History of the town of Antrim, New Hampshire By W.R. Cochrane
N.H. Historical Society
Town of Antrim
Festival of Trees
Antrim Historical Society ◊ P.O. Box 172 ◊ Antrim, New Hampshire 03440
James A. Tuttle Library
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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-
ANTRIM STONE CHURCH: TIMELINE
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
1880 South Village population 70 families
(the “Presbyterian Church and Society”) about moving church to
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.
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.
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-
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.