First Methodist Meeting Place in Charlton
One of the earliest locations of Methodist work in Massachusetts was right here in Charlton, where people who called themselves Methodist began meeting in the home of Mr. Elijah Batchelder in 1790. Elijah Batchelders home was one half mile west of the intersection of Ayer Road with Berry Corner Road in 1790. The Batchelder house was moved to 133-135 Pleasant Street in Southbridge in the mid 1800’s. A historic plaque marks the house today. A memorial stone has also been placed by junction of the old Berry Corner Road and Ayer Road.
Early Circuit Rider
History tells us that the Charlton Methodists were organized into an official Methodist Society by 1790s. However, the society did not function between 1810 and 1829 and it wasn’t till 1834 that Charlton was included in a three point circuit with Southbridge and Dudley.
One of the local circuit riders, Ebenezer Newell, held his first Charlton meeting in school house number six on July 19, 1840. The next day he called on a Baptist named Kingsbury who lived in the large farmhouse on Dresser Hill Road which had a long ell attached. In this ell was a hall which he very generously offered to Rev. Newell as a convenient hall for preaching. It is interesting to note that many of the early members of the church which was built in Charlton City, lived in the south part of Town near Dresser Hill.
One of the people who lived in the center of town asked, “How do you get along at the hall with so many different orders?” His reply was to come and see, for Jesus Christ is the truth and the way. Of interest is the observation of Reverend Newell who called Charlton “a place where depravity exhibit some of its most hideous pictures and darker colors! Newell felt that the Universalist doctrines of final restoration to happiness helped to keep, as he states, “the poor sinner down in the dreamy region of carnal security, causing him to believe he would go to Heaven as last, even if he died in his sins.”
From 1843 to 1846, only Charlton and Dudley formed the circuit. During these periods the circuit preachers continued to conduct their Methodist meetings in the hall on Dresser Hill, which at that time was the business center of Charlton.
First Church Building
The Charlton City village was rapidly growing with new mill and shops opening giving it the name “City“. No church had been established in the city. People were required to travel to the “Center” to the Congregational or Universalist churches. The place of the Methodist meetings were even farther for people in the north part of town.
Church Built In “Center”
A site was sought on which to build a Methodist Church in Charlton City. On August 15, 1853 Otis Farnum and William Stevens of Charlton sold two tracks of land across Brookfield Road from the previous church building to the Charlton Methodist Episcopal church. The land was on the southeast corner of Brookfield Road and Stafford Street directly across Brookfield Road from our former church building. This put it in front of Mr. Stevens house which was the cause of much trouble in later years. The trustees were to erect and finish a structure similar in size and appearance to the Monson Massachusetts meeting house. According to the deed the building was to be completed within a year or the transaction would be void.
The church was finished on time, and on December 4, 1854 the congregation was organized into a single and independent church, with Reverend William B. Olds as its first pastor. soon after this, a different religious denomination build a church in the Lelandville section of Charlton and invited Reverend Olds to serve them as pastor. Thus he left the Charlton City church and preached for them for a year or more. He is the only pastor of our church to be buried in Charlton, and his grave may be found in the Charlton City Cemetery.
Charlton City Methodist Church Now Official
On September 19, 1859 the Methodist Episcopal Society in Charlton City was legally organized by the first Board of Trustees of the church who were given permission by Simeon Lamb, a Worcester County Justice of the Peace. These first trustees were Louis Holden, Chairman, Ellis Thayer, Secretary-Treasurer, Elijah F. Partridge, Collector, Leonard Carpenter, Elijah C. Thayer and Paris Rich. A “Certificate of Service” was recorded in the records of the Town of Charlton and our Charlton City Methodist Church was now officially and legally organized to conduct the business of a recognized church
Sally Willis leaves Large Gift to Church
An early member of the church, Miss Sally Willis died in 1887 leaving to the Charlton City Methodist church a substantial endowment from her estate. In the following March, the trustees voted to accept the gift of her house, barn and land located on South Sturbridge Road, plus the use of $500. One of the trustees was Edward Akers, who lived on property next to the church and adjacent to the Akers and Taylor Woolen Mill which adjoins the Willis property. In the following years the Board of Trustees sought to establish the exact boundary between the Willis and Akers properties, but was unable to do so. In 1893 Edward Akres moved one of his mill buildings across the brook that formed a natural boundary between the two properties. The church formally notified Mr. Akers, claiming ownership of the land, and said his company was encroaching upon it. Several meetings were held up to negotiate that matter, but no compromise was reached. Mr. Akers added onto the building again in 1894, using more land, and knowing that the boundary line was in dispute.
The matter had to be resolved in court. During the proceedings it was discovered that neither side had properly established the boundary line, and no formal survey made to fix the boundary before the Akers and Taylor buildings had been placed upon the property. It was found that the mill owners had adequate property of their own to accommodate the two buildings, but it will cost more to move the buildings then the land was worth. Akers and Taylor were told to leave the buildings where they were and to compensate the church $225 for the property
Second Church Building
The original Methodist Church burned down in 1890 and the congregation was forced to meet in an upstairs room at the Charlton City schoolhouse. Edward Akers offered the church the land he owned on the other side of Brookfield Road, but the congregation, possibly disturbed by his manipulation of the Willis property, decided to rebuild on their old site. Mr. Akers formerly a heavy contributor, withdrew his support although the minister, Mr. Rogers, received free credit of items he purchased at the Akers & Taylor store.
The new building was completed December 15, 1893 for the sum of $3,200, and dedicated February 23, 1894. This is our former church building currently at the corner of Stafford Street and Brookfield Road. At this time, the memorial windows were installed.
Methodist Episcopal Church
Church Moved Across the Road
The situation remained the same until 1904 when Mr. Akers soon found out that the new church building was limiting the use of his property, as there was not enough land to use as his own yard without using some of the land which belonged to the church. That’s when he proposed to pay for moving the church across Brookfield Road with a full basement complete with kitchen, dining room and ladies parlor. This caused a great deal of controversy within the church. As some felt that only rooms for preaching and praying were necessary, while others wanted the additional rooms for sociability, which they said “is the life of the church. Those opposed felt so displeased and discouraged over what they considered a serious mistake that they stopped coming to church, resigned their positions and vowed not to return until Rev. Rogers left. However, after much discussion and exchanges of bitter feelings and nasty words, the church members accepted the offer.
Example of house being moved by oxen
Mr. Akers had the digging begun. The building was put on rollers and pulled by oxen, moved across Brookfield Road and placed upon the new foundation. Mr. Akers paid the $2,000 cost and was sent an official note thanking him for the “new smoke chimney, several useful rooms, two new stoves, carpets, silverware, several tables, electric light fixtures and other favors.“ At this time, the organ was installed. Built by George W. Reed of West Boylston of long-lasting ash wood, the organ has all wooden pipes and case.
Mr. Rogers also stayed for a three-year pastorate, living in the Methodist parsonage on Power Station Road. The Eastman family lived in a house that was next to the church, and arranged a swap with the church for the parsonage, so that the minister could live closer to the church. However, Rev. Sherman, the new minister, refused to live in the house because it was in such poor condition. Instead, the Sherman family lived in the church vestry until the old house was torn down and a new house was built for $2,561, without heat, lights or plumbing
The parsonage was sold by the church in 1969.
The Church and WW I
By 1917, America was directly involved in World War I and the church auditorium was closed on Sundays, with services held in the vestry to conserve heat and fuel during the winter. Before the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, seven boys had left the church to follow the colors, but only one actually got overseas.
The pastor reported that the proprietors of the Charlton Woolen Mills (formerly Akers & Taylor) and the Ashworth Manufacturing Company had given him a very generous role of bills at Christmas. These companies also donated $3,419 for repairs to the church. The money was used to slate the roofs of the church and the parsonage, retop the chimneys, paint both buildings, provide exit signs, and fire extinguishers and install an electric motor for the organ, which, up to this time was manually pumped.
The Church and WW II
The beginning of World War 2 led the church to set aside June 2nd 1940 as the day of fasting and prayer for a lasting peace in behalf of war refugees. Thirty dollars was received and sent to the Methodist overseas Relief Fund. The Charlton Woolen and Ashworth Manufacturing Companies helped with financing church repairs and a new.
The men's brotherhood was begun in 1941. Three men from the church had joined the army. In 1942 the Women's Society of Christian Service worked with the Civilian Defense Plans to use the church kitchen as a canteen kitchen in case of the evacuation of people from the surrounding cities. By the middle of the war years the men's brotherhood had limited its activities because so many men were in the service or were working nights. There was also a ban on pleasure driving and gasoline was rationed; meetings were stopped entirely during the cold months to save and, church services reverted to the vestry again as it had in the First World War
The pastor was positive as he described the state of the church in these war years despite lack of gasoline long work hours hot weather and big victory gardens attendance was good it was proposed to increase contact with men listed on the honor roll of service to let them know they weren't forgotten and those on the home front were trying to hasten their return.
After the war there occurred a revival of interest in the church. The men's brotherhood grew to over 50 members. In two years the total church inrollment grew from 113 to 179 with an average of 55 to 60 attending every Sunday
The worst flood in Charlton 's history wrecked havoc along Cady Brook destroying mills and homes taking six lives. Our church survived with little damage, but the important church papers were lost when the safe of the Charlton Woolen Mill was swept away with the company offices.
The 1970s marked a low in the history of our church because of the rising cost of energy and a continuing decline in membership the decision was made to sell a Parsonage and move to a part-time ministry
Pastor Arthur Roebuck was assigned to the church at this difficult time. As the church entered the decade of the 80s membership began to grow again this renewed interest also signaled completion of a number of much needed improvements, most notably the installation of storm windows and redecorating of the sanctuary
In early 1985 due to significant growth in membership and the resulting increase in the need for ministry it was voted to return to a full time ministry.
Heritage Sunday, 1988 celebrated 198 years of Methodism in Charlton and Southbridge with a day long program. Pastor Hendee of Charlton and Pastor Boutwell of Southbridge coordinated the program Memorials stones were erected by our church in remembrance of Sarah Henshaw, early woman Methodist preacher; and one marking the original Methodist meetinghouse site in Charlton at the Batchelder homestead and a plaque was placed on the Batchelder House now located in Southbridge.
New Church Building
The continued growth of the Charlton City church and Sunday school resulted in the resumption of discussions to expand the existing building or building a new church by 1998, the membership stood at 271 with 70 children in the Sunday School and Adult Sunday School classes.
As series of votes resulted in the purchase of 5 1/2 acres of the former Woodlot Campground at 72 Stafford St. in 1978 for $176,000 from parishioners James and Janet Maling. Their home was transformed into a parsonage.
A church conference was held on June 2, 2002 at which it was proposed to put to the congregation the question: “Does the building committee have your permission to proceed with the construction of a new church facility to be located at 74 Stafford St.?” The vote was 44 in favor, 2 against, with two abstentions. A co-vote granted the trustees permission to sell the church building and land at 12 Stafford Street for the purpose of finding a new church facility at 74 Stafford Street.
That September the dedication of the Hunt Garden Chapel was created giving a pleasant open air worship space on the grounds. Sunday’s services were held in the chapel, until cold weather returned.
Up the Hill to 74 Stafford St.
On Sunday, November 10, 2002, members joined in a walk from the old church at 12 Stafford Street to 74 Stafford St. for a ground breaking ceremony for the new church which was conducted by the Reverend Paul Samuelson.
Barden-Robeson Church Building Company in Middleport, New York was engaged to build the new facility. General contractor, parishioner Kris Gerrard, working with Barton, put forth a design for the building; a floor plan of two major areas, connected with an entry hall. This plan would allow the structure to be built in stages, this south wing to be built first.
After a series of negotiations, the former church building was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Racine to be used for their sewing and craft business with the agreement that the altar furniture and stain glass memorial windows could be removed to the new church.
The building was far enough along for the wedding of John Soltice and Lise Ferreir on October 8, 2004. The congregation was able to have its first worship service in the new Charlton City United Methodist Church on October 10, 2004.
A Consecration Weekend was celebrated May 20-22, 2005 with the gospel concert on the 20th, followed by an Open House May 21, including a slide presentation of the history of the church. A celebration dinner followed that evening.
This ceremony of the consecration of the building was held during worship service on Sunday, May 22, 2005. Methodist church Bishop, Reverend Peter O. Weaver gave his blessing to the parishioners, attending dignitaries and clergymen as the corne stone was layed.
Oops! Walls go Up and then Down. Try again
Digging Elevator Pit
Hunt Inspection Team
The memorial windows were installed during construction of the present church building. The large triple window in the rear of the church is a memory of Lewis Holden, chairman of the original six trustees, and his wife Eliza. The theme is the open Bible. Another trustee, Leonard Carpenter, is remembered by the window to left of the pulpit, with a cross and descending dove theme. To the left of the fireplace in the fireplace room, Elijah Partridge, the Collector of the original trustees, and his wife Ruth are remembered by a double window inscribed “Looking for Hope.
Other memorial windows are the west circular window in memory of Mary Torrey, with the theme “Dove Descending.“ The name of Sallie Willow’s benefactor of the church in 1887 is seen in the west window, which has a motif of a pure lily and the inscription “Blessed are the pure in heart”. To the right of this is the window in memory of Nathan Norris, a mill owner, inscribed “Saved to the Uttermost“ Elijah Riches name can be seen in the window to the right of the pulpit with the cross and crown theme. The north window in the fireplace room with a Lamp of Knowledge theme was a gift of the Sunday School. The Holden family is remembered again in the East window to the right of the fireplace, which has a chalice and a seven pointed star and is dedicated to Hiram and Cordelia Holden.
George W. Reed of West Boylston built the pipe organ, and was completed and installed in 1905. George was the son of Ruben Reed who was a tinkerer, carpenter, and cabinet maker who dabbled in organ building. George learned the basics of the organ building business from his father and continued with that part of it employing as many as four men, depending upon the demand for instruments.
George built all the wooden parts of the Charlton organ including the wooden parts and the case, which is made from ash, a very durable wood. He ordered his pipes and metal parts from organ supply houses, installed them and tuned them himself. It is not known who painted the well-preserved design on the case pipes.
Our Church Bell
Many of us have had the pure joy of ringing our church bell over the years. Pulling on that rope, listening for the melodious song playing overhead as that bell called out to our neighbors to come and worship with us.
The bell became part of our church that was built at 12 Stafford Street and dedicated on February 23, 1894. It was made by the Clinton H. Meneely Bell Co. of Troy, New York. The company began in 1870 and closed in 1952. During that time the company made 65,000 church bells. Our bell was dedicated to Rev. Frank A. Everett, Pastor, who served from 1890 to 1894, during the time the church was being built. The bell is inscribed with the words “Holiness unto the Lord”. For 108 years that bell was rung faithfully every week.
In 2002 it was agreed by our congregation that a larger church was needed and our old church was sold to the Charlton Sewing Center. In November of that year a ground breaking walk was held from 12 Stafford Street to the site of our new church at 72 Stafford Street. The consecration of our new church was on May 22, 2005.
Things were not quite the same as we had left behind our Reed Pipe Organ, some of our stained glass windows and our church bell. In 2010 thru a Memorial Gift to Herbert Anderson, a request was made to see what the cost would be to bring the bell to our new church location. There were many hurtles to work through as our new church was not built to house a bell. Jim Hall volunteered to become the Project Manager to find a way to bring this precious bell home. There were some scary moments in removing the bell, but Jim persevered. A new wheel and base had to be built for the bell and Larry Clough, a master carpenter from Barre, volunteered his time to make this happen. What began as a tarnished pigeon droppings bell was completely refurbished under Jim’s watchful eyes and became Cinderella at the ball, wonderfully beautiful.
Moving bell from narthex to bell house.
It was decided to build an outside enclosure for the bell near the sanctuary windows with a remote control ringer. On November 24, 2013 our bell was rededicated. Every Sunday our Sexton, Al Sergel has the pleasure of ringing our bell and once again it reminds our neighbors to come and worship.
Excerpt from the “Spirit Song”
Our bell was removed from our old church by our own daredevil Jim Hall and lovingly refurbished at WireFab by Jim and a host of wonderful people who donated many hours to taking off one hundred years of grime and corrosion and giving us a beautiful new looking bell and wheel. We have all admired its’ beauty as it sat in our narthex. But the bell needed a new home.
On October 16th the bell was moved to its new home. There was a brief prayer said by Pastor Taesung and Jim rang the bell three times in honor of Herb Anderson, whose Memorial Fund built the bells’ new home. The formal dedication was held outside on November 24th prior to our 10:30 Worship Service. This time our bell was rung to let our neighbors know that we are inviting them to come.
Dedicated November 24, 2013