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History of the Tyson Church, Plymouth, Vermont

The First Congregational Society of Plymouth was founded in Plymouth Kingdom in 1804 by Deacon Daniel Clark, from Brooklyn, Connecticut. In the beginning the congregation had about ten members, and services were held in homes. By 1816, when the meetinghouse was built, the church had about 100 members. Most were Kingdom residents, but two families from the village of Five Corners bought pews there in 1816, and folks from Tyson and the Notch also attended meeting at the Kingdom church.

The building no longer exists, but it is said to have been an exact copy of the church at Rockingham, which still stands. A unpublished history by Deacon Clark, in the Plymouth Historical Society collection, says: "It stood on the Common, a triangular piece of land where the road coming up from Tyson branches." It was a two-story wood frame structure, covered in clapboards and painted yellow, the interior finished in unpainted pine. "There were galleries in the usual colonial style, and there were 40-50 square pews on the main floor. These had partitions about five feet high.... Inside the pews the floors were slightly elevated. The seats hung by hinges. During the long services these were turned up and as the people remained standing during the preaching, this afforded them the opportunity to lean against the back of the pews for support. On each pew door was an oblong patch of blue paint with the number of the pew painted on it in white figures." The pulpit was elevated, with the deacon's bench beneath it. Photos of the building are included in A Plymouth Album.

There were two preaching services on Sundays, one in the morning, and another late in the afternoon, with Sabbath school at noon. There was no heat - "in the early 1800s it was still considered improper to put a stove in a place of worship" - so on very cold days services were held at the schoolhouse, which was heated. People brought "foot warmers to use in the sleigh, and tin foot-stoves to set beneath them in church. Even the preacher himself may often have stood on a tin of hot coals while conducting services." (This quote comes from the 1970 Earlham College report.) The choir sat in the balconies, separated by sex, and sang without organ accompaniment, as was usual in those days.

The building was a union church, shared by the Congregationalists, Baptists, and Universalists. Generally the ministers of different denominations preached there in rotation. They would likely travel to another church or meeting site (a school or home) to preach on the weeks when they were not at the Kingdom church. I do not have a complete list of pastors who served there, but here are some of them:
Rev. Abel Manning was the first settled minister for the Kingdom church; he is listed in in Walton's Register in 1821 as a Calvinist minister; in 1824 as a Congregationalist and member of the Rutland Association.
Rev. Thomas Baldwin helped build the Kingdom church, and later became a Congregationalist minister, listed in Walton's Register in 1855 & 1874. He served in Plymouth from June 1845 to Sept. 1851, from May 1853 to Jan. 1858, and 1862 to 1873.
Rev. Mason Moore seems to have followed him from Aug. 1877 to Dec. 1879. He had previously pastored a church at Lee, New Hampshire, according to Ernest Carpenter's 1925 book, which includes some anecdotes about Rev. Moore.
Rev. Ambler Edson was a Baptist minister at the Kingdom. He build a brick parsonage, where he took in young men studying to be ministers. Other families (including my 3-g grandparents, John & Polly Lesslie) lived in this house after Rev. Edson left, but eventually it fell into disuse, and was torn down in 1965. The last family to live there was that of William Dunlap.
Rev. Prince Jenne was another Congregational pastor there.
Warren Skinner, Samuel Loveland, and Abram Marsh were Universalist prachers at the Kingdom church.

In the 1880s, as the village of Tyson was growing and many members of the congregation were moving down the hill, the church moved down to Tyson. The Kingdom church building was closed in 1882, and as it was not longer used and few people were living around there, folks gradually began to remove wood from it for use in other buildings, until it finally fell down. Harris's 1949 History of Ludlow says that "religious work at Tyson was begun [during the ministry of R.B. Grover, 1881-1884], the pastor of this [Ludlow Congregational] church going there each Sunday afternoon." At first the congregation met in various homes; the present building in Tyson was dedicated in 1896. In the 1920s, the Tyson church was still a branch of the Ludlow Congregational Church; the minister came from Ludlow on Sunday afternoons. Jane Buswell came to the church as a lay minister in 1947, and has led the congregation ever since.
This site maintained by Nancy Wygant of Philadelphia, PA. Last updated 4-21-2002.


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