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History of the Union Christian Church, Plymouth Notch, Vermont



This is the history which the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation shares with visitors to the church; they have generously shared it with me to post here.

The Union Christian Church was erected in 1840 as a town meeting house, and was formally dedicated as the "Congregational Church Society " in 1842.

The Property where the church stands was sold by Rowland R. Pollard and deeded to Thomas Moore, Lyman Wood and Enoch Wetherbee for nineteen dollars. The original deed stated that the land was to be used for "the special purpose of erecting a meeting house, sheds and necessary buildings and for no other purpose whatsoever."

The lumber for the church was cut locally. The iron thresholds at the two outer front doors were made from iron that was mined, smelted and cast at Tyson Furnace in the southern part of Plymouth. These thresholds are still in use.

Originally, the church had box pews and deacons' benches at the front; the latter are still in the right-hand front corner of the church. At the time of the dedication in 1842, pews were allotted. It is recorded that on December 24, 1842 at 6 p.m., Calvin Galusha Coolidge, the President's Grandfather, paid $31.00 for pew number 17, "to have and to hold, his heirs and assigns, to his and their own use now and forever."

The melodian, which now stands in the vestibule of the church, was used to accompany the singing of hymns.

In the early days of the church, town meetings were held in the basement.
By 1890 the church was in serious need of repair as it served as an active center for religious and social activities. The ladies of the community, led by Carrie Brown Coolidge, stepmother of the President, took on the job of raising funds for repairs by putting on strawberry sociables and ten-cents-a plate baked bean suppers.

It is probable that the men, including Col. John Coolidge, the President's father, made major contributions by donating labor and materials.

It is not clear who was the Master Carpenter in charge of remodeling the church. Some source say Willie Pierce, cousin of Aurora; others say Clarence Coates off West Bridgewater, and others credit a Mr. Madeen from West Bridgewater. Apparently all worked on transforming it into a "Victorian gothic" also called "Carpenter Gothic." Visitors to the Homestead in the 1920's will remember Miss Aurora Pierce, who was Colonel Coolidge's housekeeper.

During this period, the interior of the church was completely remodeled. The original pews were left in the balcony, where the choir sat, but in the main church they were removed. The original floor in the balcony and in the vestibule remained unaltered. The lumber for the church was cut by residents from indigenous hard pine, and the sheathing from this pine gave perfect acoustics for the new Estey reed organ, which is still in use.

The kerosene lamps suspended from the ceiling have never been electrified, although new electric ceiling lights were added in the 1940's. The wood furnace was replace by a coal furnace, and later by an oil furnace.

The church was rededicated on completion of the remodeling in 1900.

President Calvin Coolidge, born in 1872, first knew the church in its original state, and until 1890 sat in the pew owned by his grandfather. After the 1890 renovation, the President and his family worshipped in the pew now marked by the American Flag and a brass plate on the right arm.

The organization, known as the Social Union, was responsible for the maintenance of the church from 1922 to 1935. In 1935, The Ladies' Social Union was reorganized and later incorporated as the Union Christian Church, Inc.

Since 1970, the Union Christian Church has been owned and preserved by The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation.
In the 1940s or '50s, church council president Eliza Hoskison wrote a history of the church to give to visitor's to President Coolidge's birthplace. She wrote that:
"The best remembered minister in the early 1900s was the Reverend James C. Carnahan, who conducted regular services in the Little Stone Church in Sherburne Flats, eight miles away, and in the summer, would drive to Plymouth with his family in a two-seated surrey.... In the winter, when it was too cold to hold services in the church, they were held in the Coolidge Homestead across the way.... In these times, the Reverend Carnahan would drive to Plymouth in a sleigh similar to the one in the barn at the Homestead and there were very few Sundays that services were not held. The next best remembered minister was the Rev. John White who also conducted services in Sherburne and performed in the same manner as Rev. Carnahan."

This site maintained by Nancy Wygant of Philadelphia, PA. Last updated 25 March 2003.

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