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History of the town of Antrim, New Hampshire By W.R. Cochrane

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22 January 2008  





ANTRIM STONE CHURCH HISTORY

Lyman Gilmore, Antrim Historical Society



The lovely old Stone Church on Clinton Road built in 1898 down the hill from the Grange Hall was not always as peaceful and tranquil as it appears today. Indeed, it grew out of a bitter dispute that still echoes in some Antrim homes one hundred and ten years later. In the late 1700s and during most of the 1800s, the majority of the town’s residents lived at Antrim Center near Meeting House Hill, the geographical center of the town. In 1826, families at Antrim Center erected just west of our current Grange Hall a beautiful brick Presbyterian Church with a tall, graceful steeple and a Paul Revere bell. Because so many of our early settlers were Scots Presbyterians, the Center Church had the largest congregation in town, two hundred and sixty three by 1880. But as more and more families moved to the South Village, our current downtown, they wanted a Presbyterian Church closer to home than the Center Church a four mile walk, horseback or buggy ride uphill. Having discovered from the Presbytery in Boston that two Presbyterian churches could not exist in the same town, they petitioned for permission to tear down the Center Church and build a new church in the South Village.


In 1893 the new Presbyterian Church was completed at its current location next to the Maplehurst Inn. Naturally, many residents of Antrim Center wanted to maintain their beloved Center Church, and led by angry Center resident Eben Bass, they attempted to prevent efforts of the South Village Presbyterians to eliminate it. The South Village congregation filed a lawsuit against the Center congregation for ownership of the Center Church, and although the Center Church group contested it aggressively, the South Village group won at trial in July 1895. They removed to their new church the Center Church bell, pews, doors, windows, rugs, and bricks, and in 1896 the Center Brick Church was demolished.


Determined to have their own church at the Center, in 1897 Eben Bass and other residents began construction out of fieldstone found on the site what would be completed in 1898 as the 1st Congregational Church of Antrim, “The Stone Church.” As described in Parades and Promenades,  “The church prospered for many years. At times, the congregation reached the two hundred mark. Morning and evening services were held regularly, as well as midweek and preparatory services. Church suppers (for as little as ten cents in the early days), harvest suppers served by the best cooks in town, it was said, and strawberry festivals were-not-to-be-missed events. But with the attrition of time, the attendance dwindled, and by the year 1960 the meetings were reduced to an early service during the summer only.” In 1992 the Congregational Society deeded the Stone Church to James Rymes who offered it to the Antrim Historical Society in 2007.

      





ANTRIM STONE CHURCH: TIMELINE

Lyman Gilmore



1785  Meeting House on Meeting House Hill


1822  Meeting House moved 1/2 mile south to current Grange Hall site


1826  Centre Presbyterian Brick Church erected just west of Meeting House: Dr

Whiton pastor


1880  South Village population 70 families


1880-1892 Bitter dispute between Centre Church group and South Village group


(the “Presbyterian Church and Society”) about moving church to

South Village


1891  Nathan C. Jameson offers land in South Village for new church site


1892  New Presbyterian Church cornerstone laid in South Village. (The church

was completed in 1893.)


1893  Congregation moves from Centre to South Village


June 1893 Led by Eben Bass, eighteen of the disaffected Centre members attempt

                         to reinstate the old “Central Society” which they claimed was the                            legal owner of the church building, and they voted in 64 more of the                            disaffected members and expelled the members of the South Village                           congregation, the  “Presbyterian Church and Society.”


Aug. 1893 Dispute referred for ruling to Presbytery in Boston.


Aug. 1893 South Village Presbyterian Society votes to sell old centre Brick Church.


Oct. 1893 South Village Presbyterian Society pays Nathanial C. Jameson for land to

build new church.


Oct. 1893 Presbytery decision: only one Presbyterian Church allowed in town, and

(1) invite “disaffected” members to return, (2) disaffected members may join any existing church, (3) that no new church may be created in the old Centre Church, 4) that disaffected members who do not return to the South Village congregation or refuse to join another existing church “be reminded that they have already made themselves obnoxious to discipline,” and that they are subject to further discipline.


Dec. 1893 48 of the disaffected members form a new congregation in the Centre Church (and change the locks on the building to prevent entry by South Village members), and they are reprimanded for attempting to form a new congregation while officially still members of the South Village congregation.


Spring 1894 South Village congregation files lawsuit against Centre Church dissidents for ownership of old Centre Church building.


July 1894 Dedication of the completed Presbyterian Church in South Village.


July 1895 Court case trial; Eben Bass and Centre Church group lose. Presbyterian Society of South Village owns Centre Brick Church.


Aug. 1895 Centre Church group votes to build a new church.


1895-1897 Furnishings and parts of Centre Church either removed to the South church or sold off (the bell, pews, rugs, doors, windows, and bricks).


1896 “Old Brick Church, built in 1826, taken down” (handwritten note

in Cochran History)


July 1896 Centre group elects building committee and treasurer.


Spring 1897 Construction begun of First Congregational Church (the Stone Church)

just down hill from Meeting House (current Grange Hall)


1898  Stone Church completed. New bell weighing 1640 lbs. was donated by

Eben Bass who requested that it be rung every 4th of July at dawn             and sunset.


1898-1960 “The church prospered for many years. At times, the congregation                         reached the two hundred mark. Morning and evening services were                           held regularly, as well as midweek and preparatory services. Church

                        suppers (for as little as ten cents in the early days),  harvest suppers                          served by the best cooks in town, it was said, and strawberry                           festivals were-not-to-be-missed events. But with the attrition of                           time, the attendance dwindled, and by the year 1960 the meetings                          were reduced to an early service during the summer  only.” (Parades                          and Promenades, p. 221)


Aug. 1992 Antrim Congregational Church Society transferred deed of Stone Church                           to James and Carol Rymes.


2007 James and Carol Rymes offers Stone Church to the Antrim Historical Society.  




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