The church on the Commons around 1905
|On October 7, 1830 the Rev. David Sutherland of Bath, N.H. presided over the dedication ceremony performed at the newly constructed Congregational Church on the Commons in Coventry. The wooden structure with a seating capacity of 400 people was built in the preceding year at a cost of $2,750. Some, if not the entire cost was borne by Mr. Elijah Cleveland of Coventry. The church society grew rapidly after this and for a while was the largest in all of Orleans county. In 1858, Pliny White became MINISTER to the church for 10 years. Towards the end of his tenure the number of parishioners was close to 120. A bell was put in the belfry of the church on November 29th, 1841. About the same time, through the munificence of Elijah Cleveland, a public clock, hitherto the only one in the County, was placed in the tower, at an expense of $260.|
The first sermon in Coventry by a Congregational minister was preached at William
Esty's house in the summer of 1807. It is probable that Rev. Chauncey Cook was the
preacher. He visited the town that season as missionary of a society in Connecticut.
On the 2d of October 1810, seventeen persons, six of whom were males and eleven
females, were organized into a church by the Rev. Seth Payson, D. D., of Rindge, N. H.,
a missionary of the Monadnoc Association. 5 of these remained members of this church
for more than half a century. At the same time, the ordinance of baptism was
administered to twenty-two children of believing parents. Perez Gardner was elected
Deacon, and Dr. Peleg Redfield, Clerk. In June, 1811, an assessment. of twenty-five
cents on each member was made, " to be laid out in religious tracts. and to defray
church expenses." For several years there was no preaching except occasionally by
missionaries, who preached a few weeks or a few months as circumstances would allow.
Among those who thus ministered to the church in its infancy were Rev. Messrs. Jonathan Hovey, Jonathan Hovey, Jr., Samuel Goddard, Silas L. Bingham, John Truair, and James Parker. In 1816 the Rev. Luther Leland, then pastor of the church in Derby, was employed one fourth of the time. A revival followed, and on the 13th of October sixteen were added to the church. As yet there was but little pecuniary ability, and no attempt was made to settle a pastor, but meetings were regularly maintained at various school-houses and dwelling-houses, and printed sermons were read. In September 1822, Rev. Lyman Case commenced preaching as a candidate for settlement. On the 7th of October, a Congregational Society was organized, which concurred with the church in calling Mr. Case to the pastoral charge. The stipulated salary was one hundred and fifty dollars, payable "in money or other property, for his labors one half of the time,'" in addition to which the society voted to give him one half of the land reserved for the first settled minister. Mr. Case's ordination took place March 19th, 1823. Rev. James Parker of Troy offered the Introductory Prayer, Rev. Benl jamin Wooster of Fairfield preached the Sermon; Rev. James Hobart of Berlin offered the Ordaining Prayer; Rev. Messrs. Wooster, Hobart, and Thomas Skelton of Enosburgh imposed hands; Rev. T. Skelton gave the Charge to the Pastor; Rev. William A. Chapin of Craftsbury gave the Right Hand of Fellowship; Rev. Elderkin J. Boardman of Bakersfield gave the Charge to the People; and Rev. Jacob N. Loomis of Hardwick offered the Concluding Prayer. In 1825, an extensive revival took place, as the result of which there were thirty-three additions to the church. Mr. Case's pastorate continued till February 7th, 1828, when he was dismissed by a mutual council.
In 1829-30, a Congregational meeting-house was built, at an expense of $2750. It was dedicated October 7th, 1830. Rev. David Sutherland of Bath, N. H., preached the Dedication Sermons Rev. Ralden A. Watkins commenced preaching in the Summer of 1830, and was soon engaged as Stated Supply. Seven members were set off, February 23d, 1831, to constitute a church in Newport. In 1831, a great revival occurred. A meeting, continuing for six days, was attended by an assembly estimated to number five hundred. Rev. Messrs. William A. Chapin, Elias WV Kellogg, Otis F. Curtis, James Robertson, Reuben Mason, and Alexander L. Twilightt took part in the services. As a result of this and other means thirty-two were added to the church during that year. Mr. Watkins remained about six years, and preached his farewell sermon, May 15th, 1836. Rev. Lyndon S. French commenced preaching in the fall of 1837, and remained as Stated Supply seven years. During his ministry, twenty united with the church by profession, and fifteen by letter. On the 5th of February 1844, the church, by a unanimous vote, called Asahel R. Gray to the pastorate. Mr. Gray was a native of Coventry, a member of this church, and, at the time of the call, a Senior in the University of Vermont. He was ordained November 13th, 1844. The exercises were as follows: Invocation and Reading the Scriptures by the Rev. George Stone of Troy; Introductory Prayer by the Rev. Ora Pearson of Barton; Sermon by the Rev. John Wheeler, D. D., of Burlington; Ordaining Prayer by the Rev. James Johnson of Irasburgh; Charge to the Pastor by the Rev. Samuel R. Hall of Craftsbury; Right Hand of Fellowship by the Rev. Robert V. Hall of Stanstead, C. E.; Charge to the People by the Rev. William A. Chapin of Greensboro; Concluding Prayer by the Rev. Elias N. Kilby of Albany. Mr. Gray's pastoral relation continued nearly fourteen years, and was terminated by a mutual council June 29th, 1858. During his ministry, there were seventeen additions by profession. and nineteen by letter. On the 8th of August 1858, Pliny H. White commenced preaching as Stated Supply. In the Winter of 1858-9, a revival took place, and resulted in about thirty hopeful conversions. During the first year of Mr. White's ministry, fourteen united by profession and six by letter.
Pliny White, History of Coventry, Vt.
REMINISCENCES BY LOTTIE THAYER
- A History of Coventry, Vt., Pliny White, Irasburg, Vt. 1859