Meetinghouse Moments

Welcome to Meetinghouse Moments. The Avon Congregational Church will soon celebrate a series of 200th anniversaries.

In December, it will be 200 years since a fire destroyed Avon's original meetinghouse. the actual date is unknown but it is believed to be between Dec. 18 and Dec. 31.

One year from now (October 5, 2018) we will mark the 200th anniversary of our petition to the Connecticut General Assembly to incorporate as the Religious Association of Farmington (also known as the United Society of Farmington).

  

On September 7, 2019, we will mark the 200th anniversary of the first documented service in the new meetinghouse. 


I hope you will enjoy Meetinghouse Moments, as our members have sought to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ over the past two centuries.

Nora Howard, ACC Historian


Restoring the Bell
In April 1976, ACC members Walter and Roy Read restored the bell. The two brothers reinforced, tightened and replaced parts on the bell. They cleaned and polished it, and added 67 feet of new rope. New shock absorbers replaced disintegrated leather ones.

At the Easter Service on April 18, 1976, teenager Glenn Boswell rang the bell, dedicated to the late organist Lester M. Bradley (1891-1975). A memorial fund in Mr. Bradley's honor supplied the funds for restoring the bell. 
Photograph by Nora Howard, 2010.
 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Since 1972, the Avon Congregational Church meetinghouse has been listed on the National Register for Historic Places. This sign is on the front of the meetinghouse.  

Our application to the National Register noted that the meetinghouse “shows the influence of Charles Bullfinch, who, with his Boston churches, moved the previously traditional side entrance to the end, where the entire gable end became the dominant feature and readily was given to decorative details.” 

The National Register is the nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation, authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It is administered by the National Park Service, which part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Only one other Avon location is on the National Register of Historic Places: The Pine Grove Historic District (1980).


Reserving Your Seat

The initiative to raise funds for the church with a weekly “envelope” donation was begun here at Avon Congregational Church between 1896-1899 during the pastorate of Rev. Charles Frankhauser. Prior to that time, church members rented pews. 

This drawing from 1886 shows pews on the west side of the sanctuary facing the four Amen pews head. B.C. Kellogg (pew 32 for $5) was the son of ACC’s first pastor, Rev. Bela Kellogg. C.R. Woodford (pew 8) purchased his pew for $27.16. The center aisle seats were the most expensive with the four Amen pews in each side of the pulpit going for $10 each. Inexpensive seats were on the outer aisles. 

Source: The pew plan and many of our original records were pasted in scrapbooks between 1928 and 1937. This was the church’s first attempt to systematically preserve their records. We don’t use this practice (pasting content in scrapbooks) anymore.





David Hoadley, architect of Avon Congregational Church

David Hoadley, a native of Waterbury, designed our meetinghouse in 1818-19. We know this because his name appears in a note in the church archives about the construction. 

Church historian J. Frederick Kelly, who came to ACC to study the meetinghouse, called Hoadley and Ithiel Town “the only designers of early Connecticut church edifices who are qualified to receive the title ‘architect’.” Born in 1774, Hoadley died in 1839. The portrait of David Hoadley was done by Henry Inman (1801-1846) and was sold at an auction in 2009. Source: Wikipedia (text and photo). Kelly’s quote comes from “Temples in Grace”, page 10.



Former ACC Pastor Awarded Bronze Star in World War II


John William Hamilton, Jr., served as pastor at Avon Congregational Church from 1940 through 1942 before he left to serve as an Army Chaplain in World War II. He was awarded a Bronze Star for “heroic conduct in connection with military operations against an armed enemy during the period December 30, 1944 and May 9, 1945. Chaplain Hamilton, through his efforts and personal sacrifices, aided materially in the morale and well-being of the command. On many occasions, with no thought to his own safety, Chaplain Hamilton deliberately chanced enemy artillery fire in order to minister to wounded soldiers. Always with the troops or at one of the clearing stations, Chaplain Hamilton’s warm personality and words of comfort were of great value to those soldiers awaiting evacuation.” The photo comes from Berlen Turner of nearby Mountain View Avenue, who donated it to the Avon Historical Society.
 

The Johanson Notebooks


Co-pastors E. Jerome Johanson and Laura Lane Johanson served Avon Congregational Church from 1949-1964.Theirs was the second longest pastorate at ACC. The longest being that of Rev. Theodore C. Schoonmaker from 1969-1985.The Johansons kept chronological notebooks during these 15 years with newspaper clippings and church publications such as the Sunday Bulletin. Their collection resides in the ACC archives, and is a rich source of church history. The page below has the Hartford Courant announcement of the 1954 wedding at ACC of Avon’s Gladys Holloway to Bridgewater’s Charles Larson. According to the announcement, the church “was decorated with white carnations and pink snapdragons. The bride’s gown was of Chantilly lace and she carried a white prayer book with a white orchid and stephanotis."
 

A vote and An Act of Tyranny?

After a fire destroyed the original meetinghouse in 1817, the Northington Ecclesiastical Society had to decide where to rebuild. Two hundred years ago, on March 2, 1818, the vote leading to the establishment of the Avon Congregational Church was taken. The Society voted, 43-37, to put its new meetinghouse on the west side of the Farmington River in West Avon. Those 37 in the minority, however, considered the vote to be an "act of tyranny." They had wanted the meetinghouse to be built in the commercial center. They separated from "the Second Church in Farmington" and formed what became the Avon Congregational Church, known then as "The United Religious Association of Farmington. (Incorporated October 1818  by an Act of the General Assembly.)


Memorial Garden at ACC

Avon Congregational Chuch’s Memorial Garden is located in the landscaped area on the west side of the Meeting House. The garden was created in memory of Alice Coombs Sanderson (1916-88), a beloved church member. With the building of the new Fellowship Hall in 2002, the Memorial Garden was established in its current location. A bronze plaque was installed to accommodate and honor additional church members. The Special Gifts committee oversees the garden.


Rev. Charles P. Croft Ordained Here at ACC

The Reverend Charles Pitman Croft was ordained here at Avon Congregational Church in 1871 and served as pastor here from 1871-75. As a Methodist minister, he was expected to change churches every three years. Instead, he changed denominations. Subsequently, he was a pastor for churches in Torrington and Willimantic. He supported women’s suffrage and was active for years on the Simsbury Free Library board. Rev. Croft (1844-1921) was born in New York and attended Wesleyan University and Yale Seminary. He married Julia Mather of Simsbury in 1871. Photo from FindAGrave.com.


Little-known Rev. Whittlesey Served ACC for a year in 1850s

Rev. John Smalley Whittlesey (c. 1812-1862) was, it appears, interim pastor here at Avon Congregational Church from 1853-54. He was educated at Yale Seminary. Very little is known at this time about Rev. Whittlesey. His name and his connection to ACC appears only in a short, handwritten note at the United Church of Christ (UCC) Conference Archives in Hartford that was written by a historian over a century ago who was collecting information about local churches. The 1850 census listed him as age 36 and a Connecticut-born “clergyman.” Photography courtesy of Ancenstry.com.


A Check from the 19th Century

What did an Avon Congregational Church check look like 125 years ago? With our budget meeting coming up soon, it is interested to look back at this payment on August 1, 1893. The check for $150 was written by Chester Randolph Woodford, the church Treasurer. The recipient was Rev. Nicholas J. Seeey, pastor here at ACC from 1879 through 1895.


John Warner Barber's Eastern View of Avon, 1834

This illustration was sketched atop Avon Mountain on October 7, 1834. It appears in Barber's Connecticut Historical Collections, featuring Barber's views of many Connecticut towns.  The four largest buildings are, from left to right, the Canal Warehouse (the site of DaCapo's Restaurant today), the Baptist Church, the Canal Administration building (ACC’s 12 West Main building today) and the Avon Congregational Church, which had been built just 15 years earlier. Barber's book, wrote an observer, "came upon the people like a work of magic. Few had ever seen pictures of places with which they were acquainted." (Photo courtesy Nora Howard collection)


Keeping Our Members Informed

Happy New Year, 1966! This is our newsletter and forerunner of Parish Tidings, with excerpts of the January 1966 calendar and New Year greetings from associate minister Ed Mayes. Rev. John Bankosky was senior pastor and membership was 801, including children.  


The Christmas Pageant, December 19, 1954

This is our first Sunday Bulletin with a color cover, from the co-pastorate of Reverends E. Jerome and Laura Johnson. This Bulletin was for both that Sunday morning and the 7:30 p.m. pageant. Janet Read Carville appeared in the pageant as an angel in the candle light processional and as King Herod's attendant. There was also a Christmas Family Festival on December 22 with supper, a play, carols and Santa Claus, and the Christmas Eve candlelight service at 8:30 p.m. 

200 Years Ago on January 1, 1818

The church in Avon  - then called the parish of Northington - was in dire straights. Rev. Rufus Hawley, the pastor for almost 50 years had resigned. The meetinghouse, located on what is today Reverknolls Road near the Farmington River, had burned down between December 18, 1817 and the morning of December 31. And, it was arson. Services were moved to the former pastor's house - later the home of the late Bob and Gladys August, ACC members, at 218 Old Farms Road - and a schoolhouse. The large stone church doorstep, salvaged from the fire, was installed at Rev. Hawley's home. Where to rebuild? The vote was 44 for a new meetinghouse in West Avon, and 37 against. The dissenters would established our church – Avon Congregational - making the year 1818 pivotal in our history. 


Merry Christmas, 1918!

Our photo is the Sanctuary of the Avon Congregational Church in 1918. The flag is possibly a "Man in Service" flag, and perhaps the 13 stars signify church members who were serving in World War I at that time. The Christmas tree is decorated with garlands, doves, and other items.The two chairs beside the tree, still in that location today, were purchased in 1896 with funds from ACC's Ladies' Aid Society. (Photo courtesy ACC archives, photographer unknown)



Stewardship in Action
Selling Christmas Trees on the Front Lawn

In the early 1950s, the church’s Men Club sold Christmas trees to raise funds for building a new Parish Hall. They sold the trees in December 1952, 1953, 1954 and possibly longer.

In 1954, the sale ran from December 11-24. Hours were 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays. Three men were on duty for three-hour shifts.

The 1952 photograph is from the ACC archives and the Connecticut Digital Archives.




A Colorful Holiday Message
Postcard of Avon Congregational Church

This photograph of a postcard from the late 1920s was signed and sent by Rev. Cecil Eli Pearson (1899-1982) and his wife, Mary. Note the hand colored Christmas tree at right of the meetinghouse. 

Cecil Pearson was a Quaker, and in 1920, after World War I, he worked with American Friends' Reconstruction in France.

He served ACC from October 1926-1929, and graduated from Hartford Seminary in 1929.







In Times of War, News from Home
A Holiday Message from Rev. Woodruff

During the time of World War II, The Avon Newsletter served Avon’s military members and their families. The following article by ACC pastor Rev. Dr. Watson Woodruff appeared in the Christmas 1944 issue. He served at Avon Congregational Church from April 1944 through August 1949. This photograph appeared in the article. 

“You men and women away from home are always in the minds and hearts of your families and friends here in Avon and especially so at Christmas time," wrote Rev. Woodruff. "Some of you are Protestants, some Catholic, some Jewish. But we all worship and pray to the same God. We all believe in the ideal of the Brotherhood of Man. When you return home, and God grant that it may be soon, you will find a welcome in the church of your choice. 

"Here is my Christmas salutation! With it goes my hope and prayer that the New Year will usher in a just and durable peace: the Peace of God.” 



The Harvest Quilt Shows: 2012-2015
Hundreds of quilts displayed throughout the church

Our church presented three landmark quilt shows in 2012, 2013, and 2015. The shows were expertly produced by Susan Elliott and a large team of volunteers. For two days each October, hundreds of quilts graced the Sanctuary, halls, and
classrooms, and they were also draped over the balconies. 

Quilts were loaned by collectors, individuals and organizations, and there were quilt raffles, featured quilt artists. Some quilts were for sale. Refreshments and vendors were in Fellowship Hall. The shows, which were fundraisers for the church, are a beloved part of our history.
Harvest Quilt show photos: 2015, 2013, 2012



Hymn Boards, Hymn Books, Hymn Racks 

Donations from many church members
The two hymn boards we see on the sanctuary's north wall were made in 1988 by Walter Kusiak of the Weatogue section of Simsbury. Bob August of Avon stained the boards and Roy Read of Avon provided the hook. The boards were made possible by the Special Gift memorial fund in memory of Henry McLaughlin. 
 
Hymn books were donated in 1919 for the church's Centennial, and later editions were donated by Maud Ely Gibbons and also the Hunter family. Our present hymn books are donated in honor or in memory of loved ones. The hymn racks in our pews were widened by Roger Winslow in 1972 to accommodate both hymnals and pew Bibles. The prayer card holders were installed between 1965-1975.




Introducing Mary Louisa Kellogg in 1876

Activist, Chinese-American relations

Mary Louisa Kellogg
Mary Louisa Kellogg was baptized at ACC in 1852, and grew up in the church. She was the granddaughter of the first pastor, Rev. Bela Kellogg. 


This wedding photograph documents her marriage in 1876 to Yung Wing, a graduate of Yale College and the Chinese minister to the United States. They were married in Avon (unknown location) with Mr. Yung's dear friend, the Rev. Joseph Twichell of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, officiating.


They had two children before she died in 1886. Her husband raised the two young boys, at the same time he was actively promoting Chinese-American relations, as described in his remarkable autobiography. 






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