Atwater Congregational Church

Front of letter from Caleb Atwater 1839 - click to view

Letter from Caleb Atwater 1839 - click to view

 

 

HISTORY OF THE ATWATER

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, U.C.C.

IT ALL BEGAN ON THE EVENING OF MARCH 20, 1818; A SMALL BAND OF PEOPLE ASSEMBLED AT THE HOME OF SYLVESTER BALDWIN FOR THE PURPOSE OF FORMING THEMSELVES INTO A CHURCH.  PRESENT WERE REV. CALEB PITKIN, WILLIAM HANFORD AND JOSEPH TREAT, MISSIONARIES.  ELEVEN PERSONS WERE ORGANIZED INTO A CHURCH BY REV. PITKIN.  CHARTER MEMBERS WERE DEACON JONATHAN BALDWIN AND SUBMIT, HIS WIFE; AARON BALDWIN AND SARAH, HIS WIFE; JOSEPH C. BALDWIN AND ROSETTA, HIS WIFE; SYLVESTER BALDWIN AND JULIA ANN, HIS WIFE; JOHN H. WHITTLESEY AND SALLY, HIS WIFE; AND MRS. RACHAL NORTON.  REV. PITKIN LED THE MEETING WITH MR HANFORD ACTING AS SCRIBE.  IN 1822 A SMALL BRICK CHURCH WAS BUILT NOT FAR FROM THE PRESENT CHURCH. THE SEATS WERE OF ROUGH BOARDS EXCEPT ONE MADE OF A SLAB AND PLANED ON TOP SIDE WHICH WAS INTENDED FOR THE MINISTER’S FAMILY. (MINISTER’S HAD SOME BENEFITS’ EVEN BACK THEN.) IN THE SUMMER OF 1826 REV. WILLIAM L. BUFFITT BEGAN PREACHING AND ON DECEMBER 28 A SOCIETY MEETING WAS HELD AT THE STORE OF ALDEN AND ATWATER. THE OBJECT WAS TO SEE WHAT AMOUNT COULD BE RAISED FOR HIS SUPPORT. ACCORDINGLY, CALEB ATWATER, RANDOLPH WHITTLESEY AND ENOCH SNOW WERE NAMED A COMMITTEE TO CIRCULATE A SUBSCRIPTION PAPER. THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH AND SOCIETY OBLIGATED THEMSELVES TO PAY MR, BUFFITT, $200.00 PER YEAR. IN ADDITION $100.00 WAS EXPECTED FROM THE HOME MISSIONARY SOCIETY IN NEW YORK. ONE FOURTH OF THIS WAS TO BE PAID IN MONEY AND THE REMAINDER IN PRODUCE, CONSIDERING WHEAT WAS WORTH 50 CENTS PER BUSHEL AND OTHER. PRODUCE IN LIKE PROPORTION. EVEN THOUGH THE CASH PAYMENT OF $50.00 SEEMS A SMALL AMOUNT TO RAISE, THE LIMITED MEANS OF THE SETTLERS MADE IT DIFFICULT TO RAISE EVEN THAT.  MAPLE SYRUP WAS 35 CENTS A GALLON; IT TOOK 32 BUSHELS OF CORN TO PURCHASE 4 YARDS OF FULLED CLOTH. ABOUT., THIS TIME CAPTAIN CALEB ATWATER, ANXIOUS TO PROMOTE THE CAUSE OF RELIGION AND HELP THE PEOPLE, LEASED THE CHURCH AND SOCIETY 200 ACRES OF LAND, THE PROFIT ARISING FROM THE USE OF THE LAND TO BE ANNUALLY APPLIED FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE GOSPEL.  IN 1834 REV. WILLIAM BEARDSLEY BECAME THE MINISTER.  IN THE FALL OF 1836 IT WAS DECIDED TO ERECT A LARGER BUILDING BECAUSE THE BRICK CHURCH WAS FOUND INADEQUATE TO ACCOMMODATE THE NEEDS OF THE CONGREGATION. A BUILDING COMMITTEE WAS NAMED WHICH INCLUDED CALEB ATWATER, JOHN H. WHITTLESEY, MINER MERRICK, RUSSELL MERRICK AND RANDOLPH S. WHITTLESEY. THE LAND LEASED TO THE SOCIETY BY CALEB ATWATER WAS SOLD AND THE PROCEEDS APPLIED TO THE PROJECT.  THE SOCIETY REASONED THAT IF THE SLIPS (PEW RENTALS) WERE SOLD ANNUALLY FOR THE SUPPORT OF THE GOSPEL, IT WOULD CARRY OUT THE INTENTION OF THE DONOR.  REV. SAMUEL WHITTLESEY WAS ORDAINED MAY 23, 1838 AND INSTALLED AS PASTOR. THE STONE AND TIMBER NECESSARY FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BUILDING WERE BROUGHT FROM CHARLESTOWN SOME 6 MILES DISTANCE.  THROUGH THE GENEROSITY OF THE CITIZENS OF THIS COMMUNITY, THE STONE WAS BROUGHT BY OX-TEAMS IN THE SPACE OF TWO DAYS.  AFTER SOME DELAY, THE BUILDING WAS BEGUN IN 1838.

WHEN THE FRAME WAS READY.FOR ERECTION, DEACON JONATHAN BALDWIN, THOUGH QUITE INFIRM, WAS BROUGHT FROM HIS HOME FOR-THE PURPOSE OF INVOKING DIVINE BLESSING UPON THE. WORK ABOUT TO BEGIN. THIS WAS THE LAST PUBLIC ACT OF HIS LIFE.. SHORTLY THEREAFTER, EVERY MAN WAS AT HIS POST, WHEN THE TIMBER, BOARD BY BOARD, WAS PUT IN ITS PROPER PLACE. AT THE CLOSE OF THE TENTH DAY, THIS MASSIVE STRUCTURE STOOD TOWERING TOWARD THE HEAVENS AND NOT THE SLIGHEST ACCIDENT OCCURED DURING THE ERECTION. THE BUILDING WAS COMPLETED AND DEDICATED NOVEMBER 7, 1841. PROFESSOR HICKOX PREACHED A SERMON USING THE TEXT: “HIS FOUNDATION IS IN THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, THE LORD LOVETH THE GATES OF ZION MORE THAN ALL THE DWELLINGS OF JACOB.” AT A MEETING OF THE CHURCH MAY 20, 1870 IT WAS VOTED TO WITHDRAW FROM THE CLEVELAND PORTAGE PRESBYTERY. ON MAY 30 FACTS CONCERNING SEVERAL DIFFERENT ASSOCIATIONS WERE PRESENTED TO THE CHURCH MEMBERS. AFTER THIS REPORT IT WAS DECIDED FOR THE CHURCH TO BECOME WHOLLY CONGREGATIONAL. ON MARCH 9, 1871 THE NEW CONSTITUTION WAS READ AND APPROVED BY THE MEMBERS. MINUTES OF THE CHURCH DATED SEPTEMBER 1, 1877 STATES, “THE CHURCH EDIFICE, AFTER HAVING BEEN THOROUGHLY REPAIRED AT AN EXPENSE OF $1,548.01, WAS REDEDICATED IN THE PRESENCE OF A LARGE ASSEMBLY AND THE SERMON WAS- BY REV. SAMUAL WOLCOT,.D.C. OF CLEVELAND.” THIS LEADS US TO BELIEVE THAT AT THAT TIME THE OLD CLEAR GLASS (SMALL PANE) WINDOWS WERE REPLACED BY THE PRESENT ONES IN THE AUDITORIUM AND VESTIBULE (FOR WE KNOW THE OLD WINDOWS WERE STILL IN FOR SOME TIME AFTER THE CLOSE OF THE CIVIL WAR, AND THAT PROBABLY THE OLD HIGH PULPIT WAS REPLACED BY THE PRESENT ONE. AT THIS SAME TIME THE ENTRANCE DOORS TO THE PEWS WERE REMOVED.) IT IS ALSO BELIEVED THAT ABOUT THIS SAME TIME THE CUSTOM OF PAYING FOR THE PEWS (PEW RENT) BY THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH WAS DISCONTINUED. AN ITEM IN THE ANNUAL REPORT SEPTEMBER 1, 1893 STATES “THAT $109.00 WAS THE AMOUNT PAID TO APPLY ON THE FURNACE.” THIS IS THE FIRST MENTION MADE OF A FURNACE. THE FORMER WAY OF HEATING WAS BY TWO LARGE WOOD BURNERS IN THE BASEMENT. HEATING THE BASEMENT FIRST AND THEN THE HEAT GOING TO THE AUDITORIUM BY WAY OF A SMALL TRAP DOOR IN EACH PEW. THESE ARE STILL VISIBLE IN THE FLOOR TODAY. IN 1899, DUE TO THE FALLING PLASTER FROM THE DOME, IT WAS DECIDED TO DO AWAY WITH THE DOME AND BUILD A CEILING ACROSS THE AUDITORIUM AT A LEVEL SLIGHTLY ABOVE THE WINDOWS. STEEL SHEETS 18″ SQUARE WERE USED TO COVER BOTH WALLS AND CEILING AT A COST OF $377.30. TO IMPROVE THE BASEMENT IT WAS NECESSARY TO REMOVE THE STAIRWAY ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE VESTIBULE, LEADING TO THE BALCONY,”AND REPLACE IT WITH STEPS TO THE NEW BASEMENT. IT WAS ALSO NECESSARY TO MAKE A CEMENT WALK ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE CHURCH AND TWO OUTSIDE ENTRANCES TO THE-BASEMENT. THESE ENTRANCES ENCLOSED THE STEPS. THE KITCHEN WAS PLACED ON THE WEST END OF THE BASEMENT EVEN WITH THE FURNACE ROOM. DEDICATION OF THE CHURCH BASEMENT AND THE ELECTRIC LIGHTS

WAS HELD DECEMBER *, 1920.

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE APPEARED IN THE RAVENNA PAPER, “ATWATER WAS IN FESTIVE DRESS LAST WEDNESDAY, WHEN ALL ROADS SEEMED TO LEAD TO THE FAMOUS OLD CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH IN WHICH THE COMMUNITY CELEBRATION CULMINATED IN THE DEDICATION OF THE NEW SUNDAY SCHOOL ROOMS, SOCIAL ROOM, KITCHEN, AND OTHER DEPARTMENTS. THE CHURCH WAS THRONGED FROM NOON TILL LATE AT NIGHT WITH THE PEOPLE OF THE COMMUNITY AND VISITORS FROM ABROAD, INCLUDING THOSE FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON AND THE CITIES OF FORT WAYNE, CLEVELAND, AKRON, CANTON, ALLIANCE, AND RAVENNA. IN APRIL 1929 IT WAS DECIDED TO REMOVE THE CHURCH SHEDS (FOR PARKING HORSE AND BUGGY OUT OF THE ELEMENTS), AS THEY WERE NO LONGER NEEDED BECAUSE AUTOMOBILES WERE REPLACING HORSES. IN 1933 THE CHURCH WAS REPAIRED AND PAINTED AT A COST OF $500.00.  M.C. HALL WAS THE PAINTER AND OVERSEER AT A COST OF 45 CENTS PER HOUR. IN 1934 COLONEL CLARENCE BUTLER ASKED PERMISSION OF THE TRUSTEES IF HE COULD INSTALL CHIMES IN THE CHURCH. AFTER DUE CONSIDERATION HE WAS GIVEN PERMISSION AND THEY WERE INSTALLED JULY 1, 1934. IN THE VESTIBULE IS A BRONZE TABLET THAT WAS ALSO DEDICATED AND PRESENTED TO THE CHURCH AT THE JANUARY MEETING IN 1944, PLANS WERE MADE FOR REPAINTING AND RESTORING THE INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH TO ITS ORIGINAL LOOK. THE METAL ON THE CEILING WAS BADLY DAMAGED BY A LEAKY ROOF AND THE WALLS WERE VERY UNSIGHTLY. THE METAL COVERING ON THE WALLS AND CEILING WERE REMOVED, THEN COVERED WITH METAL LATH AND PLASTERED WITH A PLASTER THAT WAS TINTED LIGHT GREEN. THE DOME WAS EQUIPPED WITH EIGHT (8) ELECTRIC LIGHTS IN A CIRCLE AROUND IT (THUS ELIMINATING THE PROBLEM. OF PULLING DOWN THE LARGE HANGING LAMP OR CHANDELIER IN THE CENTER OF THE DOME THAT CONTAINED 16 INDIVIDUAL OIL LAMPS.) WALL LIGHTS WERE PLACED ALONG THE WALLS. IN THE BALCONY WERE PLACED HANGING LAMPS BY TURNING THE OLD OIL LAMPS INTO ELECTRIFIED ONES. LAMPS WERE PLACED OUTSIDE THE CHURCH ONE ON EACH SIDE OF THE DOOR. IN 1956 THE BASEMENT FLOOR (WHICH WAS WOODEN) WAS REPLACED WITH A CONCRETE ONE, A NEW WELL WAS DRILLED JUST OUTSIDE THE KITCHEN. IN 1958 IT WAS DECIDED TO JOIN WITH THE EVANGELICAL AND REFORMED CHURCH AND CALL THE CHURCH “THE ATWATER CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH (UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST). IN 1959 REST ROOMS WERE INSTALLED IN THE WEST END OF THE BASEMENT. ATWATER HAS THE DISTINCTION OF BEING ONE OF THE FEW TOWNS IN THE WESTERN RESERVE WITH WHAT IS KNOWN AS “THE COMMONS.” WHEN CALEB ATWATER LAID OUT THE TOWN HE LEFT A SPACE OF LAND ON EACH SIDE OF THE ROAD, SIXTY-SIX FEET WIDE EXTENDING FROM ATWATER CENTER SOUTH TO THE CEMETERY. THIS LAND BELONGS TO THE TOWNSHIP AND ALL PROPERTIES ARE BACK OF THIS LINE. IT IS REFERRED TO AS”THE VILLAGE GREEN.” IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 1800’s THERE WAS AN ACADEMY ON “THE VILLAGE GREEN” WHICH WAS CALLED “THE LINNIAN ACADEMY,” BUT IT HAS LONG SINCE BEEN REMOVED. THIS ACADEMY WAS ATTENDED BY A MAN NAMED HARTSHORN. HE LATER WANTED TO START A COLLEGE HERE, BUT THE WOMEN OF THE COMMUNITY OBJECTED, SO HE WENT TO THE SOUTHERN PART OF ALLIANCE KNOWN AS MOUNT UNION AND STARTED WHAT IS NOW KNOWN AS “MOUNT UNION COLLEGE.”

THE ONLY OTHER BUILDING WAS A TWO STORY BANDSTAND WHICH WAS LOCATED JUST NORTH OF THE CHURCH. THE UPPER PART OF THE BANDSTAND WAS USED FOR CONCERTS AND THE LOWER PART FOR ICE CREAM SOCIALS, ETC. IT WAS NOT UNCOMMON ON SATURDAY NIGHT TO SEE HORSE AND BUGGY’S ALONG BOTH SIDES OF THE ROAD FROM THE CENTER TO AND BEYOND THE CEMETERY. THIS WAS THE CUSTOM FOR MANY YEARS UNTIL ABOUT 1920. THE COMING OF THE AUTOMOBILE CAUSED THE PEOPLE TO GO TO ALLIANCE, AND RAVENNA FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND THUS “THE VILLAGE GREEN” WAS DESERTED. THE BANDSTAND WAS REMOVED ABOUT 1923 AND ALL THAT IS LEFT IS THE “GREEN” ITSELF, AND THE MEMORIES OF THE GRAND OLD TIMES EVERYONE HAD THERE. THE CHURCH IS LOCATED ON A KNOOL JUST WEST OF THE “GREEN.” ITS TALL STEEPLE AND BEAUTIFUL DOME CAN BE SEEN FOR MILES IN ANY DIRECTION. IT IS LOCATED ON THE SECOND HIGHEST POINT IN ATWATER. THE HIGHEST BEING “STAMP’S HILL” ON VIRGINIA ROAD WHICH WAS ALSO KNOWN AS “STRONG’S CLEARING.” THE CHURCH IS IN THE BEST CONDITION THAT IT HAS BEEN FOR YEARS.  THAT ATWATER HAS ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS CHURCH STRUCTURES OF THE STATE AND ONE OF THE RAREST IN THE COUNTRY IS A DISTINCTION WHICH SHOULD AND DOUBTLESS WILL, INSPIRE EACH GENERATION TO KEEP WATCH AND WARD OVER THIS HEIRLOOM AND SEE THAT IT DOES NOT DETERIORATE, OR PERISH FROM LACK OF CARE. THIS CHURCH IS NOT A BUILDING, IT IS A LIFE. IT IS A COMPOSITE OF MANY PEOPLE. IT IS THE ACCUMULATION OF DESIRES, OF EFFORTS, OF LIFE EXPERIENCES. FOR ABOUT 172 YEARS IT HAS BEEN THE EXPRESSION OF HUMAN LOVE. THE TRADITIONS OF CLOSE TO A CENTURY AND THREE QUARTERS ARE GATHERED HERE. THE LIFE OF OUR COMMUNITY HAS HAD MINGLED WITH IT-THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH. WHAT THAT INFLUENCE HAS BEEN, NO ONE CAN ESTIMATE. THIS STATELY OLD CHURCH NOW STANDS AS A TRIBUTE TO GOD AND TO OUR COMMUNITY.

SOME STATISTICS:

Height of building – from the bottom of the steps to the tip of the steeple 112 feet.

from the floor of the auditorium to the top of the domed ceiling -28’feet 6 inches.

ONE REASON FOR THE SMALL CONGREGATION IS THE FACT THERE ARE 7 CHURCHES IN THIS AREA. THE NAZARENE, BAPTIST, UNITED METHODIST, APOSTALIC, LIBERTY BIBLE, THIS CHURCH, AND ST JOSEPH’S IN RANDOLPH.

Click on the photos below to view full document

 

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Responses

  1. My great, great, great grandfather, Roswell Baldwin married Martha Hamlin on June 18, 1829 in Atwater. His father was Mr. David Baldwin, Esq. who is buried in Atwater Cemetery, and he was a Revolutionary War patriot. Please let me know of any records of Moses, David, and Roswell. I will be at the Atwater Historical Society meeting on Wednesday the 27th.
    I am the Chaplain for the Western Reserve Society of the Sons of the American Revoution.
    The Baldwins have a direct line that goes back to 1639, and through David’s wife Parnell, we go back to John Alden on the Mayflower.

    Very kind regards,

    David Ben Foster

  2. David,

    We look forward to welcoming you into our meeting on Wednesday, April 27th. Please bring your questions with you and we will see if we can answer them for you.


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