Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 483-a & 483-b
submitted by Ronna Thuman, December 12, 2007



History of the Old Congregational Church on Chestnut Street.

Old Congregational Church Now a Military Camp Instead of a Church
Militant—Interesting Facts of Early Days.

After nearly forty years’ service as a house of worship this historic building changes front on the world and passes into the possession and under the control of Co. C, 50th regiment, I. N. G. Tonight the members of the church hold a jubilee over the raising of the debt and the canceling of the mortgage upon their new building, which debt has been a burden and sorrow to them for ten years, and it seems proper to give more than a passing notice of the old building.

Within its walls the Gospel has been preached and slavery, with its twin sister, polygamy and the liquor traffic denounced in no uncertain sounds.

The First Pastor.

Their first pastor and for almost fifty years, Rev. Dr. A. B. Robbins, lived to see the twin sisters die, although slavery had to be wiped out in blood. The home and foreign missionary fields here had warm friends and the contributions were always generous. The church sent not only its money, but some of their own children into the missionary field. In this edifice preached but two stated pastors, A. B. Robbins and F. T. Lee, when it was found to be too small and a new erected on the adjoining land. The First Evangelical Congregational church was organized in November, 1843, with a membership of twenty-six, none of whom are living today.

After passing through the trials and troubles incident to a church on the frontier, and worshiping in two buildings of their own the house was erected on the corner of the alley on Chestnut street between Second and Third streets, the calculation being to stay just three years, when they would erect a larger and better building, but hard times and no money or “wild-cat” money struck the country and the church was caught like the rest and their stay was prolonged thirty-five years. Thirty-five years in the growing west. What memories linger around the old room and only memories at the best. Where are the singers in the old fashioned choir, the girl who sang alto and the girl who sang air? While the pastors numbered but two, the singers were many and the best in the town. But few remain and time has changed their hair to gray and their voices are heard only at home. Among the first we recall Mrs. James Weed, wife of Dr. Weed, who still lives in the old homestead, next to the park. On examination the church records show very little light upon the erection of this building. On April 15, 1852, lot 6, block 35, was purchased and a new building contracted for, not to cost over $5,500. On Jan. 5, 1855, it was dedicated.

Stood on High Ground.

It stood upon that portion of the lot now occupied by the new church today, but away up in the air, after the city council finished grading and cutting through the hill on all sides of it. The city fathers did as much cutting in those days as they do now. They cut out a well on the next block, leaving the curb for the owner to look at. The building was so badly damaged that the city had to pay for their work, and on July 9, 1856, the business committee was authorized “to repair the building at the least possible expense, with the understanding that in the early spring steps should be taken for building a new and larger house of worship.” S. B. Hill, J. Bennett, W. St. John, Jacob Butler and Suel Foster were added to the business committee to aid in the work. F. H. Stone, G. C. Stone and D. R. Warfield were the business committee, of which J. Bennett is the only one living. The church on the hill was taken down and erected where it now stands. The records do not show when it was first occupied but it was in 1857 evidently, as the church then gave to the Wilton church “the old pulpit, four hanging lamps and two lard lamps.” The congregation outgrew the building and another new edifice was erected in 1892, which is one of the finest buildings in the city.

The enemies of the church called the building “Uncle Tom’ Cabin,” but it so pleased the members that they claimed and kept it. The people who worshipped there were, may of them, from New England and loved liberty and law and their influence is still felt in our midst. But all is now changed, and the old building follows the fate of all cast off clothing and nothing but the memories will linger about it, and in a few years they will vanish. This is the fourth church edifice in our city which has outlived its usefulness and been consigned to baser things.

Other Old Churches.

The old Methodist church on Third street is now a city hall and calaboose, not an ornament to our city, however, and well deserves the notice which was found written on the city hall, formerly an M. E. church in Cincinnati, Ohio. “My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves.” The old United Brethren church on Sixth street is a school room and Prof. Leverich is there teaching the young idea how to shoot. The old German Congregational church on Fourth and Walnut streets is occupied by tenants to whom the problem of life is how to live, while Capt. Smeenk, of Co. C, is teaching in the subject of this article his men how to shoot at all enemies of law and order and our country’s flag.

The Many Changes.

What a change has taken place in the old church services. Instead of the sweet tone of the Sabbath bell, one hears the soul stirring notes of the bugle. Dr. Robbins and his deacons have been relieved by Capt. Smeenk and his lieutenants. The order of exercises used to be the singing of that good old tune, “Praise God. From Whom all blessings flow,” and then the invocation. Today the bugle sounds the assembly, and “fall in, fall in” is followed by roll call; the court martial takes the place of the church meeting for discipline, while alas in the place of the mid-week prayer meeting, where the old familiar hymn, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross,” and others were sung, now is heard the sweet strains of the Blue Danube and the soldier of our country in natty uniform glides over the pewless, but well waxed floor, with the girl he may have to leave behind him if his country calls him and he will go.

The contribution box is not passed. The state and the boys in blue chip in to run the machine. The road to glory and to the grave is drilled and marched over, and in place of the old direction turn to the right and keep straight, if you want to reach the happy land of Canaan, where each pilgrim travels alone, it is often fours right, or column left forward march, and when the services are over, instead of the benediction, it is “break ranks, March.”

It is a good change, as long as one had to be made, for the members of Co. C will teach patriotism among military lines and stand for the observance of law and order. Almost a company of young men, over thirty in number went out from that old building to hold the flag of their country during the civil war and some of them … not back. If Co. C forgets its duty for one moment wavers in fidelity our country, they may expect to …. The spirits of the old veterans hovering around and in their armory, and “the stone shall cry out of the …. And the beam out of the timber shall answer it.”

But there is no fear of that, for nearly forty years of patriotic teaching and sacrifices will keep the old building hallowed and sacred to love country and the flag. May Co. C see long life in their new home and keep bright and increase in the future, their record of the ……(rest of article cut off)…..

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