Lorain County, Ohio
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History of the
Rochester Center Congregational Church



Prepared by Helen Westbrook for the April 1976 meeting of the Rochester Historical Society.

Submitted by Melinda Huszti


The church no longer stands, and Rochester Center is pretty much just an empty crossroads today, but it was a vital place with church, school, blacksmith shop, homes, a hotel/tavern and more in the 1800s.
 
 

As early as 1833 people then living around Rochester Center held religious meetings in Lartin Luther Blair’s log house, which was located several rods north of the present Lee Conklin home on the northeast corner of routes 162 and 511. There was no preacher. Mr. Blair read sermons from a book in his possession.

Then on Sept. 2, 1835 a church was formed and I quote from extracts from the church record book:

"At a meeting of the inhabitants of this place previously notified, the Rev. John McCrea and Rev. Joel Talbott being present, after prayer the following persons appeared and were examined respecting their experimental acquaintance with religion and views of doctrines, viz, John Conant, William Shepard and Louisa, his wife, Jonathan Ames, Luther Blair, John Baird, Benjamin C. Perkins, and Elizabeth A., his wife, Patia Babcock, Elizabeth Baldwin, Harriet Rogers and Susanna Humastun, it was judged expedient to constitute them into a visible Church of Christ to be called the Church of Rochester, the candidates agreed to adopt the confession of faith and covenant recommended by the presbytery of Cleveland accordingly they presented themselves before the congregation and publicly assented to the confession and entered into covenant and were pronounced to be a regular church of Christ entitled to all the privileges thereof and authorized to exercise discipline over its members. The church agreed to adopt the Congregational mode of discipline and to be under the watch and care of the Cleveland Presbytery.”

After this follows the confession of faith, consisting of fourteen articles, and the covenant.

Also in 1835 Mrs. Slayman died, age 26, leaving a husband and two small daughters. The Slayman family lived on the farm joining the Benjamin Marshall farm on the east (where the Pete Campbells live now.) Upon the death of Mrs. Slayman and his neighbors knowing of a widow in New York, Mr. Slayman went there, arriving in the evening. He told her of the situation and said he thought he could live with anybody, but he wanted a wife who would be a kind mother to his little girls. He said he didn’t have time to fool around and wanted her answer in the morning. Her answer was yes, so they were married and started back the same day. Mr. Slayman took the family to church walking and driving a yoke of oxen. He always had a load of friends and neighbors who were glad to ride.

Things seemed to go along without incident until 1839 when the church appointed a committee of three men to try to obtain means and supply the church with preaching part or all of the time. They were also to admonish any of our number who might be found walking negligently or disorderly.

The next year, 1840, they hired their first minister, Rev. B.W. Higby. Also this year Brother and Sister Banning wished to be dismissed from the watch and care of the church, but did not wish to be recommended to any other church. At a meeting of the church a committee was chosen to notify Brother and Sister Banning that according to the rules of the church, they could not comply with their request.

Later the same year, 1840, Deacon Blair presented the church with the following complaints of unchristian-like conduct of Brother Banning saying, “I have labored with Brother Banning according to the gospel rule on the following charges:

1. For absenting himself from the meetings of the church;
2. By circulating a falsehood against the church by reporting that they deceived the members;
3. By slandering the character of Sister Higby by circulating unbecoming reports.”

Brother Banning was given ample time and opportunity to respond but did not, so the church voted to expel him.

In 1841 the church hired Rev. Kellogg as pastor and voted to form a religious society to help the church in the support of the gospel. They also voted to request Rev. Kellogg to take a journey to the east to solicit funds to assist the church and society in building a house of public worship.

There is no mention in the church record book of the house being built, but in the History of Lorain County, it says the house was built in 1842, the first in the township, and cost $2500.

In 1843 Rev. Palmer, who had been a missionary to the Indians for years, became the minister. Also in that year Ferdinand Hayden joined the church. He lived with his aunt and uncle, Captain and Mrs. Stephens, who lived on Quarry Road, north of route 162, where Herbert Mitchell now lives. He attended Oberlin College until his money ran out, then he went to Yellowstone Park and worked there for years. Hayden Valley is named for him.

In 1845 Benjamin Perkins died and his funeral was the first one held in the new church house. He and his family lived in a large red frame house on the corner where Lee Conklin now lives. He gave the land for the cemetery and his body was one of the first to rest there.

In 1846 Brother Lindley was excommunicated from the church for covenant breaking in the habitual neglect of public (?) after having been given many opportunities to appear and answer the charge laid against him.

In 1849 Madison Elliott became the pastor.

In 1852, just 11 years after Brother Blair presented the church with charges of unchristian-like conduct of Brother Banning, a charge was taken against him for persisting in the use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage to intoxication at various times. A committee was chosen to labor with Brother Blair, but reported that Brother Blair said he had no confession to make to the church. So they voted to withdraw their watch and care over Brother Martin L. Blair and he was expelled from the church.

In 1860, the church record says, “For several months past we have had but one service a day.” In another paper written by my great aunt Eliza Marshall Tanner, she says, “Rochester was a church-going community having very attentive audiences. In early times we had two sermons. After the forenoon sermon, we had Sunday School and a little lunchtime before the afternoon services. Most came long distances, so we had a full day of it. Deacon Shepherd of New London was for years our Sunday School superintendent. A wagonload of them came. James Shepherd led the choir for years and what fine singers we had.”

In the early days church pews were owned and occupied by the same family year after year.

Also in 1860 Dr. J. Gillett was suspended from all privileges of the church for six months. At the end of that time it was voted that his sentence pass into excommunication, the doctor having given the church no satisfaction. It didn’t say what the charges were against the doctor. 

In 1860 there were 42 members in the church.

In 1868 the church voted to hold meetings for the present time in the Methodist Church. The church also voted that the old articles of faith be dropped and take up the articles of faith of the Church of University Heights and the covenant from the Second Church in Oberlin.

In 1870 the church hired Rev. Burr as pastor and also voted to go back to the Center for meetings.

January 8, 1872 a meeting of the church and society was held in the Center schoolhouse. Rev. Bosworth was hired for the coming year. He stayed three years.

At a church meeting in December 1873 I found the first mention of the pastor’s salary and of sharing the minister with Brighton. The record book says, “The church raised by contribution $275.00 toward the salary of our pastor and received $75 from Home Mission, making the sum of $350. Brighton church pays $350 making the full salary $700.00.

In 1874 the treasurer made a report of the financial standing of the church relative to the repairs of the house. At a meeting of the church January 1875, the treasurer’s report showed that there was an indebtedness on the house of $98.00 above the amount pledged and the money in the treasury.

Also in February 1875 the church hired Rev. Becker for the four months and at an Aug. 22 meeting, the same year Mr. Oleson was hired with Brighton for one year.

October 1876 – At this meeting of the church it was decided to join with Brighton to employ Rev. Leeper to preach until March 1877.

July 1877 – It was decided by unanimous vote of the members present that fermented wines should not be used in celebrating the ordinance of the Lord’s Super.

Aug. 6, 1877 – Rev. D.F. Williams began his ministry with the church and Nov. 12, he was ordained in the church.

 

At a meeting in 1881 Mr. Landis made a report of the amount of money received from the Howard School District.

The following are the collections taken up in the church for the year 1881:
Foreign missions – $3.60
Home missions – $14.16
American Missionary – $6.00
American College and Educational Society – $3.50


Sept. 1884 – Rev. J.S. Edmonds was engaged to preach and do other pastoral work for this church for one year and began these labors today.

January 1886 – At the call of our church and Brighton Rev. C.B. Ludwig of Maryland supplied our pulpits today and it was decided to employ him to preach and minister to us for the year 1886. 

August 1886 – A committee from the Congregational Church in New London, with Rev. Ludwig held a consultation with a number of the male members of our church relative to a union of our church with New London and Brighton with Clarksfield in support of the preached word. No decisive action was taken. (The record does not say if this change was ever made.) 

1887 – The church employed at a definite salary Rev. F.P. Saunders for the term of three years. (It did not say what the salary was.) 

1888 Treasurer’s Report
$274.00 to the minister
$19.00 to the sexton
$10.00 for wood
$2.52 for oil
$37.25 for repairs on the house and papering
$17.08 for Sunday School Supplies
= $359.85 total expense of church and Sunday School

In the fall of 1889 a row of 11 sheds were put up in a very neat and substantial condition. Ten individual sheds and one for the minister’s use. These sheds were west of the church facing east.

They were sold in 1935 to Gene Babcock and moved to the northeast corner of route 162 and Quarry Road. The names on the stalls are from north to south: church; E. Rowland; S. Richards; L. Meach; J. Wolf; F. Chapman; H. Pifer; B. Marshall; S.S. Babcock; L. Landis; and J. Fay. (These names were obtained through the help of Esther, Jarv, and Mike Babcock.)

1889 – Rev. Triffett was hired for one year – salary $275. After him came K.H. Crane and then in 1894 Corwin Vincent was hired for one year for $250, but was dismissed before the year was up on account of his doctrinal beliefs which we think not orthodox.

In 1896 Rev. A.H. Lash was hired for one year for $175. He served five years.

At the regular annual business meeting Jan. 3, 1898 the question of what shall be done with names on church roll that fail in attendance and perform other duties of church work was generally discussed. A motion was made and carried that the deacons shall look after this question and settle it as they see fit.

In 1899 the church gave $2.00 to foreign missions and Charles O’Dell was chosen church janitor for the year for $18.00

June 1, 1901 Mr. E.P. Getchell, a student from Oberlin Theological Seminary, commenced his pastorate for one year for $150 – less than half paid in 1875 which was $350.

1902 – Rev. Newton Moore of Oberlin was hired for one year for $150. He stayed eleven years. Rev. Moore was ordained in the Brighton Congregational Church Dec. 30, 1902.

Oct. 30, 1910 – No services – papering the church.

1913 – Mr. Savaides of Oberlin was hired for one year for $250.

A year later he was ordained in the church.

1914 – Hired Rev. Gleason to preach one year for $250.

End of Volume 2 of Church Records


1916 – Hired Rev. Graves for one year for $200.

1918 – Annual meeting says Mrs. Goodacre conducted services this year except at the time all public places were closed by order of the state board of health.

1929 – Seems to be the last of the regular church meetings.

There was one service a year in 1950, ’51, ’52, ’53, and ’54.

 

CHURCH SOCIETY

In the church records it says in 1841 the church voted to form a religious society to help the church in the support of the gospel.

I couldn’t find any record of a society being formed until 1871. The following in the constitution:

"Believing that the command to go work in my vineyard extends to all, and trusting that in practice of any good, we obey the divine law and show to the world the power of the gospel by cultivating harmony and unity, and sharing affectionately with each other, the burdens and responsibilities of the church, and being few in number and our house of worship needing repairs and objects of benevolence are from time to time presenting themselves for our cause might be best exerted in some society, we do now organize ourselves into such a society."

Article 1. This society shall be called the Congregational Monthly Mission

Article 9. Anyone may become a member of this society by signing their name and paying ten cents a year.

Article 10. If there is no work it will be expected each member will pay ten cents each month.

Bylaws – For tea – It shall be a violation of the rules of this society to have more than tea, bread or biscuits and one kind of sauce and pickles and cheese, if they see fit, and pie or cake but not both.

Last meeting of the Monthly Mission was Nov. 1879.

January 1881 – The ladies of the community met at the home of S. Richards for the purpose of organizing a society for the benefit of the Congregational Church at Rochester Center.

Constitution –

Article 1. This society shall be called the Congregational Church Sociable.

Article 3. It shall be the duty of the president to preside at all meetings – to open each meeting with prayer and do all in her power to make each meeting interesting, congenial, and profitable.

Bylaws – Any lay who entertains this society shall be restricted at her table to bread and butter, one kind of sauce, one kind of relish – as pickles, meat or cheese, one kind of cake or pie and tea. Any person violating this rule shall be fined 50¢.

October 1884 – The church social met with Mrs. Boice. Among other things the secretary recorded was “some remarks were made concerning what shall or shall not be had for tea.”

It is amazing to me the number of people that attended these meetings – 25 to 50 people mostly.

January 1887 – Church society met with Mrs. Jewell in the evening. The New London Congregational Society was invited. Members present – 9, Visitors – 90.


SUNDAY SCHOOL
I must tell you what was going on in the Sunday School all this time. I found four S.S. books. The first one begins in 1870 and the last one ends in 1908. The report for each Sunday as each month and year are carefully written in detail. For example, I will read one six month report.

Attendance of the School from Nov. 27, 1871 to May 12, 1872


Officer’s Attendance
Superintendent, Mr. Fay has been absent 2 times and tardy 2 times.
Asst. Supt. Mr. Squires has been absent 6 times and tardy 3 times.
Sec. Mr. Hawkes has been absent once and tardy 4 times.
Lib. Mr. Garrison has been absent once and tardy 8 times.


Teachers’ Attendance
Mr. Cummings has been absent once and tardy 3 times.

Mr. Hawks has been absent 10 times and tardy 2 times.

Mr. Krebs has been absent once and tardy 2 times.

Mr. Leach (resigned April 7, ’72) absent 3 times, tardy 5 times.

Mr. Ostrander has been absent 6 times and tardy 3 times.

Mr. Elliott has been absent 3 times and tardy 3 times.

Mrs. Hawks has been absent 4 times and tardy 2.

Miss Marshall has been absent 4 times and tardy 5 times.

Miss Ellit has been absent 3 times and tardy 3 times.

Mr. Long (took class April 14) absent 3 times, tardy 0

Mrs. Cummings (took class April 7) absent 0 and tardy 0.

Average attendance of officers – 3 17/24

Average attendance of teachers – 7 10/24

Average attendance of scholars, male – 30 23/24

Average attendance of scholars, females – 36 13/24

Total average of the school – 78 13/24

No. of visitors present – 34

Total number of verses recited – 1404

Most verses recited by any one class – 440 (Mr. Krebs’ class)

 

 

There have been 7 general questions in the school.

 

1. What reasons have we for studying the Bible?

2. How many days between the feast of the Passover and the feast of Pentecost?

3. Why do we not live as long as those in former days?

4. Why is charity greater than faith or hope?

5. What is understood by the word death as recorded in the 17th verse of the 2nd. Chapter of Genesis?

6. What is the meaning of the 19th verse of the 4th chapter of Luke?

7. How old was Noah when the flood fell upon the earth?

There has been $25.00 collected during the term for various purposes.”

When they began taking up a collection there were times when there were more people present than pennies collected.

Eugene Babcock was secretary and treasurer for the years 1906, ’07, and ’08.



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