Churches of Barre, Vermont

By Key. L. Tenney

The Congregational church was organized November 14, 1799, consisting of 12 members. The council called for the organization of the church was made up of Reverends.

Richard Ransom, of Woodstock, John Ransom, of Rochester, Jonathan Kinney, of Plainfield, and James Hobart, of Berlin, and Deacon William Wood, delegate from Woodstock. During the first 7 years the church had no settled pastor. February 22, 1807, the Rev. Aaron Palmer was ordained, and his ministry continued until his death, February 7, 1821.

Rev. Justus W. French was ordained over this church May 23, 1822, and dismissed December 22, 1831.
Rev. Joseph Thatcher was installed January 6, 1835, and dismissed January 31, 1838.
Rev. James W. Wheelock was installed September 17, 1838, and dismissed November 20, 1839.
Rev. Andrew Royce was installed February 24, 1841, and dismissed September 18, 1856.
Rev. E. Ervin Carpenter was installed December 22, 1857, and dismissed March 6, 1867.
Rev. Leonard Tenney commenced preaching for this people in October, 1867, and still (1871) continues to be their minister. The first meeting-house was raised in the fall of 1804, but was not fully finished until 1808. The church and society continued to worship there until 1841, when the present brick church was erected, which has since been very tastefully fitted up inside, by frescoing and carpeting, etc. It has a fine toned bell and a large organ, and the attendance has always been quite large. A large and flourishing Sabbath school has been kept up for many years past.

The Society have a very commodious parsonage. Rev. Mr. Tenney' resigned his charge May 1, 1881. Under his ministry the church was prospered; differences of opinion which had existed between members were adjusted, and 130 new members added to their number; a debt that had been incurred was paid, and the society placed on a sound financial basis. By his resignation, which he was moved to tender on account of failing health, the church lost a faithful pastor and leader.

The Rev. P. McMillan, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary, is at present supplying the pulpit. No. of membership in 1880, 171; Sabbath-school, 256.

Methodism in Barre

By Kev. P Merrill

The first Methodist sermon was preached in Barre in 1796, by Rev. Jesse Lee, the great apostle of Methodism in New England, in the house of Col. Benj. Walker.

While listening to the sermon of Mr. Lee at this meeting, Mrs. Catherine Thompson, the wife of Isaac S. Thompson, received into her heart the precious seed of the Gospel sower, and the following day her husband, listening to a sermon from Mr. Lee, gave his heart to the Saviour. Others soon joined them, and a class was formed consisting of 11 members. Mrs. Thompson died in this same Christian faith, April 13, 1860, aged 93 years, living all this while within one mile of where she heard the memorable discourse of Mr. Lee. In the year 1797, Rev. Ralph Williston was sent to Barre as preacher. The church since that time has been blest with good and efficient preachers. It has witnessed three great revivals, in 1824, '26 and '42, under the labors of Revs. A. D. Merrill, I. Templeton, Daniel Kilborn, H. W. Wheelock, N. H. Houghton and J. L. Slason. The labors of other ministers have been crowned with abundant success. The church now numbers 165 members and 32 probationers, and is on the whole in a prosperous condition.

The first church was erected on the common, but in what year the writer is unable to learn. [For date of early history of Methodism in Barre, the reader is referred to the history of Methodism in Williamstown in the supplement volume of this work-Ed.] It was subsequently removed across the road to where the Congregational parsonage now stands. In the year 1837, a new church was erected, and 3 years since it was refitted and repaired at an expense of $8,000. A fine parsonage is located opposite the church, which is furnished with the heavy furniture.

This is considered among the best appointments in the Vermont Conference. The congregations are large on the Sabbath, the Sabbath-school is in a prosperous condition, and the social meetings are of an interesting character. During its history no minister who has served it has degenerated, and no serious church trials have been experienced by its members. The oldest member connected with this church now living, (1871) is Mrs. Content Patterson, aged 94 years, with her mental powers all vigorous. She has always enjoyed good health, (deceased).

The Universalist Church

By Rev F. S. Bliss

The Universalist Church in Barre was organized October 27, 1796. The Town Records, (vol. 1), has the following certificate: These may certify whom it may concern, that John Goldsbury, John Goldsbury, Jr., William Goldsbury, Thomas Dodge, Calvin Smith, Bartholomew French, Thomas Ralph, Amos Conant, Eliphalet Densmore, George Little, Lemuel Farwell, Jonathan Culver, Sylvanus Goldsbury, Henry Gale, Phineas Richardson, James Bodwell, have formed themselves into a Religious Society, professing themselves to be of the Universalist Denomination, viz.: Believing in universal redemption and salvation by the merits of Jesus Christ.

William Farwell, Elder.

This organization was formed 16 years after the township was chartered, and 3 years after it received the name of Barre. Although Universalism in this place has passed through various fortunes, it has never since been disorganized. The large and influential society and church now existing here are the outgrowth of this apparently small beginning.

There were Universalists among the first settlers of the town. John Goldsbury, whose name stands at the head of the sixteen which represent the original society, was one who began "the work of converting the wilderness into farms." And most of these men are known to have been men of intelligence, enterprise and good moral and religious character. Some of them were prominent citizens among the earlier settlers of the town, and a large part of them are still represented by leading families in the community, and in the Universalist church.

Rev. William Farwell, whose name is affixed to the certificate of organization as the Elder of the society, was not a resident of Barre at the time the society was formed, but visited this and other places in the vicinity from time to time. He moved to Barre from North Charlestown, N. H., sometime in 1803 or "4. But there is little doubt he labored considerably with the society before he came to live with it. Mr. Farwell was the first resident Universalist minister in Barre.

He did not preach here all the time, but did the work of an Evangelist in the region round about. We have no means of knowing what portion of the time he preached in Barre; but we know he often took quite extensive missionary tours in the State and into other States. Probably he did not regard himself at any time as strictly the pastor of the society; but he gave it much of his labor, and contributed largely to its establishment and growth. He was a mau of fervent piety, and greatly beloved, not only in his own church, but by all who knew him. He died at the residence of his son, and his body was laid to rest in the rural graveyard, near his old home in the south-east part of the town.

Upon the stone which marks his grave we read this just tribute:

Rev. William Farwell
died December 11th 1823, in the 74th year of his age. He was a preacher of God's universal love, cheerful and friendly in life, faithful in his labors, and departed in hope of future life and immortality.

In 1808, the Rev. Paul Dean moved to Barre, and became pastor of the society. He labored with it several years with great success. After his removal, it had no resident pastor until 1821; but was supplied by various clergymen a portion of the time.

In 1821, Rev. John E. Palmer was settled, and preached here statedly, a part of the time for 15 years. At that period in the history of our church, much missionary labor was demanded. Our preachers were few, and not many of them were permitted to give their undivided labors to the care of one church. Mr. Palmer was often called to other fields of labor, and the church in Barre had to seek frequent supplies by other preachers. Rev. Thomas Browning was regularly employed a quarter of the time for several years, thus releasing Mr. Palmer, and enabling him to comply with the numerous demands for his services. Other preachers were also frequently employed, under the ministry of Mr. Palmer and Mr. Browning. Against all these disadvantages, the church steadily increased in numbers, strength and spiritual life. Fathers Palmer and Browning still live, (1871) rejoicing for what has been done by their instrumentality, not only in Barre, but in many other fields which are now rich with harvests, grown from the seed which they sowed.

In 1822, the society built a substantial brick church at South Barre, in which it worshipped until 1852.

Rev. R. S. Sanborn became pastor here in May, 1844, and was dismissed by his own request October 1, 1848.

Rev. Joseph Sargent took charge in the autumn of 1849. His resignation was accepted at the annual meeting, January 12, 1857. His labors contributed largely to the growth of the church. By his untiring efforts a new and beautiful church was built in the Lower Village in 1852. The business and population of the town had largely moved to this village, and the life of the church seemed to be waning.

The church built in 1852, is the one in which the congregation now worships. It needs, and will soon receive, extensive repairs. Since the society moved to its present place of worship, its growth has been constant and rapid. There are now 100 families connected with the society.

The church was re-organized in October, 1859, and since, 136 persons have united with it; present membership, 118. There is connected with the society a flourishing Sabbath-school, and it has a good parsonage. The society has a small fund from which it derives an annual income.

The present pastor. Rev. F. S. Bliss, began his labors March 8, 1857, and has preached to it all the time for nearly 15 years.

Goddard Seminary, under the control of the Universalists of Vermont, was located in this town in 1864, and is in intimate connection with this society. It has contributed $25,000 within 6 years for its benefit. In the meantime it has done its full share in sustaining the various enterprises of the denomination. It has contributed liberally for the freedmen, for the circulation of the Bible, for missionary work and other benevolent enterprises.

And it now develops more ability, zeal and liberality than ever before. In numbers, wealth, intelligence, moral and Christian character, it is thought to compare favorably with the other churches in town.
Barre, 1871.

Record continued to 1881, by Rev. W. M. Kimmell.

Rev. F. S. Bliss resigned his pastorate of 15 years, 2 mos. from ill-health, preaching his last sermon, April 28, 1872.

Rev E. J. Chaffee succeeded Mr. Bliss for one year; after him Rev. Lester Warren 2 years. Upon his departure the old church edifice was enlarged and remodeled at a cost of several thousand dollars. The present building is modern in style, commodious, and nicely furnished. In the fall of 1875, the Rev. James Vincent became pastor of the society, remaining until February, 1880, and followed the first of the next month by myself. There are 120 families belonging to the parish. The Sunday school has enrolled 180. The Library contains 501 volumes.

W. M Kimmell,
Pastor of Universalist Society

Barre Vermont | Vermont AHGP

Source: The History of Washington County, Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Collated and published by, Abby Maria Hemenway, Montpelier, Vermont, 1882.


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