying Mr. Hubbard a salary of £1000, old tenor, he should receive £70.
      In 1786 a conch-shell was provided as a means to call people to Sabbath worship, and this method served until 1805, when the church-steeple was furnished with a bell. The first death for which the bell tolled was that of Lawrence Kemp.
      The meeting-house, although begun in 1773, was not entirely finished until 1785. In 1813 its tower was supplied with a clock.
      Mr. Hubbard remained the pastor until his death, in 1788, which occurred while visiting his old home at Middletown, Conn. He was buried at Middletown, although a monument erected to his memory by Shelburne stands in the latter town, at the centre. Upon it an inscription reads:
      "This monument is erected by the town of Shelburne in memory of Rev. Robert Hubbard, first pastor of the Church of Christ in this place, who died at Middletown Nov. 2, 1788, aged forty-five, much lamented by his surviving friends and people of his charge, who enjoyed in him a pattern of family piety and order, an affable, courteous neighbor, and in human view a zealous, faithful minister, who was an example of faith, conversation, and doctrine. `Go thou and do likewise.'"
      Revs. Hendrick Dow and Sylvester Sage supplied until 1792, when Rev. Jesse Townsend was ordained as the second pastor. Mr. Townsend was dismissed in 1797, and, after being supplied by Revs. Micah Stone and Abraham Barfield, the church received, in 1799, as its third pastor, Rev. Theophilus Packard, D.D. Dr. Packard retained his pastoral connection with the church until his death, although his active pastorate ceased in 1842, four years after which he removed to South Deerfield. His son, Theophilus, Jr., was ordained as his colleague in 1828, and occupied the pulpit until 1853, when he was dismissed at his own request.
      In 1832 a new meeting-house, built upon the site of the present church at Shelburne Centre, replaced the old one; and this new one, after enduring until 1845, was in March of that year destroyed by an accidental fire while the people were assembled for Sabbath worship. Its successor stands upon the same spot, and was built in 1845. A commodious vestry, used also for town-meetings and other public assemblages, was erected opposite the church building in 1847.
      Mr. Packard's successor (Rev. R. S. Billings) preached about fifteen years, and was succeeded by Revs. A. F. Marsh and George L. Clark,—the latter being pastor in 1879. The church is highly prosperous, and the congregation averages 200.

The Second Congregational Church

      The Second Congregational Church was organized at Shelburne Falls, March, 1850, with 44 members. They worshiped in a public hall until 1851, when they built a church edifice at the Falls,—the one now in use. Until 1851 Revs. Marshal B. Angier and George F. Bronson supplied them. In that year Mr. Bronson was ordained as the first settled pastor, but retired after a brief pastorate of two years. The church was without a settled pastor until 1856, when Rev. Wilbur F. Loomis was installed. Mr. Loomis entered the army as chaplain, and died at Nashville in 1864. His successor, and the third pastor of the church, was Rev. Pliny S. Boyd, who was ordained in 1865. Other and subsequent pastors were Revs. E. E. Lamb and Cyrus B. Whitcomb, the latter, who was the latest settled pastor, having been dismissed in 1877. The church, having in 1879 a membership of 162, depends at present upon stated supplies.

The Baptists Of Shelburne

      The Baptists Of Shelburne organized in 1792, with the Baptists of Deerfield, a church, which was called the Baptist Church of Deerfield and Shelburne, and worshiped alternately in Deerfield and Shelburne. Elder David Long preached for them from 1792 until his death, in 1831. In 1832 it was voted to divide the church into two bodies, called the Deerfield Baptist Church and the Shelburne Baptist Church. The latter organization worshiped in a meeting-house built in the south part of the town, about 1812, until 1839, when the church was dissolved, and shortly afterward the church building was taken down.
      The Second Baptist Church at Shelburne Falls was organized November, 1833, with 19 members, and in less than twenty years these 19 had grown to 240. Preachers have served the church since 1835 as follows: Revs. John Alden, William Heath, Cyrus Smith, Edgar H. Gray, William H. Parmlee, A. J. Sage, J. A. Goodhue, and P. S. Evans, since whose dismissal the church has had no settled pastor. The membership is 275.
      The first church edifice was erected at the Falls in 1836, and the second, now in use and which cost $9000, in 1852. It has in its tower a town clock, furnished by private subscriptions, and maintained by the church.

A Unitarian Society

      A Unitarian Society was organized in 1828, and a church in 1841, with 17 members. Worship was held in halls and other convenient places during the existence of the church, which became extinct shortly after 1860. Among the preachers who have supplied them were Revs. Daniel Huntington, Winthrop Bailey, Henry Colman, Samuel Willard, Luther Wilson, Crawford Nightingale, and George F. Clark.

The Methodist Church Of Shelburne

      The Methodist Church Of Shelburne was organized in October, 1842, with 12 members. Their house of worship stands in the Buckland portion of the village of Shelburne Falls. The pastors of this church have included Revs. G. W. Green, H. Clark, A. A. Cooke, W. Ward, Mr. Taylor, S. Cushman, A. G. Bowles, S. W. Johnson, William Butler, John Burke, and Mr. Hemenway. Rev. W. S. Jagger was the pastor in 1879.

A Universalist Society

      A Universalist Societ was organized at Shelburne Falls in February, 1853, and this was followed, in 1864, by the organization of a church. A house of worship, costing $12,000, inclusive of furniture, organ, etc., was completed in 1870. The pastors of the church and society have been Revs. J. H. Willis, Judson Fisher, George H. Deere, B. V. Stephenson, H. B. Howell, and S. G. Davis. The latter pastor was dismissed in 1879, since which event the church has depended upon supplies. The church has now a membership of 64.

A Society Of Shakers

      A Society Of Shakers located in Shelburne at the Falls in 1782, and there built a house of worship. A Mr. Wood was a leading spirit among them, and for a brief period Ann Lee was with them. In 1785 they removed to New Lebanon, N. Y.

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