Meeting to discuss need for a Congregational church on Asylum Hill

02/03/1864 |

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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.

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