Asylum Hill Congregational Church dedicated

06/15/1866

The Asylum Hill Congregational Church was dedicated during a service that began at 11:00.

That evening, the “sittings” in the church were sold.  The Courant reported that the sale was “quite animated” and that the seats “brought a good price.” James Clark bought the first seat. The highest price paid was $215, and the total amount received was approximately $6,000.

Neat Little Tidbit

The Courant described the audience room as “not gaudy, but exceedingly neat and modest,” and it called the windows the only flashy adornments that caught the eye. The seats and woodwork were chestnut, but the wood work was trimmed with black walnut, including the numbers of the doors. The nave was lit by gas jets that projected just over the pillars, and the room was entirely carpeted. The seating capacity was about 900 people.

The Courant article listed the program for the service, but otherwise it confined itself to a description of the church’s interior.

It’s also kind of fun that Atwood Collins quoted this very same article in 1915.

Trust but verify

An impressive list of local ministers participated in the dedication service, including Nathaniel Burton, Horace Bushnell, and Joel Hawes, all of whom were locally prominent.  Also participating were Reverends Gould and Jenkins, neither of whom I’ve encountered otherwise.  Gould appears to be G. H. Gould, who was minister at the Center Church, but Jenkins so far eludes me.  And then there was Professor Park – the closest candidate I’ve found was Edwards Amasa Park, who seems to fit the bill except that he spent the majority of his career in Massachusetts.

Put into context

Two names not listed in the Courant article were Joseph Twichell or Calvin Stowe.  It isn’t entirely a surprise that neither would be involved in the dedication service itself – it might not have been seemly for Twichell to dedicate his own church, and Stowe was more generally considered a professor, even if he did lead services in the chapel before Twichell was installed as pastor.

The total amount realized by the sale of seats would be approximately $101,583 today.  The person who paid the highest amount would have paid $3,640 today. 

Speculating without facts

And Nathaniel Burton:  it seems in 10 years or so he’d have something to sayL1 about the church’s bell and clock.

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Asylum Hill Church – Its Dedication,” Hartford Daily Courant, June 16, 1866, page 2.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.

Unattributed, “Sale of Seats at the Hill Church,” Hartford Daily Courant, June 16, 1866, page 2.



Construction Update on Asylum Hill Congregational Church

12/14/1865

The Courant reported that work on the church was nearly finished for the season.

Put into context

At this point, this is the only article I’ve found in between the August 1865 report that construction was going well and the June 1866 dedication of the church.  The Courant was typically very eager to report on building improvements in Hartford – even in the 19th century, Hartford was concerned about “growing the grand list” – and this tidbit on the church came in an article that described several other projects around town.  I’m sure the articles are there, somewhere, but for now they elude me.

Speculations without facts

This article reported on progress made constructing the “First Congregational Church” at the corner of Asylum and High Street.  This church would have been the former North Congregational and the soon-to-be Park Congregational Church.  The North Congregational Church was located on North Main Street, and this new structure moved the church almost to the base of Asylum Hill, one block east of Union Station.  It now seems less of a surprise that North Congregational was the only Congregational church to vote against the formation of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, as it seems likely that some members of North Congregational would have seen their new location as much more convenient to the residents of Asylum Hill than Center Church had proven to be.

Sources

Unattributed, “Building Improvements,” Hartford Daily Courant, December 14, 1865, page 2.



Joseph Twichell Installed as Pastor at Asylum Hill Congregational Church

12/13/1865

Joseph Twichell was installed as pastor in the chapel.

Neat Little Tidbit

Scripture, read by L. L. Paine of Farmington, was 2nd Corinthians 4.  The sermon, given by E. C. Jones of Southington, was from Luke 24:49.

Put into context

Twichell’s installation followed an examination of his candidacy by a council consisting of at least nine pastors, five from Hartford and at least one from the churches in Farmington, Franklin, New Haven, and Southington, which was Twichell’s church. Additionally, Joel Hawes and Horace Bushnell also participated, bringing the total to 11.

In 1915, Atwood Collins quoted Horace Bushnell as saying during his charge to the people that the church was fortunate to have a pastor with whom they could grow up.

Questions to pose

Calvin Stowe was not a part of the installation, nor was he apparently part of Twichell’s examination.  So where was he today?

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Installation,” Hartford Daily Courant, December 14, 1865, page 2.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Calvin Stowe leads the service at Asylum Hill Congregational Church

12/03/1865

According to yesterday’s Courant, Calvin Stowe was scheduled to preach today at the chapel. The service was scheduled to begin at 10:45, and it would be followed by the “usual Bible lecture at [3:20].”

Neat little tidbit

The Courant often used fractional time – ½, ¼ -- but for the Bible study it sure looks like it was 1/3.

Put into context

This was the second to last Sunday service before Joseph Twichell would be installed – so what was he getting himself into?  This article included a survey of the salaries paid to the ministers at the 272 Congregational churches in Connecticut.  They gave salary ranges, and they went from $500 or less at the low end of the scale to $3000 at the high end.  The vast majority of the ministers (212) earned less than $1,000, or less than $16,500 in today’s dollars.  Another 48 ministers earned between $1,000 and $2,000 ($33,000 in 2021), while 6 earned between $2,000 and $3,000 ($49,500).  Much more importantly, since 1860, only 96 ministers had received a raise – 144 ministers earned exactly what they’d earned in 1860, and 32 ministers had seen their salaries cut.

Sources

Unattributed, “Religious Intelligence,” Hartford Daily Courant, December 2, 1865, page 2.



Asylum Hill Congregational Church Plans a Lecture Series

11/02/1865

An informal meeting of gentlemen took place in the chapel, and a committee was appointed to invite “the citizens of the Hill, and all others interested,” to meet at the chapel on November 4 to plan a course of lectures on scientific and literary subjects during the winter.

Neat little tidbit

The Courant said that the November 4 meeting was at 7 ½ o’clock – fractional time!

Put into context

This meeting demonstrated Asylum Hill Congregational Church’s very early commitment to the neighborhood beyond its members. 

Questions to pose

What were the lectures?

The Courant referred to the are as “the Hill.”  This wasn’t uncommon, but It raises questions about when Asylum Hill became Asylum Hill.  The American School for the Deaf had been established on the Hill in 1821, but the Courant continued to refer to the Hill as Lord’s Hill until the early 20th century.

Sources

Unattributed, “Lectures on Asylum Hill,” Hartford Daily Courant, November 4, 1865, page 2.



Horace Bushnell leads the service at Asylum Hill Congregational Church

10/08/1865

Horace Bushnell was scheduled to lead the Sunday service in the Asylum Hill Congregational Chapel today at 11:00 AM.  Calvin Stowe’s Bible lesson would take place in the chapel at 4:00 PM.

Trust but verify

As with all of these entries, they come from articles published on Saturday.

Sources

Unattributed, “Religious Intelligence,” Hartford Daily Courant, October 14, 1865, page 2.



Calvin Stowe returns to the pulpit at Asylum Hill Congregational Church

09/03/1865

Calvin Stowe was scheduled to lead the Sunday service in the chapel at 10:45, and his weekly Bible lesson was scheduled to resume at 4:00 with a lesson on Second Psalms.

Neat Little Tidbit

Summer vacations were fairly common at this time, and churches would take advantage of the break to do repairs or renovations to their buildings while people, in particular the ministers, were away.  This same article reported that South Baptist Church and the Universalist Church were both reopening after being closed during August.  Interestingly, the Universalist Church was described as having undergone a “thorough cleansing.”

Put into context

The same article also reported that Joseph Twichell would be installed as pastor at Asylum Hill Congregational Church about November 1.  Of course, that didn’t happen, but nonetheless this is the earliest reference to Twichell I’ve so far found in the Courant.

Sources

Unattributed, “Religious Intelligence,” Hartford Daily Courant, September 2, 1865, page 2.



Joseph Twichell accepts Asylum Hill Congregational Church's call to service

08/08/1865

Joseph Twichell addressed a letter to Francis Gillette, accepting the church’s call to serve as their pastor.

Trust but verify

Gillette was not an original appointee to the search committee, but Twichell addressed him as the chair of the committee.  It isn’t clear when Gillette joined the committee and when, then, the committee made him chair.

Put into context

Interestingly, I’ve thus far found nothing contemporary about the church’s search for a pastor or that it issued the call to serve to Twichell, despite the search committee being in operation since November 1864.

Question to pose

Twichell addressed the letter from Hartford, meaning he was already in town.  He was a frequent visitor to Hartford, so that isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it does raise questions as to what took them so long to invite him to serve as their pastor.  Or was it that Twichell took a long time to reply?

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Construction continues at Asylum Hill Congregational Church

08/04/1865

The Courant reported that work on the church building was progressing quite rapidly.

Neat little tidbit

The Courant went from proclaiming that the Asylum Hill Congregational Church would be one of the finest churches in the state to calling it a fine addition to the Asylum Hill neighborhood.

Put into context

Meanwhile, the North Congregational Church continued to have problems with its construction schedule.  As previously noted, the ground was too soft, and they had to place 900 piles beneath the foundation in order to shore up the building.  This problem exists on the Hill, too:  Asylum Hill Congregational Church would discover springs when it excavated to build the parish house,L3 and the Cathedral of Saint Joseph has numerous piles beneath it.

Speculating without evidence

Again, it isn’t hard to imagine some resentment on the part of North Congregational that Asylum Hill Congregational was up on the hill, not facing setbacks at their site, and rushing ahead with construction.

Sources

Unattributed, “New Churches,” Hartford Daily Courant, August 4, 1865, page 2.

 



From Sunday School students to members of Asylum Hill Congregational Church

06/12/1865

A communion service was held in the chapel. Twelve members of the Sunday school became members of the church.

Trust but verify

Atwood Collins said that this was the first communion service, and he seemed to claim that this was the first service in the chapel, although with something of an asterisk.  The chapel was dedicated back in March, and Collins had the record of that.  He then goes on to say “[w]e have a record of the first communion services held in the chapel … Church services were held in the chapel continuously thereafter until the completion of the church building.”  The implication is that the chapel was unused between March 23 and June 11, 1865.

Questions to pose

Is there a record of any Sunday services in the Courant between these dates?  If there were services, they would have been part of the Courant’s weekly column on the churches and the Sunday schedule of services.

Speculating without evidence

It seems likely that this service represented the culmination of the members’ efforts to form a new church in a way that even the construction of the church building did not.  The whole effort began with the Sunday school, and to now have the opportunity to receive new members from the Sunday school in the chapel must have been a powerful moment for the members.

Sources

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Cornerstone laid at Asylum Hill Congregational Church

05/02/1865

The ceremony to lay the cornerstone of the church building was held at 6:00 PM. After singing a psalm and saying a prayer, a sealed box was placed into the cornerstone. The box’s contents included:

  • A list of the subscribers who contributed to the building of the church
  • The Emancipation Proclamation
  • Newspaper accounts of Lincoln’s assassination
  • Inaugural address of Andrew Johnson with proclamation declaring a national fast in May
  • The names of the architect and the building committee
  • Photographs of the church edifice, Lincoln, William Buckingham, and several of the oldest clergymen now living in Hartford
  • Fractional currency
  • Papers of the Day
  • The Independent containing Henry Ward Beecher’s address at Fort Sumter

The event concluded with remarks from Joel Hawes and Calvin Stowe.  Between 300 and 400 people attended the event.

Neat Little Tidbit

There’s a connection between the corner stone and the installation of Joseph Twichell, and it’s The Independent.  Leonard Bacon, who participated in the service to install Joseph Twichell, worked on The Independent with Beecher.

Put into context

In case you hadn’t guessed, Asylum Hill Congregational Church was Republican.  This would also be true of Asylum Hill through the end of the 19th century and of the Hartford Courant.  That notwithstanding, Lincoln died just over two weeks before this ceremony.

Trust but verify

Of note, the 1908 article on the lecture before the men’s club, the 1915 article on the 50th anniversary of the church, and the 1940 article on the 75th anniversary of the church all give May 5 for the date of the laying of the cornerstone.  Since I found the contemporary article on the ceremony, I’ll stick with May 2.

Question to pose

Where was Horace Bushnell?

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Laying a Corner Stone,” Hartford Daily Courant, May 3, 1865, page 2.



Construction on the Asylum Hill Congregational Church underway

04/03/1865

The Courant reported that 27 masons, 12 stone cutters, and 32 laborers were presently at work on the new building that would be the Asylum Hill Congregational Church.  The article said that the “erection of the walls will go ahead rapidly,” which gives a sense of where they were in the construction schedule.  The article gave the following details about the church building:

  • Spire would be 200 feet high and add to the church’s imposing appearance
  • Audience room would be 111 feet by 66 feet and seat over 800 people
  • There would be no wall seats, which would permit greater access to the pew

The article predicted that the church building would be completed by the end of 1866 and that it would be one of the handsomest churches in Connecticut.

Neat little tidbit

If the information the Courant reported was accurate as of the date of this article, then the church was completed almost six months aheadL1 of schedule.

It’s also kind of fun that Atwood Collins quoted this very same article in 1915.

Trust but verify

The details about the spire are interesting because the spire wouldn’t be built until 1875.L2  At some point between this article and the dedication of the church in June 1866 the decision would be made to stop short of completing the spire.  That decision may also have included delaying the purchase and installation of the bell,L3 which wouldn’t happen until 1871.

Put into context

The article gave the cost of the chapel as having been $14,000 and the estimated cost of the church as being $40,000.  The actual cost, including the land, ran over $100,000 – so the estimate here may not have included the interior work.  The article also included an update on construction at Saint Peter’s Catholic Church (which is still there, 160 Main Street) and estimated that it would cost at least $100,000 to finish.

Speculating without evidence

The article gave an update on the construction at the new North Congregational Church, at the corner of Asylum and High Streets.  Construction there was suspended while changes were made to the plans – and it isn’t hard to imagine that the progress being made on the Asylum Hill Congregational Church had prompted this review of the plans.  As noted previously, North Congregational was the lone dissenter in the vote to approve the formation of Asylum Hill Congregational, and there may have been some competition between the two churches.  It’s more likely, however, that this suspension in construction had something to do with the 900 piles they placed under the church.

Sources

Unattributed, “New Churches,” Hartford Daily Courant, April 3, 1865, page 2.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Asylum Hill Congregational Church formally organized

03/23/1865

The Asylum Hill Congregational Church formally organized with 114 members.  They did so according to the “ancient New England method.”

Neat Little Tidbit

No, I have no idea what the “ancient New England method is.”

Trust but verify

During the fiftieth anniversary service on March 23, 1915, Atwood Collins gave an address called “The Beginnings of the Church,” and he gave the number of original members as 114.  Immediately following Collins’s address, Waldo Pratt gave an address called “The Subsequent History.”  Pratt said there were 113 original members.  There are a lot of reasons for this difference (printing error, for example), but it is awfully fun to contemplate that Pratt dozed off during Collins’s address.

Put into context

The 114 members all came from somewhere, and that somewhere was existing churches.  Center Congregational lost 40 members to Asylum Hill Congregational, and North Congregational lost 33 members.  Pearl Street Congregational also lost a significant number of members (25), and the remaining members came from Fourth Congregational (4), South Congregational (2), and an unknown number of churches outside of Hartford (10).  Losing members stung:  the pastor at the Center Congregational Church bemoaned the loss of its members to Asylum Hill Congregational fifty years later.L1

Speculating without facts

Although it’s difficult to say what the loss of members to a new church would have meant to the existing churches without knowing how many members they had at this time, it can be speculated that North Congregational Church would have gained possibly 81 new members as it moved to its new location on the corner of Asylum and High Streets.  They also would have been likely to retain the 33 members they lost.  These members all meant losses in pews purchased and in regular donations.  Given that the Asylum Hill Congregational Society was able to raise over $100,000 to buy the land and build the church in very short order, it isn’t hard to see why the North Congregational Church might have opposed the creation of the new church on Asylum Hill.

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



The chapel at Asylum Hill Congregational Church completed

03/04/1865

The Courant reported that the chapel had been completed and that on March 11 the chapel would be rented for one year.

Neat little tidbit

The article also listed that the sale of slips in the Pearl Street Church was scheduled to take place on March 6 – the Pearl Street Church is part of the future Immanuel Congregational Church at Woodland and Farmington.

Trust but verify

The builders were Brown & Valentine, which we know from the February 1875 article on the construction of the steeple.L1  I have yet to find a contemporary article listing them as the builders for this original phase of construction.

Put into context

Typically, the seats are sold, but here they were being leased, and only for a year at that.  This action seems to anticipate the completion of the church within that year, or very close to it.  They weren’t off by much:  the church was dedicated in June 1866.

Questions to pose

The entrance to the chapel was off of Huntington Street.  When was Huntington Street opened?

When exactly did they break ground on the chapel?  And how did its construction relate to the construction of the church?

Sources

Unattributed, “Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Daily Courant, February 11, 1875, page 8

Unattributed, “City Intelligence – Sundry Matters,” Hartford Daily Courant, March 4, 1865, page 2.



Asylum Hill Congregational Society Forms a Committee to Recommend a Pastor

11/02/1864

 

John Beach, Erastus Collins, A. G. Hammond, J. R. Keep, and J. S. Tryon were appointed to a committee to recommend a pastor for the church.

Trust but verify

Here’s where Horace Bushnell begins to enter the picture as a foundational figure in the history of Asylum Hill Congregational Church.  Atwood Collins describes Bushnell’s participation in Twichell’s selection as having three parts:

  • Twichell was well-known in Hartford, having visited while a student at Yale and as a seminarian. By this point, he had already become friendly with Bushnell.
  • A “daughter of Dr. Bushnell” told Collins that she recalled Twichell took part in a midweek service at North Congregational while visiting the home of Austin Dunham.
  • A member of Asylum Hill Congregational recalled Bushnell telling her father that he knew “no young man of greater promise as a preacher than Mr. Twichell.”

Collins could find no record of any other person being considered other than Joseph Twichell, and he believed that the search for the new pastor began with Twichell already in mind.  But to be clear, at this point this is Atwood Collins’s theory. 

Put into context

Horace Bushnell was an important and controversial figure in Hartford.  He was nearly put on trial for heresy, but the trial never took place because the requisite three people in his church would not accuse him.  By 1864, Bushnell was no longer quite so controversial:  as Collins put it, “[i]t was no longer a misfortune for a young minister to enjoy the favor of Dr. Bushnell, nor a detriment to be known as his disciple.”  Whether or not Twichell was Bushnell’s disciple, he had Bushnell’s support, but Collins’s statement reflected the beliefs of the founding members of the church as well as that of their first pastor.  “Among the founders of this church were many who had been brought up under Dr. Bushnell’s religious tuition … In planting a church out here, almost in the countryside, with room all around them, the founders seemed to have left all the old dry bones of contention down in Main street, and, all unconsciously, perhaps, to have taken an important step in the way of new freedom and progress.”  The founders had made a political statement by inviting Bushnell to preach in the chapel, and they made a political statement by calling a minister who had Bushnell’s support to be their pastor – and it was a political statement that the members still understood 50 years on.

Question to pose

Where was Francis Gillette?  In August 1865, Twichell would address his letter of acceptance to Gillette in his capacity as chair of this committee.  When was he appointed to the committee to recommend a pastor?  Did he replace someone?

Atwood Collins’s father Erastus was on the committee.  Atwood could find no record of any candidate  other than Twichell being considered – he never thought to ask his father about this?

And if Twichell really was the only candidate, why did it take them nearly nine months to extend him the offer?

Speculating without fact

On the other hand, it is horribly tempting to believe instead that AHCC, in the 21st century, lays claim to Bushnell’s foundational role because he is locally very famous.  He is, after all, Bushnell Park and the Bushnell Performing Arts Center, and it makes a certain degree of sense that Asylum Hill Congregational Church would want to hitch its wagon to Bushnell.  Doing so, however, overlooks how Bushnell was viewed by the members of Asylum Hill Congregational Church in 1864, and while the politics of Bushnell may no longer be remembered in Hartford, they were uppermost in people’s minds 120 years ago.

Sources

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



The Courant describes the plans for Asylum Hill Congregational Church

09/26/1864

The Courant published a description of the church to be built by the Asylum Hill Congregational Society, based on a “photograph of the ‘front elevation’ now before” them.   The reporter described the plans as follows:

  • The whole structure, church and chapel, would be 184 feet long
  • The audience room of the church would be 96’ x 60’ with 186 pews
  • The lecture room of the chapel would seat up to 300
  • The chapel would also include a room for prayer and business meetings
  • The church tower and spire would be 185 feet high

The article also reported that the chapel would open onto a “street which is yet to be opened,” which is Huntington Street.

Neat little tidbit

The same column in the Courant included a report on the September 24 session of the Hartford Police Court.  Mary Walker, convicted of being a “common drunkard,” was sentenced to 30 days at the “town house,” which probably was the Town Farm.  The Town Farm was just north of the soon-to-be built church, its southern boundary being Collins Street. 

At the same court session, John Sullivan and William Cunningham apparently pleaded guilty to robbing William Tobin of his watch.  Their $200 bonds were forfeited, and Sullivan and Cunningham enlisted.

Trust but verify

Here begins the incredible adventure of the ever-growing steeple.  They didn’t know it today (probably), but the steeple would not be completed as part of the original construction of the church:  it would be built in 1875 and completed in August of that year.  At this point, the steeple is going to be 185 feet high, but it would be constructed as 220 feet high.L1  In between, it would be 200 feet high and 225 feet high,L3 and finally it would be 230 feet high.L4

Clearly, someone wasn’t satisfied with the steeple’s design, and between now and 1875 a series of changes would be made to the plans.  The reasons for those changes, unfortunately, so far elude my research efforts.

Put into context

The Courant reporter not only had the front elevation but also the architectural plans, which Patrick Keely had furnished to the reporter.  This confirms both that Keely was the architect and that by this date he had finished the plans for the building.  It also fits into the overall timeline, with Keely having been at work on the plans in July and the church society filing for permission to build in August.

The Courant reporter noted that on September 23 the newspaper had published a description of the new Congregational church being built at the corner of Asylum and High Streets, which was the new North, eventually to be Park, Congregational Church.  The reporter said that the configuration of the aisles in the two churches was the same, but the reporter described the new North as “magnificent” and the new Asylum Hill as “handsome.”  Over time, the Courant’s opinion of the new Asylum Hill Congregational Church would evolve:  it was the “most handsome” in April 1865 and “one of the finest” in August 1865.

Questions to pose

Keely was clearly in Hartford around September 26, 1864, but it’s unclear how much contact he had with the Asylum Hill Congregational Society at this point.  Did the Asylum Hill Congregational Society approve his meeting with the Courant reporter?  Did he participate in the permitting process?  When was the decision made for Samuel Coit to oversee the construction of the church?  Although, I suppose the reporter could have met Keely in New York.

Speculating without facts

Based on the article and the article from September 23, 1864, the new North Congregational Church was already under construction.  The builders of the new North were going to drive up to 900 piles into the ground to support the foundation of the new church, and they expected that that would take them into winter, at which point they would halt construction for the season.  Meanwhile, the new Asylum Hill Congregational Church was just getting permission to build.  Recalling North Congregational Church’s apparent opposition to the new Asylum Hill Congregational, it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t have cited their plans to get into the ground as an argument against a new church on Asylum Hill.  Ultimately, though, the ground would cause delays in the construction of the new North, while the new Asylum Hill church would be finished ahead of schedule – and ahead of the new North.

Sources

Unattributed, “The Asylum Hill Church,” Hartford Daily Courant, September 26, 1864, page 2.



Asylum Hill Congregational Society addresses road conditions on Asylum Avenue

09/12/1864

Hartford’s Board of Alderman and Common Council both referred a petition for grading of Asylum Avenue.

Trust but verify

There was only one petition here – even though the Courant described it differently.  The petition before the aldermen came from the building committee of the Asylum Hill church, which would have been the Asylum Hill Congregational Society Building Committee.  The petition before the councilmen came from “Henry French and others,” but French was on the building committee.  The “others” were likely the remainder of the building committee.

Put into context

The grading the building committee requested was for the stretch of Asylum Avenue from Sumner Street to Sigourney Street, and it shows how comprehensive the Asylum Hill Congregational Society was in its efforts to build the church.  Back in May, Erastus Collins petitioned the municipal government for a new building line on the north side of Asylum Avenue, which was the month before they settled on the future site and five or six weeks before Patrick Keeley went to work.  The new building line would have enabled them to have situated the church as advantageously as they possibly could, and the new grade would have made it easier to travel to the future front door of the church.  This fits with one of the most important reasons for building the new church, which was that it was too hard to get to the church’s downtown.

Sources

Unattributed, “City Government – Last Evening,” Hartford Daily Courant, September 13, 1864, page 2.



Asylum Hill Congregational Society petitions for permission to build

08/08/1864

Hartford’s Common Council referred a petition of the Asylum Hill Congregational Society for leave to build a church on Asylum Avenue.

Neat Little Tidbit

This counts as the application for the building permit for the church.  During this period, Hartford had “two branches of government,” the Board of Aldermen and the Common Council.  Both had the power to receive petitions for leave (i.e., request for permission) to build, whether it be main buildings such as a church or a house or an outbuilding.  The two bodies additionally had the power to alter construction plans, for example insisting that something be built with brick instead of wood.

Trust but verify

I haven’t found the referral from the Board of Aldermen – yet.  Since we know the outcome of this effort, it’s either there to be found or wasn’t necessary in this instance.

The referral was probably to the building committee, even though the article didn’t specify that.  This committee would then review the request and report back to Common Council with their recommendation.

Put into context

Although I haven’t found an article describing the start of the work on the church building, this action helps to narrow the timeframe.  Patrick Keeley was working on the plans in July, and they would be finished by the end of September.  It makes sense then that the Asylum Hill Congregational Society sought permission to build now, in anticipation of the completion of the architectural plans and the likelihood of being able to break ground before winter.

Questions to pose

Did the Board of Aldermen review the petition to build the church?  And did the Courant cover the groundbreaking?

Speculating without facts

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the construction got underway before the municipal government granted permission.  In September 1865, Sam Coit, who would oversee construction of the church, would be accused of starting construction on the house on Congress Street prior to receiving permission from the Common Council!

Sources

Unattributed, “City Government – Last Evening,” Hartford Daily Courant, August 9, 1864, page 2

Unattributed, “City Government – Last Evening,” Hartford Daily Courant, September 26, 1865, page 2



Architect at work on designs for Asylum Hill Congregational Church

07/13/1864

The building and site committees reported back on their work. The building committee reported that plans for the church building were being prepared, while the site committee reported that they had purchased the land for the church for $10,000.

Neat little tidbit

The land would have cost $170,098.09 in 2021.

Trust but verify

The Courant article on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church is the source for this date and the meeting held on it.  It fits with the overall timeline, with the purchase being reported as taking place on July 5, 1864, but so far I haven’t found any contemporary reference to the meeting.

Presumably the site committee’s report meant that they had hired Patrick Keely as architect, but like above, I haven’t found a contemporary reference to Keely being hired, only that he’d done the work.

Sources

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.



Huntington Street Planned

07/07/1864

The Courant reported on a series of improvements to Asylum Hill, all of which were taking place on the same block as the future Asylum Hill Congregational Church.  These improvements were:

  • The opening of a new street, 50 feet wide, between Asylum Avenue and Collins Street
  • The purchase of land between the new street and Sumner Street, which would include the new church
  • The purchase of seven lots on Sumner Street for future development

Neat little tidbits

The new street was Huntington Street, but it hadn’t been named that yet.  The Asylum Hill Congregational Society bought the land along Asylum Avenue from F. J. Huntington and B. E. Buck, which means that the church could just as easily been on the corner of Buck and Asylum.

The Courant described these improvements as taking place in Hartford’s West End, which in fact it was.  Development in Hartford was densest along the river, and by 1864 it did not go too much farther past Sigourney Street, with only a few houses westward to Woodland Street.

Put into context

The Asylum Hill Congregational Society didn’t just buy the land for the church, it bought the entire block, or what would become the entire block once Huntington Street was pushed through.  The total purchase described by the Courant was approximately 382 feet along Asylum Avenue, and today, that frontage remains the same:  the church plus the condos at the corner of Sumner and Asylum equals 382.9 feet.  The 1880 map shows the church occupying roughly half of that frontage, with three houses, including two that were later demolished, occupying the other half.  Roughly gauged, the two demolished houses would have sat on the current Asylum Avenue frontage of the church’s parking lot.  The driveway off of Asylum Avenue roughly approximates the location of one lot, and the little lot off the drive in corresponds to the other lot.

Questions to pose

This may settle the question as to what happened on February 19, when the site was accepted, and June 29, when the site was approved.  Since they bought the entire block, they then had to choose which part of the lot would serve as the actual site.  They could then parcel off the remainder of the lot and sell it for development or, potentially, as developed by them.  It is worth considering, however, that the chapel would be designed to open onto the yet-to-be-created Huntington Street.  Did the chapel influence the street, or did the street influence the chapel?

And what exactly did the church do with the three lots that became houses by 1880?  Who built the houses, and when?  And did the church sell the properties to a developer or build the houses itself?

Also, when subsequent articles tabulated the cost of the church including the land, did they mean just the land the church occupies or the whole lot?  If the latter, they may have inflated the actual cost by roughly $5,000.

Speculating without facts

The Courant said that all of the land purchased would be graded and fit for building purposes.  This is not to say that the church then built the three houses, but in making improvements to the land and then re-selling it, the church almost certainly would have made a profit.  In all likelihood, the church put that money toward the construction of the church itself, but I haven’t found anything to suggest this is what happened.



Asylum Hill Congregational Society closes on its new home

07/05/1864

The day the committee on site purchased the land for the church from Francis J. Huntington – or the day Francis J. Huntington transferred title on the land.

Trust but verify

This may just be a matter of referring to the same transaction a little differently. The 1940 article on the 75th anniversary describes it as the date of purchase, while Atwood Collins in 1915 more precisely described this date as being the date on the deed. This slight difference may also be a commentary on how much simpler real estate transactions were in the 1860s as compared with today.  It’s also easily clarified by a trip to the Hartford land records.

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Asylum Hill Congregational Society selects a site

06/29/1864

The committee on site reported on its work, and the site recommended by the committee was approved.

Trust but verify

There is some confusion surrounding this meeting, especially as Atwood Collins reported that the site for the church had been “accepted” on February 19, 1864 when the committee on site had been empowered to buy the lot.  The answer may be found in the land they actually bought …L2

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Asylum Hill Congregational Society formed

06/25/1864

At a meeting at West Middle School, 29 people formed the Asylum Hill Congregational Society. C. J. Burnell served as clerk for the meeting. The attendees signed the Society’s articles of association, and they also appointed a building committee that consisted of five people: J. M. Allen, Newton Case, William L. Collins, Samuel Coit, and Henry French.

Neat little tidbit

In attendance was James H. Roberts, a 15-year-old who would go on to become a foreign missionary in China before returning to Hartford.  Roberts would be presentL1 at the 75th anniversary celebration in 1940.

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Asylum Hill Congregational Church Moving Forward

06/17/1864

The Courant reported that the project to build the new church would go forward. As of this date, almost $50,000 had been pledged to the project.

Neat Little Tidbit

It had taken the church about 4 months to get to this point, and the $50,000 represented between 35-40% of the total cost of the project to build the new church.

Trust but verify

Up until this point, there’s been no real description of raising funds for the project.  This seems unusual because the Courant typically reported on fundraising efforts, right down to the amount of money raised from selling seats at the church.

Put into context

$50,000 covered the cost of the land ($10,000) and the construction the chapel ($14,000), and that left $16,000 to put toward the construction of the church.  Just over $90,000 remained to be raised in order to complete the project.  That would be $1,530,882.80 today.

Questions to pose

Who provided the funds to this point, and how were the funds being raised?

Speculating without facts

This article reported on the pivotal moment in the church’s development – at least in my opinion.  Following on this announcement, the church would in fairly rapid succession form a building committee, select and purchase the site for the church,L4 hire the architect,L5 and petition the municipal governmentL6 for permission to build the church.  It’s likely they broke ground for the chapel (and maybe the church, too, but the chapel would be finished first) in October, or 8 months from deciding to do it to actually doing it.

Sources

Unattributed, “City Intelligence – Sundry Matters,” Hartford Daily Courant, June 17, 1864, page 2.



Support (or not) for the Asylum Hill Congregational Church

04/01/1864

During this month, other Hartford churches held meetings at which their representatives passed resolutions in support of the new Congregational church on Asylum Hill. 

OR:  they held a joint meeting of an advisory committee and accomplished the same result.

Neat little tidbit

At least one letter did arrive in response to this effort, and it came from North Congregational Church.  The letter, which was signed by the church’s clerk, Theodore Lyman, who along with his father Christopher, would eventually join Asylum Hill Congregational Church.  Christopher, who at the time of his death was the largest stockholder in the Harford Fire Insurance Company, apparently donated the funds for the church bell.  Theodore lived at 22 Woodland Street, now the Town and County Club.

Trust but verify

Along with deciding to move forward on February 3, the men assembled at that meeting also agreed to seek the advice of the other churches in the city due to the magnitude of this decision. They addressed a circular letter to the churches at or shortly after this meeting – it’s not clear when exactly that letter went out or what then happened next.  Either the existing Congregational churches agreed to attend (or convene) a meeting to discuss this question, or they simply met among themselves and sent letters of support (or not, in the case of North Congregational Church).  In any event, the other churches seem to have acted in April, with Atwood Collins saying they came together at one meeting and F. Irvin DavisL2 and Melva SwartzL3 saying the met on their own at separate meetings.

Put into context

Atwood Collins had read the letter from North Congregational Church, which he said was “on file” at Asylum Hill Congregational Church.  Collins summarized the letter as saying that North Congregational declined to send delegates to the advisory meeting because “they were too much interested.”  During this period of time, North Congregational was contemplating or had already decided to relocate from Main Street to the corner of Asylum and High Streets, where it would become the Park Congregational Church.  It seems likely that they considered they had some claim to keeping members of their church who lived on the Hill, 33 of whom would leave North Congregational to become original members of Asylum Hill Congregational.

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Public speculation on the site for Asylum Hill Congregational Church

03/28/1864

The Courant reported that the “new church that is to be on Asylum Hill” would likely be located on a lot extending from Farmington Avenue to Asylum Avenue, between the District School House (West Middle) and the home of Mark Howard. The owner of the lot, William W. Turner, who was described as a deacon (he was the principal of the American Asylum), had named a reasonable price at which he would sell the land for “church purposes.” The only impediment was a brick house then occupied by D. W. Bartlett, but “that would have to come down.”

Neat little tidbit

This lot is roughly just to the east of Asylum Place, where The Hartford has a parking garage today.  West Middle School would have been approximately where Asylum Place is.  All of this was directly across the street from the American Asylum.

Trust but verify

This location contradicts Atwood Collins’s historyL1 of the February 19 meeting, at which point Collins said the current site of the church had been accepted.

There’s some mild confusion in the Courant article.  The article refers to the property in question as having a brick home occupied by D. W. Bartlett, not D. E. Bartlett, on it – and it’s likely a mistake on the part of the Courant.  There was a David W. Bartlett, no apparent relation, who had been co-publisher of the Hartford Republican, but he’d moved to Washington, DC in 1857.  D. E. Bartlett, of course, makes much more sense:  he was a teacher at the American Asylum, which was just across the street from this house, and he’d been invited to return to teach at the Asylum by W. W. Turner, the principal of the school and the owner of the house.  Plus he was involved in the formation of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, but that isn’t entirely relevant here, even if it leads to some speculation ….

Questions to pose

The article describes this current lot as “more satisfactory than the spot first selected, on various accounts.”  Since we know that this spot was not the final spot, where was this first spot, the one less satisfactory than this location?

Speculation without facts

At this point, and based on the research I’ve done so far, there’s no way to sort out whether the church historians or the contemporary Courant reporters have this right.  I’ll be honest, though:  it’s much more fun to think the Courant has it right, because that would mean the church contemplated evicting one of its founders!  Or, it could be that the Courant had been fed misinformation – the Courant had suggested Asylum Hill property owners get their prices ready, so it’s possible the church told the Courant they’d selected a site in order to let prices calm down after the Courant encouraged speculation.  Whatever it turned out to be, the most interesting part of the article is that this was not the first site, nor was it either of the two sites debated on February 6.  I would like to think that the church thought better of mistreating Bartlett – significantly, Bartlett’s house would be described 50 years later as one of the first shelters of the church!

As it turns out, the church did much better by moving a block farther west – they couldn’t have known it in 1864, but this location, so close to the Trident, would have been a nightmare for traffic.



Asylum Hill Congregational Chapel dedicated

03/12/1864

Dedication services were held in the chapel. Horace Bushnell preached the sermon. The Asylum Hill Sunday School met in the chapel afterwards, and “appropriate addresses were made by several gentlemen connected with Sunday school work.” One of those speakers, Nelson Kingsbury, announced that he would give $500 toward a library for the school.

Neat little tidbit

Nelson Kingsbury was involved with the City Missionary Society, and he had supported other Sunday schools as well.  I haven’t found any other connection between him and Asylum Hill Congregational Church.

Questions to pose

Where was Calvin Stowe?  No Bible study today?

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Asylum Hill Chapel,” Hartford Daily Courant, March 14, 1865, page 2.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Seats rented at the Asylum Hill Congregational Chapel

03/11/1864

The sale of seats in the new chapel realized $3,400.

Neat Little Tidbit

$3,400 in 1865 would be $55,250.42 in 2021.

Trust but verify

A week earlier, the seats in the chapel were going to be rented, which appeared to be an acknowledgement that the seats in the new church would be available next year.

Sources

Unattributed, “Asylum Hill Chapel,” Hartford Daily Courant, March 14, 1865, page 2.



Site Selected for Asylum Hill Congregational Church

02/19/1864

At a meeting held at West Middle School, the committee on site recommended that a site on the north side of Asylum Avenue west of Sumner Street be purchased for the new church building, and the attendees accepted the recommendation. The attendees then empowered the committee to purchase the lot, and they formed a committee to solicit subscriptions pay for the land for to build the new church, to buy the lot for the church, and to build the church.

Neat Little Tidbit

The second committee formed to get the project underway consisted of Erastus Collins, Samuel Coit, and A. M. Hurlburt.  Coit would eventually oversee the construction of the church building.

Trust but verify

On June 29, 1864, the site recommended was approved – there is, of course, a difference between “acceptance” here and “approval” there, but why did the meeting empower a committee to purchase an accepted lot?  The answer may lie in the land they actually bought …L2  It should also be noted that this account comes from histories presented in 1908L3 and 1915L4 – contemporary sources suggest that the final site wasn’t settled just yet.

Put into context

The site recommended at this meeting is the present site of the church.  At this point in time, Huntington Street did not exist – it would be created after construction began.

Questions to pose

The fundraising in question would involve raising $100,000, or over $1.7 million in 2021 dollars.  This is why Roland Mather’s attendance on February 6 was significant, but he doesn’t really get mentioned until later in the church’s development.  What was his role during this point in the church’s formation?

Sources

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Early reporting on the new Congregational church

02/12/1864

The Courant reported that a new Congregational church was being considered for Asylum Hill. According to the article, a meeting had been held a “a few evenings since,” and at that meeting a committee was appointed to select a suitable site and to purchase the land at that site.

Neat little tidbit

The Courant also encouraged “holders of real estate on Asylum Hill to give the committee their prices.”  How thoughtful of them!

Trust but verify

This article represents the earliest report of a meeting of men interested in organizing a new Congregational church on Asylum Hill, and it doesn’t exactly clear up the timeline – “a few evenings since” really only means that the meeting in question was held before February 12, and not by many days at that.  In all likelihood, the meeting mentioned here was the one on February 6, not the one held on February 3, which means that any action on the site was not taken until February 6, but so far the only sources for these meetings are later articles on the history of the church. 

Put into context

The February 6, 1864 meeting certainly and the February 3, 1864 meeting probably discussed specific locations in Asylum Hill, but those possible sites were not made public at this point.  All the Courant knew was that a new church would be placed at a site in the neighborhood.

Questions to pose

Who was the source of the Courant’s information on this one?

Sources

Unattributed, “Untitled,” Hartford Daily Courant, February 12, 1864, page 2.



Resolved: A Congregational Church needed on Asylum Hill

02/06/1864

A meeting was held to pass a formal resolution that a new church was needed in the western part of Hartford. The resolution passed unanimously.  There then followed considerable discussion about possible locations for the new church, and a committee was formed to recommend a site.

Neat little tidbit

In addition to the 17 men who were there on February 3, 1864, five more men attended this meeting.  They were Olcott Allen, Joseph Church, William Collins, Mark Howard, and Roland Mather.

The sites discussed for the new church were

  • Asylum Avenue between Spring and Garden Streets – roughly speaking, this would be the “block” east of the current Capital View Apartments. Both Spring and Garden entered Asylum Avenue, and in 1864 they did so separately.  The current configuration of these two streets owes itself to Interstate 84.
  • A lot on Farmington Avenue near Imlay Street – it wasn’t mentioned whether this was on the north or south side of Farmington, but it is notable that it was a specific lot. Farmington and Imlay were then pretty much the way they are now.

Not mentioned:  the actual future site.  Or the site the church nearly bought.

Trust but verify

On February 3, a committee was appointed to report on a site for the church.  Presumably, that committee delivered a report at this meeting, but their report hardly settled the matter, because “considerable discussion” followed.  Then, there was a committee to recommend a site – but was this the same committee appointed on February 3, or was it a new one?  Atwood Collins points out that the committee to recommend a site had representatives from different sections of the neighborhood, the implication being that these five men would consequently and by necessity evaluate suggested sites fairly.  It seems likely that the committee from February 3 made its report, and then following the discussion was asked to settle the debate with a stronger recommendation – but it’s much more fun to imagine that someone had their thumb on the scale for one location over the others!

Put into context

Aside from the debate over a future location for the church, Roland Mather attended this meeting, and his participation signaled the beginning of an important relationship with Asylum Hill Congregational Church.  He donated the money to finish the steepleL3 in 1875, and although no one mentions him in connection with the fundraising to build the church he more than likely contributed significantly to that effort.

Sources

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Meeting to discuss need for a Congregational church on Asylum Hill

02/03/1864

This evening, 17 residents of Asylum Hill met in the office of Jeremiah M. Allen at the American Asylum.  The topic of the meeting:  whether or not they should form a new Congregational church on Asylum Hill.  A. G. Hammond presided at the meeting, and Erastus Collins made the case for the new church. Everyone in attendance agreed that it was time to act on forming a new church, and they formed a committee to report back on possible locations for the new church.

Neat little tidbit

Atwood Collins listed the 17 attendeesL1 as follows: Jeremiah M. Allen, J. A. Ayres, David E. Bartlett, John Beach, Charles A. Bullard, Erastus Collins, Samuel Coit, Henry French, Francis Gillette, A. G. Hammond, A. M. Hurlbut, J. R. Keep, Joseph Kellogg, M. Lord, E. K. Root, Roderick Terry, and J. S. Tryon.  Collins added that the present generation (1915) of members wouldn’t remember all of these men.

Trust but Verify

There’s some overlap between this meeting and the one that would happen three days later.  I won’t go so far as to call it confusion as to what happened at which meeting, but it does seem that some sorting out of the proceedings is necessary.  It also needs to be sorted out whether they wrote a letter to the other Congregational churches seeking their advice on this matter at this meeting or later, either after this meeting or at a subsequent meeting.  Apparently, Jeremiah Allen wrote a history of these early meetings and his involvement, and needless to say, I’m on the trail!

Put into context

According to Atwood Collins, his father Erastus told the attendees that residents of Asylum Hill had begun to lose interest in the downtown churches.  Of course, Erastus referred to the difficulties women and children had making it to church rather than to any that men might be having as well.  He phrased it thusly:  “He alluded to the great distance from the downtown churches as precluding the women and children of this locality from attending evening meetings, or more than one service on the Sabbath.”  It appears that there was an expectation that people would attend several services on Sunday, which could have meant several roundtrips for people on Sundays.  Small wonder people stopped attending!  And smaller wonder that the group meeting tonight agreed to proceed with the formation of a church in their neighborhood.

Questions to pose

Atwood Collins stated that the committee to identify a location for the church was appointed at this meeting. According to him, the committee had five members who represented “different sections of the Hill in residence and property interests,” and they were Olcott Allen, Erastus Collins, Samuel Coit, Henry French, Francis Gillette, and A. M. Hurlbut.  It wouldn’t be too difficult to figure out where they lived, and that would provide some insight into how Asylum Hill residents viewed their own neighborhood.  But it may also be that this committee wasn’t appointed until February 6 because the committee appointed at this meeting didn’t (or couldn’t) come up with a single recommendation.

Speculating without evidence

The question of whether or not the men were encountering difficulties making it to church on Sunday seems almost impossible to answer, but there are some clues.  First, there’s Erastus Collins saying that people weren’t going to church more than once on Sundays.  This could mean that people were going to church, but the standard for “falling away” was higher then than it is now.  Then there’s the possible meeting between the Bartletts and whomever came to their house that day:  the Bartletts, who I’m pretty sure were empty-nesters by their return to Hartford in 1860, probably would have been speaking for themselves, not more generally about the women and children of the neighborhood.  And then it has to be noted that two of the three “community necessities” would have been for adults, not for children.  My guess is that men were dropping off on their church attendance as well.

Of course, one fun note about this is that Atwood Collins could have been one of those children not attending church or Sunday school as often as they should have, since it was his father Erastus who made this comment in the first place!

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5

Unattributed, “History of the Hill Church – F. Irvin Davis Gives It in Brief,” Hartford Courant, March 2, 1908, page 4.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Calvin Stowe's Bible class begins

01/01/1864

Calvin Stowe began a Bible study in Nook Farm at some point during this year.  Stowe first held his classes at the home of John Beach, who lived on Asylum Avenue.

Neat Little Tidbit

This is the third of the “three necessities of the community” that led to the formation of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, and like the other two necessities, it was held elsewhere in Asylum Hill until the chapel opened in March 1865.L1

Trust but verify

The year 1864 is a bit of a guess as to when the Bible study began.  Unlike the Sunday school and the prayer meeting, there’s no controversy as to whether the Bible study happened:  I have found in the Courant numerous contemporary references to the Bible study being held and led by Stowe on a weekly basis, just as described by Atwood Collins and Melva Swartz, while I’ve found only the one reference (so far) to the Sunday school and none at all for the prayer meeting. 

Figuring out the date of the first Bible study is possible:  it really is just a matter of tracking backwards until I find the earliest reference, but there are later references to the first date that have to be taken into account as well.  Atwood Collins stated that Stowe had launched them probably in 1861, while Melva Swartz wrote that Stowe’s Bible class began “[a]bout three years after organization of the Sabbath school,” which would have been late 1863.  The problem with both of these claims is that we know that the Stowes didn’t move to Hartford until 1864, and that’s therefore the earliest the Bible study could have begun.  Unfortunately, the Bible study thus becomes one means to assess the accuracy of both Collins’s and Swartz’s histories of the church.

Questions to pose

Who was John Beach?  Like David Bartlett and Jeremiah Allen, he worked at the American Asylum, and he did attend the February 3 and February 6, 1864 meetings.  And where did Beach live?

How did Calvin Stowe become so quickly involved in Asylum Hill?  Calvin Stowe served as a volunteer, he was a well-known scholar even if he wasn’t as famous as his wife (you know, Harriet), and his Bible study course became wildly popular.  How or why he volunteered remains a mystery at this point.  Was he approached, or did he just show up one day and volunteer?

Why isn’t Calvin Stowe mentioned more prominently in histories of Asylum Hill Congregational Church?  That the Bible study is considered one of the three necessities implies that it was an important factor in building the early church and its membership, and Joseph Twichell’s eulogy of StoweL2 made it abundantly clear that Twichell considered Stowe and his Bible study to be critical to the formation of the church.  Just as interestingly, the church is very quick to point out that it was “Mark Twain’s church,” but there’s never any mention of it being “Harriet Beecher Stowe’s church.”  In fact, I haven’t found any contemporary reference to Harriet attending the church yet.  Is Stowe’s role glossed over because the Stowes kept their distance after the church formally opened?

Source

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



The Asylum Hill Sabbath School open -- Definitely

1860-11-04-asylum-hill-congregational-church
07/13/1861

The North Church Sabbath School and the Asylum Hill Sabbath School were scheduled to picnic together today at Gillett’s Grove.

Trust but Verify

The history of Asylum Hill Congregational Church puts the formation of the Asylum Hill Sabbath School as November 1860, but so far this is the earliest contemporary reference to the Sunday school that I’ve found.

Put into context

At this point in time, the Asylum Hill Sabbath School existed on its own, unaffiliated with any church, while the North Church Sabbath School was affiliated with the North Congregational Church, which had been Horace Bushnell’s church.  Four years later, the North Congregational Church would be the sole dissenting vote in the drive to form the Asylum Hill Congregational Church, while Bushnell, retired by this point from North Church, would take an active role in AHCC’s organizing efforts.

Questions to pose

When did the North Congregational Church decide to move from North Main Street the corner of Asylum and High Streets, effectively at the base of Asylum Hill?  And did they expect that they would serve the growing population on Asylum Hill?

Sources

Unattributed, “City Intelligence,” Hartford Daily Courant, July 12, 1861, page 2.



The Prayer Meeting that Began Asylum Hill Congregational Church -- Maybe

01/01/1861

At some point during this year, a prayer meeting was first held in Asylum Hill, at David Bartlett’s house on Asylum Avenue.

Asylum Hill Sabbath School opens -- Maybe

11/04/1860

The first session of the Asylum Hill Sabbath School was held at West Middle School. Probably. There were 17 teachers and 49 students in attendance.

Marie Metcalf began a survey to demonstrate interest in a Sunday school on Asylum Hill

1860-10-28-asylum-hill-congregational-church
10/29/1860

Marie (or Maria) Metcalf, who, undertook a survey of all residents of the neighborhood in order to determine the level of interest in a new Sunday school.  She was assisted in her effort by her neighbor, Mrs. Joseph Kellogg.

 

Trust but verify

The date is the day after the annual meeting of the City Missionary Society, so this is the earliest that Metcalf could have begun her survey.  She does seem to have started promptly, especially if the date of the first class of the Sunday school is correct – she would have had five days to conduct her survey, get permission to use West Middle School, and get the teachers and students organized to attend. 

Put into context

Metcalf lived on Broad Street in Asylum Hill, and she had witnessed boys playing outside on Sundays for lack of a Sunday school to attend.  When she heard Hawley’s speech at the annual meeting of the City Missionary Society, she was likely primed to act.  Atwood Collins described her as “recognizing the fact that she was on the missionary ground indicated by the speaker” (i.e., Hawley) but that she undertook this survey on her own initiative.

The Kelloggs were important figures in the formation of Asylum Hill Congregational Church.  Joseph Kellogg attended the first meetings at the American Asylum on February 3 and February 6, 1864, and it could well be that his wife’s efforts with Marie Metcalf encouraged him to get involved.  I'm still looking for Mrs. Kellogg's name.

Questions to pose

Was the Sunday school planned and started in six days?  It seems unlikely, but it certainly isn’t impossible, especially given that Erastus Collins was the chair of the local school district.  Metcalf wrote a letter at a later date describing her efforts, and this letter may clarify the timing – but I haven’t read it yet. 

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.



Annual Meeting of the City Missionary Society

10/28/1860

The annual meeting of the City Missionary Society was held at the Center Church.

Neat little tidbit

The annual meeting included reports on the work done by the city missionary and four Sunday schools in Hartford.  It’s likely that the society’s secretary, E. S. Cleveland, read all of these reports, but the city missionary and the Sunday School superintendents were all there and all gave addresses.  The city missionary, David Hawley, did double duty as the superintendent of one of the Sunday Schools.

Trust but Verify

According to Atwood Collins in 1915, David Hawley, gave a speech describing the need for the establishment of a Sunday school to serve the population living between Albany Avenue (n) and Park Street (s) and between West Hartford (w) and the railroad station (e).  This speech is credited as the first call for a church that would become Asylum Hill Congregational Church. 

Marie Metcalf claimed that she had been at this meeting, and she was inspired by Hawley’s speech to survey her neighbors as to their agreement with the call for a Sabbath School in Asylum Hill.

The problem is, the Courant didn’t record Hawley’s remarks at this meeting.  A report on his work during the year was given, although it was more likely given by E. S. Cleveland than it was by Hawley.  The meeting ended with addresses by Hawley and the other Sunday school superintendents, but the Courant said only that they “[gave] note of the progress of their work, and [urged] its claims and necessities.”  If Hawley mentioned the need for a Sunday school in Asylum Hill at this meeting, it was probably one of the claims and necessities he mentioned, but it also is highly unusual that the Courant wouldn’t report on a direct or specific call for a new Sunday school in Hartford.

Put into Context

There are some clues in the article that maybe Hawley did mention the need for a new Sunday school during his address to the society.

First, the secretary’s report noted that Hawley had visited 328 families “who seldom attend church.”  This fits with the substance of the reported conversation between Calkins and Bartlett, which described the difficulties families had getting downtown to attend church. 

Second, the Union School had received $40 in contributions of pennies during the year, and these funds were used mainly to help start a Sunday school in LaCrosse, WI.  The Courant article noted that a new Congregational church resulted from this Sunday school – which would be the same order of events for Asylum Hill Congregational Church.

Third, Hawley also served as the superintendent of the Albany Avenue School, and Albany Avenue was the northern border of the area that Hawley had described as needing a new Sunday school, the southern boundary being Park Street.  As superintendent at the Albany Avenue School, he would have been aware of children not attending, and as city missionary he knew there were 328 families not attending church and where they lived.

Last, at least part of the story about Hawley’s speech is that he told his audience that they needed to “do some of it themselves,”L3 as in he already had enough to do and it was up to them to get a new Sunday school started.  His remark, as quoted by Atwood Collins, has struck me as curt, but perhaps Hawley’s curtness on this matter was well earned.  Based on the report on his work during the year, he was extremely busy:  on Thanksgiving alone, he distributed 2,500 pounds of turkey to 315 families, and even the Courant seemed to take note of how busy he was, but there’s no direct, contemporary evidence that he said he was too busy to start a new Sunday school.  The closest I’ve found so far is a separate item in the Courant titled “Employment Wanted,” which said “[i]f somebody would furnish Mr. Hawley with employment to engage his leisure hours, no doubt he would feel grateful.  Time must hang heavy on his hands.”  

Questions to Pose

What was the City Missionary Society?  As near as I can tell, the City Missionary Society was a joint venture of the Congregationalist churches in Hartford.  The society employed the City Missionary, and his job was to meet with people, to provide them with encouragement, and to distribute alms as needed by individuals or families.  The society also oversaw the Sabbath Schools, at least indirectly, as each school sent a representative to the annual meeting and made a report on their work for that year.  Beyond that, however, I’m not entirely certain.

Speculating without Facts

Although the Courant did not report Hawley’s speech as having mentioned the need for a school in Asylum Hill, it’s entirely plausible that he did:  the majority of reporting done was on the Sunday schools, and then the only speakers other than the society’s secretary were the Sunday school superintendents.  It is interesting to note, however, that the society reported that it would be meeting with the church pastors to discuss how to expand the society’s efforts – there were 328 families, with their children, who were no longer active in church.  The society may not have intended that a new church would be established, but it had to be lurking in the back of their minds that a new church could be the culmination of these efforts.

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattribued, “Employment wanted,” Hartford Daily Courant, October 29, 1860, page 2.

Unattributed, “Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Twichell Honored at Anniversary of His Church,” Hartford Courant, March 24, 1915, page 16.

Unattributed, “The Annual Meeting of the City Missionary Society …,” Hartford Daily Courant, October 29, 1860, page 2.



Henry Green Born

01/01/1860

Some time during 1860, Henry Green was born in Birmingham, England.

 

Sources

Unattributed, "Fatal Poisoning by X-Ray: Henry Green, Victim, Was Pioneer Manufacturer of X-Ray Tubes," New York Times, March 5, 1914, page 1.

Unattributed, "Obituary - Henry Green 1860-1914," American Journal of Roentgenology, v. 1 n.5 (3/1914), pp 224-225.

Unattributed, "X-rays Cause Death of Henry Green: Hartford Man Made First Successfully Operated Focusing Tubes," Hartford Courant, March 5, 1914.



Joseph Twichell Born

05/27/1838

Joseph Twichell was born in Southington, Connecticut.

 

Sources

Swartz, Melva J., “Hill Church Will Observe Anniversary,” Hartford Courant, March 18, 1940, page 1.

Unattributed, “Fiftieth Anniversary of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church,” Hartford Courant, February 14, 1915, page X5