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Norwich Plain Meeting House

The present meeting house at Norwich Plain1 was built in 1817, and dedicated November 20th of the same year. On the following day, Reverend R. W. Bailey was ordained pastor and continued as such till November, 1823, when he was dismissed. The ordination sermon was preached by Nathan Perkins, Jr., A. M., pastor of the Second Church in Amherst, Mass., from Isaiah LXII, 6-7. — “I have set watchmen upon thy walls, Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night; ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Mr. Bailey was afterwards settled in Pittsfield, Mass., and later became president of Austin College, Texas.

The church, which consisted at its organization of only eleven members, was quite small at the outset, increased during the ministry of Mr. Bailey to an aggregate of forty-seven members.

After the dismissal of Mr. Bailey, the pulpit was supplied by Reverends James W. Woodward and J. R. Wheelock, and by Reverend Doctor Roswell Shurtleff till December, 1831, when Reverend Thomas Hall was installed pastor and continued with the church about three years. Under the ministry of Mr. Wheelock thirty-three, and during that of Mr. Hall nineteen members were added to the church.

After 1834 Reverend Doctor Shurtleff again supplied the church, preaching for about six years. During the ministry of Doctor Shurtleff there were two considerable revivals of religion, one in March, 1835, conducted by the famous Jedediah Burchard, continuing eighteen days, the second in June, 1839, under the direction of Reverend Sherman Kellogg. During Doctor Shurtleff‘s ministry 116 members were added to the church.

From 1840 to 1853 the church had no permanent minister, the pulpit being supplied mainly by Reverends J. D. Butler, Sherman Kellogg, David Kimball, and Professors Haddock, Noyes and Brown of Dartmouth College.

In 1844, on the dissolution of the church at North Hartford, twelve of its members became united with the church at Norwich. On Jan. 2, 1855, Reverend A. G. Pease was duly installed pastor of the church, and so continued till July, 1857, when he was succeeded by Reverend S. W. Boardman, who continued till September, 1859, to be followed by Reverend Austin Hazen (March 28, 1860). Mr. Hazen was dismissed March 24, 1864.

Mr. Pease and Mr. Boardman were dismissed at their own request, the former on account of continued ill health and the latter to accept a professorship in Middlebury College.

The dissolution of the North Church in 1854 resulted in a large accession to the church at Norwich Plain, amounting to over sixty members. During the ministry of Mr. Hazen twenty-three united with the church. In 1859 the total membership of this church had increased to 261 persons.

The church was again supplied with preaching mostly by the President and Professors of Dartmouth College, until June, 1865, when Reverend William Sewall, then of Lunenburg, Vt., was invited to supply the pulpit. The services of Mr. Sewall proving acceptable, he was duly installed as minister Sept. 27, 1866. His connection with the church continued till Oct. 27, 1876, during which time there were more than one hundred names added to the church (sixty-two by profession and forty-seven by letter).

From the last mentioned date the church has been supplied by Reverends G. F. Humphrey (1876), Allen Hazen (1877-78), and for briefer periods by other clergymen, and occasionally by professors from Dartmouth College.

Reverend N. R. Nichols was acting pastor and pastor of the church from February, 1880, until his dismissal in 1904. During his ministry 195 persons united with the church.

The meeting house was first located on the east side of Main Street (opposite the present residence of Samuel A. Armstrong), and fronting thereon. There it remained until 1852, when it was moved to its present location.

“In the winter of 1817, Joseph Emerson and others on the Plain were very active in getting subscriptions for a new meeting-house and in getting out timber with which to build it.

“The subscriptions were obtained on condition that the house be built north of Mr. John Emerson’s. In the meantime those in favor of building on the old spot had appointed a Committee who were endeavoring to contract with someone for an amount of brick sufficient to build a meeting-house.

“Some of the Committee on the Plain beginning to be afraid of involving themselves too deeply proposed selling out the frame then ready to raise. The bargain was soon closed at the price of £1,000, the Plain Committee making a verbal agreement to come forward and buy pews and not to build another house.” Church Records, Vol. 2, p. 130.

Footnotes

  1. The writer is informed that the architect of the building was Ammi B. Young, who planned the additions to the White House at Washington, D. C. 

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