Wakeman Township Churches History

Wakeman Township Churches History
from Williams History of Huron County, Ohio

The first religious meeting in Wakeman was held at the house of Augustin Canfield, Sunday evening, January 10, 1819. Rev. Lot B. Sullivan, a missionary, was the preacher. Mr. and Mrs. Canfield, Dr. Clark and wife led the singing. They were the pioneer choir of Wakeman for many years.

The first church organization was formed at the house of Mr. Pierce, October 25, 1822, by Rev. A. H. Betts and Rev. Joseph Treat. The society was of the Congregational order, and consisted of the following members: Barzilla S. Hendricks and wife, Justus Minor, Mrs. Electa Pierce, Dr. H. M. Clark, Ruth French, Sally Sherman and Mary Barnum. The society was called the First Congregational church of Wakeman. Rev. Xenophon Betts was the first pastor of the church, and was installed April 9, 1829, at the house of Mr. Pierce. Mr. Betts continued pastor until December 25, 1836, when he was dismissed at his own request. He was a man of good attainments, and was a faithful and efficient pastor. During his pastorate there were forty-five additions to the membership. The subsequent history of the church will be found in connection with that of the Second Congregational church.


The following sketch is mainly compiled from the interesting memorial address of Mr. Alvan C. Hall at the farewell services held at the old church building December 31, 1878.

The organization of the church is the result of a division in the First Congregational Church which grew out of a difference of views and sentiments respecting certain ideas and principles upon which Oberlin had been founded in February, 1834. In the fall of 1835 Mr. Finney's large tent (or "tabernacle" tracted meetings, was set up at the four corners in the west part of the township on the farm then owned by Bela Cue, now owned by Mr. Cummings. President Mahan, of Oberlin, on invitation of the church, with several theological students who had recently left Lane Seminary because of the repressive measures adopted by that institution concerning the discussion of the question of salary by its students, came and held a meeting of several days duration in the tent. The meeting resulted in a number of conversions. The year following, the pastor, Rev. Xenophen Betts who belonged to the Presbytery (as most of the congregational ministers then did) severed his connection with the church to take charge of the Presbyterian Church in Lyme in this county, and the theological students before mentioned came out from Oberlin and preached during the interim. Prominent among those students was John Watson Alvord, afterwards connected with the Freedmen's Bureau. So much was he esteemed that children were named after him by their parents, and Wakeman has had a Watson Hill and an Alvord Hill. At length another pastor was obtained who remained a year or two, when recourse was again had to the Oberlin students. In the meantime the breach between the old school part of the church and that which sympathized with the doctrines and principles of Oberlin was constantly growing wider.

"In those days it was customary," says Mr. Hall, "to have a sermon both forenoon and afternoon, and frequently one in the evening, or at five o'clock. The people usually carried a lunch in their baskets or pockets, to eat at the recess at noon; and during this recess, and while eating their lunch, a group would frequently be gathered together discussing the subject and doctrines of the forenoon sermon. We recall to mind a sermon preached at the old school house which stood a little north of John Sherman's, in which sermon God was represented as not only willing, but infinitelv desirous of saving all mankind. This sermon was the subject of considerable comment at the noon recess. We remember distinctly a question asked by one of our old school brethren in apparent honesty and sincerity, namely: 'Would it not be derogatory to the character of God, to hold that he was not only willing, but infinitely desirous of saving all mankind, and then fail to do it?'

Thus the church continued, hiring a minister for a year or two, and at the end of the term getting students from Oberlin to supply the interval, until the fall of 1843, or spring of 1844, when Rev. William Russell, from Connecticut, was employed, and it was hoped that he would be able so to compromise the matter of difference as to bring about more union of feeling and consequent prosperity to the church. This he endeavored to do, but failed. The subject of building a meeting house began to be discussed, which proved a cause for increased contention. If Oberlin ministers were to be shut out from the pulpit, as one part desired, there would be no disposition with the other, and more able part, to assist in the building. In order to awaken a greater interest in the proposed erection, the pastor, Rev. Mr. Russell, preached a sermon bearing upon the subject, in which he intimated that if the church could not be sufficiently united to build a meeting house, it had better divide. The question was discussed by the church, and terminated in the adoption of a resolution to give letters of dismission to those who should wish to withdraw for the purpose of forming a new church. A request for letters was circulated among the members and received the following signatures, to-wit: Augustine Canfield, Reuben Hall, Amos Clark, Lemuel B. Pierce, C. C. Caufield, Leverett Hill, Alvan C. Hall, Kneeland Todd, Rufus J. Bunce, Isaac Todd, Mary Bunce, Eunice Pierce, Esther Hill, Betsey Hall, Electa Pierce, Mary E. Canfield, Caroline C. Burr, Minerva Pierce, Susan L. Pierce, Ruth A. Clark, Sophia Wheeler and Juliatte Travis. The above-named received a letter of dismission in a body, dated August 30, 1844. Next day a meeting was held at the center school house (the building now occupied by Mr. Reed as a dwelling) for the purpose of forming a new church. Rev. Henry Cowles, of Oberlin, officiated at the organization, which consisted of the seceding members above named (with the exception of Kneeland Todd, Juliatte Travis and Susan L. Pierce) and Cordelia B. Hall, who brought a letter from the church in Edinburg, Ohio. November 24th following, Mr. Todd and Mrs. Travis unitcd, together with Amos Pierce and Minott Pierce, who were the first to unite on profession. Mrs. Susan L. Pierce, one of the number who withdrew from the first church, did not unite until March 16, 1845. Of the original twenty members the following are still living: C. C. Canfleld. Isaac Todd, Amos Clark, Alvan C. Hall, Mary Bunce, Mary E. Canfield, Catharine C. Burr and Esther Hill. Seven of these eight reside in Wakeman. Jeremiah Butler, an Oberlin student, was employed by the church as the first pastor, and remained a year. Their meetings were held, with the Methodists, in the school houses at the center and in the north part of town, one Sunday in one, and the next in the other.

The society was soon after incorporated, and in 1845 a house of worship was erected near the center, the lot for which was donated by Justin Sherman. The building was dedicated October 2, 1845, the sermon on the occasion being preached by Rev. Henry Cowles. Rev. Wm. A. Westervelt was ordained the same day in the church, and officiated as pastor for one year. The building was subsequently considerably enlarged, mainly by the efforts of Mr. C. C. Canfield.

The following are the ministers who have officiated as pastors of the church for one year or more, with the term of service of each, as near as can be ascertained, viz.: Jeremiah Butler, Wm. A. Westervelt and Wm. F. Clarke, one year each ; Minor W. Fairfield, nearly three years; James M. Van Wagner-first installed pastor-about six years ; Prof. Henry E. Peck, nearly three years ; Henry S. Bennett, about four years; Joseph L. Edwards, nearly three years; Levi Loring, one year; S.Lee Hillyer, one year; Edward B. Payne, between two and three years. Mr. Payne was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. C. C. Creegan, who began his labors July 1, 1875, and was regularly installed September 5, 1877. Mention should be made of Professor James A. Thorne, who preached for the church nearly a year as a temporary supply.

For two or three years subsequent to the organization of the church no deacon was chosen. The number has increased from one to five, the present number. Those who have served as such are Leverett Hill, James Wilson, Justin Hill, James A. Burham, Isaac Todd, George Barnes, Wm. H. Pierce and William Barber. The first three are deceased.

The first member of the church that died was Mrs. Electa Pierce, January 10, 1845. She was one of the original twenty, and "was truly a mother to the church." The church has steadily grown from that small beginning in 1844, every year having witnessed accessions, until, at the date of this writing-March, 1879,-the membership has reached three hundred and twenty-three.

Mention should be made of the faithful service of Mr. L. S. Hall, the efficient leader of the choir, who has officiated as chorister for over thirty years, aud without any pecuniary consideration whatever. His labors have been of great value to the society.

The Sabbath school was in existence during the organization of the first church, of which James Wilson and Leverett Hill were superintendents. It is now one of the largest and most prosperous in the county, the number of pupils enrolled being over three hundred. Mr. S. H. Todd, who possesses more than a local reputation as an efficient Sabbath school worker, is the present superintendent.


The subject of the erection of a more commodious house of worship than the one so long used by the society, was flrst discussed in 1875. The corner stone was laid, with impressive ceremonies, September 5, 1877, Rev. Dr. Wolcott, of Cleveland, conducting the services. It was completed in December, 1878, and dedicated on the first day of January, 1879, President J. H. Fairchild, of Oberlin, preaching the dedication sermon. There were fourteen hundred people in attendance, representing forty-three different townships in the surrounding country. The church is a handsome and imposing brick edifice, evincing in its design and appearance, good practical judgment and excellent taste on the part of those to whose energy and liberality its erection is due. The audience room is forty by sixty-six feet, with two wings, eighteen by thirty feet each, the rooms being neatly fitted up for prayer and social meetings, and galleries above. The interior is finished in chestnut, in the natural wood, and presents a rich and beautiful appearance. The cost of the building was sixteen thousand dollars, the whole of which is provided for.


The first class was formed in December, 1828, by Rev. True Pattee, a circuit preacher. The following were the constituent members: Philo Sherman, Betsey Sherman, Lucius Tomlinson, Charlotte Tomlinson, Phedima Smith and Anna French. The first named was appointed leader of the class. The church held their meetings alternately with the Congregationalists at the two school houses until the erection of a church building by the Congregationalists, when being offered the use of the house on Sabbath afternoons, they held their meetings there. An unusual harmony and christian spirit always characterized the relations of the two churches. The class was eventually disbanded.

The present Methodist Episcopal Church at Wakeman village was organized in the town hall, by Rev. A. J. Lyon, June 16, 1872, and consisted of the following members: J. M. Whiton, Sarah M. Whiton, William Denman, Samuel Webb, Jane Webb, M. E. Wattles, E. M. Bell, E. F. Squire, A. P. Phillips, Rebecca Phillips, Hiram Hurd, J. M. Cahoon, Scynthia E. Cahoon, Mary M. Harris, George Randall, Harriet M. Randall, Edward Denman and Jane Den-man. Mr Whiton was chosen leader. Wakeman was at this time embraced in the East Townsend circuit, but a year and a half afterwards was set off as Wakeman charge, with Birmingham annexed. The following have officiated as pastors of the church: Revs. G. L. Hannawalt, D. R. Moore, E. Hayes, J. A. Kaull, C. D. Patterson, G. E. Scott and Hiram Royce, whose term of service has not expired.

The erection of a church building was first discussed by a few men, not members of any church, one evening in the spring of 1872, at the store of Mr. John Harris. Johnson Brazington proposed it, and would give fifty dollars. It was favored by others. A member of the Congregational Church, formerly a Methodist, solicited subscriptions, and the erection of a building was soon after begun. It was completed in September, 1873, and dedicated on the 23d of that month, Rev. Mr: Godman, of Berea, preaching the dedication sermon. When the house was completed, there was an indebtedness of one thousand and four hundred dollars which was assumed by the building committee. On the day of the dedication one thousand and six hundred dollars was raised, and the church is now out of debt. The cost of the church including the lot and bell, was four thousand six hundred dollars. The membership is now fifty-six, with G. H. Mains, leader. A Sabbath school was organized in January, 1874, by J. M. Whiton who has been the superintendent up to the present time. The number of scholars enrolled at this writing, is one hundred and eighteen.


This church was organized by Rev. Arson Clark, August 14, 1837, with the following list of members: Joel Wheeler, Elvira Wheeler, Charlotte Tomlinson, Lucius Tomlinson, Jabex Hanford, Abbie Hanford, Cyrenus Beecher, Betsey Beecher, Samuel Bristol, Eunice Bristol, Ezra Sprague, Harriet Sprague, Justin Sherman, Betsey Sherman, Lester T. Farrand, Ann E. Farrand; Joab Squire, Harriet Squire, Peter Sherman, Samantha Sherman, Louis Markham, Eliza M. Redding, James C. Judson, Laura Wheeler, Phebe Burgess, Starr Hoyt, Ezekiel W. Arnold, Mary Arnold, Sala Todd, Aurilla Masters, Martin Bell, Polly Bell, George Todd and Harmon M. Clark. Joel Wheeler and Jabez Hanford were elected wardens; Cyrenus Beecher, Peter Sherman and Starr Hoyt, vestrymen. Justis Sherman was chosen secretary of the church at a meeting held at his home, April 16, 1838. The church was incorporated as "St. John's Church, of Wakeman," by act of the legislature, session of 1838-39. The church building, near the center, was erected in 1840, the lot for which was donated by Justin Sherman. Rev. Anson Clark was the first rector of the church, and since then the following clergymen have successively filled the pastoral office, viz: Thos. Barrow, J. Rice Taylor, Abram Bronson, E. D. Irvine, Chas. F. Lewis and G.W. Williams. Most of these lived elsewhere, and officiated here on alternate Sabbaths. Much of the time the church was without stated preaching. and the regularity of the services depended upon the established forms of the church as conducted by lay readers. Cyrenus Beecher, John Kiloh, J. E. Hanford and others had been commissioned by the bishop, and officiated in that capacity. The church has been in a low condition of prosperity for some time, no regular services having been held for the last two or three years, and many of the younger members of the church have joined the Congregational church.


This church was organized by the Irish inhabitants of the township, in the fall of 1868, Rev. Father Hally, of Norwalk, officiating at the organizati on. The erection of a church building was soon after commenced, which was completed the following spring. The church consists of about forty-five families, about the same number as when organized. The society is now under the care of Father Quinn.

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