The first sermon in Manchester was delivered in the Summer of 1859,
in the second story of a brick building, on the corner of Butler and
Franklin streets, then known as "Burrington Hall," by the Rev. Mr.
Dennis, who was then living in Dubuque. Efforts were made at that
time for continued services, but owing to the small number of
resident Universalists, the efforts proved unsuccessful, and they
had but occasional sermons until the Winter of 1864, when
arrangements were made with the Rev. Joy Bishop, known in Delaware
County as "Father Bishop," to preach every alternate Sabbath. These
services were continued until the summer of 1865, in the
Congregational Church, the last meeting of the series being held in
the open air, directly in front of the church, because the key to
the church could not be found.
At this meeting, a few of the most zealous friends of the cause
first originated the idea of building a Universalist Church in
Manchester, but the idea was not carried into execution until
several years later.
The next regular preaching was commenced in the Spring of 1868, in a
room known as Belknap's Hall, by the Rev. Henry Jewell. A
Constitution, consisting of seven liberal articles for the
government of the society, was adopted at a meeting held at
Belknap's Hall, June 20, 1868, to which fifty persons subscribed
their names as members. The Rev. Henry Jewell continued preaching
every Sabbath until September 28, 1869.
On the 30th day of March, 869, a meeting was held at Burnsides'
Hall, for the purpose of deciding the question in regard to building
a church edifice. A subscription paper was started, and $3,000.00
pledged for that purpose; but it being the impression that a
suitable edifice could not be built for less than $5,000.00, H. M.
Congar, E. R. Congar, Rev. Henry Jewell, Thomas Toogood, Gilbert
Yeoman, A. M. Sherwood, Hiram Babcock, Jacob Hoag, T. Crosby, E. J.
Congar, R. G. Clifford, J. Gilbert and R. W. Tirrill pledged
themselves to raise the subscription to $5,000.00. Messrs. N.
Denton, A.M. Sherwood, G. Yeoman, T. Crosby and R. W. Tirrill were
appointed a Building Committee. The society was incorporated under
the laws of the State, May 4, 1869; Clark Bliss, Sr., Thomas
Toogood, H. M. Congar, A. M. Sherwood, E. M. Tomlinson, E. R.
Congar, L. S. Bemis and E. Hoag being the corporators.
The first officers under the incorporation were: E. M. Tomlinson,
President; Clark Bliss, Sr. and James P. Robertson, Vice Presidents;
E. R. Congar, Treasurer; R. W. Tirrill, Secretary.
The present edifice was commenced May 10, 1869, and completed May 7,
1871, at a cost of $8,030.44. The dedicatory services were conducted
by Rev. J. W. Hanson, of Chicago. Rev. E. R. Wood was the first
regular Pastor, commencing his ministrations in September, 1871, and
continuing until September, 1873.
The next Pastor was Rev. W. J. Hicks, of Strawberry Point, who
preached here every alternate Sunday for six months. For nearly
three years following, the society remained inactive, with the
exception of the Ladies' Society, through whose exertions the former
Pastor, Rev. E. R. Wood, was induced to return and re-organize the
church, which was done June 4, 1877. The number received into the
church on this and the succeeding Sunday was twenty-three. The
church officers elected were: S. W. Green, President; R. W. Tirrill,
Clerk; Mary Hoag, Treasurer; E. S. Congar, Adaline Tomlinson and
Seth Brown, Trustees; Seth Brown and R. W. Tirrill, Deacons. They
were elected for one year, and are the present incumbents. The
church and society are out of debt and in good condition.
The Sunday School was organized 1864, with R. W. Tirill
Superintendent. The Ladies Society was organized in 1867, and is
somewhat noted for its broad liberality.