Church History

Church History

In 1798 Joseph Mitchell was sent to Vergennes as the head of a large preaching circuit, which included Shelburne. After just two years of Mitchell’s work, Vermont could boast six circuits and a membership of just under eleven hundred, despite our pioneer conditions. It is possible he preached in Shelburne, although there is no record of it before the year 1800, when an appointment was established here by Henry Ryan.

The Society was formed and continued for a time in the east part of the town. Among the charter members were Nathaniel Gage, James and John Simonds and Phineas Hall.

Perhaps as early as 1825 the movement for a Methodist place of worship began to take shape in the minds of the congregation, but nine years elapsed before the brick church was finished and dedicated, at the cost of about $2,000. The building was erected on what is now the property of the Catholic Church.

On March 28, 1870 Brother Edgerton met with a group of men and women to discus the prospects of building or repairing the old building. After years of hearty debate, contracts in the amount of $3,300 for the construction and $4,300 for the stone, which was quarried in New York State and brought across the lake in the winter 1871 were entertained. Following, nearly two years were lost in a spat of bickering over the construction details. In 1872-73 a new building committee  was formed and on June 5, 1873 a contact was let to Elmore Johnson who used plans drafted by Rev. Edgerton and the work began.  A month later the cornerstone was laid.  The old church was sold to Lee Tracy who dismantled the building and reused the bricks to build the home of Henry and Charles Tracy.  The building was finally dedicated on February 18, 1874 by Bishops Janes.  The old church lot was sold in 1883 to raise money to purchase the current parsonage.  The bell was presented to the church in 1886 by Mrs. Buttolph in memory of her husband.

The organ was purchased in 1914 for $2,100 with the help of a $1,000 donation from Andrew Carnegie.  The organ was built by the largest pipe organ manufacturer in America, the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont.  Also that year, electricity was installed in the church and the parsonage.

During the same period of  time the “new” stained glass windows along the east and west walls of the church were purchased and installed.  These windows replace the original stained glass in the church.  To see what the original windows looked like, go into the parlor where two of the original windows are preserved.  (There is another one upstairs in the choir room.)  They were designed by the H. L. Parkhurst studio in New York City.  Parkhurst had been the chief designer at the Tiffany stained glass studio before leaving to found his own studio.  Many of the design features employed by Tiffany are evidenced in these windows, such as using individual pieces of glass to create the images (like the individual grapes in the grape window) and layered glass to create complex effects (like the river in the garden window.)

In 1973 it was decided to build an addition to house a fellowship hall, kitchen and recreational room.  In 1999 the decision was made to replace that addition with the current fellowship hall and educational wing which was completed in 2000.

The year 2013 marks the beginning of a one-half million dollar restoration program which includes the complete restoration of the church steeple to be completed by the end of the year.  In 2014 the project will be continued with the repair of the stone work and tuck-pointing as well as the complete restoration of all exterior woodwork on the old building.

Many other interesting details of the congregation’s life are contained in several small booklets of history prepared for on several anniversary occasions and available to view at the church.

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