Reminiscences of Coventry Congregational Church|
By Lottie M. Thayer
Written for the observance of the 155th Anniversary - May 1965
My memories of this, the Congregational Church of Coventry, go back to early childhood, probably
I was three or four years old, at the time I can first remember coming here.
We were living on the farm, now owned by Clyde Barlow. I don't remember much about the church service or Sunday School, but do remember the long cold ride over the hills in the winter with a horse and sleigh. Though why I should remember that so well, I don't know, but I do.
When I was about five years old our family moved to Waterbury where we lived for two years, coming back to Coventry in November 1904. I was seven years old then and from that time until my husband and I and two youngest sons went to Springfield, in 1943, I attended this church continually.
I was 13 years old when I became a member of the church. There had been evangelistic services in the Methodist Church, now the Grange Hall, across the street. Some of our family attended each night and during the time these services were being held, my sister Eva and I, each on a different night declared our intention of becoming a Christian. Having been brought up in a strict Christian home we knew the requirements for becoming a Christian and living a Christian life. We united with the church in February 1911. Rev. M.W.Hale was pastor at that time.
Many of the families who were living then and were hard workers in the church, come to mind as I write this; Mrs. Mary Cleveland, Mrs. Ellen Ware, who was choir leader and her daughters Mabel Ware and Josephine Brooks, the Bryants and Websters, Ralph and Lucy Ware, the Hitchcocks, the Gorhams, Ida Morrill Orne, also the Lee Porters, Boyntons, Homer Ide Niles, and my own father and mother Will and Vinnie Elliot. Mr. and Mrs. Niles were always in church morning and evening. They were zealous workers and wanted others to be. After Mr. Niles' health failed so he was unable to attend services Mrs. Niles wrote or took notes of the sermons to read to Mr. Niles at home. Mrs. Niles taught a Sunday School class almost continually for years, beginning when she was quite young. I never did know how long she taught but it must have been over 50 years. I was in her class when quite young and she taught a class of children and later two of my sons were in her Sunday School also. She was teaching a class of elderly women up until the time of the tragic accident she suffered one winter's night when she was fixing her wood fire for the night and her clothing caught fire and she was so severely burned she died about three weeks later. Her funeral service was held on a Sunday morning in place of the regular morning service.. The church was well filled and many who attended had been in one of her Sunday School classes at one time or another.
Of the ministers we had who served the parish I think Mr. Bole and Mr. Hale stand out the most clearly in my mind though I remember them all. I think Mr. Bole has stayed in my mind because he came to our home on two different occasions when friendship and spiritual help was needed, also, perhaps because he had children attending school here in the village when Eva and I attended school here.
While Mr. Hale was here, as our minister he held cottage prayer meetings, in the homes, during the winters. Friends and neighbors attended. Usually the meetings were on Friday nights, as I remember them. How we looked forward to the night of the meeting. He conducted a prayer meeting with a lot of singing of old hymns, a hymn sing, I believe it is called now. After the service of prayer and testimonies we would linger and visit with our friends and neighbors. In those days we often did not see a neighbor from one week's end to the other as everyone was busy and there wasn't a phone in every house then, so we couldn't even visit with them by phone as we do now.
Mr. Claris came after Mr. Hale. He officiated at Harry's and my wedding. I believe it was the first wedding at which he did officiate after he came here.
Another person I recall was Abbie Harvey who served for a long time as church librarian. There was no public library here then but we had a church library with books for all ages. How eagerly we used to look forward to Sunday, so we could get fresh books to read. Abbie would go to each class during the Sunday School hour and collect the books we'd brought back and bring us books for the week. They were good wholesome stories too.
Then there was the "horse shed conferences" held after Sunday School. At that time there was a row of horse sheds, church property, I believe, between the now Maxwell and Desbiens property. The men would go out to unhitch the horses to drive home but usually got side tracked and would stand and talk for an indefinite time, while the women and children were waiting in the vestry and getting hungrier by the minute, but we had to wait until the men had discussed matters to their own satisfaction. Church service was at 11 A.M. and Sunday School at 12 noon, so it was 1 P.M. before we were ready to go home.
A few amusing incidents stand out in my mind, a few of which I shall relate such as the time my sister Iola sat on the Minister's derby hat which was parked on a settee in the vestibule. She wanted to sit down to put on her overshoes so she sat on the nearest place available. Several ladies of the church were quite shocked.
A maiden lady who had lived here when she was young, by the name of Elvina Daggett, used to come summers for a few weeks visit. She always spoke to the children and young people when she first arrived and we would all grow and change so from year to year she wouldn't recognize us but would say "How do you do? This is ___ let me see ___ Oh, yes I know you are ___ you are ___" Not being able to name us and we youngsters could hardly keep from laughing out right, but she never wanted us to tell her our names. Another thing that amused us, too, she wore the long full skirts and dresses of a bygone period, with a pocket in her petticoat and how we would snicker to see her calmly raise her skirt in church and Sunday School and fish out her purse which she carried in the pocket. I imagine children of today would be as amused as we were to see that happen.
I can't close this without mentioning the friends, neighbors, schoolmates and several of my own loved ones I have seen carried from this church to their last resting places on the hillside. We miss them but know they are safe in their Eternal Home.
- Bits And Pieces Of Coventry's History, Coventry Bicentenial Committee, Coventry, VT, 1977